Solid Proof

I may only be at the end of my first year of uni, but it’s never too early to start looking to the future. I’ve recently started thinking more and more about what my next move will be post-graduation, and it seems that one particular area may end up providing the answer. Obviously, my ultimate goal in life is to be a writer for a living, but that’ll have to be a target I work towards over time. If I’m to reach that stage, I’ll need to look for something that is relevant to both my ambition and the skills I have, and that also provides good experience. Having done some research, it transpires that proofreading may be just the thing.

It’s something that has often been suggested to me for a number of years now. As I’ve always been so focused on writing, I’ll admit that I haven’t always been warmly receptive to the idea, but since the start of my degree it’s become increasingly clear that it’s definitely something to consider. I’ve definitely been a stickler for good spelling, punctuation and grammar for as long as I can remember! My research into the matter began, as always, with some simple Google searches and emails. The former revealed that most professional proofreaders and copyeditors take industry-recognised qualifications before they begin work – and I quickly discovered that there are many on offer to novices like me. Those that seem to be especially well-regarded, however, come from the Publishing Training Centre and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Both were heartily endorsed by the people I emailed, including a lecturer from Winchester whose name had been passed to me by a friend.

These two institutions are therefore my next port of call, and I’m glad that all of my original options have been narrowed down to make this process easier. I need to look carefully through both websites to see what they can offer me in terms of distance learning, since that’ll probably be easier than attending a workshop (which is also more expensive). From what I’ve seen so far, they could both be excellent choices, so there’s much more digging to be done if I’m going to pick one over the other. The ball is now rolling, though – so you’ll have to watch this space.

Mason

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A Heart Full Of Hope

Here we are, folks – my very first post for 2019. I can safely say that 2018 was a corker of a year for me, and although I spent the last few hours of New Year’s Eve alone at home, I did so with a belly full of pizza and a heart full of hope, so I was more than happy. I used some of that quality time to continue reading a book Lara bought me as a Christmas present, Agatha Christie’s Evil Under The Sun, which features none other than Hercule Poirot himself. She got it upon hearing that I’d never read any of Christie’s work, and told me that I’d find it very easy to become immersed in the story. She was absolutely right – as I write this, I am 93 pages and seven chapters in, at a point where many probing questions are being asked of every potential murderer. I got there in no time, and my enjoyment of this new book in my spare time has subsequently increased my excitement for what lies ahead at Winchester even more.

Of course, nothing by Agatha Christie is on the reading list, but a few other books are, and two of them arrived yesterday. I am yet to look at them properly, but both are works of non-fiction – and as you might have gathered, I’m rather fond of life writing. The opportunity to read about the experiences, trials and tribulations of others is always tantalising, as is the opportunity to write straight from the heart about my own. The prospect of so much creativity from that and my other modules – including one actually called “Creativity”, and one on poetry, which I have always enjoyed – makes this January much more inviting, since I can’t yet tell what new ideas will manifest themselves, or how. I don’t know what will happen outside of my work either. The world is once again my oyster and as always, the unknown is very exciting. I can’t wait to go and see what it’s all about! Before that, though, I have another very precious fortnight left here at home – and before that, there is a brand new episode of Doctor Who for me to enjoy coming tonight. I fully intend to make the most of both.

Happy New Year to you all!

Mason

Me And My Microphone

I am now on the brink of Week 10 of my first university semester, and the first nine weeks alone have taught me many things about how to write and what I can do to improve my writing. Two of the more recent lessons have come in Publishing and Social Media, which I had as usual yesterday morning. As a blogger, the first was one that I found particularly useful. Even as someone who is a stickler for good spelling, punctuation and grammar, it wasn’t something that had occurred to me before. We were taught that before a post is published on any given blog, it should always be written up on Word first, so that any mistakes can be exposed by the processor. Once it has been tidied up as necessary, it can be freely copied and pasted across. This method is – as of this post – one I am officially adopting for Third Time Enabled, as it’s more than likely that one or two keyboard slips have occurred over the last three years, in spite of all my best efforts to avoid them.

We have also learned that as this is a creative degree, we are free to explore new artistic horizons that stretch beyond writing alone. This is especially true in the Publishing module, since I will soon have to submit a piece that can take almost any form I want it to. As I have a microphone sitting idle in my bag (which hasn’t had to record any lectures recently), I have decided to try something totally new – a podcast. I am neither an entirely confident speaker nor an expert on technology, but doing this will add to my skill set and – at the very least – I will be able to write what I need to say. Thankfully, I will be graded based on the actual content of the podcast, and not on its sound quality!

When I made the decision to do this, I obviously had to consider what I would talk about, and the inspiration behind what I eventually chose came at the most unlikely time. Heading towards Winchester High Street last week, I passed a rather nice hotel, which looked it must cost an arm and a leg to eat in. Leaning against the railings outside was a pizza delivery bicycle, and sure enough, I saw that a pizza was on its way in through the front door. I immediately took out my phone and made a note of what I’d seen. Call it a writer’s curiosity – I couldn’t help but wonder who would order pizza to a place like that, and why. My mind was full of stories and explanations, so there was no way I was going to ignore something that was apparently so out of place. I may have spoken before about how I am often inspired by the smallest words, phrases and observations, since I believe even the most insignificant things can bear fruit. This was no exception, and it led me to base my planned podcast on what can result from such things. My current intentions therefore look something like this – I’ll talk about the latest little source of inspiration at the start, before I read a story or other piece of writing that I have managed to develop from it. It’s a simple concept, but if it is executed well, I am confident that its unpredictability could make for an entertaining listen – and yes, we do have to publish the podcast when it’s complete! Now that I have the basic idea established, all that’s left to do is write my script and do my best to record, and I have a feeling that could involve some trial and error at first. Uncharted territory can be daunting, but also very intriguing…

Mason

The Pull, Part 13

I am writing this only a day after officially half-registering as a student at the University of Winchester. I’m only half-registered because I still need to enrol formally on the day I arrive, but the first part of the process has all been done online. I had no real expectations of it before diving in, but as it turned out I would have had absolutely no reason to be intimidated – the registration only needed me to confirm or correct various personal details the university held for me. It was a most straightforward step-by-step task that took no longer than 15 minutes, by my reckoning. Once I had given Winchester all they needed to know, I was sent a confirmation email. You know what those can be like – they’re generally fairly run-of-the-mill acknowledgements of whatever it is you’ve done or provided for someone. In this case, however, the email acted not only as thanks, but also as a reminder of the increasing number of responsibilities entering my life as I approach my university adventure.

Some of these have been written down on the new to-do list Mum has created. As things stand, three items have been ticked off, but several more remain and time isn’t totally on our side. They include especially important money-based matters, and as someone with a particularly appalling track record in Maths, it’s fair to say I am unsettled by the prospect of making sure it is all in the right places and dealt with sensibly when I am living alone. Thankfully, I still have the wisdom of others to lean on until the end of next week, and this afternoon the building society will get involved when Mum and I go for a meeting there. It might be my money that we’ll be discussing, but I think I might let Mum do the majority of the talking – there are still a few things I need to get my head around before I fully understand my financial situation. I think it needs to be explained a few more times, so I’m very fortunate to still have eleven days to figure it out. Are all aspects of independent living as complicated?

Mason

Faith Restored

On Monday afternoon, my struggle against inadequate disabled facilities continued. Keeping the recent experiences outlined in “A Long Way To Go” firmly in mind, I considered things to have hit an all-time low when I was guided to a cubicle in a local car park by a friend in my time of need. I had my RADAR key with me, so opening the door was not a problem, and although it was a touch on the heavy side, my upper body strength meant I could move it independently. When the doorway was clear, the daylight revealed a room that should have been just the right size to accommodate my wheelchair – doubts remained, however, so I only tentatively moved in. Unable to hold the door behind me any longer, I relaxed my arm, and it slammed shut with a hefty thud. It was then that I faced my biggest challenge yet, and not in negotiating the toilet. I was suddenly finding myself stuck in pitch darkness, and unable to find a light switch!

There was absolutely nothing for my eyes to adjust to, so aside from the fact that the door was behind me, and the toilet somewhere in front, I had no idea where anything else was. I had no choice but to unzip the bag strapped to the left side of my chair and fumble for my phone. I pulled it out and the screen came to life, only to illuminate the positively disgusting lavatory visitors were expected to use. It was almost full to the brim with long sheets of discoloured and soggy toilet paper, as well as the leavings of the last poor soul who struggled in there. The walls and floor weren’t much cleaner, and the sink and taps – ironically for items that exist to wash your hands – were most likely dirtier than the fingers of anyone who has just done their business. I will admit that I can’t recall what the handrails were like, or even if there were any proper ones at all, but in any case, this was a toilet I simply could not use without a light and some degree of sterilisation.

I was desperate and without relief once again. I was also naturally angry, since I was having to take yet another detour just to perform a common bodily function, but thankfully the next disabled cubicle was only a short distance away. Out came the RADAR key again, and with the help of a kind stranger – who waited and held my umbrella outside whilst I did my thing – I was in. This new toilet was not spotless either, but it did at least contain a window, so natural light was in abundance. Space was plentiful too, and upon approaching the bowl I was grateful that it was positively poo-free. Lovely. Well, it wasn’t perfect, but it would have to do. Within a couple of minutes I was done, having been able to wash my hands without touching anything thanks to an automated system. I emerged onto the pavement again, and the stranger handed me my umbrella with a smile. The kindness of ordinary folk can manifest itself in the most insignificant ways, and that was one such way – but, with my toilet ordeal now over, the stage was set for another to appear.

The time came to go home, and that meant getting on the bus. This particular bus had evidently seen better days, however, and any modern designer with a shred of common sense would surely have made the wheelchair space much bigger – not that I could access it anyway. The issue on this occasion lay not with another wheelchair or a pushchair, but with a sea of suitcases belonging to several holidaymakers. Bear in mind that the disabled space must always be given first and foremost to someone who really needs it. In this case, I was that person, but before I’d even edged onto the ramp to board the bus, the owners of the cases were complaining about having to move them. Luckily for me, the driver stood firm, insisting that I had to be allowed on and they would have to do what they could to fit me in. What followed was a series of inch-by-inch shuffles and slides as I did my best to squeeze, but even when it seemed impossible, we managed it – almost certainly defying physics in the process. This was in no small part due to the determination of the driver, who showed a great deal of patience as I lurched into my slot. Indeed, she held the bus at the stop until I was safely seated, and when I needed to get off again ten minutes later, she made a very nerve-wracking departure a whole lot easier. People like her are those I probably don’t give enough credit to when I’m moaning about others, but now is her moment and I wanted to express my thanks for her consideration here – not forgetting the umbrella-holding man either. Your contributions to my day may have been relatively small, but they have not gone unnoticed. My friends and family are there for me on a daily basis, and they should always know how valued they are, but in your own little ways, even you help restore my faith in humanity.

Mason

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

 

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