In My Lap

After a brief hiatus, I’m back writing for Details, and what makes that even sweeter is the fact that I’m doing so feeling creatively rejuvenated. That’s because even before our monthly editorial meeting, I’d already had an idea that’s a great fit. It didn’t need any crafting or developing – it was just there, and it naturally suited our theme better than I could ever have imagined. Up to that point, I’d already abandoned two potential articles because they just weren’t flowing, and if something’s forced, it isn’t sincere and certainly isn’t worth publishing. With that in mind, I couldn’t offer Caitlyn material that I knew would detract from the otherwise excellent quality of her magazine, but at the same time, I didn’t like missing all the fun. Details is a vital, colourful and inclusive outlet with an enormous amount of room to grow, and I’m determined to be a part of it for a long time to come. If you’re reading this, Caitlyn, the only way you’ll get me off the team is by firing me – and that’s a promise!

But I digress. My point is that sometimes, as I must have said before, the best ideas just fall straight into your lap. That’s a very welcome feeling at the best of times, but it’s especially satisfying when you feel like you’ve lost that drive to put words to paper. Of course, not only will Details benefit from that, but Third Time Enabled will too, and I look forward to sharing what I’ve written once it’s done. As things stand, I only have one paragraph at most, but I’m fairly confident that the rest will write itself. I hope so, anyway, otherwise those might be famous last words…

Mason

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Unused Substitute

It’s another short post from me today, and all because some photos are too good not to share on their own. With that kind of introduction, you might be expecting a picturesque Mediterranean sunset or a rolling African savanna, but alas, no. It’s a card, and a somewhat poorly aged one at that. It was sent by my cousins Adrian, Matthew and Dominic just after I was born, and I’ve seen and laughed at it a number of times since. Those of you who follow me on Instagram will already have seen it, but what the hell – if anything should be preserved for posterity on Third Time Enabled, it’s surely this.

25 years on, I still haven’t made the team, but I’m on the bench if they need me!

Mason

Anybody’s Guess

Sometimes, I just find myself wanting to dash off a quick post with some simple news on it. No big point to argue, no tangent to go on, just an update that I feel warrants a mention here, especially after the last few months. So here it is: I have some freelance work. And – once it’s all done – it’ll be paid! It’s only ten days in total, but even so, you have no idea how good it feels to write that. Not only because it gives me the opportunity to earn some money, but also because it genuinely feels like it might be a turning point in my year. So far I haven’t had much to smile about, but since mid-July I’ve been volunteering for a charity, and now they’ve tasked me with proofreading their annual report – something I haven’t been tackling lightly at all. As things stand, I’ve done two days, which saw around 30 double-page spreads thoroughly checked over the course of many hours. It arguably shouldn’t have taken quite as long as it did, but I’ve always liked to leave no stone unturned, and I’m hoping that when the powers that be recognise that, more commissions will follow. I didn’t have ‘unexpectedly become freelance’ on my 2022 bingo card, but I’m not complaining! The unpredictability of what might come next is, of course, scary and exciting at the same time. It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m ready for it…

Mason

Triangle Man

As any long-time Third Time Enabled readers will know, I occasionally look for new pastimes that involve spending less time staring at a screen (a book club, for instance – which has mostly consisted of me reading e-books). And yes, you’ve guessed it; the set of weights you see below form the basis of my latest endeavour not to be so much of a slave to my devices. For many years, in the run up to each Christmas and birthday, I asked for them semi-seriously, thinking in my head that they’d be a good idea, but never really pushing for them and often making jokes about my supposed inability to maintain an exercise regime.

That, however, was before my current spell of long-term unemployment set in. I’ve had no way of determining this for sure – it’s difficult to weigh someone who can’t stand up properly – but with a lack of purpose has come an abundance of food, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of it has started to show. My 25th birthday at the end of August was therefore the perfect time for the weights to arrive for real, and with them some sort of concrete workout routine. Going forward, I plan to use them twice a day in the morning and evening, although I haven’t quite managed to stick to that pattern just yet. They have still had a fair amount of use, though, and I’ve made sure to stretch in every direction. As a rule of thumb, I do 20 reps stretching downwards, 20 out to the sides, and another 20 above my head. I feel like 60 reps twice a day is a good starting point, but I just need to discipline myself so that I definitely get them in. Who knows? If I really gel with it, I could end up doing more and more. I’ve always had pretty broad shoulders because I use my arms for everything, but I remember Lara telling me once that if I really put the effort in, I could be “Triangle Man” – wide at the top and narrowing towards the bottom! We’ll see, shall we?

Mason

Don’t Expect Photographic Masterpieces

The title of this post borrows the last four words of my Instagram bio. In a world awash with filtered and immaculately polished social media updates, they take a certain amount of pressure off my shoulders, because they justify a profile full of photos that look like they’ve been taken with a potato. Besides, the sole purpose of my Instagram is to document life as it is, right? That means no technological trickery whatsoever.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to present you with a few images from my last weekend’s trip to Winchester, which you might have already seen if you follow me on Instagram. If you don’t, they offer the kind of glimpse at my travels that only I can offer – namely one completely devoid of skill or meaningful context. I’ll try my best to come up with some witty captions, but as with the pictures themselves, I can’t make any promises. Here goes!

Mason

These sculptures marked the start of a hare-raising weekend. I took the photos having just got off a sweaty train bursting for the loo, so I’m surprised they’re as clear as they are!
After I got home, I discovered there’s a Doctor Who-themed hare somewhere in Southampton. Needless to say, I was very disappointed they hadn’t moved it a few miles to Winchester instead.
There is, however, a gold-painted hare outside the coffee shop I go to, known as the “24 Carrot Hare”. That was probably my favourite for the name alone!
Having marvelled at the hares, I went straight to said coffee shop (the lovely Open House Deli) looking slightly hot and bothered. The girl behind the counter took one look at me and asked if I wanted a glass of iced water with my flat white. Let me tell you, it was heaven.
It feels like I’ve taken countless photos of Winchester Cathedral over the last few years, but I can’t help it – it’s always enchanting, even more so during an August heatwave. I just need to be able to capture it without cutting off the top.
I was pleasantly surprised to be able to get a table outside Ask Italian on Friday night. Is there a prettier high street in the country to eat in? I highly doubt it.
Believe it or not, I was trying to capture the charm of Winchester’s architecture here, not scaffolding or bemused elderly drinkers.
I don’t drink, so this is only orange juice, but it led me to some fascinating conversations, which I’m sure you’ll hear about soon. The glass made me feel pretty sophisticated too…
Once I’d checked out of the hotel on Sunday morning, my wheelchair needed some extra juice to get me to the station (as much as I love it, Winchester isn’t the flattest city in the world). The Open House Deli kindly lent me one of their plug sockets, which just so happened to be directly under a skylight. I slowly sizzled for an hour and a half, so I was thankful that iced water came to my rescue once again!

Live At Your Own Pace

This piece was written for the August 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

It all started with talk of first kisses.

“I was 16 when I had mine…”, said Caitlyn, as we discussed how we might incorporate the theme of ‘coming of age’ into this issue. Oh dear, I thought. She thinks 16 is late? I was 21! It was then that I realised it was going to be hard to relate to any of the typical teenage experiences the others were going to talk about. I often tell people that a disabled life isn’t a bad one, just a different one, and what that can mean is that it moves more slowly than everyone else’s. Admittedly, I’ve always been somewhat shy and introverted, so you could argue that that’s partly been down to choice. But there’s no doubt that I have had a sheltered upbringing, one that led me down another path, and perhaps that meant that I was never in the right places – or the right circles – for certain things.

I’ve always been lucky in that I’ve always got on pretty well with most people, and I was never really subjected to any of the bullying that some other disabled kids get at school. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call popular either. For a long time, I didn’t really see the few friends I had at weekends or during holidays, and I certainly wasn’t invited to any parties or other gatherings as I got older. I’d listen to the stories people would tell about getting drunk on cider in a field, or finally getting off with someone they’d been pursuing for months, or the amazing trip they’d just been on with their very best buddies, and I’d feel like those things were happening in a completely different world. Of course, at least two of them aren’t massively important, but back then they seemed huge and unattainable, and I’ve never felt less normal (whatever that is) than I did at times like that. And that was just adolescence.

Even now, in my mid-twenties, I still can’t truthfully say I really feel like an adult. Maybe it’s good to retain youthfulness, but I can’t help feeling I might have retained a little too much – and that must surely be because I missed out on many of those formative rituals that develop you to a certain extent. Whenever I’m explaining life with cerebral palsy to someone, I always emphasise how independent I am – how I get out and about in my chair, wash and dress myself, et cetera – but how independent am I really? Sometimes it feels like I should have gotten to 25 with a little more to show for those years. If I’d had more of those aforementioned experiences, maybe I’d have gone further, met more people, and been a more social creature than the generally withdrawn one I’ve come to regard myself as. But then again, I’m still only 25. As I’m continually reminded, we only get one go at this thing called life, and none of us should rush it. 

Some people pack more into ten years than others do into eighty, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to. Like a lot of people, I’m often prone to scrolling through social media, seeing people who were in my class with jobs, houses, husbands and wives, and wondering why I’m not at the same point. Given my condition and the difficulties it poses, it might take me longer to obtain all of those anyway, but I still fall into the same trap almost every time. Perhaps I ought to heed a quote I saw recently, attributed to Noel Gallagher. When asked about the meaning of life in an interview, he said:

“I enjoy the trip. Wherever you’re going is where you’ll end up. Don’t worry about that. Enjoy the scenery on the way.”

Now, a rock star may not be the best person to be taking life advice from, and I certainly don’t agree with everything Noel says, but I think those words make perfect sense. Whatever happens, I should always remember to live at my own pace and never lose hope. However long it might take, I will be less boring – and perhaps a little more grown up – eventually…

Mason

Manners Maketh Man

This piece was written for the July 2022 issue of Caitlyn Raymond’s fantastic Details Magazine, which is out now – you can find out more about it by clicking here!

When Caitlyn gave us the theme of ‘making a mental note’ for this issue of Details, I have to admit that I initially struggled a great deal when it came to finding inspiration. We all take a lot into account every day of our lives, and our brains are packed with all of the life lessons – both big and small – that we continually acquire. But as I rifled through my own mind, I slowly but surely began to panic. What could possibly be in there that was big enough to fill an entire piece, let alone be worth reading? I didn’t know what to do or where to turn, and time wasn’t on my side. I couldn’t back out this month, because I’d already done that once, and to do it again would be unprofessional…wouldn’t it? Maybe then, Caitlyn would think less of me as a writer – or even worse, as a person. What then? What then?

It was in that moment that I stopped in my tracks, because I realised I knew exactly what to do. My topic was already right there in my lap, because it’s informed almost everything I’ve done in my life since at least the age of 10. One day back in the mid-2000s, when I’d not long started at Minehead Middle School, I was sat eating my lunch in the hall when my helper came over to me looking rather straight-faced, uttering eight little words I’ve never quite been able to forget.

“Mason, you haven’t been thanking the dinner ladies.”

I can’t remember exactly how I reacted outwardly at the time, but I do know that my inner thought process was just the same as it’s always been – and from that day onward, I tried never to forget my manners again. I can’t claim to be perfect, of course, but I always try my hardest to treat others as I’d wish to be treated, which can sometimes be something of a double-edged sword, because it’s a blessing and a curse. Yes, it means your everyday life is probably more pleasant than it would be if you went out of your way to be rude and miserable towards others, but I’ve also found that – more often than I’d like to admit – it also leads to a certain amount of paranoia.

I’m willing to bet that in the last decade or so, not many days have gone by where I haven’t constantly analysed all of my own speech or body language in the presence of another person. It’s never taken much to trigger that, either – all I have to do is think about one tiny gesture, or a word inadvertently delivered in a strange tone, and my mind is working overtime for the rest of the day. In some cases, I find myself walking on eggshells around people, convinced they’re thinking about that one awkward moment just as much as I am. They never are, of course.

Over time, I’ve learned to calm myself a little more by always keeping my good intentions in mind. I never mean to rub anyone up the wrong way, and I do my utmost to avoid having that effect. If I do, I apologise straight away. It can be easy to forget that, so I make an effort to remember, and to forgive myself when I need to. It might come in pretty handy to remember that right now. Caitlyn most likely won’t have any complaints about my writing or my conduct, and I’ll definitely be back for the August issue. I hope so, anyway…

Mason

Operation Book Club, Part 6

I just thought I’d let you know that I recently decided to take a break from my book club with Lara and Nora. I did so halfway through Stardust, which I’ve told the girls they can go ahead and discuss without me. As it turns out, not being in that conversation might be a blessing in disguise, since I’d left the novel at a point where I was yet to write a single word about it in my lined red notebook. I bought it almost exactly a year ago with the intention of using it only for my literary observations, and while I had quite a few for the first couple of stories, my notes for this one currently consist only of its title, the name of its author, and the date on which I started reading.

It would be a shame to waste all that paper, so even though I might not have anyone to talk about it with, I’m going to carry on with Stardust regardless. In the absence of regular paid work to establish a 9-5 routine, it might be good to give myself that distraction. Of course, from a creative point of view, it’ll still get those creative juices flowing, even if there are only a few words or sentences. Sometimes the tiniest amount of input is enough to cause a deluge of inspiration, so by the time I do rejoin the girls, I might have more feedback than they bargained for. Beyond that, I’ve bought more than enough notebooks meant for one project that have been condemned to contain passwords and shopping lists for eternity – and I’m determined to save this one from the same fate!

Mason

Not Remotely

In recent posts, I’ve referred once or twice to my search for ‘the next thing’ – job, purpose, whatever it may be. Until now, I’ve not had any reason or desire to discuss it in depth. That’s business and this blog is pleasure, and I generally try to keep anything too heavy out of my posts (there’s enough misery in the world at the moment as it is). Unfortunately, though, I now feel I have to update you properly on my employment struggles, because something is bugging me – and I can’t help feeling that it shouldn’t have to.

At the end of June I will have been unemployed for six months. In that time, I’ve taken every piece of advice I can get with regards to where to go next, and browsed a cacophony of job sites using every single search term you can think of. Nearly every one of those has been prefixed with the word ‘remote’ – given the difficulties I had finding somewhere to live in London, I concluded it might be better to find a role that suited home working, so that I could theoretically do it anywhere. This is where my problem arose, although not in the sense you might think. A shortage of remote roles was not an issue – if anything, it was more a lack of honesty that wound me up. After a while, I noticed that every time I got excited about something I’d seen, and had readied myself to apply for it, I’d dig a bit deeper and find that in actual fact, the job in question wasn’t quite as remote as it claimed it was.

Usually, such jobs are hybrid positions – although why some employers are quite so reluctant to use that term is beyond me. Instead, they lead you to believe that they will suit you perfectly, and that you’ll be able to do them from home with no issues, before admitting they want you in the office (which tends to be nowhere close at all) three days a week. While that might be fine for some people, it’s not generally very practical for me, and I can’t help but feel it might have unnecessarily prolonged my search. I might not have wasted so much time getting my hopes up if every posting had been unequivocally clear about its expectations of me. What’s more, after the lockdowns and pandemic-related disruption we’ve had over the last two years, surely a hybrid job could easily be made remote with careful and regular cooperation? Perhaps I’m making a fuss about nothing, but after all the disappointment I’ve already had, I could do without any further setbacks. I suppose the only upside is that with every hurdle, I’m that little bit closer to a breakthrough. After what already seems like an eternity, one must be coming soon.

Mason

Everything And Nothing At All

I never knew my head could be so busy and so empty at the same time. Since I left my job at the end of January it’s seemed like I have so much to think of – what I’ll do and where I’ll go next – but at the same time, like my life is one very much without purpose. There is no job, social life or friendship group to consider, I have no immediate prospects, and there’s little hope of me moving anywhere anytime soon. What that means is that it can be very hard to find any kind of motivation, which doesn’t bode well at all for general creativity or this blog. The fact I’m writing this off the back of an unsuccessful interview hasn’t helped matters either!

Happily, social media – that thing I was so keen to take a break from just weeks ago – has provided me with something of a solution. I’ve had Instagram for about three years now, having finally caved after years of pressure from my brother and friends, but I can’t say that I use it for promoting any kind of serious photography. I even went as far as putting a disclaimer in my bio (“don’t expect photographic masterpieces!”). The account is for documenting the world as I see it, but that doesn’t mean that the photos are useless or disposable (even though there are an awful lot of book covers among them, just to show off what I’ve been reading). Every picture tells a story, after all, so going forward, each one will have the potential to be inspiring, however blurry or unremarkable it might seem. If you recall, November/December 2018 saw me use a photo of a parked bicycle to record a podcast – and while I might be happy for that to remain buried and far away from human ears for the rest of time, I’ll hopefully be able to get enough material for a blog post or two out of what I capture from now on. It’s still entirely possible that nothing could come of this, and I never mention it again. If recent months have taught me anything, though, it’s that all I can do is try to stay positive, however hard that might be at times.

Mason