Getting Sexy

It never rains but it pours, and this month is nothing different. But I must never complain about being busy eh?

Today two videos what I wrote and presented went live online, and I must say I am rather proud of them. They are part of a special feature run by the Wellcome Trust’s online science magazine Mosaic on the subject of disability and sexuality, written by journalist Katherine Quarmby. I was interviewed by Katherine and this led me to meet the Mosaic team, which in turn led to recording the videos.

The first explodes the top ten myths around sex and disability. I really feel it is vital that society re-examines the way it thinks about disabled people and sex, if for no other reason than anyone can become disabled… but they don’t suddenly change how they feel about sex. It’s a normal part of life and pretty much everyone can enjoy a sex life, disabled or not. Society needs to move away from this freaky image of disability and sex. And I for one am doing something about that. So this what lies behind the first of the videos…

The second video came out of discussions during the filming of the first. I was explaining about a technique I helped develop that allows disabled people with loss of sensation or function in the sex organs to regain the ability to orgasm. The crew was intrigued and so we shot a quick clip explaining how to allow yourself to create orgasmic zones anywhere on your body…. enjoy!

I hope you agree that as well as being informative they are loads of fun. I would like to thanks Barry J Gibb and Chrissie Giles at Mosaic and Katherine Q for getting the ball rolling.

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The Theory of The Theory of Everything – My Review from this issue of PosAbility

This week Eddie Redmayne won yet another award for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. My review has just been published in this issue of PosAbility magazine, but as so many of you have been asking to read it I thought I would also put a scanned version up online. As well as my thoughts on the film I explore the wider issue of non-disabled actors playing disabled, and chat to disabled acting talent to find out their views.

I’d also love to know your thoughts on the issue, so please send me your comments.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge the image.

If you are having trouble reading these images here is a PDF version. Theory-of-everything-review-posability

You can purchase a hard copy from PosAbility.

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Mik’s Tips Hits The Air

Recently I read an article about young disabled people using vlogging to highlight their experiences. I have been thinking about doing the same, despite not being anywhere near young anymore, but could never really nail down what to talk about. However as I now give advice on Enhance The UK‘s Love Lounge it occurred to me that this would be the perfect medium to dole out my pearls of wisdom around love, life and confidence. So Mik’s Tips was born.

After fighting with Adobe Premiere for a day, I finally got a product that fitted my hopes. Not a slick super professional job, but more a homage to late night TV from the 90’s like Get Stuffed. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen… I give you the inaugural episode of Mik’s Tips. In this episode I explore my methods of turning rejection into a good thing… yes it can be done.

And remember, if you think I can help with a problem or issue you are having please drop me a line through the Love Lounge. You never know, your question might even end up on a future Mik’s Tips!

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Sky’s the Limit!

Recently I was asked to appear on Sky news, to talk about access for disabled people here in the UK. It was part of the press around the national Disabled Access Day, and I got roped in to do some of the press. I had met with the guys behind the day to do an interview for Disability Now, which should be out soon, but they needed a media type to tell the world. Hence I got voted that job.

Up at some unearthly hour, Diane and me were then whisked our to the wilds of West London, to the Sky Studios. Talk about security! Easier to get in to Buck Palace than this place. Once in, it was make up time… despite the fact I had already got make up on to hide a rather bad attack of zits. Before I knew it I was on. While I felt I had left a thousand things unsaid, I received loads of tweets saying well done. Scary how many people are up at that time on a Saturday!

Looking good while changing the world?

Looking good while changing the world?

What made my day was the fact that while I waited I got to meet Helen Lederer, a comedy hero of mine! Her dead pan style and acerbic wit always hit my funny bone, and she was just as funny in person. I also met Stuart Miles, Heart radio Breakfast show DJ. Of course, I’m not normally up at that time although I am now old enough to listen to Heart. All those 80s hits are a dream for me.

Mingling with the Stars

Mingling with the Stars

Anyway, something amazing came out my appearance. The lead reporter Stephen Dixon remembered me from my TV days and got the production team to get me in to do a news paper review. That’s coming up on Feburary 13th. So if you are up at 6.40am, 7.40am and 8.30am you can catch me telling it like it is about that days news. Must just remember not to swear or call Tory MP’s crooks. I did that on BBC News 24 many years back and they sacked me. Doh!

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Busy little Beaver!

Been rushed off my wheels recently. Been writing and appearing at events all over the country. Here’s a round up of events so far!

Proof we can still cut it and look cool!

Proof we can still cut it and look cool!

Things started off rather glamorously as Diane and me were invited to the launch of Firetrap’s Deadly Denim ad campaign in East London. It was a great night, and we even danced.

Sea Changers 02

The Sea Changers panel.

Next I was asked to appear at a literary event in Brighton, called Sea Changers. It was an amazing night, and a real honour to be involved with such talented writers, all of whom campaign to make the world a better place. However, it was a little marred by how inaccessible Brighton is as a town. I wrote an article for the Huffington Post exploring how inaccessibility leads to disabled people being seen as a problem and now part of the community which was then taken up by the local Brighton and Hove Independent.

A stormy faced Mik in keeping with the sky!

A stormy faced Mik in keeping with the sky!

Then I went to an event at Channel 4, which I covered for Disability Now. They announced the launch of the channel’s commitment to ensure inclusive casting of disabled actors in their future dramatic output. However, I won’t deny I have been to a few of these things, so I will believe it when I see it. I also met some talented actors, and smoozed as usual.

Posing with New Tricks Actor Storme Toolis

Posing with New Tricks Actor Storme Toolis

I also began running Disability Equality Training for Leonard Cheshire Disability in November. The plan is to roll it out next year, and if a business wants to hire us they will get a bespoke training course created for their business and sector. It means I have to dress rather smartly too.

Suited and Booted!

Suited and Booted!

Lastly it was off to the BBC, for the Xmas edition of the BBC Ouch podcast. It was a great show and as soon as it goes live I will post the link. I do like getting paid to have a laugh and eat mince pies. I just pity Damon Rose, BBC Ouch’s editor, as it will be a nightmare to cut.

Xmas Ouch fun

Xmas Ouch fun

This weekend I am off for a break in Cardiff. Two days of respite, with nothing to do but shop, rest and eat. Then it’s off to Roma Sports to collect my new Vida wheelchair. Can’t say too much until I collect it, but it is a totally bespoke wheelchair at the cost of the standard wheelchair. And it looks amazing too. I will be reviewing the chair for Disability Now very soon.

This is all you can see until next week!

This is all you can see until next week!

So that’s it for now. There was more but I have forgotten it right now. Well, it is nearly Christmas! Can’t wait!

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Brighton Performance 15th November

If anyone can make it to the Fishernman’s Vestry, St Pauls Church, Brighton this Saturday I will be performing as part of an event called Sea Changers. Four writer/campaigners will be discussing how their work is tied to the sea, and I shall be exploring my thoughts on the connection between the sea and disability. Each writer will be doing a 15 minute slot, and then there will bee questions from the audience. It’s free, on a first come first in basis, so get there early. Doors open 7.30pm

For more info visit – Sea Changers

To book tickets (to make sure you get in) – Evenbrite

If you are lucky I might be performing a couple of musical numbers, but that is if a keyboard I ordered online arrives in time….

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Notes on Nothing – An Autobiographical Snapshot

I’ve just turned my laptop on after ages. In fact I think the last time I used it was when I was in hospital earlier this year, and while roaming the hard drive I found this. Written to wile away the hours of enforced bad rest, it’s just a snapshot of a train of thought writing about my life. Nothing about anything much, but I have just read it and thought it might be fun to put online. So, if you want to know a little more about my life here you go…

Me and my brother. I'm 14, Steve is 11

Me and my brother. I’m 14, Steve is 11

When you are faced with empty hours stretching in front of you for long periods of time you have to find something to fill them. As a teenager I got up to mischief and did all manner of naughty things that adults called anti-social behaviour, including our group’s favourite game “Milk Bottle Wars”. This entailed riding our bikes towards each other throwing milk bottles stolen off door steps like missiles at the oncoming rider in a bizarre twist on jousting. But mostly we all filled our time with hanging about. Over the park, in the cul de sac that one of the gang lived in, up in the woods at the end of our road, or anywhere really that we could hang out without too much adult intervention. Not doing anything much. We didn’t even drink or smoke. We just did nothing in a large group. I am sure that all adults nearby found us a mixture of disgusting and scary, as people my age now do about groups of youngsters doing the very same today. Of course they are now all high on skunk and drunk of cheap booze, but that’s the modern era for you eh? Although I will admit we did make loads of noise and acted like we were drunk or high or stupid or desperately trying to impress any girls who were with us (you decide which was true….)

Only a few years later I had discovered music, so no more shenanigans for me. Every spare minute was taken up with learning to play keyboards and the basics of operating the very simple music computers of the time. It was the early 1980s and electronic music was all the rage. I was a addict from the moment I first heard The Human League’s Being Boiled on John Peel’s Radio 1 show. I, like so many others, listened on a pocket radio through a single ear piece huddled in my bed as the show went out late at night so past my bed time. The sound of the synthesizer did something to my teenage brain and it was love at first saw tooth warble. Shortly after this I was taken on holiday to my uncle’s farm in Somerset. I say holiday but it was more like enforced labour, as my bother and I seemed to get given “jobs” rather than allowed to have fun. Not that there is much fun to be had for two townies stuck in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by cows and fields. The local kids would have nothing to do with us, so it was “jobs” or die of boredom. On this holiday I was about to hit my fourteenth birthday and so was entering that surly stage. As the level of teenage grumpiness grew day by day, my parents decided it might be wise to take me into a town to let me find something to do that didn’t involve cows. So after a drive through the winding narrow roads that scare the hell out of anyone child from anywhere with real roads and not cart tracks that have been covered in tarmac, we arrived in Taunton. This is the county town of Somerset, with all the trappings of normality. Shops. I didn’t have much money, neither did my parents really, but I still jumped from the car and went roaming with only a perfunctory “bye” to my family to go shopping.

At this time music and fashion was the centre of my universe, yet a had not really landed on My music and My style. Hence I roamed the streets of this unknown town dressed like a strange cross between a punk, and a mod with rather short cropped hair. I had green army trousers with black monkey boots, a printed t-shirt with Eddie Kidd blazoned across it and a brown corduroy suit jacket that had been covered in safety pins and badges. While you might not be able to picture it you must know that stage all teenagers go through, were they think they look great but the rest of the world know the truth, well that was me big time. I knew I had an hour of alone time before I had to meet with my family for family time, so wondered the strange streets with a purpose, although I had no idea what that was. Then suddenly I heard the most amazing sound, coming from a back street record store, that had it’s door open. The had a bow fronted bay window with leaded windows and looked like it should be selling traditional Somerset fair, not pop music. Yet from this shop taken out of a Dickens novel came a sound straight out of the future. I later learned it was Tubeway Army and their hit single Are Friends Electric, but at that moment all I knew was it was the sound of all the science fiction books I loved so much. That moment is one of my fondest memories, as it was the beginning of a life of music and what playing it led me to do. It also signposted the death knell of my search for a teenage fashion that fitted with me, and the start of a relationship with hair dye, eyeliner and dressing up like some kind of sci-fi film extra. To say this was a turning point would be an understatement. Not that I knew it at the time. I didn’t even go in to the shop. Didn’t have enough money to buy anything to be honest, even though singles were only a very cheap. That’ll teach me to buy sweets before hand eh? Teenagers; think they are grown up but still act like kids! All I knew was I had to go and meet my parents and that as soon as I got back to my home town of Luton I had to seek out that amazing sound. The rest of the holiday dragged like they always did. I was so bored I managed to read the entirety of Frank Herbert’s Dune trilogy, which is a hell of tone. Days of drudgery surrounded by far too much nature for a townie teenager, and nights of darkness that was more like a thick sheet over your face than it was the lack of light. Thankfully soon we were driving back, a journey that took forever as my Step Father insisted we use back streets to drive all the way from Langport in the Somerset levels to the streets of Luton, just outside London. (As an adult I find myself questioning whether this was driven by my step father not having a driving license rather than a joy of seeing lovely scenery, but I can’t be sure. Not the kind of question you ask really. “Dad, do you have a license?” Slap would be the reply)

Luton is a strange town. Until I hit my teenage years I loved it. Where we lived, in Stopsley on the outskirts of the town, there was countryside nearby, a huge park and good schools. We also had two sweet shops and a news agents that sold all the comics you could read, and all of my friends were in walking distance. What’s not to love. Hours of fun playing in the local fields, or the nearby woods or the adventure play ground just down the road from my home. It saw safe, with loads to do and a huge shopping centre only a bus ride away. Nirvana for kids. However, as your tastes change as you blossom from childhood into that in between stage of awkward teenager, the shone slowly falls away. It’s still great fun, riding bikes (throwing milk bottle on occasion), and mucking about with weekly trips to the youth club to flirt badly with girls who are only interested in the older boys fill your nights and weekends. You just know that there is something missing from what you imagine you will want as an adult. Or at least I did. I look back and realise that most of my friends did not feel this way. Their world would always revolve around Luton and the surrounding area. This was mainly due to Vauxhall Motors having a major car factory in the town, which meant a never ending requirement for labour and thus secure employment. It was especially important as I hit my mid teens as this was the era of Margaret Thatcher, and the huge growth in unemployment that went with her government’s reign. Being based somewhere that was not so heavily hit as many other industrial towns did create a reason to stay for many people. Of all of the students of my year at high school I only know of a handful who left Luton to live in adulthood.

Move over Tik & Tok - here's Mik

Move over Tik & Tok – here’s Mik

I was one of those. I finally left at the age of 27, but since the age of 18 I had been travelling to London regularly. It started with shopping trips to buy clothes and new records and all those other things a fashion conscious youth can’t find in a small town. Soon shopping was joined by clubbing. London’s nightlife and gig scene called to me, originally on a weekly basis but growing to a point where I calculated I would spend less on rent than I was on petrol for all the trips to and from the big smoke. Why spend more to live in Luton? Well I couldn’t find an answer either so I started putting out feelers to find an place in London, and thanks to a contact I soon ended up in a one bed flat in Hackney. Life both began and ended then. The end was the death of almost all things Luton. I tried to stay in touch with my old friends but whenever I contacted them to ask them to come down and enjoy the thrills of London they acted as if I was showing off. Rather than come down and stay over, visiting the night life and shops we used to all trip to via the train or M1, they decided that I had got too big for my boots and dropped me. Which left me alone in this huge city, so I went out and made new mates. I was lucky at this time as I was a well known TV presenter at the time, and this always helps find mates… of both types (oo-er). Most of them were shallow and after something, but I knew that and placed them in categories. C List mates were those who I called on if I had no one to go out with, required company and was OK with being used in some way. B List were those who I liked but knew I was there more for what I could bring than who I am and then A List where those I hoped would become my new mates. Looking back on this area it was a rather sad period but it didn’t feel so at the time. I had some serious fun, and partied hearty as I had dreamed being famous would bring. Oh yes, I took advantage of all the trappings of minor fame, although I might not have had as much sex as I could have. Far too much of a nice boy. Foolish maybe, but I am a little proud of not being a typical male and just shagging around because I could. Not sure my new mates saw it this way, but for them it meant more available women for them. For me it meant a growing group of female friends that found my personality and attitude towards them refreshing and new. So we all won. I guess. Luckily it led me to finally form the relationship that was to be the most important in my life, that with my wife Diane.

I first met Diane at the Electric Ballroom many years earlier. We think it was in 1988 or 89. We both are crap with dates so it could be later or earlier but hey, as long as both aren’t sure its OK. That week I found myself single after a row with a long time girlfriend. So I went out a free man for the first time in a long time. ON that night, just after I entered the club, I looked towards the bar and there stood a girl who stopped time. Honestly it was like in a film. Time slowed and people parted to create a clear path to this vision who was lit from above by the lights of the bar. I whizzed over, grabbed the bar and jumped onto my feet to say Hi. I spent the night chatting with this stunning, exciting creature and felt something I had never felt before. Sadly she was there with her ex-boyfriend and felt she had to go home with him out of duty. I asked if she would be there next week. Yes she said, but the next week she was not. So I thought that was a chance missed. But her memory burned brightly. But for now, I got on with life.

However I kept bumping into her. I found that she had gone back to her ex, but did not seem happy. She was amazing and although I also returned to my unhappy relationship, she was always on my mind. When I moved to London I bumped into her even more, and started seeking her out. I found that I had a mate that worked in the same place as her boyfriend, so I could find out where they’d be. I even booked her boyfriend to DJ at a club I ran, because it meant I knew where he would be for a couple of hours… leaving her free to chat to. Now I say all this and it sounds rather stalky, but I did not hit on her. I wanted her to be a mate, if I couldn’t be with her I could know her. So I gave her advice on her love life, and just put up with the fact she would not be mine. I formed another relationship with a rather awful woman, but I won’t bore you with all the gory details, but as this nightmare unfolded it became clear that Diane was equally unhappy with her love life. I now formed a rock band and asked Diane to join as a dancer. As soon as I heard her sing, she was then promoted to lead singer and this led us to spend lots of time together working on songs. Tee hee.

Mik and Diane (stage name Angel) giving it large

Mik and Diane (stage name Angel) giving it large

We tried to fight the chemistry the grew between us but it was bound to happen. We kissed a few times on stage during gigs, under the guise of the show. Then one night we planned a night together with dinner. I cooked a Chinese and waited for DI to arrive. She was late but when she walked through the door she was a vision. In the shortest dress I had ever seen. We ate, and I fought the urge to take her in my arms. Then suddenly she jumped on me and we kissed. From there it was a short skip to the bedroom… and I shall say no more. Just it was amazing and I knew she was the one. I was hooked. Not only was she my mental fit, but we clicked in the sack too. But we both had partners. Well I did for a few more days, and then she was dumped. Diane took a while longer but she lived with him. Within a month we were finally together. Yeah! The rest is history… a very happy history.

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#2fingersto2pounds Twitter Campaign!

Mik tells Lord Freud exactly what he thinks of his comments!

Mik tells Lord Freud exactly what he thinks of his comments!

Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone, or just don’t own a TV, radio or computer, you must know about the government welfare minister Lord Freud and his recent comments about some disabled people not being worth the National Minimum Wage. In response to this Shape Arts have started a Twitter campaign called #2fingersto2pounds, and I wholeheartedly support it. So here is my contribution, which I created using Photoshop. I only say that as it is another skill that I would charge considerably more for per hour than the NMW, let alone the £2 per hour that Lord Freud stated could be paid to some disabled people.

I also wrote a column in the Huffington Post which has been setting Twitter alight it seems. Always nice when something you write is so well received. Here is a transcript of it…

How It Feels To Be Worth Less

On the day that the Labour party are calling for Lord Freud to either resign or be sacked, and when the campaigning groups DPAC and Occupy are holding a rally asking for the same in central London, a rally that ironically I cannot attend as I am working, I felt I needed to write something about the whole affair. At first I found myself writing just about the events of last week but I expect that if you don’t know them then you won’t really care about the ramblings of one wheelchair using writer, so instead I will try to explain how I have been left feeling and what I see as the truth is behind the headlines.

I should explain that I have experienced the attitude that my work is worth less than non-disabled people in my own professional career. Back in the late 1980s I broke into the television industry as a presenter. Very soon I was being hailed as the first of a new generation of disabled talent that was highlighting how forward thinking the industry was, and by the early 1990s I had been hired to front a TV series for Channel 4. My wages did not turn out to be anywhere near as huge as I expected, and I put this down to the media hyping how much TV personalities got paid. To a working class boy from Luton my wages were great, as I was bringing home three times the pay packet my father earned at his job in a factory. The series was a smash hit, acclaimed all over the world and even won an Emmy, with my input being hailed as one of the reason for this award by the committee who voted for our little show. Everyone involved was over the moon. At a party to celebrate a Channel 4 exec let slip how much the show’s director was being given as a bonus for each of the shows in the series. It worked out that I was being paid 0.1% of this bonus. So the next time I met with the production company I raised the issue of a raise in my fee, and was promptly let go. The very next show I worked on I was paid four times as much per day and I earned per week on the award winning show, and the company involved in that show told me that even this was cheap. So I had basically been screwed and while it could be laid at the feet of my useless agent, I am sure it is also because there has always been at attitude that disabled people are worth less.

My good friend actor and presenter Julie Fernandez, the first disabled actor to play a long term character in a UK soap, also had this experience but her’s was far more blunt. She also discovered she was on a lesser rate when working on a TV drama. When she raised the issue she was told, “well you are lucky to be in work”. So no raise for Julie either then! In fact, I know for a fact that since I was hailed as the next big thing on the disabled star front there have been at least three more such fledgling disabled celebs. All of them also tell stories of their star falling as soon as they began asking for the usual level of pay a non-disabled person might receive.

I had hoped that this attitude had died out in 21st Century Britain, but the last week has proved this not the case. While this really did sadden me, it was the fact that as I added my voice to the #2fingersto2pounds Twitter campaign started by Shape Arts I began receiving tweets from disabled people in support of Lord Freud that broke my heart. I read each of them with a growing sense of sadness. I know that many parents of disabled children might think they understand what is means to be disabled, sadly a large number of them cannot shake the impression that disability equals being worth less. It always cuts me to the core when I see that concept has rubbed off on their children. Society has always made us feel lesser and excluded, but our parents should give us the tools to know this isn’t true. My Mother raised me to not only feel equal to my “able boded” school mates but to know I was superior, as I fought and won many battles that they could never even imagine let alone triumph over. It might sound rough blaming the feelings of inferiority of many disabled people on their parents, but remember this whole affair began after one such parent asked Lord Freud a question about paying learning disabled people less than the National Minimum Wage.

Disabled people must not believe that taking less than the NMW will give them a “step up on the ladder”, as expressed by @BhalaSadaBlog in one twitter discussion. Instead it will turn us all into cheap labour, and if we ever dare to ask for what we are worth, even after we have proved ourselves by working to the highest of standards, we will be let go and replaced with another younger disabled person also keen to grab that first step. This £2/hour approach will also devalue all disabled workers, as why pay full whack for a disabled employee when you can get one of the same for so much less? We must not believe what we are told by nearly everyone around us. We are not lessened due to our impairments, we are as good (if not better) than those who have yet to experience disability. Our labour is worth just the same as anyone else’s. Don’t let society carve into to stone what we know to be wrong by allowing this opinion to go unchallenged. So if you agree with me, join the campaign and stick up #2fingersto2pounds.

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Sexpert Mik

I can now officially announce that I am part of a team of non-expert sexperts giving out advice for the charity Enhance The UK. They run a advice section for disabled people seeking help around sex, love, relationships and body image, so if you think I might be the right person to help you with any of those please get in touch via the Love Lounge.

In the meantime, here’s my introduction video.

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Huffington Frenzy and other stories.

 

Mik Scarlet sitting at his desk

Chained to my desk

I have been a busy boy recently.

As August drew to a close, I found myself reflecting on what it means to be getting old. I had just celebrated my 49th birthday, and as my parents were told I wouldn’t make it past the age of 5 the fact that I am nearly 50 really hit home. So I wrote it all down in a piece called Aren’t You Lucky? or Another Birthday, Another Miracle.

Something that I really enjoyed was reviewing some of the shows put on as part of the Unlimited Festival at London’s Southbank at the start of September. In case you missed them here they are;

The Dinner Party Revisited – Katherine Araniello’s fun filled anarchic video performance show.

Guide Gods – Claire Cunningham’s exploration of religion and disability using dance, music and spoken word.

Let Me Stay – Julie McNamara’s one woman show about her Mother and the impact that Dementia has had on her the wider family.

I’ve also written a round up review for PosAbility magazine, that will be in the next issue.

My monthly column in Disability Now covered a recent trip to sunny Margate, and I had another arts review published on the Huffington about the wonderful Penny Pepper’s show Lost In Spaces.

Just as I thought it was time to focus on a series I am currently writing on the topic of bionics (perfect for someone who dreamed of being the Six Million Dollar Man as a child) I found that I had to put finger to key board in reply to an article in The Guardian called “Don’ts aren’t working: Here’s five things you can say to someone with a disability” as I so disagreed with it. As I run training sessions which revolve around techniques for both discussing disability and how to talk to disabled people I thought the piece was troublesome to say the least and so I gave my views on the issue in Cute… But Wrong!

On top of that I carried out some training for Network Rail up in York, and shall be back in October.

Phew, it’s been a busy few weeks. But there can be no rest for the freelancer, and so I shall leave you and get back to work!

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