Monday, 5 December 2011


A rather irritating thing occurred to me a few weeks ago – initially I let it go, but then almost exactly the same thing happened again this morning. It has really got up my nose which means I should probably write it all down, take it to the window and chuck it out with the rest of the mental garbage I insist on drowning myself with.

So, here goes.......

First, a snippet of background: My back and leg problems have left me in a bit of a state. I try not to use my walking stick – I have a hate/hate relationship with the blessed thing - it's a symbol of everything that is wrong with me and I stubbornly refuse to lie down and give in (at least to the outside world).  I live in a rural area (8 miles to the nearest shop) so I rely on the car.  I have also shoved my pride up my backside and accepted a blue mobility badge, which entitles me to park nearer to places and has admittedly been a great help.

When I received the badge, one of the first things my parents said to me was “well, you'll have to limp more than you do when you get out of the car; otherwise people will think you are cheating”. I was horrified at this suggestion. I have nothing to hide, I didn't blag my way to easy parking - I cannot walk 60/70m without resting and my application was fully supported by my GP, hospital consultant and physio, but it just shows the suspicious society we have sadly become. Now the general consensus is that everyone else is working the system and no-one (especially the law-abiding tax-payer) likes to think they are being short-changed by what they see as the privileges of others – the 'big society' sure is a leaky bucket.

Still, the brush sweeps wide and paints a lovely shade of stereotype. Although a number of people will fit the bill, we now seem to have a media situation where anyone on benefits is probably a 'cheat'; all single-mothers are pony-tailed, teenage miscreants wearing large gold hooped earrings (widows are also single-mothers, but let's not worry about that, it doesn't fit the argument). Oh, and don't forget those pesky teenagers who are all trouble-making hoodies; or how you can only be considered disabled if you are in a wheelchair; not to mention all mental health patients will most certainly push innocent strangers under trains at some point; or all Londoners are either the Notting Hill set or cheeky chappy cockney wide-boys etc., etc.,........I could go on.

But hold on a minute, I've been a few of these. I was born in the East End, and although I am generally cheerful, I don't spend my waking hours walking around with my thumbs in my braces, saying “gawd blimey guv, strike a light, those apple & pears have knackered me out today”. I've been a single-mother (sans ponytail/ earrings); I am now unable to work and have been on benefits in the past (which is not a lot of money for quite a lot of humiliation in the assessment tests). I have suffered mental health problems through depression – but I have never felt the urge to hurt anybody - and now I suppose I'm considered disabled, but I am resisting the wheelchair with all my might.  

However, as it turned out, it would seem that my parents were right...

Which (finally) brings me to my:

'bug up the nose episode of the week.....'

I had parked in a disabled bay outside the supermarket; it was busy and quite a few of the other disabled bays had cars with people sitting in them, presumably while their other half did the shopping, which you are not supposed to do, but is actually quite common practice. Anyway, as I was getting my bag out, an old boy, who was a complete stranger to me, came marching over and demanded to know the 'nature of my disability'. I was so shocked, I told him to mind his own business – whereupon he gave out a diatribe about how his wife was in a wheelchair, implying that she needed the space more than me. Perhaps she did, and I would have been happy to have moved on, if her other half hadn't gone into the “attack mode” straight away. It may have been wrong, but he was told in no uncertain circumstances where to go and I limped off into the supermarket with steam coming out of my ears.

It happened again today, when another old chap accused me of not being disabled – purely on the grounds of what I look like.   He also got a flea in his ear, because I would like to ask: what the hell is a disabled person supposed to look like? And why should they have to look like it? I have spent most of my adult life working in the Artificial Limb Centre in Roehampton, where the doctors and prosthetists work extremely hard to help patients function and appear aesthetically as near normal as possible. Most of the time you couldn't even tell if someone was wearing an artificial limb or not and surely that's the way it should be. 

 The sad thing is that this guy was convinced he was in the right and once he realised I was entitled to park in the spot, he accused me of not displaying the badge properly (it was clearly on show on the dashboard, he just hadn't bothered to look).  He made all of his assumptions and accusations completely without grounds and then refused to take responsibility for them.  The whole episode was unpleasant, upsetting and unnecessary and in the end he marched off without so much of an apology, kiss your ass or anything.  He had no understanding that people who have needs (whether physically or mentally) come in all different guises and need help for all different reasons - some of which will not be immediately visible.  Books and covers come to mind.

I know I am extremely vain and I go out of my way not to look my age or display what is wrong with me.  In fact, I have actually heard someone say:”well, she doesn't look very disabled,” and this observation was made when I have been sitting inside the car.  Well, thanks very much, but I don't want to wear a t-shirt that shouts:


if it's all the same - not because I'm ashamed, but because as far as I'm concerned, that is certainly not what defines me as a human being.

So, I shall still continue to have Pink blaring out of the car stereo when I pull up into a disabled parking bay and I shall refuse to dress my age; I shall keep wearing the eye-liner and Jackie O sunglasses and my only concession to the Daily Mail/Express disabled stereotype are my flat shoes and my stick (which I plan to cover in shiny diamante stickers). As I refuse to conform, I expect I shall be having a few more “discussions” like the one I had today with certain members of the Big Society, which seem to be mostly old boys in Waitrose car-parks. 

I hear so much hullabaloo about equal rights for the disabled and yet, when you try to remain equal, you are immediately labelled (yet again) with blagging the system. The bottom line is you can't have it both ways.

End of rant.....


  1. I finally got my Blue Badge during the summer, but the self appointed Stasi at my local Sainsbury have made me reluctant to use it.
    By contrast I visited Snetterton Circuit to watch a 2 day motor racing event and I was treated with considerable courtesy by all their staff which made me feel really valued.

  2. I understand completely, but you are entitled to use it Mark - if it improves the quality of your life, then no ignoramus has the right to say otherwise. You shouldn't feel reluctant to use it, it's not a 'privilege, it's a basic need. Sorry about the length of post (and this reply) but I do feel very strongly about general injustice and people being judgemental/ stereotyping. Love the description of self-appointed Stasi - sums it up perfectly.
    Hope you are well

  3. I have just received my Freedom Pass, which gives free travel throughout London (well, it arrived, but immediately had to go back, because the chip doesn't work on the TfL card readers - something you'd think they would check before sending out!). When I got it, I immediately took it out of the cover emblazoned with the words "Freedom Pass" and slipped it into the case I use for my normal Oyster Card. Why? Partly because I am worried that someone will see that I have Freedom Pass and think, "Hmm, she doesn't look very disabled!" or - horrors! - ask what is wrong with me. It is quite a tough test to get one, as with the blue badge; first I had to contact the DVLA to tell them about the sedating medications I am on, at which point I had to surrender my provisional licence, even though I wasn't even working towards a full licence, and provide them with medical information and my consultant's details. They then wrote back to say that I am ineligible to drive, but this makes me eligible for a Freedom Pass. I still agonised about whether to get one for ages, even though money has become difficult because I am down to half sick pay, even though I travel around by public transport much more that I did as consultant, weekly psychology appointments and pharmacy are all 3 buses/2 buses and one tube away.

    Anyway, I suppose this is a very rambling wat of saying I totally relate, and I'm so sorry people felt they could judge you in this way xx

  4. No, you are right. These things are not easy to get (although to read some papers you would think they were giving them away free with a packet of crisps). Everything is such as fight to get nowadays and that makes me more cross when people dismiss the hassle we have all been through with just a glance. Personally, I would never dream of asking someone what's wrong with them, to me that is just socially unacceptable and I know I should take the high path & not worry about what other people think. However,as I've said, people are entitled to a quality of life no matter what their circumstances and it's not really up to a stranger to kick off without knowing all the facts. Unfortunately, the recent media frenzy against the DLA & ESA etc, feeds this suspicion & has made a lot of people uncomfortable about admitting they are on benefits or need help. A Freedom Pass is obviously essential to you & your ability to continue to function as a valued human being (I believe you can also use it 'England wide' outside of peak times - mother used hers on a bus up here). I know that without my badge I would hardly leave the house & would be very susceptible to mental problems (in addition to the physical ones) as a result.

  5. PS: Hope you are keeping well :0) x

  6. "All pensioners are wealthy. All the unemployed are "work shy". Everyone on disability benefits is a scrounger. Pensions should be paid later because we are all blessed with superb health in older age. Trades unions only exist to thwart the success of a business."
    Can somebody please spin the truth to counter the epidemic of misinformation coming from this government
    I've always been a strong person. Several years as a police officer (when I was young!) then an assertive outreach nurse, until I retired injured, but it's hard to take direct verbal attacks from tw@ts who think I'm faking it! Bl00dy Daily Mail readers!

  7. PS Yes I'm keeping quite well in fact. Yesterday was in touch with an old friend, from the early 1970s that I used to roadie for in Cambridge. Once we used to boast about our "pulling" and drinking prowess...... now it's trying to beat each others blood cholesterol figures!

  8. Glad to hear things are good at the moment. Personal attacks are unnecessary & hurtful for anybody, but I think as long as you can see the truth, even when it's buried beneath a mountain of contrived codswollop, you'll remain a strong person. Good luck with the cholesterol count!