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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Monday, July 30, 2007

Treatment Room 4

So, I'm going for acupuncture twice a week these days. I'm not sure how long that will continue: it's just the teensiest bit tricky getting information out of Dr Hazel. I did manage to elicit the information from her at one point that I would be down to once a week by now were it not for the fact that I had asked her to work on my dodgy right ankle as well as on my back. But more than that she seems unwilling to reveal.

I'm getting a bit confused now about whether I'm having the acupuncture in order to be fit enough to work, or whether I've no option but to work if I'm to be able to afford the acupuncture, but I'm not really complaining. (Oh, ok, I am complaining: it's costing me a bloody fortune. However, as it's also doing me a lot of good, I'm just grumbling about the money rather than voting with my feet.)

Anyhoo. The clinic offers a variety of treatments of various levels of esoteric-ness. (That's my brand new verbal creation for today. Feel free to borrow it, and work it into everyday conversations.) There are four treament rooms, but really quite a few different practitioners using them, none of whom is there five days a week. Until today, I had only ventured as far as treatment rooms 1 and 2. These are nondescript little rooms. Each is dominated by a treatment couch, with a few sticks of MDF office furniture huddling out of the way next to the blue-painted walls. Room 1 has a coat hook. Room 2 doesn't. That's about the extent of the excitement. There isn't a lot to look at while you're waiting to be perforated.

Today, however, Dr Hazel sent me to Room 4. I'd never ventured that far before. Room 4 is up three rather tricky steps, beyond the loo. Room 4, I realised, almost immediately, is where they do the colonic irrigation treatments.

Reclining on the treatment couch waiting for Hazel and one of the osteopaths to finish their argument about the surname of the patient who had just phoned to book an appointment, I had little choice but to look at The Machine directly opposite. It's plumbed into the wall. It has black plastic dials. And chrome levers. And an integral bottle of disinfectant. And lots and lots of rather discoloured tubing. It has maximum and minimum temperatures, and the water pressure can go up to three pounds per square inch. And the only other thing in my direct line of sight was a large, colourful, and very graphic poster depicting Diseases of the Digestive System. Which, to be frank, wasn't a lot less disturbing.

I have No Idea why anyone would pay to have warm water forced up their rear end at three pounds per square inch. It really doesn't strike me as a fun way to pass the time. The fact that a variety of vapid "celebrities" endorse colonic irrigation as a beauty treatment cuts No Ice with me At All.

I found myself wondering how many people, having signed up for it, have taken one look at The Machine and run away as fast as their little legs will carry them.

And who wants a career sticking tubes up people's bottoms?? I mean, those tubes aren't even opaque. What sort of polite chit chat do you engage in with a patient the previously-impacted contents of whose bowels are rushing past both of you in a horribly visible manner?

Is it just me, or is the whole thing grim beyond imagining?

Anyway, you can, I'm sure, imagine Pop's response:

"I didn't quite get to yelldotcom in time to phone up and book you a colonic on my credit card, unfortunately. Which is a shame because you were already lying on your side anyway, so you'd've been in the right position for one. Still, at least that's solved the problem of what to get you for Christmas."

Laugh? I almost started...

The Editor

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Chips and salsa

My muse - such as she is - has entirely deserted me of late. I appear to have porridge for brains. So I have no urge to blog.

Well, I have no urge to write. I do, however, have a very strong urge to share this scarf from Etsy with as many people as possible.

If only so that I won't be the only person in whose nightmares it appears.

(Note to Pop: buying this and presenting me with it as a "thoughtful" gift would be a lot less amusing than you are no doubt thinking right now.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

"But, then, she didn't NEED to..."

Lady Bracknell has of late been passing such leisure hours as she can spare in the company of a number of novels, penned by Mr Peter Robinson, and detailing the successes of a certain Inspector Banks in the pursuit and eventual capture of a variety of villainous murderers.

Lady Bracknell has remarked in the past upon the fact that, when one reads several works by the same author in a short space of time, one tends to notice various verbal tics and idiosyncracies which might otherwise have passed one by.

For example, in Mr Grisham's courtroom dramas, his characters invariably "sip" their drinks. They never swig them, or gulp them, or drain them down "in one". Were a Grisham character to emerge after forty days in the parched wilderness, there is no doubt in Lady Bracknell's mind that he or she would sip the charitably-proffered glass of cold water in a delicate and refined manner.

Mr Robinson, on the other hand, appears very interested in maquillage. But not merely in the paints and powders themselves. No, Mr Robinson is of the opinion that some women need make-up and others don't. (The sub-text being, Lady Bracknell suspects, that beautiful women can "do without", whereas their plainer sisters would be well-advised to plaster the muck on for all they are worth should they wish to be accepted by their peers.)

Leaving aside the vexed question of whether make-up makes one look more beautiful, or simply more "made-up", Lady Bracknell finds the notion that some women "need it" more than others morally repugnant.

What gives any man, be he a novelist, a senior policeman, or a camp television presenter from the Far East, the right to judge which women are "passable" with naked faces, and which should wear a bag over their heads if they have run out of lipstick? What gives him the right to suggest that any woman of his acquaintance should paint her face to please him? Where is the equivalent demand placed on him by the women he meets? (That question is, of course, rhetorical: a man who would treat women as lovely objects in the first place is hardly likely to take their wishes seriously.)

Lady Bracknell, having never worn a great deal of make-up, and that very rarely, eschewed the whole notion herself some years ago at the point when it became clear that she had a choice between standing at the mirror for fifteen minutes applying the stuff, or having the energy to go out.

Whilst Lady Bracknell considers make-up to be a nonsensical frippery, she would never attempt to persuade another lady out of a decided preference for it, if she used it for her own pleasure. If, on the other hand, the products were being applied merely to placate a man who has been reduced to "making do" with someone he considers to be of sub-standard facial perfection, Lady Bracknell would willingly assist the lady in question to throw the tubes and brushes into the noisome depths of the nearest wheelie bin.

A guest blogger

Guest blogging: it's not just for Ouch any more!

Although it is connected to Ouch. B Dude Esq has been so exercised by the recent discussions on the Ouch weblog re models of disability that he found himself generating a comment which - alas! - was too lengthy for the BBC's IT mavens to process.

Some money having changed hands, I have generously (and of my own free will) agreed to host the comment on mine own blog. And here it is:


The social model is not about helping anyone. It is an entirely passive way of describing an understanding of what equality means.

There is no such thing as “the medical model” either.

Are you ready for a potted history? Here we go then…

(NB Please be aware that the following is intended to be an “artistic impression” rather than a historically accurate account adhering to a rigid time-line.)

Once upon a time, there were no disabled people, no models and no such thing as equality. You lived in a cave, you hunted if you could, you mated if you could attract a partner and if, for whatever reason you were not fit, athletic or simply gorgeous enough to succeed, you died.

As society developed and formalised, things changed a bit. Rather than nature simply taking its course and weeding out the useless, opinions were formed by others about these poor unfortunates who were not “like us”. People who were not physically or mentally “normal” were cripples or invalids, handicapped by their inability to function in mainstream society and therefore, depending on their level of dysfunction, to be:

- Pitied and, if they were lucky, given charity through some kind souls’ altruism or because they were pesky beggars;
- Segregated – locked away from public view, often treated less well than captive animals, sometimes ridiculed as freaks but always considered subnormal; or
- Eliminated as “messy eaters” or for other “valid” reasons, either to purify the gene pool or because they were embarrassing examples of God’s apparent failure or of demonic success.

Similarly, homosexuality was an immoral perversion, along with BDSM, onanism and, in some cases simply taking pleasure in sex. Women were chattels, entirely the property of men. Black people had smaller brains than us and were little better than animals; definitely a different and inferior species.

There were no words, theories or models to explain these behaviours. They simply existed, were the norm and what every right-thinking person believed.

Gradually, some enlightened individuals began to wonder if the superiority of the White Anglo-Saxon Male was not an entirely satisfactory way of viewing the world. And some philanthropic souls started to apply charity more liberally to those who had been previously treated as sub-human. They pitied those less fortunate than themselves who, through no fault of their own, had been born with deficiencies such as bodily dysfunction, perverted sexuality, non-Caucasian features or the wrong gender. Needless to say, there was a very strong backlash also amongst those who wished to preserve the status-quo, improve the gene pool or simply keep their sons and daughters safe from these disturbing abominations.

There were no words or models to explain this either. It just happened.

[…Fast Forward…]

And then, in the mid-to-late twentieth century, once the general concept of equality was beginning to take root in western society, some bright spark(s) said “Hey, if equality exists and is to be meaningful, society at large has to take account of diversity”, which is to say that nobody is “normal” but that we each have our own unique identity comprising who we are, what we are like, where we were born, how we were brought up, what we believe etc.

So the disabled people’s movement was born, along with the suffragettes, black power, gay lib etc…

Then the disabled people’s movement came up with a way of describing how society needs to behave and think if true equality is to come about. And the first idea was to stop treating people whose physical and mental function was significantly different to that of the majority as if they needed to be normalised. Rather, to accept that the spectrum of what constitutes “normality” is much broader than the church, the medical profession or indeed the mob mentality had previously purported. Indeed, everyone is “normal” and therefore has equal rights with everyone else. And the term “disabled”, in the context of this viewpoint, came to mean “unable to function in society because of the barriers to inclusion found there”.
And, of course, pretty much every other equality movement reached much the same conclusion.

So, for disabled people, this in turn means that everything in the built and social environments has to change – in order to allow the equal participation which comes with equal rights. The way we deliver education, the way we plan buildings, towns and infrastructure, the way we present the arts and entertainment, the way we speak to and think about each other… the list is literally endless. This way of thinking is described as the social model. It doesn’t actually do anything; it doesn’t change anything; it doesn’t make anyone’s pain go away (including mine – which is chronic in every sense of the word) – all it does is describe what needs to happen in order to bring about effective change.

And, by default, the description of things as they were – and generally still are - has become known as the medical model. This too doesn’t do anything, change anything or cure anyone. It simply encompasses everything which happens to people who are outside the subjective but narrow spectrum of acceptable physical or mental “normality” which prevailed pretty much universally prior to the social model and still continues to prevail across most of the world 50-odd years afterwards.


That these two “models” or viewpoints do co-exist is evident, even from within the Ouch! website. And I believe this is inevitable; after all everybody’s definitions of what the world is like (and what it should be like) is informed by their own unique circumstances and so differs, in some detail or other, from those of anyone else. However we can decide for ourselves where we stand on key issues and with whom we choose to align ourselves.

So, in the blue corner, we have the Medical Model: A way of categorising people according to where they stand (sit, lie or dribble) alongside the majority’s understanding of what constitutes normality and which proposes that the key to inclusion is in changing the individual to help them to become normal.

And in the red corner, I present the Social Model: The viewpoint which says that everyone (and I do mean everyone) is normal by their own standard – I am what I am – and that, rather than insisting that anyone must change to be more like someone else’s idea of beauty, normality or perfection, we should each accept, and include fully, everyone exactly as they are.

The social model simply states that I am normal because everybody is normal, and describes how things need to be in order to facilitate full equality. It doesn’t stipulate that medical cures are undesirable and shouldn’t be sought; it doesn’t insist that anyone needs to be happy the way they are or that they should not seek change, self improvement or even cosmetic surgery.

Every other approach outside of the social model, whether subconscious or intentionally proposed, is based on the single assertion that I am not “normal”.
We have, amongst others,

the medical model – dysfunction must be cured;

the religious model – dysfunction is either a punishment or a test of faith;

the gene purity / eugenics model – dysfunction must be eradicated through selection at conception or birth (or beyond);

the ghetto model – dysfunction must be kept out of sight and mind, either for their own benefit or for that of society at large;

the charity model – dysfunction must be awful; here, buy yourself some crutches or a nice hat, but don’t expect me employ you or include you alongside my family and friends;

the improvement model – abnormality is awful but, with a snip here, a graft there or some pretty pills, you might be able to fit in more comfortably with the way we do things round here (actually this is far from disability specific. Ask any 16 year-old in the waiting room for her first breast-enlargement);

the judgement model (this one in particular is often applied to new-born people or those who have recently had accidents) – dysfunction will prevent this person from ever having a decent quality of life so best to help them just slip away quietly.

All are indisputably rooted in a concept of sub-normality.

In society at large, the social model is just one of a bewildering variety of options, all waiting on the shelf for you to pick one (or not). A bit like political philosophies or religions / faiths / denominations, they do co-exist insofar as they are all “out there” simultaneously and irrespective of whether they have millions of subscribers or just one or two.

However, I submit that, apart from people with multiple-personalities, the social model cannot co-exist with any of the others in any one person’s head. All the social model does is to describe me as normal. No other viewpoint or model does this. How then can I possibly “support” two conflicting ideas – one of which insists that I am normal and the other which stipulates, irrespective of what needs to be done about it, that I am not?"

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Brief, but deeply ironic

I am just back from having an acupuncture treatment.

I waited at the bus stop for the bus home.

The bus arrived.

I waited courteously for the elderly, disabled lady with the walking stick to get off. I was taught from a very early age to let everyone out before trying to get in. (Or off before on, depending on the circumstances.)

I was the only person who did this.

By the time I got on the bus, both of the seats which are labelled as being provided for disabled passengers had been taken. By the severely non-disabled people who were too rude to wait for the other disabled lady to get off.

So. Anyone want to try to sell the merits of the medical model to me right now?

The Editor
PS And now, back to the test-card....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Should I be worried...

... by the fact that I had a dream last night about sentient pasta?

The Editor

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The rain it raineth every day

I would just like to say here, for the record, that the next time I have to listen to some vacuous bint screaming at the top of her voice for no other reason than that she has got caught in the rain, I will not be responsible for my actions.

It's not raining acid. (I know. I've been out in it myself. I didn't dissolve.)

It's water. You know, the stuff you shower in? It makes you wet. I'm sorry if getting wet seems to you to be the end of the world, but some of the people past whose houses you run screeching like a demented harpy have got bigger problems to deal with.

Here's a handy tip. How about dressing appropriately for the weather? Have you ever considered, for example, carrying an umbrella? Or are umbrellas desperately uncool? I mean, so uncool that they're even less cool than arriving at your chosen destination wringing wet?

If the very idea of dressing appropriately for the weather fills you with abject horror, how about only going out when you're reasonably confident that it isn't going to rain? You might want to start following something called the Weather Forecast. I bet you can get it delivered to your mobile phone if watching it on television isn't acceptable to you. Ok, so it's not a hundred percent reliable. But it might just give you an idea of when it will be safe to wear that skimpy, strappy little top without running the risk of your nipples becoming visible the moment the fabric gets even slightly damp.

Or - and this is something people used to do quite a lot in the Olden Days - you could look at the bloody sky. It's really not that complicated. Blue sky = sunshine. Fluffy white clouds = fine, if slightly overcast. Dark clouds = significant risk of rain.

Oh, and as you clearly haven't got your head round the issue of when it might actually be considered appropriate to scream loudly when you're walking along a street, I have generously compiled the following full and comprehensive list:-

1. When you're being attacked.

2. When you are about to be mown down by an oncoming vehicle.

3. There is no 3.

The Editor

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Have yourself a merry little Seahorse moment

M'learned colleague, the Seahorse, encourages her readers to use "beauty as an antidote to ugliness in everyday life".

Well, I've discovered an easy way to get yourself a Seahorse Moment every day.

This is how you do it:

1. Go to Rare Bird Finds.

2. Subscribe to their emails.

(See? I told you it was easy.)

Every evening, just before bedtime*, they'll send you a charming email containing pictures of the fab and unusual things they've found that day. (They call them "gift ideas". They have clearly failed to take into account my propensity to buy fab things for myself.)

You won't want all of them. Which is probably just as well because, if you're based anywhere other than in the US, there's a reasonable likelihood that you wouldn't be able to buy half of them even if you did want them. But that doesn't mean you won't enjoy looking at them. Or appreciate the people who have designed and/or made them.

I stumbled on their rather wonderful site when I was Googling for images of blue morpho butterflies (as you do). Lo and behold, I discovered that they had had the remarkably good taste last August to feature the Blue Morpho Butterfly Wing necklace made by the lovely Neile C and sold through Etsy.com

I've been looking for an excuse to post a photo of this for ages. I've had mine a couple of months now, and it is just the most beautiful piece of jewellery I've ever seen. The photo doesn't do it justice because the camera can't capture the irridescence of the wing.

Neile's pendants are very reasonably-priced, and she'll happily post them to the UK for a modest fee. Most importantly of all, she is lovely.

Before you step back in horror and accuse me of supporting the practice of tearing the wings off live, screaming butterflies (yeah, thanks for that, Mr Melbamae), I should point out that the butterflies have lived through their entire life cycle, and the wings aren't removed until after they've died of natural causes. There's more information about the benefits of butterfly farming here.

Do feel entirely free to order one of these beautiful items from Neile, even though I found her first. Just never wear it to the same event as me. Particularly if you are Boogaloo Dude.

The Editor

* That's bedtime if you live in the UK and you consider 10 pm to be a suitable time to retire to bed.

Post script

In related news, those searching after unusual gift items from small, independent sellers may be interested to know that the summer sale has just started over on Not On The High Street dot com. Some items are 75% off. This might very easily have found itself in my basket if I had thought for a moment it might be big enough.