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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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

Recently I’ve had a few comment pieces published on the Huffington Post website.

Most recent is one about an experience going for an MRI scan at a private health clinic through my GP. Called “Is The A Taste Of Tomorrow’s NHS? it describes my nightmarish trip to be scanned in all it’s glory.

Before that I wrote about some people’s obsession with the idea that faith can cure disabled and sick people in “Faith? Please Cure Us Of This Myth“. It might seem that there is truth in the idea but I ask is that right or even helpful?

To start the whole frenzy off I had my ode to love, luck and my wonderful wife Diane “Oh, Lucky Man” published. So glad they accepted it as it was our 8th wedding anniversary that week. Di loved it, I hope you do too.

On top of that I had my travel article on our recent trip to Barcelona published on Disability Now Online, “La Merce: a weekend in Barcelona” and if you want to read back issues of PosAbility magazine with my column in you can do it online now.

All this of this writing was drafted using a pen and paper. Old fashioned I know but I am currently studying a Creative Writing course at the OU and they advise students to do it this way. It really helps too. You can get those ideas out without fighting with a keyboard or other bits of tech. I really am a Luddite Mik eh?

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Sex: Are We Really So Different?

I read the article “Sex: some facts of life” by Kirsty Liddiard in the April issue of Disability Now with great interest. I once trained to go into social work, with the aim of working with newly disabled people. I also recently decided to change my studies from a Psychology degree (to one in English and Creative Writing) after finding that the medical model is still being taught as the only way of describing disabled people’s identity. It was really encouraging to see someone examining the issue of disability and sexuality from an academic approach. With Kirsty being a trained sociologist and disabled herself, I hoped that the article would finally confront the issues disabled people face around sexuality and relationships in a rounded manner. However the piece actually seemed to blame any problems disabled people might have on disability itself and how society sees the disabled, without any broader conversation.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have an experience all of the issues covered in the article, from abusive relationships through poor body image to a lack of confidence over a change in the way my body functions sexually, and fully appreciate how each one can deeply effect someone’s identity and ability to form successful relationships. My own journey to the place I am at now, in a very successful and happy relationship with someone who loves me the way I love them, was a long and painful one. I also appreciate that the way I feel about my disability has had a serious impact on that journey, and is still key to my psyche and effects how I really feel about my own attractiveness. But I do not agree that these issues are something that disabled people face alone.
A key factor to being able to begin the task of looking for love is self confidence, and this is an area that effects everyone in our society. We only need to consider the huge growth in the number of people undergoing cosmetic surgery to understand that issues of confidence have an impact on members of society that we disabled people might see as examples of “physical perfection”, and that this is not what they see when they look in the mirror. Most sociologists and psychologists agree that low confidence around body image is a growing problem throughout our society, effecting both sexes. However much we might see our issues with body image as being more valid or obvious, the truth is the emotional and psychological impact of low self confidence is the same for anyone who suffers from it.
This lack of confidence can lead on to forming unhealthy relationships, which the article also covered. But yet again the stories of every one of the people interviewed could just as easily be those of non disabled people. I spent many years of my 20’s in a relationship with someone who abused me, both verbally and physically, and they went on to repeat this behaviour with their next partner, who has not disabled. I used to feel that it was my disability that caused this person to act the way they did, and this led me to stay in an unhappy relationship so long, but I now understand that is incorrect. While my lack of confidence was tied to my disability, it was the confidence issue itself that made me stay. The same goes for anyone stuck in an abusive relationship.
A deeper factor in disabled people’s lack of confidence can be due to a difference in the way our sexuality functions or our inability to have sex in a “normal” manner. While I was disabled from birth, my sexual function changed when my spine collapsed at the age of 15. This led me to spend most of my adult life wrecked with self doubt about my ability to satisfy my partners sexually and to what would happen if anyone found out about what did and didn’t work in the trouser department. So I spent years lying to everyone I knew and praying any ex’s would keep my secret. When I met my wife, being with her gave me the confidence to “come out” about the way my body worked. When I did so in the most public manner possible (i.e. on TV) I found that nearly everyone of my male friends sidled up to me at some point and admitted that they to suffered from serious sexual dysfunction issues. The fact that Viagra is now taken as a recreational drug demonstrates how big this problem is for all of male society. I do not feel informed enough to discuss the issues faced by those people who might need assistance when having sex, but can see how that might effect not only how you feel about yourself but how you approach sex entirely. I do know that it is normally these people who are expected to use prostitutes if they ever want to have sex.
Thankfully the article did finally dispel the idea that sex with a prostitute is a solution for disabled people, especially men, who are seeking sexual experience. There are many people who campaign for legalising prostitution who use disabled people as an excuse for their argument, yet it should be obvious that it will be an empty experience whether you are disabled or not. For anyone lacking self confidence, visiting a prostitute can only reinforce these issues. No one will feel better about themselves if they feel the only way they can experience love or sex is to pay for it. But there is more than one way of paying for it. I once was in a relationship with someone who expected me to pay their rent, buy their clothes and cover all costs when we went out and seemed to think that was fine as they gave me sex. It made me feel cheap and made me mistrust prospective partners too. If I hadn’t met my wife I don’t know what kind of barsteward I might have become. I also know from those non disabled friends who have visited a lady of the night that they have exactly the same experience of emptiness afterwards.
We now come to the issue of fetishism. I spent most of the 90’s partying on the fetish scene and will admit I found the acceptance and tolerance I was met with really liberating. I even spent a short time going out with someone who admitted they “dug the wheelchair”, if you get what I mean. I left the whole world because as it became more accepted by the wider society, the ignorance of the wider society bled into the attitude this underground scene. Once people understood that a disabled person wouldn’t be in a fetish club if they couldn’t have sex, what ever type of sex that might be, but I eventually found myself explaining on a nightly basis that my wife and I could have sexual relationship (on a nightly basis if we wanted).
Just because I spent time in the world of fetishists, that doesn’t mean I have no understanding of why so many disabled people find the whole thing offensive. No one likes the stereotype that the only people who might want to have sex with them could be called perverts. Back when I was part of the London fetish scene I filmed an item for Channel 4’s “Freak Show” series that I hoped would explore the subject of disability and fetishism in a serious yet light hearted way. Instead it was edited to imply that my wife was only with me because I was disabled, so I know how hurtful this idea can be. It especially upset my wife, as she had actually said that she loved all of me and my disability was part of what made me, me. Never trust a TV producer and their editor. The crazy thing is I admit that I chatted up my now wife partly as I saw she had a scar all down her right arm. I think scars are really beautiful and the way she paraded it so openly said something great about what kind of person she was. But does that make me a devotee of her and her scar, or is it just another facet of how perfect she really is?
All of this is OK and it is only my own opinion, but does it help us find a solution to love, sex and relationships? Well I hope it does. If we as disabled people realise that all of the issues we face around the subject are the same as those faced by everyone, whatever the cause, then we should hopefully feel able to enter the world of love on a more level playing field. Yes we do have our own issues to face, but the way they effect us emotionally is not so different to the way the rest of society’s issues effect them. All I know for sure is many of my non disabled friends are desperately looking for the same thing we are all chasing, a happy and loving relationship and they wouldn’t care if that was with someone who disabled or not. At the root of this whole subject is the fact that self doubt is part of the human condition and how we cope with it makes us who we are. So let’s stop seeing disability as a barrier to love, and instead embrace it as part of what will make us a real catch.
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Love, Life and Cripples

On Wednesday I took part in a phone in on the Channel 5 morning show The Wright Stuff. The topic for discussion was ” is a relationship between a disabled person and some who is able bodied different that one between two able bodied people?”, and so I felt I had to contact the show. Now I doubt anyone reading will be amazed to know that I wanted to make it clear that of course there is no difference, but I was also kind of amazed that anyone would think something so strange.

As I waited on my mobile for my turn speaking to Matthew Wright and his panel, I could hear the discussion in the studio. It transpired that the topic had been picked after an article in a magazine about a relationship between an able bodied woman and a disabled man who cannot speak. The reason why it had led the production team to pick the subject was the question of how love could blossom if you had never spoken to your partner or even heard their voice. One of the panel, the flamboyant Craig Revel Horwood, who is a favourite of my Mum (She seems to have been born with no gaydar at all – she fancied Freddie Mercury and still can’t believe he was gay!), told the story of a choreographer friend who feel in love with someone who was deaf and so obviously they were in relationship were at least one person had not heard the other speak. In fact the able bodied partner loved the signing so much they now include it in their dance shows.

As my turn came, I told the story if my relationship with my wife Diane, and how I see the prejudices that I have witnessed in the past as a kind of filter that allowed me to discover what kind of person I was with quickly. I must admit I was playing up to the panel and my stories caused much mirth and laughter in the studio. The people that also phoned in all had stories of love between disabled and non-disabled people that proved just how good it can be.

But I was left with a weird feeling about the fact that people are still put off by the idea of dating someone who is disabled. What is so strange to me is that surely everyone realises that able bodied people are just disabled people waiting to happen? So if you wake up one day in a hospital bed and discover you’ve joined the disabled gang why would the person you are and your wants and needs have changed? Us disabled types are just like anyone else. We can be great life partners and we can be total gits. We can be caring and generous lovers and we can be selfish “wham bam”ers. I just think it is sad that many non-disabled people still hold so many stereotypes around disability and especially around sex, relationships and disability. Even the panel trotted out the old clichés about only really caring people dating disabled people and how our sex lives were all about touching and stroking.

The truth is a disabled partner can be just like anyone else. They can be the love of your life, they can be a great one nighter or they could be a bloody nightmare. My only piece of advice to anyone who isn’t disabled is don’t be put off by disability. You won’t have to end up being a nurse or wiping our arses (unless you’re both into that kind of thing), but you may find the person of your dreams. Sure you might end up with yet another story of a crappy relationship, but if you don’t try… you won’t know. Oh, and even if you do find yourself with a dud, it’s not a sign that all disabled people are like that. You just picked badly. I mean Diane thinks I great but there are quite a few of my past lovers who would not describe me as anything other than a total pig. I leave it up to you all to decide which I am.

To Watch the episode go to –

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