Monday, 14 March 2011

Local scenes and global perspectives 1

On Thursday evening, I watched the second part of Comic Relief: Famous, rich and in the slums. Again it was touching and moving. Again it moved me to tears - and hopefully to action. It certainly moved me to reflection. More of that anon.

Not mine! From Wikipedia
Meanwhile it's been quite a week. It was framed by visits from two friends who have had cancer and amazingly better, one who's had brilliant chemo and the other who's not had treatment. Those were two good news stories. Another small one was when my physio, Lesley, visited on Monday and checked me over, and gave me the thumbs-up. She reckoned I was no worse than four months ago - just need to keep an eye on my posture. Good news. On Tuesday it was back to the dentist to decide what to do about the troublesome molar (or perhaps premolar). Whatever treatment (extraction or root filling) would require visits to Oxford, as the little local clinic doesn't have sufficient back-up if complications arise - which is likely since it's been pushed sideways. So I've opted to have it out and be done with it. We now await the summons from the hospital, hopefully before too long as the antibiotics which have held the infection at bay ran out at the weekend.

On Wednesday we had our joint Oxfordshire/South Bucks MNDA meeting in Thame about benefits, like DLA, Carers' and Attendance Allowance. A really good service provided by the Department of Work & Pensions, this, their outreach: we certainly learned things we didn't know before, which were pleasant surprises. I asked the chap about the future of the benefits. The answer was, if I got it right, that from 2013 all the disability allowances will stop being self-assessed and will be assessed by doctors employed by the DWP. The idea must be drastically to cut the number of disabled claimants in order to justify the expense of employing all those medics, I reckon. They want to catch the abusers of the system, such as the woman who claimed and then played golf... apparently. I doubt whether there are that many of them, but I may be wrong.

My genuinely disabled artist friend, Katherine Araniello, pointed out an article by Lucy Mangan in the Weekend Guardian, We're in a right state, in which she reflects on the experience of being temporarily mildly disabled. She describes vividly what it's like (similar, I thought, to early MND) and the unexpected acts of kindness she keeps experiencing from individuals. "It makes me wonder, though: what happens to all this kindness and compassion when we move beyond the individual level? It clearly dissipates at some point. I'm fascinated, truly, by the fact that a government is elected by people and made up of people, yet so lacks the empathy or sympathy of the average person that it can blithely cut the benefits that mitigate the sociocultural disadvantages of disability – the enforced isolation, the extra expense (of minicabs, of having to go to the most accessible rather than the cheapest shops) – and reformulate the rules of qualifying so that it seems every applicant is assumed to be a fraud until proven otherwise."  

I hadn't read that by Thursday when I went to the Churchill Hospital to talk to trainee clergy about my experience on both sides of degenerative illness and disability, or I might have quoted it to them. As I might have foreseen, I broke down talking about the church family and especially my own family's unconditional love, but I hope, nonetheless, that it gave them some insight to what it's like. Of course they asked some tricky questions, like what's the most helpful approach to people like me - to which the answer is to notice us as people, not to come up with the 'right words'. Rachel Marsden, the MND Centre archangel, also spoke and mentioned some of the things not to say, such as "I know how you feel" (No, you don't) and "Something good will come out of this" (It may not, and anyway my problem is now). Sadly, not many of them bought my books! Recession-hit ordinands? After us there was a panel of hospital chaplains, who I felt were less than clear about euthanasia, with one exception - though admittedly they were speaking pastorally rather than ethically. Perhaps they should watch Katharine Araniello's films and listen to her experience. Her latest one is sardonically funny and yet deeply serious: "'Follow Me on My Journey To Die' follows Gem, a flamboyant artist whose plan to commit suicide captures the attention of the masses. Not only does she have Turner Prize committee in her sway but also the London fashion scene which has been hit with a euthanasia craze."Katherine Araniello's website
Katherine Araniello performing

And so with visitors on Friday and breaking news from Japan, I sank exhausted to watch an afternoon of rugby, which certainly woke me up. In fact it was an extraordinary weekend of internationals: Italy beating France by a single point in Rome, Wales beating Ireland with a try which contravened Rule 19.2 after a quick line-out with a new ball (!), England beating Scotland after a dubious sin-binning, a fox on the pitch and the referee injured with a torn calf muscle! It looks as though England are on course for the Grand Slam (beating all the other teams in the 6 Nations) unless Ireland pull off a miracle in Dublin on Saturday, two days after St Patrick's Day.

No comments:

Post a Comment