World Book Day

Thursday 5th March 2020

My good friend and fellow wheelie wench, Lucy Hudson, is a published author!

Lucy, who also has a form of muscular dystrophy, is genuinely one of the most kind, caring and clever people I have ever known.

As today is World Book Day, I thought I would encourage you all to check out the two poetry anthologies she co-wrote with writer, Justin Brown.

Front cover of 'Wheels of Motion', a poetry anthology by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Front cover of ‘Wheels of Motion’, a poetry anthology by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Back cover of 'Wheels of Motion', a poetry anthology by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Back cover of ‘Wheels of Motion’, a poetry anthology by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson

Click here to buy!

Front cover of 'On The Road To Somewhere', a collection of poems by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Front cover of ‘On The Road To Somewhere’, a collection of poems by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Back cover of 'On The Road To Somewhere', a collection of poems by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson
Back cover of ‘On The Road To Somewhere’, a collection of poems by Justin Brown and Lucy Hudson

Click here to buy!

 Related Blog Posts:

Wench Wars | Disney Villains

Book Review | Paraplegic, Sports Woman & Novelist

Book Review | ZENKA

The Girl on the Train: British Book vs. American Adaptation

Theatre Review | Birmingham Hippodrome

Memory Lane | Child of the 90s

Though I still look about twelve (woo! 🙄), I’m actually now the grand old age of 31; A true child of the 90s.

A friend and I were recently gabbling away and reminiscing about things from our childhood.

Some were great! And others were…not so great.

Do you remember any of these..?

Babyliss Hair Straighteners/Crimpers

Image Description: Babyliss hair straighteners/crimpers from the late 1990s
Image Description: Babyliss hair straighteners/crimpers from the late 1990s

Many years before obscenely priced GHDs became the go-to hair straightener of choice, we had this bad boy!

A multi-purpose hair straightener/crimper, this clumpy contraption took about an hour to reach a lukewarm temperature. We then had to clamp each section for…oh, flippin’ ages!

Quite why we wanted to crimp our hair, I don’t know. But at the time, we thought we looked ace! On reflection…not so much.

Tammy Girl

Image Description: Tammy Girl shop front
Image Description: Tammy Girl shop front
Image Description: Classic Tammy Girl T-shirt
Image Description: Classic Tammy Girl T-shirt

I kid you not; I owned this very T-shirt and many like it, courtesy of the (not at all) classy pre-teen clothing store, Tammy Girl. Oh yeeaah!

Sadly, Tammy is no longer. I can’t think why.

Despite not wearing cool and funky clothes like this now I’m in my thirties, I remain a ‘babe with attitude’. Well, sorta!

Impulse O2 Body Spray

Image Description: Impulse O2 shower gel (left) and O2 body spray (right)
Image Description: Impulse O2 shower gel (left) and O2 body spray (right)

Bloody loved this stuff!! How I miss the lingering, intense scent of ethanol and limes.

Whyyyy it was discontinued, I’ll never know.

BRING IT BACK, IMPULSE!!

We don’t all want to smell of white musk (eau de old lady)!

Girl Talk Magazine

Image Description: Front cover of an issue of Girl Talk magazine from the 1990s
Image Description: Front cover of an issue of Girl Talk magazine from the 1990s

A highly educational read for pre-teen Carrie!

Every issue of Girl Talk came with freebies, like miniature furry photo frames (we all love those, right?), and posters of goats and donkeys.

I do like to lay in bed at night and gaze at a donkey poster, don’t you?

Animal Ark Books

Image Description: A collection of books from the Animal Ark series by Lucy Daniels
Image Description: A collection of books from the Animal Ark series by Lucy Daniels

Now, I had forgotten about these books (sacrilege!), until my mate asked, “did you read those rubbish animal stories that were all the same?”

Yes. Yes, I did.

No disrespect to author Lucy Daniels, but I don’t think she’s ever gonna take down J. K. Rowling with these riveting tales of piglets and pussies.

Blockbuster Video Store

Image Description: Blockbuster video store shop front. "Closing Down" posters shown in the windows
Image Description: Blockbuster video store shop front. “Closing Down” posters shown in the windows

Who remembers VHS? Anyone..? I genuinely miss video tapes and cassettes. You could chuck them on the floor and they’d still be good to go.

What I miss even more is going to Blockbuster on a Friday, after school, to rent a video for the weekend.

Simple pleasures. Happy days.

Woolworths

Image Description: A woman selecting sweets from a Pic'n'Mix display at Woolworths
Image Description: A woman selecting sweets from a Pic’n’Mix display at Woolworths

Need I say anything for this one?!

RIP Woolworths. What has the world come to?!

Kids today are truly missing out.

Purple Tuesday

Purple Tuesday is an International call to action with the aim of improving customer experience for disabled people. It is vital that we, disabled people, are able to access the same services as anyone else.

Purple Tuesday is a year-round initiative that has the power to change lives!

Working together to make businesses and organisations more accessible and inclusive is mutually beneficial.

Facts & Figures

20% of the UK population (around 12 million people) and 15% of the world’s population have some form of disability.

Disabled people make up the world’s largest minority group.

Last year over 750 organisations took part, making a collective 1,500 decisive, practical commitments towards positive change.

The Purple Pound – What is it?

The consumer spending power of disabled people and their families is worth £249 billion and is rising by an average of 14% per annum. Worldwide, the Purple Pound equates to a staggering £2.25 trillion, yet less than 10% of businesses have a targeted plan to access this disability market.

Added Expense of Disability

• Equipment
• Adaptions
• Heating ~ disabled people often feel the cold much more than able-bodied people
• Electric ~ charging technology and equipment such as wheelchairs, non-invasive ventilators (BiPAP/CPAP)
• Extra laundry costs
• Clothing/modifications
• Insurance

Obstacles Disabled People Face when Shopping

• Steps
• Lack of disabled toilets (Changing Places)
• No lifts/lifts broken
• Narrow doorways
• Non-automatic doors (meaning we have to wait for someone to open the door for us)
• Narrow aisles
• Unreachable shelves/items
• Cashpoint/checkout too high to reach
• Physical barriers e.g. ‘Wet Floor’ signs, clothes and other items on the floor
• Poor customer service
• Lack of clear, visible signs
• No audio description available
• Inappropriate lighting, music (too loud) – affects those with sensory disabilities such as Autism
• Overcrowding
• No staff available to assist disabled customers


My good friend and fellow MDBloggersCrew blogger and campaigner Kerry Thompson is now representing Purple Tuesday ~ Follow her to find out more!

Interview | Disabled Entrepreneur Josh Wintersgill

Josh Wintersgill, 26, was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 3 at 18 months old. He has been a full-time powered wheelchair-user since the age of 10.

SMA is a progressive muscle-wasting condition. As a result, Josh requires assistance from carers, though his disability has never prevented him from achieving.

He attended university, completed a placement year, works full-time, started his own business, and is now on the Great Britain Air Rifle Talent and Development Squad. Josh is able to drive a wheelchair accessible vehicle (WAV) and has lived independently since leaving his parental home at 18.

Josh shooting an air rifle ~ Disability Shooting Great Britain

1. University ~ Can you tell us about the process of putting a care package in place and living independently as a disabled student?

During my last year of college, I expressed an interest in going to university. After research with my social worker and factoring my needs and desires, we identified appropriate universities that fit my criteria. I then had to decide on a live-in carer or a care agency. I opted for the agency route in order to be as independent as possible.

Once accepted by the university, I sorted accommodation and started looking for care agencies. My social worker provided me with a list of care agencies registered with the CQC, but it was down to me to make arrangements. The first care agency turned out to be unpleasant! So, after 4 months, I switched to another agency who I remained with for the duration of my university experience.

2. How was your overall university experience?

My overall uni experience was, let’s say, fruitful! From falling asleep in my wheelchair in front of the mirror to having university staff put me to bed within the first week because I was so drunk. It was clear that I was going to make the most of my 3 years at uni!

I got involved with numerous societies and activities to keep myself active and included with the student culture. I had a fantastic time and never experienced any discrimination or abuse. The staff made me feel at ease, allowed me to be as independent as possible, and provided access to necessary resources.

I graduated with a first class honours in IT Management and Business and, 4 years after graduating, I was invited back to receive an Honorary Masters in Technology.

3. You carried out an internship with Hewlett Packard during your studies, and then worked as a cyber security manager. What, if any, challenges did you encounter in finding employment and how does your disability affect your working life?

The general employment process with assessment days, face-to-face interviews and telephones interviews were fairly seamless. Most employers are extremely accommodating if you give them notice and make them aware of your access needs.

I do remember one assessment day with a popular car manufacturer where the activities impacted my ability to take part due to my physical requirements. This may have affected their decision to not employ me, even though I was just as capable, if not more so, than the other candidates. But apart from that, I have not had any issues finding employment.

Obviously, my disability limits me physically. However, as I work in technology it does not affect my ability to do my job. Yes, working full-time is not easy for me, but it’s also important to remember it’s not easy for able-bodied people either.

I have always been the sort of person who just gets on with it. I also believe that with technology making everything more accessible for disabled people, in most cases, our disability should not affect our ability to work. If you have any employer with an inclusive work culture, who is willing to support, understand and give you flexibility within the work place, then for sure you can work!

4. You returned to university to speak to students about entrepreneurship, and inspire them to start their own businesses. How did this make you feel and why do you think it is so important to encourage other disabled people to pursue any entrepreneurial aspirations they may have?

This gave me a sense of achievement and fulfilment. I believe that sharing experiences, whether positive or negative, helps others to follow their own passions and aspirations.

There is a general consensus that employment for disabled people is difficult to find, and arguably this could be due to the lack of inclusive employers. This is what makes the entrepreneurial world an attractive proposition for disabled people – it is flexible, offers them ability to work around their needs, and also avoids the hardship of being in a culture that is not disability confident.

5. You ventured into self-employment and founded AbleMove. Why was this so important to you?

I have always wanted to start my own business. When I realised I could create a product to make travel more assessible for disabled people, it was a no-brainer decision for me.

When you’re working on something you’ve created and can see the life-changing benefits, there is a real feeling of fulfilment.

Josh accepting his £30,000 prize from Sir Stelios (easyJet)

6. In 2018, you won the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs from easyJet founder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. How did that make you feel and what impact has this had on you and your business?

Winning the award gave me a sense of personal achievement and recognition. It gave me a fresh perspective on developing my own business and the benefits it can provide versus working for a large company.

The prize money and a business deal with easyGroup Ltd enabled me to give up my full-time job in order to pursue my own business. This allowed me greater flexibility regarding how I manage my disability.

Award-winner Josh with Sir Stelios
Josh and his family with Sir Stelios at the Stelios Awards for Disabled Entrepreneurs
Josh with easyJet founder Sir Stelios

7. Prior to winning the award, you had to move home and rent within the private sector. What challenges did this present?

The challenges with the private rent sector (PRS) are vast, especially given almost 85-90% of PRS homes are inaccessible for wheelchairs.

After applying for the Stelios Awards, I was told I had to move out of a good sized two bed apartment due to the landlords requiring their property back. Having lived there for 3 and a half years, it was time to start the dreaded challenge of finding a needle in a haystack.

It’s purely pot luck if you can find an accessible house to move into straight away that doesn’t need any adapations.

After fighting with the council and various estate agents, we eventually managed to find a property on rightmove. Now, when moving home I need to consider carers since I rely on them throughout the day. My main PA (personal assistant) was unable to continue working for me, and so I had to re-jig and was then only able to maintain one PA.

Finding an accessible property and then having to manage your care situation around it is extremely stressful, tiring and irritating. On top of this, I was working full-time, getting the business of the ground, doing weekly exercises and training for the Great Britain Shooting Talent and Development Squad.

8. Can you tell us about your invention, the easyTravelseat. What is it and how does it benefit disabled people?

My travelling experiences involve being manhandled from wheelchair to aisle chair and then manhandled again onto the aircraft, which is highly undignified and uncomfortable. I therefore sought to create something that would help me travel in a more comfortable and dignified manner.

The easyTravelseat is a sling/seat combination that is designed to work as an in-situ piece of equipment. It is placed in your wheelchair, and you then remain seated in the easyTravelseat until you reach your destination.

For instance, when flying, you would remain comfortably and securely seated within the easyTravelseat for your entire journey through the airport, onto and during your time on the aircraft and off again.

Once I created it, I realised the many benefits it offers disabled people. It allows users to travel in a more safe, dignified and comfortable way, on all modes of transport. Furthermore, it opens up leisure opportunities such as canoeing, kayaking, skiing and so on. The easyTravelseat enables users to be transferred quickly and easily without having to be manhandled. The user is comfortably seated with their own cushion, a gel pad or foam.

9. Where did the idea for the easyTravelseat stem from, and what did the development process involve?

The development process involved researching the types of equipment already available, and the demand for such a product. I conducted market research to determine whether wheelchair-users would find the product useful. Then we identified a concept and progressed to prototyping in order to test how the seat would work. We then moved on to the point of manufacturing the seat and getting the required medical marking and approvals in place. During this process we had been working initially with airports around the lifting side of the device, including our sling manufacturer and then an airline. We started production in February 2019.

Josh Wintersgill sat outside an easyJet aircraft, ready to try the easyTravelseat

10. Does the easyTravelseat cater for disabled people of all shapes and sizes?

The easyTravelseat will cater for the majority of disabled users with the exception of very young children, bariatric passengers or people with extreme contoured seating.

11. How does the easyTravelseat compare with similar products on the market, such as the ProMove sling or the NEPPT Transfer Evacuation Sling Seat?

The difference with the easyTravelseat is the specific design and application of use for aircraft, whilst ensuring passenger comfort. It allows users to be moved around the aircraft, including during an emergency, and to then disembark the aircraft in a much safer, dignified and comfortable manner. All other slings are designed to be removed and offer no protection or comfort when in-situ.

Josh and carer demonstrating the easyTravelseat
Josh travelling by car, using the easyTravelseat

12. What other assistance do you think airlines could and should be offering to disabled passengers?

I think the most important area airlines should be focusing on in the immediate is the loading of wheelchairs, both electric and manual, to prevent damage. It also concerns me the people on the ground lifting these wheelchairs are at risk of causing serious damage to themselves. There is industry equipment to load wheelchairs onto an aircraft without having to manually lift a wheelchair. This would help the loaders and reduce the amount of damage to both the chairs and the airport staff. Also, a secure area in the hold may also be advantageous to prevent luggage damaging wheelchairs during turbulence.

I also think the UK should be pushing (as Canada has done successfully) the airlines to provide free tickets for a carer when flying with a disabled person. After all, the airlines make it a necessary requirement for WCHC passengers who cannot move without any support to fly with a personal assistant/carer.

Airlines should also be addressing the toileting situation inside the cabin too. It is currently impossible for the majority of disabled passengers to access the toilet whilst flying.

Regarding hidden disabilities, there are those who are much more calm when they are surrounded by objects which are all different colours.

Long term, all airlines should be looking to allow wheelchair-users to remain seated in their wheelchair, inside the cabin, during the flight.

13. What does the future hold for you and your business?

The future is bright for easyTravelseat! We are off to a steady start with interest across the globe. We believe in an accessible aviation world and are able to provide an immediate solution to help reduce some of the significant problems with maintaining safety, dignity and comfort when flying with a wheelchair.

We will now look to ensure easyTravelseat is easily accessible in as many countries across the globe as possible in the coming years.

easyTravelseat.com


Thanks to Josh Wintersgill for answering my questions. 

The Kindness of Strangers | Wheelchair Life ♿

I was out shopping yesterday in my Quantum 600 powered wheelchair. While the many other shoppers bustled past without a second thought, one considerate old lady stopped to ask if I needed her help to reach anything.

As fellow wheelchair-users will know, shopping can be frustrating for various reasons. Not only are we grappling with the general public (the pushing, shoving and impatience), and trying to navigate narrow aisles without running over any toes; we are also bum height! 😣

Not only that – reaching anything above or below torso level is a challenge, particularly with elbow contractures and poor grip (as in my case).

With that in mind, those few kind words from one generous old lady truly made my day. It really is the little things in life – the small gestures – that make a big difference. If only everyone was so thoughtful!

I am aware that some disabled individuals may take offence at such an offer, presumably seeing it as a sign of pity – the implication being we (disabled people) cannot manage by ourselves. However, I personally cannot construe it as anything other than sincere concern and consideration for a fellow human being.

We all need help and support every once in a while, regardless of ability or circumstance. Even if you don’t require assistance from others, at least show some gratitude and have the courtesy to decline their offer politely.


#respecttotheoldies ✌💗

#MuscularDystrophy

#WheelchairLife ♿


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The Girl on the Train: British Book vs. American Adaptation

I’ve always been a bit of a movie buff. Though I enjoy a good book every now and then, I’m not a big reader.

Every year, I try to encourage myself to read more. But sometimes, after a long day, it’s so much easier to watch the film adaptation.

When I caught the trailer for the recently released film, The Girl on the Train, I decided to read the best-seller before allowing myself to see the much anticipated film.

Warning: This review contains spoilers!


Plot:

Hawkins’ psychological thriller is narrated by three women: the eponymous Girl, 32 year-old Rachel Watson; Megan and Anna.

Rachel is a reckless alcoholic who divorced Tom following his affair with the beautiful Anna, whom he later married and fathered a daughter with. The Watsons now live in the house he once shared with Rachel, while she is forced to rent a room in the home of her friend Cathy.

Every day, Rachel takes the train from Ashbury to London, claiming she’s commuting for work when, unbeknownst to Cathy, she lost her job due to her excessive drinking.

Her days, like her commute, represent the typical monotony of life as an alcoholic. A dependence on gin and tonic in particular leads to blackouts, aggression, injury and memory loss.

Rachel’s daily journey passes Blenheim road in Witney where she lived with Tom, offering her a passengers’ insight into his new life. Seemingly obsessed with her former husband, she continually harasses him and Anna to the extreme; calling and even visiting their residence unannounced.

A few houses down from the Watsons, live Megan and Scott Hipwell, an attractive young couple on whom Rachel becomes fixated. She watches them from the train and invents for herself an idealised version of their life, investing in them, in their love for each other and in their perfect marriage.

So, when Rachel sees Megan kissing a man other than her husband, her illusion is shattered. Angry and disappointed, she spends the night binging, then wakes in a bloody and bruised state with no memory of the night before.

It soon transpires that Megan Hipwell is missing, and having seen Rachel drunkenly stumbling around the area on the night in question, Anna reports her to the police. Rachel denies any knowledge of Megan yet feels instinctively that she is somehow involved, and so she conducts a self-led investigation.

She later decides to report having witnessed Megan with the unidentified man, suggesting they were having an affair and that he must therefore be involved in her disappearance. She meddles further, contacting and lying to Scott about having known Megan, and learning that the man in question is Kamal Abdic, Megan’s therapist.

Disturbed by her blackout and intent on piecing together the series of events surrounding what evolves to be a murder; Rachel finds a much needed purpose.

It emerges that Megan was pregnant at the time of her death, though neither Scott nor Kamal are the father.

Anna, despondent at the persistence of Rachel’s presence and harassment, begins to question Tom’s reluctance to report his ex-wife to the police. She uncovers a spare mobile phone belonging to Megan and realises that her husband, like Kamal, had also been having an affair with her.

Increasingly able to certify her own memories, Rachel not only unveils facts about the night of Megan’s disappearance, but also about her former life with Tom. A skilled manipulator, he had blindsided Rachel for years, causing her to believe his accusations and blame herself.

When unable to conceive, he betrayed her by sleeping with Anna, and then proceeded to cheat on Anna with Megan who became pregnant with his child.

Rachel seeks to warn Anna at the family home, but Tom returns and a violent confrontation ensues, the result of which sees both Rachel and Anna participate in Tom’s death.

We learn that what Rachel had seen that night in her drunken stupor was Megan getting into Tom’s car. Thinking initially that it was Anna and not Megan, due to their uncanny resemblance, Rachel called after her and incurred her injuries when Tom approached and attacked her. Following this, the car drove away to obscure woodland where Megan informed Tom of her pregnancy. Unable to pressure her into pursuing an abortion, Tom murdered and hurriedly buried her in a shallow grave.

My Thoughts:

A first-person narrative told from the point of view of three interwoven women, I personally found the novel a fairly easy read.

Each chapter is voiced by Rachel, Anna or Megan, and as such, the perspective changes considerably, along with the dates; posing the only minor challenge for the reader.

At times, the pace was a little slow and drawn out, mainly throughout Rachel’s chapters, though this serves to represent the drudgery of her purposeless existence. She’s a divorced, unemployed, alcoholic and like her pointless daily commute into London, her life is headed nowhere.

However, the pace and tension picked up substantially in the final third of the book. A dark and dramatic conclusion rooted in the realms of reality will maintain your attention and keep you enthralled to the last.

A heavily character driven plot, every individual we meet is flawed and hard to really care about. I sympathized with Rachel’s downfall; her life having disintegrated following a failed IVF attempt and her husband’s affair.

After Tom marries the much more beautiful Anna, with whom he has a daughter, Rachel completely lets herself go. Reason enough to reach for the bottle, or in this case a can of gin and tonic!

But as her obsession with Megan’s case unfolds, her increasingly extreme actions stem from pure desperation and loneliness.

Her erratic behaviour and confused recollections cause both she and the reader to suspect that she could be the killer. Nonetheless, I have to admit that by just over half way through, I correctly judged that Tom was the guilty party. It seemed to me that any of the other characters would have been too obvious.

Inevitable comparisons have been made with its recent predecessor, American author Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.

Though understandable, The Girl on the Train, or more accurately, the woman on the train, is a much less sensationalised psychological thriller.

Furthermore, it is a thoroughly British psychological thriller touching on themes such as voyeurism, addiction, the psyche and even Feminism.

Movie Adaptation:

Directed by American, Tate Taylor, the film, starring British actress Emily Blunt, is set in New York as opposed to London.

Blunt, as Rachel, travels the Hudson line to Manhattan, and leafy Westchester takes the place of the Victorian town of Witney.

We see our anti-heroine drinking in Grand Centrals iconic Oyster Bar rather than raiding an off license for pre-mixed cans of gin and tonic, as in the novel. Even Central Park is featured, specifically the Untermeyer Fountain and its sculpture of three dancing maidens; a physical representation of the three female voices.

Consequently, the stop-start nature of London’s rail works and the sense of hustle and bustle is lost in the film’s glossy New York scenery.

Whereas I had envisaged a grittier, greyer world more reminiscent of ITV’s Broadchurch; Tate Taylor’s reimagining presents a moodier, more sexualised James Patterson vibe.

The characters in the film are underdeveloped and their traits and actions are never fully explored. There’s far too much ‘Hollywood’ posing and, as a result, they lack dimension, humanity and are less sympathetic than Hawkins’ inventions.

I think, had I not read the book first, I would have struggled to follow the events as depicted on the screen, since so much detail has been casually brushed over.

For example, Megan’s dead brother Ben, whom she loved dearly and made future plans with, is briefly mentioned only once.

As much as I love Emily Blunt, she is a far cry from Hawkins’ creation. She certainly doesn’t have the physicality to portray an overweight, bloated, lacklustre binge drinker. As Hawkins herself says, she is far too beautiful.

Blunt retains her English accent, presumably to hark back to the story’s original setting. Then again, perhaps it was just easier than adopting the Manhattan drawl?

That aside, Blunt gives her all and offers a convincing portrayal of a woman on the edge. Hers is by far the standout performance. For the most part, all characters are well cast, though some such as Edgar Ramirez who plays Kamal Abdic are somewhat underused.

Overall, I’d recommend saving your money on a cinema ticket. While it’s worth a watch, I feel this was a missed opportunity.

Had the filmmakers followed Hawkins lead more closely in terms of tone, setting and character focus, it could have received the same applause as David Fincher’s Gone Girl.

By all means indulge in the novel, you won’t be disappointed! If, like Rachel, you are a daily commuter, maybe even consider reading it on the train for added effect.