Tag: cricket tragic

Captain Grumpy

Ex-Australian cricket captain Alan Border and I have something in common. No, it’s not the inate cricket ability that he had and I dream about. It’s that, sometimes, just doing your job, or living your life, as a person with a disability, can make you grumpy.

I’m sitting in an airport gate lounge, my guide dog beside me, drinking coffee, looking at twitter, and waiting for my flight to board.
“Hi, I’m Shane,” says the ground staffer as he approaches me, “We’re ready to board you now.”

I think “Why would I want to stop what I’m doing, not finish my coffee, and exchange this spacious plastic chair for a cramped airline seat ten minutes earlier than anyone else. I say “I’m happy to board with the rest of the passengers, thanks.”

“But you’re a “special” passenger,” he says. “We want to give you more time for you and your dog to settle in.”

I think “that’s code for: we want you on and out of the way before all of the others.” I say “Thank you, I don’t need any extra time.”

“But this is a legal requirement,” he says.

I think “that’s code for: I’m now going to try to bully you.”
I say “It’s actually not, and I’m very happy hear til the flight boards, thanks Shane.”

He sighs loudly, and says “Ok, all right.” and goes away.
I think: “that’s code for: what a Captain Grumpy. And I was just trying to help.”

An hour or so later-
“Sir, we’re landing in Hobart today, and there is no aerobridge. So if you just wait til last, I’ve booked the forklift to take you off the plane.”

“But it’s just my eyes that don’t work, not my legs.” I reply.

“Well, I was just trying to help,” is the unhappy response.
“And I appreciate your help, but perhaps you should have checked with me first.”

For some blind people, this decision may have been necessary, or appreciated. Just as some people with disabilities may need or want to board first. But why not ask if that’s what we want, rather than just assume. Because of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

It happens all the time-
People who use wheelchairs are regularly discussed – in their presence – as if they were luggage.
People with disabilities travelling with family members or friends are often not talked to at all- even when the question is about them. “Can he walk down the plane aisle, or will he need the chair,” said to the friend of a man using a wheelchair.

My wife has been scolded on one flight for “allowing me” to use the “wrong” (business class) toilet.

People with disabilities are often made to wait for long periods of time. Periods of time which most customers would just not tolerate.

Why do these things happen? Because many people in the community, and thus the airline industry, have a negative or limiting view of the capability of people with disabilities. And the customer service training of airline staff – and many other service industries – on disability issues is just not adequate.

I’m very happy, at any time, for someone to offer me assistance. I’m not happy, at most times, to have the decision made for me. That’s the critical difference.

We’ll go this longer way because there’s a lift- you won’t be able to use stairs; Your dog won’t be able to go on the escalators;
Just wait here and we’ll get someone to push your wheelchair;
We want to give you special treatment, so we’re taking you onto the aircraft first, and leaving you to get off last.

When people just assume that women will interrupt their career to have children, or won’t be interested in a more senior role, women rightly get annoyed.
When people do not give job applicants with non-anglo names an interview, those applicants rightly get annoyed.
But when people assume that if you have a disability you won’t be able to do something, we’re just supposed to smile and say “thank you for patronising me.”

So, if I’m being Captain Grumpy, perhaps consider your assumptions, rather than my manners.

Graeme Innes is a disability advocate and cricket tragic, and does a fair imitation of an Alan Border media interview if negative assumptions are made about him as a result of his disability.

Scarlet Ribbons

A friend gave us tickets to see Celtic Woman (link http://celticwoman.com/ ) recently.

It was a very pleasant experience. Beautiful young women, clearly classically trained, sang a selection of traditional Irish and Scottish songs mixed with a few “modern classics”, which were not so much to our taste.  The voices, musicianship and dancing were all excellent.

My favourite song was a beautiful rendition of Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair) (link http://www.songlyrics.com/harry-belafonte/scarlet-ribbons-lyrics/# ) sung by the newest member of the group, Mairéad Carlin (link http://celticwoman.com/mairead-carlin/ ).

The story the song tells is enchanting.  A mother hears her little girl make a request.

“I peeked in to say goodnight

And then I heard my child in prayer

Send for me some scarlet ribbons

Scarlet ribbons for my hair.”

The mother knows that, despite her best efforts, they cannot be obtained.

“All the stores were locked and shuttered

All the streets were dark and bare

In our town no scarlet ribbons

No scarlet ribbons for her hair.”

How times have changed.  In this modern world it might be an iPad Air, or an iTunes card.  But in that Irish village in the first part of the 20th century it was scarlet ribbons.

The mother, let’s call her Marie, was devastated that she could not grant this wish for her beautiful daughter.

“Through the night my heart was aching”.

And she shared her grief with her husband.

But, when she went to look in at the child early in the morning she could not believe her eyes.

“Just before the dawn was breaking

I peeked in and on her bed

In gay profusion laying there

Scarlet ribbons, scarlet ribbons

Pretty scarlet ribbons for her hair.”

As I listened to the beautifully sad lyrics, enunciated perfectly by the clear sweet voice of Mairéad, who learnt the song from her grandmother, my mind turned to the practicalities of how this magic was achieved.  A picture started forming in my mind.

Come back with me to an Irish country home before the 1940s.  Marie has cleared up after dinner, and put her daughter to bed.  Tom is resting in his dad’s old armchair by the fire, enjoying a quiet pipe after a long day hoeing in the new potato crop.  The sounds of his daughter’s prayers drift down to him from the room above.

A dim memory slowly forms in his mind, and he stands, knocking out his briar pipe on the hearth.

“I’m just going for another scuttle of coal to tide us through the night”, he calls up to Marie.  She has forgotten that he filled the scuttle before dinner, and does not question him.

Quickly putting on his coat, he hurries out to the byre in the yard.  He goes in quietly, not wanting to disturb the two old milking cows resting inside.  He climbs up to the loft, and starts poking through the boxes of odds and ends carried from his mother’s house when she passed away some years ago.  Towards the bottom of the pile he finds the old sewing chest he is looking for, opens it, and his memory springs into reality.

He hurries back to the house, knocking the snow from his boots at the back door.  And, after his wife has fallen into a fitful and disappointed sleep, he creeps into his daughter’s room and distributes his prize.

He doesn’t need to tell Marie – the joy on the faces of his wife and daughter the next morning are all the reward he needs.

“If I live to be a hundred

I will never know from where

Came those lovely scarlet ribbons

Scarlet ribbons for her hair…”

Graeme Innes is an advocate for social justice, and a dad who is often gratified by the pleasure he can bring to the women in his life.

You can follow him on Twitter at @Graemeinnes (link https://twitter.com/Graemeinnes )