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

Partly Cloudy

It’s now just over two months since I left my job, and despite my best efforts, I’m still not sure what lies in my immediate professional future. I’ve been keeping myself as busy as possible, however – a third piece for the forthcoming issue of Details could be coming very shortly, and I’m making solid progress on the next book club choice, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. I’ve decided to go down the e-book route this time, mainly because if I keep buying physical copies, I risk quickly running out of room for them! It does have another benefit, though, as thanks to the Kindle Cloud Reader I can access the novel on my laptop, which in turn means I have another excuse to sit at my desk. And though that may not seem like much, it has a surprisingly positive psychological effect.

The difference between reading on my laptop at my desk and reading on my Kindle while lying on the floor is that the former requires me to be upright, alert, slightly less lethargic. In that respect, although I’m still perfectly relaxed, it doesn’t feel that much like a leisure activity at all. It feels a lot more important, like it has more substance than simply scrolling through Facebook does. Ultimately, I guess I could say it makes me feel like I’m actually doing something. What’s more, I’ve also used my computer to take another step closer to that – as of last Monday, I am now a fully paid-up member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (or CIEP for short).

This organisation offers those who join a number of perks, among which is the chance to complete training (at discounted prices) in proofreading and copyediting. Since the latter area seems to be broader, that’s what I’ve chosen to focus on, and I now have everything I need to start the six units of the Copyediting 1 course. It looks like all I need to do is read the featured study notes and complete the activities using Microsoft Word and its Track Changes function, something I’m more than familiar with after the last three years. Not since my early days at Haymarket have I felt this confident and excited. Although I won’t have all the knowledge required to copyedit for a living when the course is finished – the CIEP recommends doing at least two more first – this new endeavour will at least go a little way to clearing some of those rather ominous clouds hanging over me. It gives me a fresh glimmer of hope to pursue, and I can’t wait to get started!

Mason

Details

You may recall that in a recent post, I alluded to a new writing project that I wasn’t quite ready to talk about yet. Well, I just wanted to update you on exactly what that is, especially because as I write this post, I’m working on my second contribution to it. It’s none other than the excellent Details Magazine, founded and run by Caitlyn, a fellow Winchester student due to graduate this year. Aimed at women aged 14-20, it contains stories from a wide variety of voices and walks of life which always fit a given theme. In the case of the March issue, in which my first piece appeared, the theme was ‘let go and grow’, which we were all free to interpret in any way we wanted.

Naturally, given my current circumstances, I chose to focus on the whirlwind of emotions that letting go of an old job and searching for a new one entails. Beyond that, though, I wanted to emphasise how the written word had helped me to stay focused and develop creatively, particularly through the medium of blackout poetry (which you can find out more about here). As it was my Details debut, I was nervous about how it would be received, and I wondered if my link to the theme was too tenuous, but I needn’t have worried. It went down a treat with Caitlyn and was duly published – and let me tell you, the thrill of seeing my name on a page attached to something I’ve written isn’t a feeling that anything can ever diminish. It only increased my hunger to get involved in the forthcoming April edition with something else that could appeal to an audience beyond the target demographic. As I sit here typing that very thing, I can only hope that I’ve succeeded, but I’ve certainly got a good feeling about it.

If you want to know more about Details, you can visit its website here, or check out its new podcast here. You’ll be glad you did, I promise. And I’m not just saying that because I’m biased!

Mason

Broken Record

I’m always thinking about what I can try on this blog that’s new and different – even though you might not think so, given that the material never strays far from what’s going on in my own life. Every element of it has been carefully considered in some way at one time or another, from the text, to the imagery, to the design of the site itself. Unfortunately, none of the vague plans that exist in my head have come to fruition just yet. I haven’t even used that aforementioned imagery nearly as often as I should, but that hasn’t stopped me creating little quirks and continuities that might have passed you by. Up to now, at least!

There are things I’ve become quite fond of including over the last couple of years in particular. I treat them as private self-deprecating jokes, and by that, I mean really private – between me and myself, to be precise. I realised one day that I’ve developed two accidental habits while writing these posts, and the first is my tendency to contradict myself. This most often happens when I announce my intention to focus on or pursue something, only for it to be mentioned once months later or simply never again. The second habit is my continued use of the phrase “…as I’ve said before”, or variations thereof. At first, this appeared genuinely innocently, but I eventually realised just how often it popped up and decided to keep it in. It’s arguably also there to save me having to rifle back through to the previous post where I mentioned the thing in question, but it mainly makes me smile, even if nobody else notices or appreciates it. Whatever the case, it demonstrates how not everything in life can be linear. We all make mistakes, and we all contradict and repeat ourselves now and again, so sounding like a broken record sometimes can’t be all bad, can it? The world is full of these fluctuations, so I’m embracing them in my own little way, and giving this blog a discreet and somewhat ironic pair of stylistic hallmarks in the process.

Mason