Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Campaign For A Fair Society Launch

On Monday I went to London for the launch of the Campaign For A Fair Society. It was quite the event, held in a room with a terrace opening out onto the river, cucumber sandwiches and cream teas. I had managed to make myself look presentable, also being sure to wear a purple dress, the Spartacus colour. Somehow, miraculously my outfit had survived the journey intact, which is quite the acheivement considering previous trips to London have involved being hit on the head by an escaping nappy change tray and spending time shut in a 'cupboard' at Euston station after asking for assistance. I'd even been thoughtful enough to wear special 'prevent any embarrassing pant flashing moments' pants as when one is a tad wobbly, pant flashing happens quite often. Like on the train to London for example. Ahem.

Being the organised type I'd written my speech on the train on the way there, sat on the floor in a corner of the function room and had a little rehearsal and was clutching my scrappy, handwritten notes like a talisman. We queued up for tea served by men in pretty penguin suits and decided to mingle a bit and put faces to the names of people we knew from online.

We can be an excitable lot campaigners, so when I spotted a friend who I hadn't actually met in person before, hugs were very much on the cards. Who knew hugging could become an extreme sport? In the House of Lords no less! Well, when the hug is between a wobbly person balancing a cup of tea on their lap and a more mobile blind person extreme sport doesn't quite cover it! I didn't know until the next day that I had screamed so loudly it echoed around the room, but on the upside that does mean I don't have to explain to anyone why I looked like some sort of soggy, bare legged, bag lady by the time it came to give my speech!

I did manage to resist the impulse to rip off my tights in the actual function room. For which I feel points should mean prizes...a cup full of steaming tea doesn't mix well with underwear and inner thighs! Some time was spent in the disabled loo, splashing a bit of cold water around and finding a place to stash my soaking tights. Then a nice man in a penguin suit found a first aid box and a burn dressing so the mingling became slightly more intimate as Stefania and I found ourselves back in the disabled loo squeezing out burn gel to soothe my skin. Fortunately I'm a milky tea drinker and when initially handed my cup had asked for a little more milk which reduced the temperature from needing a trip to A&E levels.

The tea flinger shall remain nameless as she is utterly mortified. I'd like her to know that there's no permanent damage and no need to be upset as she is now in the very honoured position vying for 'hard man of welfare reform' alongside the wheelchair pusher, also nameless, who managed to rocket launch me from my wheelchair on a previous visit to London. If I ever write my memoirs infamy will be theirs!

So that was the House of Lords. Very beautiful, quite impressive and probably not used to screaming women in wheelchairs. Well...not inside anyway...

For those who'd like to hear the speeches, they are all available here. As I speak from notes there isn't a transcript of mine yet, but there is one available for Dr Simon Duffy's speech on the Centre for Welfare Reform website. Big thanks to everyone from Brandon Trust, but especially Stefania for enabling me to be at the launch event and looking after me so well while I was there.

Update 14:16: Photos from Brandon Trust 

5 comments:

britishroses said...

Sounds like a fun and memorable time. Love the speeches - people like yourself and Sue give us all hope even after all that has happened. Thank you.

Jaime Gill said...

I would have been impressed enough by the speech itself, but when i saw the trials and tribulations you went through just before delivering it, it was even more impressive. I loved your artful placing of your notes on your lap.

(I do sympathise with the tea spiller almost as much as you though. I recently went to a wedding and went to hug the widow, somehow catching another woman's wine glass with my elbow and hurling it, full, into her face. Even during the social horror I kept thinking "it could have been worse, it could have been the widow")

But back to the main point, your speech. It truly was great, you are so good at highlighting how much is at stake, how perilously close we are as a country to losing the progress made over the last 40 years (and with it our soul). I was particularly glad that you reminded everyone that people with learning disabilities may be even more vulnerable, and that we must all be united and stand up for one another.

Thanks so much for coming down to do it, Kaliya, the journey must be hellish but it really does make a huge difference.

Jaime Gill said...

my mistake above has been pointed out. I'm afraid it was a funeral I was at, and the widow that only just avoided a drenching. As you can imagine, true social horror

Stefania Rulli-Gibbs said...

Hi Kaliya,

No thanks are due to me. In fact, I should be thanking you for giving me a small insight into the life of a wheelchair user. At first I thought my only concern, as your 'pusher', would be to negotiate routes and obstacles, then I realised that, actually, there was much more to it than that.

I needed to try and understand where you wanted to go, stop every time somebody came enthusiastically towards you to greet you, and try to read your body language from behind (did you want to stop and talk to them?) as the room was too noisy with chit-chat to hear more subtle directions from you.

I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be dependent on somebody else for your own mobility. I know I didn't always get it right (how could I? I'm not you!), but just hope I didn't mess it up too much. And you never complained or told me I was doing anything wrong, so your tolerance is truly humbling.

And, yes, the cup of tea: that split second when I saw the cup tipping over and dove towards your wheelchair to pull it back, only to hear your scream as I was doing so. Aargh, it happened on my watch.

And then, hearing your speech, powerful and assured, again I questioned myself for assuming that you were dependent on me that day: as you spoke, we were all dependent on you. You told us how it was. My arrogance!

So, thank you for bringing me to question many of my assumptions and for realizing (in a tiny, tiny way) that, really, we haven't got a clue about disability unless we live it every day of our lives.

xxx

sad times said...

Well got to give it to you against the odds speaking out for others who can't-taking part in launching a battle for a fairer society. Thank- you.
To put it in prospective meeting, hugs and tea spilling all funny and sheer reality of excitement of every day life:) ( not so funny if scalded though) and warms the cockles of your heart.
However all else in the 21 century is a disgrace asking for things to be fair and for the vulnerable.
I ask myself 'why,oh why?' well my thought is the general public are wholly unaware of what is happening to our society, they here my story and say 'eh?????'
I tell my friends and support them who are going through it, all hit blinded by stealth by this catastrophic wrb.
What happened to playground rules?
Perhaps this Government should go back to school for some PSHE lessons.
Personal, Social and Health Education.
Thanks again.