Leading A Merry Dance


img_6029I celebrate the word old. I am old. The older I’ve got the closer I’ve felt to the label. I love labels I choose to wear. I am now an old disabled disability equality trainer. I’ve always believed that the lessons of the social model are valuable to other marginalised groups. So, it is I look forward to working with the old. My peers. My people.

Bean runs an elders Healthy Eating lunch group in North London. The lunch is preceded by a dance movement class. We were called to tell the teacher could not attend this week and Bean was asked if she could fill in the time. I woke up and devised an exercise. Its basic reminiscence I know. I came up with a list of 12 conversation starters. I felt some of them may be risque, others may be fun. I presented it to the group.

My feelings were right. There were some tuts, some ‘oh Richard’s’. But, i was not responsible for the starters they pulled from the bag (see picture). ‘My first crush’ was followed by ‘the first time’, followed by ‘I really love’. All potentially adult themes. But the group soon found that words are what you make of them and younger readers might be surprised older people can do grown up.

Regardless of who we are and what we said, we appreciated our time together. The learning about our friends was valuable. North London is rich in diversity. Men, women, irish, jamaican, swiss. I think the surprise is how close our experiences are. How we are defined by church, by culture, by state, by social controls, by each other.

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And REST!!!….


Our campaign against demolition of Crouch End Victorian Villas has reached a point of stasis. We were to be heard at the Planning Sub Committee next week. News from the planning office is that the developers want to resubmit plans. I see two things; a) no matter what they plan they can’t get round the conservation arguments and b) at last a chance to down tools and go see some autumn leaves, a country walk, a river walk, our appreciation of nature.
Walking the land it strikes me that here we are on someone else’s property and that its protected. Acres of woodland, National Trust properties, an enormous hotel glamourised by the Profumo Scandal and the prettiness of Christine Keeler.
Meanwhile, back in Crouch End, the Town Hall Square is under a planned and temporary occupation. Our green, our iconic tree, is under threat. We call it ours. The old Hornsey town hall already has a preferred bidder and a boutique hotel is proposed, which raises doubts over the businesses currently housed there as well as an arts centre that seems to become more culturally important by the day.
It seems there is no escape from politics and campaigning even on an autumn day as glorious as this.  And so it is we send our love.

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Something got me started

I was sitting in a room with someone who shared something with me. I liked it. It made me laugh. Yet it focussed on some things I get pretty serious about.

  • Speaking up.
  • Influences that stop you from speaking up
  • Consequences of speaking up
  • False arguments preventing you from speaking up
  • Humour
  • Not saying what you really mean but still getting your point across (not a strategy I’d endorse at say a care assessment meeting / care managers can be so literal)
  • Profanity. I see someone beat me to writing ‘In Praise of Profanity’
  • When profanity is misunderstood and used as an excuse to beat you with because you’ve been naughty and talked about how you feel about things.
  • Listening to the voice
  • Celebrating the culture within the voice
  • Recognising diversity

So, a mighty list. Might be best you read what was shared with me before coming back to see how this ends.

But just to say what else No Comment reminded me of:

First They Came by Pastor Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me And there was no one left to speak out for me

I note that references to the ‘Incurables’ seem to have been lost to memory.

So, Speak Up.
Yes. I know I am in this room
With you who have stopped speaking
Stopped because of the beating
Stopped because you were not heard
Stopped because of the way things changed
Stopped because you think you’ve had your time
Stopped because no one listened
When someone should have listened
Stopped because no one cares
When someone somewhere should have cared
Stopped because the way your treated
Is the way your treated and that’s all there is to it
Stopped because of the pain you feel
The pain from the beating, the pain of rejection
Stopped. Stopped. Stopped speaking
Because you’ve stopped speaking

Look back.
Look back to all these stops
Why stop?
Should you stop?
You should not stop
Know you should not stop
So start
Start speaking
Start believing
Start to take your life back
The world did not stop
Because you stopped and grew tired of starting
The world carried on the way the world carries on
And because the world carries on the way it carries on
You must start
Start again
Start anew
And Start afresh

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An Autumnal Walk In Highgate

We must get out to blow away the cobwebs. We must appreciate the colours more. Take the time to appreciate the sunshine that this fine morning brings. Find the breath to walk the hills, up and down, that the locale brings.

Take the time to remember who we are and what we mean to each other. Take the time to remember. The more I remember the more I smell autumn. Leaves in the air falling to the ground. A dampness that clings with cold to the nostrils with cold dew hanging from them.

I look for the autumn picture. I see mine. Mine, the one and only. I see it just before i see a group of photographers, potentially a club. Its nice they are out together taking the same red shrub for all it can offer from angle to composition. Bean wants to know if I want to join a club. I don’t.
That will do. Just the one stop today. And we walk on. Its not chilling the bones. Bean is telling me about a groups disdain for Halloween as an American thing. She will also remind what the pagans think. I will turn this sequence into a poem. Indeed I have already and posted it to disabilityarts.online It should appear in a day or two. It’s called Ghost Walk.

Spectral thoughts turn to this time of the year in days past. I see myself pushing a wheelbarrow asking for: ‘A penny for the guy’

But that was then and this is now and the wheel of the year turns on. Turning as we walk and turning whilst we talk, up another incline to Highgate High Street or Highgate Hill as we may know it more properly and we look into the windows and we are impressed with the window displays, that tell of Highgate (the bookshop) and tell more regularly of the pagan festival

A classy joint; Highgate. Middle class Nirvana. We stop off to peruse the exhibition in the museum. It would have been so much better if only i’d have packed my old man’s glasses. Its amazing I can still see. Glaucoma is in the family. Other astmatics talk of detached retinas. As the seasons turn. So we turn. Older. Not always wiser. I see a new image for my signs selection…. that’s a collection of poems (you know where) and in this season of darkness i start thinking of new lines on the story of when the lights go on


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Come Together


I can’t begin to tell you how much some people irritate me. So, I won’t even try. For now here I am walking up the hill, a little breathless, to the Civic. Me and Bean. We have decided to go see Haringey announce their preferred bidder for the redevelopment of Hornsey Town Hall. The Hall is becoming increasingly important to us. We go there more and more often and we enjoy the idea of having a local arts centre and rooms for a community focus. We have a secondary interest and that’s to watch process in order to understand how things work for when we present our petition and arguments against the demolition of Victorian Villas in a conservation area designed to protect the same.

recapWednesday morning I’m on day 3 of Volunteer Induction Training and taking learners through a recap of the previous two days, ‘Disability Equality Training’ and ’12 Pillars Of Independent Living’ so as to lead forward into day 3, The History of the Disability Movement and the Roles that People Played. In a nutsell if you assume disability means discrimination on the basis of impairment you are taking a social model stance. This model defines different types of barrier to inclusion. They can be removed. You are now talking about rights, equality, and you are looking at how to achieve it. Activism, Advocacy, Art. My days coalesce. They come together.


That night I’m in Hornsey Town Hall with lover Bean and friend Rita enjoying A Suffragettes Song by the Crouch End Players. Here in the site some would seek to protect, glorying in the venue, the care a community of players have taken, an historic review, song, comedy, tragedy, on a theme of equality. I feel whole. My life has come together.

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Giant Bee Seen Signing Our Conservation Petition


Its true.
Kind of.

Crouch End Transitions invited us to their Apple Day at Hornsey Vale Community Centre so as to collect signatures from people attending. (petition Help Make Conservation Matter in Crouch End)

We liked the drink, we liked the cakes, as did a giant bee representing Muswell Hill’s Friends of the Earth.

We discovered the bee could talk and was as happy to sign our petition as we were to support the Bee Cause.

Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me and can’t prove that this happened but it did.

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Sweet Kindness and Commitment

redheartAt some point in this piece i’ll ask you to sign and share this petition. Might as well do it now. Please go ahead. Get it over with. Tell your friends a conservation area designed to protect Victorian Villas from demolition is under threat. Ask them to help make conservation matter in Crouch End. Other people do.Other people who show sweet kindness and commitment. This is the latest list:

  1. The 20 strong campaign group who continue to meet on a regular basis in our gaff
  2. Banners Restaurant and the ArtHouse Cinema who have always carried our petition and who continue to encourage us.
  3. Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum and the Highgate Society who agreed to attend our meetings and placed objections with Haringey Council
  4. The Victorian Society who took the time out to point us to a webpage that advised us how to lead a campaign
  5. Each and every soul that took the time to sign and twice those same souls when they went on to share, using social media to the benefit of our aims.
  6. The Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum again for recognising us at the their stall and talking to us like friends, sharing jokes and lifting our spirits
  7. Everyone who stopped to sign the petition on the streets and took the time to speak with us, telling us about their enthusiasm for our cause and their regrets at losing similar battles against powerful developers who show more money than taste
  8. Transitions Crouch End who before showing the incredible Greenpeace film ‘How To Change The World’ gave us the space to speak and the chance to ask for more signatures.
  9. The motivated green activists in the room that night who have set an example with their tenacity and willingness to keep going in the face of apathy. Their courage is based on the truth they hold dear.
  10. Sheila, (sorry don’t know your real name) but you took a petition sheet off us and said you’d get it filled out and two days later you showed up at our door as promised. You didn’t have to do that.

None of you had to do the things you do but you do. Its been a joy getting to know you and re-acquainting ourselves with the positivity that exists within our local and online commmunities. Thank you very much.

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