A Long Way To Go

Whenever nature calls, wherever we are, we must answer it. This is obviously the case regardless of whether you are able-bodied or disabled, but as some of you will know from “The Sixpence Test” – which I wrote last year – I have had a number of wildly different experiences where toilets are concerned. When said experiences are not so good, I am sadly reminded that society still has so much more to do before it can be truly accessible to the disabled, and I was unfortunately faced with yet another one just last night. It came in a local restaurant, which I was eating at for the first time. I found it easy to get into, thanks to a ramp the staff folded out for me, and the meal was to die for. The establishment would, however, lose crucial marks when it came to me needing to spend a penny later in the evening.

Having been told by a fellow diner that the toilets were just around the corner from where we were sitting, I excused myself and left to look for them, confident that I would be able to cruise into the disabled cubicle with ease. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that there was no disabled toilet at all – and that neither of the others could accommodate my wheelchair. I initially wondered if there might be another one located elsewhere in the restaurant, but they promptly indicated that this was not the case. Hearing this both angered and frustrated me. I had assumed that it was a legal requirement for public places such as restaurants to provide such facilities for disabled customers, but it would seem that either I was wrong, or there is a loophole allowing proprietors to avoid including them. Either way, people like me were clearly going to be in for a nasty surprise if they wanted to do their business in this particular eatery.

The lack of a toilet did, of course, make the situation at hand more desperate for me. By the time we had established that there was definitely nowhere I could use in the restaurant, I really did need to go, and the only alternative was to do so in the pub across the road. Just getting to that involved a short detour, since there was no dropped kerb in front of the restaurant, and that meant another unwelcome prolonging of my discomfort. Having crossed safely, though, we got in, and I weaved through the throng of drinkers to reach the toilet door. I grabbed the handle and frantically tried to open it, but to no avail. It was locked, and we had to ask for the key at the bar. This seemed unnecessary to me, and in the circumstances it only annoyed me, but I still understood that it was most likely done to prevent misuse of the toilet by people who really did not need to be in there. In any case, whatever annoyance that made me feel was nothing compared to what I felt when I finally got in. Up to now, we had been inconvenienced to such an extent that I could only just hold it in when I was able to relieve myself, and the configuration of this toilet also did little to help me. I found it at the end of a small corridor, and whilst I had all the space necessary to manoeuvre my chair as I needed to, moving my actual body once out of it was less easy. The toilet was positioned between two walls, as you would expect – but they, and the rails bolted to them, were rather far away from it. That meant they were completely useless, since I was unable to lean on them, and was left with no choice but to perch awkwardly on the toilet seat when adjusting my trousers.

I was astounded that it had taken so long to do what other able-bodied patrons could do in no time at all, and upon emerging I was certain of two things – that I would relate my latest tricky experience to you here, and that as long as there is negligence and a relative lack of education regarding disability, daily life will continue to present many unnecessary challenges to the disabled. I am now wondering how such education might be made more prominent in society. Maybe I will use Third Time Enabled to let you know again, if I have any ideas. In the meantime, we still have a long way to go – in my case, literally!

Mason

 

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The Pull, Part 6

The formalities separating me from the start of university are gradually diminishing day by day. Last week, I participated in an assessment arranged following my application for Disabled Students’ Allowance – something which proved to be very fruitful indeed. It answered more of the questions Mum and I had about the support I would be entitled to as a student, and at its end I was relieved that my pre-Winchester to-do list was one item shorter. She and I travelled with Louis to the offices of a company that I was subsequently told would collaborate with the university to work for my benefit; once there I met with a very helpful man who started to ask me about how cerebral palsy affects me in certain situations. Obviously, as you might expect, the questions mostly related to education and how I have coped within it.

Among other things, the man asked what I found difficult during my school years, and what I still find difficult now. He asked about the people and the resources I have had at my disposal to make things easier, and based on my feedback he was gradually able to recommend the support that would best suit my needs on my new course. As I had anticipated, there are many options open to me, and I intend to pursue a great deal of them – not least to acquisition of a piece of software to assist me in lectures. My handwriting is somewhat slower than that of others, making it hard to keep up when I need to jot down a series of notes. With this equipment, however, I would no longer have to worry about such an obstacle. It is compatible with a microphone that can record a single voice whilst excluding all other surrounding noise, meaning that every crucial piece of audio can be captured without a problem. On a computer, this audio can then appear along with the breaks in speech, allowing the user to isolate any given section – this can be especially helpful if a particular piece is more relevant to an essay than another. In addition, these sections can be colour-coded to help them stand out, and notes and photographs can be placed alongside them as further visual aids.

I saw this all demonstrated in my assessment, and was left absolutely sure that it could be beneficial to me once I am settled in Winchester. I expressed my enthusiasm and was told that I am entitled to four hours of tuition in the software’s use (although I don’t have to use all four of them). If I do go on to accept it properly, I will be very eager to see how it can help me, and it was very encouraging to hear about everything else that the company and the university could do for me. It just goes to show that anything is possible if you ask for it – and this positive mindset makes the prospect of requesting help at Winchester even less daunting. Very few questions remained before the assessment, and Mum and I were already highly enlightened on arrival. It is even better to know that we are now tantalisingly close to being fully knowledgeable about what lies ahead.

Mason

Good Medicine

Everyone says, very accurately, that laughter is the best medicine to help see us through difficult times. An equally effective antidote, however, can be found in that funny luminous orb which occasionally (but not often) decides to show its face in Britain. Sunday was thankfully one of those days, and although I have a difficult relationship with the more rural parts of the world – generally preferring somewhere more lively with people going about their business – I was happy to write in the garden with a cool drink. I had opened my notebook with thoughts of my summer poetry project – described in “Accordion” – firmly in my mind. I found myself once again needing to prove to myself that my poetry could be half-decent, especially if I was going to spend my summer focusing on it, so I gradually scribbled some verse while my family watched on. What did I use as inspiration? The sunshine, of course, and specifically how it was lifting my spirits with its warm embrace. You can read the poem below – just bear in mind that it was composed hurriedly and may not be of as high a quality as something more considered. This time I can’t hide behind the fact that it isn’t finished yet!

I hope you like it – it has certainly made me feel even more eager to begin the poems that lie ahead:

I never thought that much of you
Your green and pleasant land.
But then I see a different side
When I am in your hand.

I feel your rays within my veins
I feel your tender touch
Your beams do dance upon my skin
Loving me so much.

You let us share you with our friends
Unite our lives as one.
As we forget our small divides
To bask in summer sun.

And though you do go in again
The memories remain
Like bright and vivid Polaroids
Unblemished by rain.

And when you are not in the sky
I save you a place
In my mind so that you can
Still shine upon my face.

Mason

 

 

 

 

A Question Of Sincerity

When our friends or family are going through troubling times, we automatically jump to be there to support them. We do everything we can to offer them a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, day or night, whenever they might need it – and when we’re in a position to, we gladly allow them to take up said offer in an instant. But what happens when there is distance separating us from the person in need? Such an obstacle is more easily overcome for some of us than it is for others, so when we have no choice but to assist from afar, we often turn to social media to voice any concerns. Messages can be continuously swapped, and every one can be written with unbelievable sincerity, but the problem is that it can be difficult to accurately convey tone when they aren’t being spoken in person.

That, in turn, can lead to worries – at least on my part – that the gestures will be perceived as hollow and meaningless, even when they are exactly the opposite. I have a few friends facing difficulties at the moment, and without the option of being physically around to help them, I can do little else but use the aforementioned medium to be there instead. The paranoia that comes with the fear of seeming uncaring is bad enough when you’re talking privately with someone (being one of only two voices), but when you’re part of a group – as I am in the Creative Winch Buddies – you have to insert your words amongst everyone else’s. Everyone sends theirs with as much care and concern as the next person, but if mine come after they have all had their say, I worry that it looks like I’ve offered them out of obligation rather than anything more genuine. As I’ve thought about this more and more in recent weeks, this blog post serves as something of a promise, mainly to the friends I care about so deeply whenever they need support. Whether you are near or far away, and regardless of how said support might be expressed, it is always given from the very bottom of my heart – and nothing else but an abundance of love.

Mason

Accordion

May seems to be an unkind month in the world of Third Time Enabled. For the last two years I have only produced three posts in that 31-day period – two of the four we saw in 2016 were written by Will and Emily – perhaps due to the annual bout of writer’s block that apparently coincides with it. 2018 has thus far been no exception to the rule, and with the absence of any ideas for the continuation of Christopher’s story (sorry about that), I have been frantically searching for new sources of inspiration with no success. Until now, that is…

I owe this sudden burst of creativity to the somewhat unspectacular title you see before you as you read. As I came onto the blog to stare in vain at a blank page – which I often do in these situations – I spotted a draft post that featured nothing except for the word “accordion” at the top. I can only assume that it once bore some relevance to something I was planning to write, and that I jotted it down in a hurry with the intention of returning to it later – sadly, however, its original purpose is long forgotten. Upon seeing it for the second time, though, my mind turned to the excitement and intrigue I feel when selecting titles as a writer, and I decided to use these emotions as a basis for the new post. Readers do, of course, see the title of a work before they know anything about its content, so as its creator you can have a lot of fun tantalising their tastebuds with the names you choose. Some break the mould by being long-winded and conventional – and in stating the obvious – while others are brief mononyms that give absolutely nothing away. If you want to know what lies beneath its surface, you have to dive in.

I was faced with a new opportunity to devise some titles when one of the Creative Winch Buddies suggested we all tackle a new project over the summer, with a view to showing each other the results in September at university. A number of us responded positively to the idea, and the concept of “new beginnings” quickly arose as a possible destination for such a project, since we are obviously all facing one. I liked this, and decided to adopt it for my own – but beyond planning I cannot start writing it until July, so that means only titles currently exist. They will serve a collection of poems that act almost like a concept album, telling a story that begins during an uncertain period, progresses as the protagonist’s optimism increases and ends as they find themselves reinvigorated and content. Such is the positivity within my own life at the moment that I simply couldn’t have created any other kind of story – but I shouldn’t give too much away right now. What I will tell you, however, is that the titles I have so far are as follows (and they are subject to change):

  1. “Time Off For Good Behaviour”
  2. “The Spin Cycle”
  3. “Careers Advice”
  4. “The Motions”
  5. “Barren”
  6. “There’s a Storm Coming”
  7. “Rainbows And Unicorns”
  8. “Never Been Sweeter”
  9. “Spirit Of Adventure”
  10. “This Is All Mine”

The possibility of including an epilogue at the end is still being considered, but I’m obviously some way away from that point now. What lies ahead at the moment is an interesting period of discovery as I cobble the poems together – and not only will this process keep the creative juices flowing, but it will also keep me occupied during a long summer break. That can only be a good thing, and I’m excited to find out what develops from it!

Mason

 

 

 

 

Escapism/Escapology

Talking to the Creative Winch Buddies I mentioned in my last post has caused me to reflect increasingly on how and when we refine our techniques as writers. Whilst most of it is surely done in front of the keyboard or the blank sheet of paper, at least a small fraction of our creative development must be attributable to subconscious external influences. When I was pondering this, I focused on one such influence in particular – childhood. More specifically, inspiration blossoms in its most carefree manner when we are most carefree, letting off steam in the school playground. I was one of those children who never quite got into the traditional lunchtime games, such as Tag or Manhunt, since I preferred to make them up on the spot instead.

Anything went in my friendship group. If you wanted a spaceship as big as Planet Earth itself, you could have one. If you longed to become an immortal, all-powerful being, all you needed to do was assume the right persona. You’ll notice a sci-fi theme in our games! At the time, I only saw these improvisations as an effective way of killing the lunch hour, but I was perhaps also unknowingly nurturing myself through leisure. Experimentation was rife – as we were fans of multiple franchises, it wasn’t uncommon to find a Dalek facing off against Darth Vader in the same story, and the rules and parameters were just as fluid. It didn’t matter how many times somebody’s character had been killed off in the space of ten minutes, as they could simply devise increasingly contrived recoveries allowing them to be miraculously resurrected. Like I said, anything was possible, and it could all unfold in pretty much any space, regardless of whether it was the wide open expanse of the field or the tighter confines of one of the quads. When the space was smaller, it forced us to adapt what we created, and in hindsight this must also have been beneficial to my future endeavours.

Children do, of course, use their imaginations for things other than play or escapism – one notable example can be found in how they tell little white lies. I know from childhood experience how these can take the form of long-winded anecdotes, as I went to school with a boy who insisted to his classmates that he’d once defused a bomb to save a town, and that he’d been to the Monaco Grand Prix multiple times. Looking back on these now that I am older and somewhat wiser, they obviously seem ridiculous, but he told them so convincingly that we blindly believed him without question. Depending on who you ask, fibs can be good or bad for children, but these were just harmless fun – and if they encouraged my friend to use his very vivid imagination, they really can’t have done any harm. For some people, such conduct might just pay dividends somewhere down the line.

Mason

 

Can’t Wait To Collaborate

Just under a year ago, I included one of my friend Grace’s documentaries in a blog post (“What Gives You The Right?”) that discussed the plight of the homeless. As she had been too busy to contribute a post to Third Time Enabled, I thought that the video would both ensure she was well-represented and raise further awareness of a very important issue. In her latest project, and as part of her degree course, Grace is once again utilising the power of the documentary in exploring another one of life’s most pressing problems; loneliness. More specifically, she will be looking at loneliness from the perspective of someone who finds themselves immersed in city life, surrounded by people but still very much alone. This is the feeling I have been asked to capture in some spoken-word poetry, which Grace intends to include in her film.

When she asked me to write the piece, I was certain about two things – firstly that I couldn’t accept the offer quickly enough, and secondly that I could not underwhelm her with whatever I created. With this latter point in mind, out came my notebook, and I very tentatively began to craft some opening lines. Poetry is something I haven’t turned my hand to in quite some time, so as I did this I was well aware that it wasn’t going to be something that was complete in ten minutes. Even getting to two verses took at least a couple of days. Now, however, I have something that increasingly resembles a finished poem, and this morning I decided I was confident enough to show what I had to some of my future Winchester course-mates in our Facebook group chat. Just as I’d always expected, we’ve been getting on like a house on fire, and I feel blessed to have found such a supportive group of like-minded people to share my works in progress with. If any of the “Creative Winch Buddies” are reading this, I want you to know exactly how awesome you all are, and how lucky I consider myself to have met you. I can’t wait for us to be introduced in person come September!

True to their supportive nature, the group seemed to like what I’d presented to them, and their feedback was exactly what I needed to put many of my worries about the poem aside, at least for the time being. I have a first half down on paper – I can focus on any further alterations to that when I have a second. That’s likely to be a much bigger hurdle, but one I will relish not just for the creativity involved, but also for the opportunity to show the end product to the group and Grace herself – surely two of the most appreciative audiences a writer could wish for.

Mason