Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Wedding Blues

So, Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married eh? The country goes Hooray. As Philip Scofield said today on This Morning, "Everybody loves good news". But then isn't that part of what the Royal family is there for in the modern UK? To take our eyes off times of trouble. Timed brilliantly to coincide with the start of the cuts coming into effect, we all now have something to become obsessed about. Already the media has gone into a frenzy, so by the the time the big day comes round they'll be rabid. They'll be much less time and focus on how our society is changing as this government slashes and burns everything we have spent so long building up. Who cares about student fees, look at her dress. Who cares about the widening gap between rich and poor, aren't they a lovely couple?

Time and time again during the last Labour government there were stories in the press about the lengths gone to to hide bad news on days where really big events filled our media. The Tories made a big deal about this, as did the media... after the event. It is a mechanism that has been used through out the history of this country by those who rule. I want to make sure that I voice the fact that I see this as just as cynical. I am not a Royalist, not by a long shot. I even turned down the chance to go a to private dinner with the Queen and members of her family back in my TV star days, as I was not prepared to conform to Royal protocols. Whatever my personal views on having a monarchy, that is not what this blog is about. It is how much the people who are in control of our society work together to shape how we see that society.

I will use the example of disability as it something I know about personally. When I hit adulthood, I had just started using a wheelchair. Before that had a limp, and the world was my oyster. I had ten offers of great jobs, and could see my life going in the same direction as all of my school friends. Once in the chair, all those jobs offers disappeared and my future became quite different. I was told I would now be "unemployable" by social workers and others trained to assist me through this difficult time. And so I was farmed of onto benefits. But no one called my a scrounger and a drain on society. The general consensus was that at that time, was with such high unemployment (it was in the UK of the 80's) how could anyone with a disability find full time employment? How could a boss be expected to employ someone with health issues over an able bodied person? However much these attitudes might offend, they are kind of true. Especially at times of high unemployment.

I went forth and made a life for myself with out any help from anyone, except my family. Everything went quite well until my recent accident. While I was too ill to work, and while I recovered from all that fun surgery, I realised that society had started to change. It began with the DDA. Anyone who knows about the DDA, and the Equality Act that replaced it, agrees it is pretty toothless law. Not only is discrimination an act against the person and not the state, which means anyone who feels they have been discriminated against has to take out a private prosecution at their own cost, but with the word "reasonable" in there it also makes it much harder to prove unfair treatment. But this change in disabled people's rights did have one real effect. It started the ball rolling on a move to making society see disabled people as a group who take and don't give. I personally believe that any rights we were given were due to a feeling that disabled people were equal, but more with the long view to start cutting how much we "cost". OK I am a bit of a conspiracy nut, but how things have shaped up since makes me think I was right.

From there it was a small step to "Once we had rights, surely we should have responsibilities? So why should society pay us anything or give us any help?" Just look at the way the Blue Badge is seen. When I first got a car no one had ever heard of someone using one fraudulently or stealing one. Now I have to padlock mine to my car, after having four stolen in just a few months. Why did this happen? Because society was slowly guided, by the media and government, to ask why should those cripples get something I can't? No more understanding of why disabled parking exists, and just a kind of envy of us and what we get crept in it's place. Once this attitude had taken hold, we then start to hear of all the fraud within the "disability benefits" system. Now anyone who has undergone the process of applying for any of these benefits know how hard they are to get. So getting them via fraud is bloody hard, and very rare. Let's not even mention the millions that go unclaimed each year by people either too afraid to claim , too proud or who just don't know they are entitled. So how do we fight this "terrible fraud"? Cut the benefits for all, and make it almost impossible to claim anything. Very much a very large sledge hammer to crack a very small nut. But the majority of the public believe it is the right thing to do.

Now I wish anyone who is getting married well. It was the best thing I ever did and I wake up everyday glad that I found the right one. I just can't shake this feeling that this announcement is very well timed. I won't even ask who the bloody hell is going to be paying for it all? I mean let's face it, at a time of growing means testing I feel that this family is one of the few who can afford to pay for the lot.

Right, that's my topical gripe out of the way. Sorry if it has upset all of you who are overjoyed at the happy news. But then this blog is called "Mik Scarlet Sees Red".

When I read this through I found myself unsure whether to post it or not. I felt I was being a little unfair to the future King and his future wife. So I sat down and watched some TV. When even the continuity announcers on the BBC mention the engagement in their links, I wonder. I suppose the one thing I can be sure of is that I shall have to take a foreign holiday next year when the wedding is on.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Happy Blog no. 1

After my last few blogs I felt I wanted to write one that has full of happiness. To do that I want to write about something that has made my life the happiest it has ever been. Love.

I've bee lucky enough to never have much trouble finding partners. Maybe it was the attitude I adopted just after I went in my wheelchair? Whenever I tried to chat someone up I approached the whole situation with this mantra.

"If they are interested - it's because they fancy me, because I fanciable, but if I get turned down - that's because they are shallow, don't want to be with someone who is disabled and they aren't someone I would want be with anyway. Either way I win!"

OK, I did spend a little too long in relationships that were doomed to fail, thinking that I was really in love. In a way I was, just that it wasn't true deep love. I also am sure that different relationships are built on different ways of working. While I now look back on my past relationships as not being built on love, at the time I was sure they were.

What changed my perspective was falling for my wife, Diane. We had known each other for 6 years as friends before we got together. I had always fancied her, and at various times had even stalked her a bit. I found out where she worked, and would rive from my home in Luton to London to see if she was at work. Then I would wheel by and nonchalantly say "Hi". It did go a bit further, but I won;t go in to it too far, as not make myself seem like a scary nut case. One of the good things about pursuing her the way I did is that stalking is only stalking if it is unwanted. Luckily for me, she liked me too.

Our first year was very rocky, mainly as we both liked each other so much yet were so sure that life, or should I say our self destructive streak, would mess things up that we did argue like cats and dogs. After this period or huge rows, talked, and told the truth, and suddenly it clicked. From then on our relationship got better and better and stronger and stronger. For the first time in my life I discovered what real love was.

In our 15 years together, we have worked together as a team through the good and bad times, supporting each other and giving each other our all. It has never felt like a duty or a task but was in fact a joy. When I was recovering from my last op, Diane looked after me like an angel. She still nurses me am ill and I nurse her when she is sick. It's kind of difficult to describe, what it feels like. Neither of us now make any decision without considering the other, and we think about our future as a whole and not as individuals. We are now at a point where we finish each other's sentences, and have a language of jokes and sayings that we share only with each other.

It might not sound like everyone's cup of tea, but this is the kind of love I have always dreamed of. I know we will be together for ever, and whatever life throws at us will will defeat it, together.

Maybe it's why some things do make me so cross. When you are happy emotionally as I am, the injustices of the world seem a little more unfair. Sop if you read a blog that seems to go off the handle over something that doesn't seem that big a deal to you, try to remember it might be love that has caused me to get to cross. OK that's a crazy reason, but when stuff gets in the way of happiness it needs confronting. You all know you can always trust me to do that, even if you think I sounds nuts.

Anyway, I'm off to make a cup of tea for darling wife, who is slumped over her computer studying for her degree. Yes, she got the whole package. Looks, charm and super brains. What the hell she is doing with me I have no idea. But hey when life give's you roses, don't complain.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Not another Talent Search!

On November 14th Channel 4 closes it's search for new presenters to work on the Paralympics. Now while I wish everyone who takes part good luck, it does amaze me that yet again a British TV company has undertaken a search for "New Talent" while ignoring the sea of existing talent out there.

It's not only C4 that seem to be obsessed with the New. The BBC have just carried out a country wide search for new disabled actors. Yet I know of many hyper talented disabled actors that have been working for years that never get onto TV. I only need to think of the superb Graeae production of Reason To Be Cheerful that is running at the minute, which is a show so crammed full of talent it bursts off the stage. Some of those appearing in this show have been on TV, but let's admit it disabled people do not exactly fill our screens.

As for presenters... that really is a joke. As an award winning TV presenter, with many very talented friends who also have spent years working in the industry only to be forgotten, it makes me quite cross to hear of yet another talent search. I've worked in TV for over 20 years and the industry seems to undertake a New Talent search in some form or other about once every five years. If you were part of the last search you can kiss your career goodbye. It normally ties in with you deciding that this is going to be your career and that you should start asking for the same money as the able bodied presenters you work with. Funny that. But it does mean that time and time again all of our major TV companies spend time and tons of money training this new talent while leaving the old talent and all their skill to go to waste. Don't forget that all of us old talent types also have fans and leave a gap in the TV world's output.

So why all these searches? Well let's ignore my cynicism and not go with the New Talent is cheaper argument, and try to find other answers. I suppose there are loads of people out there that would be great presenters and actors and these article to find them, which is a good thing. It also shows that these channels are trying to get more disabled people on screen, and let's face it the Paralympics should have disabled presenters fronting the output. These are great reasons to look for disabled talent. But not to ignore the huge number of disabled people who have already shown how talented they are.

The main problem with these searches is where is the work. The C4 search that happened at the start of the 2000's found some superb on screen talent, yet all of these did pretty much nothing. Even those of us with huge showreels, and awards to boot, still spend most of our days writing embittered blogs about not working instead of being used to front TV. Disabled actors get to play bitter twisted cripples or tragic souls who can't take being disabled any more. Not exactly pushing their talent. I have lost count of the number of auditions for roles that were so stereotypically crap.

Perhaps the TV industry should look at their production talent while they carry out their disabled talent searches? Then whoever is discovered this time won't be ignored, forgotten or saddled with jobs that crush their drive to carry on in the industry. And pay them the going rate please!

I just hope that this a turning point how disability is shown on TV. Fingers crossed that we will start being seen as part of society, and be included as such. Presenters will do articles on stuff that isn't about disability, and may even end up as key celebrity talent. Actors will start playing realistic characters, and may even play roles where their disability isn't even mentioned. Then I won't need to write my embittered rants, and will either be up there with these new guys or watching them wishing them well.

PS. Having said all that I shall be entering the C4 search myself. Let's just hope that whoever is judging allows me to considered as New!