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Signs: Dystopia

Roll up Roll Up
Change your disabled babies here
Fucked it up the first time. Have another go.

But can I say
Can I ask
What happens to the old one?

We have the means
We have the method

You mean

Call it as you will
The less names
We say the better

But surely not
Death Camps

No. Not those
Not no longer
We can fix them
Put them right
Make them some how useful

But how
Hasn't all these things been tried before
And left them totally useless?

Yes. Sure. We know that.
But have you not heard of
the psychobiological model

You mean they can make themselves better
Leave them in a room with no heating
they exercise
Leave them with no food
They till the soil
Leave them without a chair
They'll get round to walking

But what if they don't
What if they can't
What if they won't?

Trust in the power of the mind
Trust in the regularity of the heart
The government does
We should listen to them
They know best

Did a typo today. Disability Arts In Lime. Curiously the phot used here reflects the error

Posted by Rich Downes, 4 June 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 4 June 2016

Signs: Juxtaposition

We the people of Gritsalt
Are free to stand
On little yellow boxes
And exclaim
About the shame
For we have grit
And we have salt
And we will cut
And we will sear
With little fear
For we are the people of Gritsalt

Posted by Rich Downes, 29 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 29 May 2016

Signs: Discrepancy

Standing by your locked gate
My inner core is iron
My outer shell is tin
Hit me with a hammer
To let my past times in
I turn to drink
As I try zinc
To get my red corpuscles moving
For being here
Beside you
As left me totally still

I return to the institution. It's different. Still for kids. Kids lost in activity. It feels right and pleases me as much as anything ever will. The gate is iron. Visitors press 0 for reception. Code words are not needed, no special numbers, no secret signs. Just press 0 for reception but though I'm here I cannot press. I have become ghostly. I was interred here. Lost to the world here. The weight of the earth presses against me under an appropriately drizzly sky. And my mass, such as it was, turns to base metal. Inside I am hard. Malleable on the outside. Hit me with a hammer now. I'm sure all those past times will chime.  Evoke, invoke, provoke memories. But I am still, inert, not moving, frozen to the spot.

The common has grown. Trees twisted and twisting everywhere. Haunted into misshapen reflection of the gargoyle children that had played amongst them. I was amongst their number. A slow, gangly, runner. Always first to be caught in trail games except when hid amongst the sand stone. Oaks are yet still royal here. Crab apples fair. Nuts abound in autumn. A sweet horse chestnut shelters passersby on the wrong side of the church wall which now houses a home. The hedgerows like the trees are grown too. Making the top end of the lane almost impossible to pass as fear stalks the reticent walker rooted to his spot. I remember ferns. Curly fronds and all. I have not spotted one yet but then I am ice. Just looking out and about and up and down and all around without moving anything but my head.

The height of things is such that those who remain inside can now no longer look out. I would not have been able to look in if it hadn't have been for the lowness and the presence of the gate. This foxes me. When I was there looking out was always possible. We had fences made of wooden staves standing on a ridge dotted with rabbit holes. Gypsy encampments thrilled. Guitars. Campfires. The staves are gone. The gate is locked and the fence is white metal mesh. Looking out as we did encouraged escape. It is said some of us got out and joined a circus. I, of cause, could never run that fast. At least I could hop the fence, at least I could spend the night on the cold damp ground.  I am yet to work out, in my head, why escape always involved dark dank nights full of large and rapid rain drops. And I wonder further about the height of things and the white mesh that I now see encircles the fond perimeter of the hated ground. Does it keep you newbies in or we oldsters out.

Memory filters in over the tin but gets lost inside, rebounding from the iron interior, not being given access to the heartland. The mind works its wonders. Close down is upon me. My memory does not call for celebration, a party, the very best of a cockney knees up, and yet as I find the scope to move my legs away from the horror I spot a new sign. The way that history marks it defames me. Why this memorial to the past, why this commemoration. Couldn't anyone tell them how this land confounds me, how my life was shaped within its ancient furrows, caught between escape, defence and striving to find life beyond myself and institution - the secret remains revolution.

Posted by Rich Downes, 22 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 22 May 2016

Impairment Haiku

Chest cooed like a dove
A Cardio-vascular
Expression of love

Walking up a hill, feeling weary, I thought my chest had started up again. But no it was a dove. Or a pigeon. Probably a pigeon actually given their current predominence but I thought it was a dove. So, the words were basically there; a given. I wrote it down on an envelop somewhere. It was on the table. Then it wasn't on the table. Now its not on the table. Probably in a cupboard somewhere. The cupboard is still there. So is the pigeon. But not in the cupboard. On the roof. Cooing.

Time passes and i'm sitting in a library wondering if i'd written a haiku. I look it up on wiki. I kind of had. But it didn't quite fit with the primary form. So, i gave it a title. Impairment Haiku. Because it wasn't a haiku. It was 3 lines but it didn't have the required syllable per line count; 5,7,5. But it was very close. And it touched on nature and on love and the second line kind of did link the first and the third.

The library is a quiet place. It gives you time. So I changed my words and made them fit the form and that's how it appears above. But if haiku is representative of society and my form is impaired and I have to change what i do to make it fit in, as i did above, then that's not inclusion is it? So, haiku is oppressor and i demand my write to make an impairment haiku as shown below; in my original impaired form.

My chest cooed like a dove
Expression of love

So, now I'm included am I?

Posted by Rich Downes, 9 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 9 May 2016

Signs: Shrinkage

Image - img_5529.jpg

The Old Garden is fixed in my mind forever. There is no getting away from the system. Out there its inside too - internalised. The work house is industrial red brick; portioned out in millions with millions separated by cement but morticed tight together as if a full soul lock in of lost, forgotten names.   Though we spent our lives together behind the walls we never learned each other's names. In fact the number ruled.  I was 21 as I've said before. 21 cotton stuck to blue striped pyjamas. 21 stitched in underpants. 21. 21 looked the same as 3 and 7 and 11. Lucky Numbers all. 3 and 7 were prime. They made the rules and the big rule was to forget your name, forget your life outside. Whoever you left out there are now gone, and should they not be then, know they cannot help you here. 11 was not prime though mathematicians might claim otherwise. 11 was blessed by being favoured by 3 and 7. 21 was not prime. I was 21 and mathematicians would agree on that 1. 3 and 7 were the largest. Older. Stronger. 5 digits on each closed hand calling you to listen to the rules. 6. 6 is hospital time for waking. You must be awake at 6. You must not leave your bed until the head count. The count depended only on a count of the living. That's why you had to sit with nothing else left to do till breakfast so you could be included and there were many counters waiting to ensure you were included. This was the no name register. Other registers were taken at 9. The sum total of the conglomerate needed to know you were there and that you were there all the time which is what made escape futile. You were never given time to separate. Calling out in response to your number and being of a number that's all there was in the red brick institution that held an Old Garden.

The Old Garden was more random. It's where change happened. Not your change but change none the less. Change that you see, experience, taste. They tried to make it so it was always the same but things grow in gardens. They tried to make it the same each time you were there. They made a path that led to a shed next to the green house. You had to take this route. You were given no choice. Later inside the shed, hosted by pegs, hung spades and spades like you yourself were numbered. There would be no difference between them save for the number. I wondered why they were numbered. Someone talked of inventories. 128 of us and 16 spades. Far too many. But the benefactors loved to bring them in even though there were never more than 12 of us in the Old Garden at any given time. I cherished the secrets of the spade. The spade is so high. 21 is so high. 21 can judge his difference by the spade. Dig it into the earth, turn the sod over. How many worms, lice and other insects. Preparing soil was likewise thrilling. How many roots can you pull out each turn. How far do you need to dig to get to the end of the root. What kind of root is it. Why are some deeper than others. Others find this monotonous. They say that thrusting the spade, turning the soil, breaking it down from clay to dirt and growing calluses is the same over and over again but not for 21.   It was in the Old garden that 21 learned counting games. How many potatoes under this stalk, how many peas in a pod. 21 still counts. Steps that take him across a road, steps that lead to the tube station, steps between traffic going past. 21 can't stop counting and its down to the Old Garden.

Not that 21 is ignorant of the hateful spirits that also grew there. "Break time is time I call time" Jones the Gardener said to 21 one day 21 sat down. Jones threw stones. His target were the workshy amongst the numbers. Don't be surprised therefore that 21 remembers Jones and also don't wonder why Jones alone in this piece got a name.  Jones was not with us. Jones was in the conglomerate that needed to know we were there continually. Sometimes, even 21 had to sit, and even 21 felt the brick. For 21 the hit always meant time to stand again. It was this standing that Jones treasured. You cannot see those lying in the furrows or crouching behind the sweet peas. Stand and keep them standing and you count the numbers that should be present always. 3 and 7 were sometimes heard behind hands cursing and plotting the downfall of Jones. They could see a time when Jones would no longer be standing and 3 and 7 grew to hate standing too. But it was 21's position. Standing. feet on the earth. Balanced. Balanced and blanked out. Blank to the sweat, blank to the heat, blank to the frost and falling leaf.  Although the Old Garden was clearly about change and although 21 could see change 21 had no wish to change. Blank with feet firmly planted was all that 21 ever aspired to.

21's option was to be like the blade of the spade. Cutting, wounding. The way of the spade was more 3 than 7 though 7 tried to keep up. 3 was the blade. 7 more the handle. 11 sought to be the shaft. 21 though no one ever knew was the foot on the blade. 3 could not reach him, Neither 7. Nor 11. Like Jones they all hoped to throw stones. They learned from Jones and Jones appreciated it. The more 3 and 7 cut and thrust at their fellows the less Jones would have to watch for everyone to be standing, the less he would have to do his counting. Some times 3 and 7 could be like 21. You might not know they were there at these times. It was when you knew they were there that they were a problem for anyone who stood in their way. Everyone except for Jones their hated gardener. Everyone except for Jones and 21. The secret of the spade? You can stand with the spade. You can lean and rest but still be standing with the spade. Standing was the perverse nature of 21. 21 doesn't mind you seeing 21 standing. Standing says 21 is here. Here, obtuse, stupid, willing to be standing. Jones and 3 and 7 would never ever see 21 not standing in his earthy ignorant way.  Standing, looking out, the higher you stand the further the horizon, the further the horizon, the further away the Old Garden, the further away the Old Garden the further lost in imagination, the further lost in imagination the further absent, the further absent the further missing, the further missing the further lost to number, the further lost to number the further not constrained by duty, the easier to rest. So 21 remained standing, working and resting. 21 standing. Standing and alone.

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 May 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 1 May 2016

Signs: Float On

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Why for the choice
to live in bubble
floating high in Dreamland
encapsulated, ensconced
and apathetic
untouched, unloved, unwanted
but separate and untroubled too
cut off from pain and hurt
refusal and rejection
Why for the choice
to live in bubble
when bubbles burst
and lose their life
as soon as contact
with earth is made
Why for the choice
to live in bubble
and not to raise the stick
or roll forward to
prick and break free
of depressive thought
numbed by convention
bricked off by experience
Why for the choice
to live in bubble?

11th April sitting in the wrong bus shelter, waiting for the right bus, in Archway. The 134 rolls up. Destination Friern Barnet - now a gated community with former ghosts of psychiatric institutions holed up in the clock tower. I know the picture is there. I take it. The driver looks shocked and full of wondering. I laugh in any case. I leave the picture in the card and many thoughts of bubbles and apathy and street fighters cross my mind whilst deciding what to do with it. I have lived in bubble for many years. I am not accusing those who do. But I want to be free of it now. And I more or less am. And whilst this bubble speech is for me I feel it free for others too who lived the life and left it to peter our existence in bubble just as it is free to use by those who are on the outside, free to picket and hold up traffic or to wave a banner. It is for us and for who we are today and it remains for me.

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 April 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 25 April 2016

Signs: Read Em, Write Em, Weep and Vomit

Sitting on a train from Harpenden to Kentish Town I see a blue panel with 5 characters on it. A wheelchair user, a woman, a man, a baby and a carer. I think that's the correct order. So i start telling their stories in my head. Photograph the panel as I'm leaving and cut and paste it here. My stories feel true today. Austerity claws on and attitudes stink - worse than you think. So here in reply are my two profound moments

Scenario 1. Baby comes into the world, grows up to be a man, acquires an impairment and leaves on his own.

Scenario 2. Disabled person enters stage left, meets man and woman who pontificate on him having too many benefits whilst they themselves have great wealth and can afford a nanny to bring up the baby they never loved.

Which one's weep and which one's vomit?

Thing is with my characters you can get all Burroughsian with the cut up technique and tell as many stories as you wish. Me. I'm staying linear. Reading from the left or right only. Do feel free to play

Posted by Rich Downes, 15 April 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 15 April 2016

The Green Man Walks

The Green Man steps out. Ginger.
Late for the Vernal, early for May
the red orange Beltane fire.
Vapid grey skies pierced by blue
Cannot deny the yellow hue
of the daffodil, the snow of the drop
nor the vivid darkness of the bell.
The ginger man steps out. Green
The rain, the cold, the winter shroud
of hearth, quilt and blanket
kept him home but not alone
And the black tar, scarred
and shadowed pleurositic lung
raps at a lack of confidence
Keeping the green man; ginger

This green man went for a walk recently. Not the first of spring but almost. I have a consultancy waiting for me where I will be given a form which I will mark according to a grade that reflects on how ill i've been of late. One of the questions I always get asked concerns activities and willingness not ability to participate. I've always marked that low. I've never not thought about going out. I treasure my plodding, my perseverance, the feeling that I know I'll get there, to where I'm going, regardless of being told to stop, to slow my step, to breathe deep, to take my time. I don't need these words. I don't need to have my focus encouraged. I just need to close down. Not think about it. Not worry. I will always arrive having left first. I am clear about this but perhaps this year its been different somewhat. Maybe i've stayed in more. Maybe, i've spent more time on the wrong side of the window than I ever meant to. One thing for sure; I need to build up to a longer distance if i am to survive the ravage of summer, bad air, pollution. In the mean time, i'm glad to be out again. I'm glad to be striving and thriving. I'm able to give myself an exercise based on that which I notice on the outside - colour. And that's about how I got here.   

Posted by Rich Downes, 8 April 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 8 April 2016

Signs: Sold

If we could sell our day
what would we be bid
who would want to buy
we who were always sold
who would profit
from our debiit
what would be our lot
who would take our benefit

Found this new sign today a short distance form the Swale. It amused me. Today is what I have. Today is what i've done. All the thoughts thought during the hours. Experiences. Sights, Sounds, Dreams, Emotions. I took a whole tranche of photos of the Short Brothers creators of amazing flying machines. Close. Together. Arms outstretched. Mimicing flight. From afar I thought they were children playing. Fliight is childish. Adventure. Fun. Crazy. The thought that we might fly. I would add it to the lot.

I would play a word game. I would auction my day today knowing that yesterday today was tomorrow and that tomorrow never comes and that my day, my life, could not be bought.

I had no idea how to express it. The words just wouldn't come. And who would I wish to sell my day too today but you. So, I had to make it saleable. I had to make you want it. And i had the radio on and I was laughing. Harvey Proctor was bemoaning his human rights being squashed and was looking to hold May and Horgan Howe to account but the blue the home secretary holds to, the blue line the police parade. Well isn't it their whole intention to just squash those rights. My laughter mocked those who would take what thy have no respect for until its gone.

And I thought of a facebook conversation once had with Bob Findlay Williams and I thought about reading Alan Holdsworth say in Disability Politics that institutions are our plantations and I gave consideration to the experience of our common day, Yesterday, today, the future seemed so far away and then the words came. They came at night. Fleeting and disappearing and I thought that I might dream them like Keef's Satisfaction and would wake up and find them fully formed. But I was scared that I might lose it. And so I wrote it down on the back of a creased up paper. And I knew I hadn't caught it. I knew I hadn't the words that I wanted but I knew it would do.
So here is my day. Sold to you.

Posted by Rich Downes, 30 March 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 30 March 2016

Signs: Inducement

Beneath a Waterloo arch I spied an empty Billboard. Fill it with your own message. A sign for your own making.

The sign is bordered by bright lights. I couldn't get far enough away from it to get the vertical lights in. If i did the words Prime Sight would have been clearer. The sign backs onto a wall. Invention, building, design. Is it a contradiction of capitalism that even where there is no capitalism that capitalism is every where; not just elsewhere.

My signs read;

'My life is the struggle'. I have just passed a bust of Mandela beneath which read; 'The struggle is my life': a simple message for activists of any colour. My inversion is not our message but right now, beneath storm clouds, an individualistic one. For myself alone, beaten down by rain, wind, and cold with a hinkling of dehydration. To think i woke feeling so well this morning.

'No inducements'. The electric billboards on the Waterloo escalators are all out. I wish i'd snapped them in their grey uselessness waiting for power, blandishment, a reboot or sale.

'Emptiness Strikes'. I feel a void. Dissatisfaction not a depression. Neither am I anxious for the lights to come on to seek to sell me something. There is another sign I never took a photo of and wish I had. On the side of a building in Tower Hamlets; 'Sorry the lifestyle you ordered is temporarily out of stock'. This seemed redolent of someting then and maybe even more so now. Please fill the void with slogans, fill it full of lifestyles. The space is yours

Posted by Rich Downes, 28 March 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 28 March 2016

Signs: Truth

The sun goes down
in the west
I walk towards it

The sun shines long
on the Debden
I walk along it

The sun goes down
darkness in time
I walk amongst it

The sun has gone

It was 2014. There is a river walk in suffolk I like to do. Not too long, not so hard. There is a good time to do it. Late or early when the sun is low and the tide is likewise. Little riverlets form strange shapes in the mud. I love to photo into the sun. I like it because it works well. I like it because they say don't do it.

It's one of my rebellions. I shoot into the sun as often as I can. My rebellions last a long time. I rebelled aged 8 in special school. I denied the cloth i wore on sundays. I denied all that was old, all that could hurt, all that could not be trusted. 

Walking back along the Debden, must have been early and still light, when I found this sign because the light was still there. I think I must have played with the colours. I can't imagine the doors and the bolt being this colour. But it suits my blue mood, my blue truth, my blue absence and my blue reward. Thanks for nothing. Thanks for being nowhere, thanks for being nothing, thanks for being no.

Posted by Rich Downes, 20 March 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 27 March 2016

Signs: Unhinged

Many thanks to the good burghers of Brent who tickle my fancy every time I pass this sign. Yes even today when the clouds amass stormliness and I have to use the flash..... well, i don't have to but its digital and i don't know how to turn it off yet.

And so onward........

Before we go through the keyhole to this far from salubrious one storey affair, we trepass along a down trodden path past a hole in the ground which may or may not have once been a fish pool full of koi carp but now dehydrated, left without water, devoid of duck houses and barely mustering a drained moat we can only surmise that a tory patrician never lived here. We might also note from the uncared appearance of the garden that neither are we visiting Alan Titmarch though he may well be well disposed to sorting this mess out. Him and the guy from DIY SOS for it is clear that its a poor soul who lives here. Shame.

Still we move on..... this is not that sort of programme..... that swings from tragedy to uplifting smiles and moist cheeks, stained by tears, at the bravery of TV heroes relieving undateable inconsolables. Stepping over the threshold. We should not be put off by the stat scrawled on the wall '100% of cripples entering here do so glibly in ignorance of the fact that 25% of them can never get out without support'. That's not really a fact its just something the researchers read somewhere once.

One thing we can take comfort in Keith Lemon style is the preponderance of loos on every floor not that there are that many floors to a bungalow but look a toillet there and a commode here. Could it be that the victim is someone with IDS. Sorry I didn't mean irritiable Duncan Smith. It's not his house. I mean't IBS. Its really so difficult to find any clues to any sort of life here never mind spot the celebrity so there's only one thing for it.


Really the scrounger who lives here losing benefits to feed the middle classes needs to go stack some shelves in some supermarket. OK it wouldn't suppport their need for an income but at least they'd be getting out of the house and enriching some deserving capitalist. They might also be able to nick a snickers so as to leave some clue as to who they really are. Anyone can go down a foodbank you know. So, panel over to you. Saint or Sinner?     

Posted by Rich Downes, 17 March 2016

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 22 March 2016

A Special Residential School Experience

Independence is an attitude
If Jesus don't want ya
Fuck im
And your parents too
You don't want no one
That don't want you

Well, that's what I think anyway. it all came back to me today. Independence ain't got nothing to do with life skills. Life skills they can teach you in schools and centres. It's how they tie you up. Life lessons happen outside the classroom. They come to you in the dark, day or night, like blinding flashes of light.

You don't need to go to school to find out what life's all about. School's a disguise. Takes you away from life. As does work and everything the man wants to throw at ya.

Learn what you need to learn and after that learn what you want to learn. Knowing that the fork goes right side and the knife left with the spoon on top.... that's nothing. Stop letting em fool ya.

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 February 2016

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 26 April 2016

A Dort S'lection of Shreams

She said when she slept she slept in a shack surrounded by the outdoors. All she knew for sure was that the wind blew and then the wind blew some more, harder and harder still, until such time as the foundations shook and the walls buckled and the nails came loose and the timbers bent, came off one by one and flew away. And as the house, the shack, was shaking she'd become ever more, acutely, aware that she was on the toilet with her knickers around her ankles and that she just couldn't reach them.

He was glad she had told him of this recollection as it reminded him he had a shack of his own. It was snowing and he hadn't got to the shack yet but the closer he got the more aware he became that he was being pursued by an ugly great bear and that he shouldn't let the bear know that he lived there - in that shack; but he was too close to it now. So he started to run around it and he would look back from corner to corner to see if the bear was still following and it always was. So he'd run faster and looking down at the ground, he could see his and the bears tracks in the snow and he'd just know the circles of tracks were taking him further and further away from the shack. So he ran faster, the fastest yet, the fastest ever and before long he lost that bear. So, as soon as he could he bolted for the door, slammed it shut and with gasping breath he put his back to the door before looking up and guess what?. Looking straight ahead he saw the bear was already in the room, looking at him and licking his lips. That is the bear was licking his own lips. Not the mans. The bear never ever got that close.

For her the stream had started with the injury that laid her low, put her prostrate. It came with the voyeurs, the professional questioners, who poked, who prodded, who desired to be inside her mind. "Can you feel this", "How about this?", "How does this feel?", "Can you feel this?", "Can you feel?"

His stream came from a different place but the same place too. A fear of a real experience. He'd relive it with the same bastard bear that lived there in the institution, day after monotonous day. The bear would always be there even though the centre was now closed. There, somewhere, somehow, inveigling  his way in with craft and menace.

Its different for me but similar. I am as they say a survivor. I've come through it, lived my life and adapted to being on the other side but its like this.... I journey, I travel through landscapes I create for myself. Fields; plouged or unploughed, roads usually lanes, trees behind fences made of barbed wire where falcons sit on posts, cafeterias that sell the very best baklewell tarts; and sometimes I can even take a friend along for the ride, enjoying showing him the marvellous places I've made, but then I realise, Stonehenge wasn't built in a dimple on a hillock in a lake. What if its not there anymore, what if i shouldn't have moved it, what if they ask me why i did it, what about if i can't remember what i put where or how I got there and what if I never ever find my way back to the shack, what if the wind blows and what if there's a bear.

These are our anxiety dreams. We'd love to hear yours.

Posted by Rich Downes, 18 February 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 19 February 2016

Signs: Evolution

Disabled Person, Baby, Lady
Gentlemen Excluded
A sign of evolution
Disabled person in reverse
Back to front
Skidding into the future
Facing up to the past
All those signs we missed

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 February 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 1 February 2016

Berghaus. Karrimor. North Face.

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Berghaus. Karrimor. North Face.

A rambling Forecast

Lumiere will leave you cold

Poor. Variable.

There is something special about London's new Lumiere Festival, imported from County Durham. But it’s not in the art work, the reason to be walking. Its elsewhere. London doesn't need Lumiere. It’s always alight anyhow. Road signs, street lights, late revellers and the tat on the local trattoria. But it does need that which is special and this is best seen at Kings Cross. Wide boulevards with people smiling, glad to be out there, a wide vista of festival feeling, a plethora of included wheelchair users, accessible loos and free loos in St Pancras which I'm always tempted to write as St Pancreas. You get up the road and go back again. Careful to make a crossing with the assistance of stewards stewarding before catching the 91 to Trafalgar Square.

A central point of the show and a crushing disappointment. The lights are largely off. A street entertainer plays with fire, encircled by the best crowd of the night, an engaged crowd, one that has put its smart phones down to be bewitched. We head towards Piccadilly. Eros stands at the point where love leaves. Regent Street is chocca. I stand tall enough to see my wife but I know she can't see me and is steps ahead so I call her name and say hang a right. We are in Soho. The crowds are behind us. They had turned glum. Smiles gone. Grimaces betraying signs of potential panic. What if I should fall here. We are delighted to be out of the crush.

On the tube home sitting across from me I see Berghaus, Karrimor, North Face. Ramblers who could have been better served. Lumiere had appealed. It had called out the people, streets had been closed. Something wonderful could have happened. But crowd control like the weather was way below zero and is this art form that interesting any way?

Posted by Rich Downes, 18 January 2016

Last modified by Rich Downes, 18 January 2016

Trudell's Gone To Mama

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Trudell's gone to mama

He'll meet her in the sky

Trudell's gone to mama

He knows the reason why


Trudell's gone to Mama

I never heard him cry

Trudell's gone to Mama

His ideas won't die


Sorry about the words. I just wanted to say something. I knew John Trudell in sound. He only lived in sound. For me that is. For others John Trudell breathed love. John Trudell breathed fire. I'd heard the name John Trudell. Not in sound. I never heard the name in sound. I heard the name on paper. I know not if he was a whiskey indian or a man who went to war as i'm told is true for Leonard Peltier in the tones spoke out by Cash and Dylan. I never knew John Trudell but I met him somewhere. Now his time is up I meet his absence clearly. I wonder about our meeting. The one that didn't happen. The page I heard him on. I think I see a book. The book it had a title. I knew the title then. I don't know it now. It's gone. The title like John Trudell is gone for John Trudell has gone to Mama. Words, People, Books, they all go. But i'm told and i'm told, in these times we live in, ideas never die. I guess when John meets Mama he'll just leave them in the sky.

Posted by Rich Downes, 12 December 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 12 December 2015

A proper right winger

Today, in history, John Lennon was murdered. I'm wondering now we're bombing Syria if Give Peace A Chance has been removed from the Beeb's playlist as it was when we went into Iraq along with any other peace song.

Last night in my history for the first time I watched Gerard Deulofeu play for Everton for 90 minutes. A proper right winger.

Everton, the toffee men. Almost got themselves into a sticky mess. In spite of having a proper right winger.

Like a proper right winger he dribbled.

Like a proper right winger he got his crosses in.

Today in history I hear the French went and elected a proper right winger

Today in history I heard what Donald Trump said. Republicans eh!!!

Like George Bush or Diddy David eh!!! Except Diddy's not a republican.

Gerard Deulofeu, a proper right winger. He was dangerous.

A lot of his crosses bombed though.

But I admired his bravery. The way he just walked into the box.

The way he just stepped over.

The way he flew his wing

Gerard Deulofeu. My idea of a right winger.

Football. It's all balls innit?

Posted by Rich Downes, 8 December 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 December 2015

News from a Die-In for the dying

Blast! Just when I committed to life Parliament decides to take a vote on air strikes.

Blast! Just when I’m gettting on with living I’ve got to go off to a die in.

Blast! Parliament  Square. December 2nd. A pathetic tranche of resistors move to a penned-off part of the road, at no one’s inconvenience, to lie down, act dead and yet somehow find the breath to chant ‘Don’t Bomb Syria’.

I’ve got my legs bent and pointing towards Bean who’s fully prostrate on the tarmac and I’m leaning on one arm thinking to myself. Not Dead Yet. I’m Not Dead Yet. And I’m thinking about Charlie Falconer and how he seems such a rotund and avuncular fellow who I could spend some time enjoying life with until I realise his size equates with his appetite for assisting the dying. T’was only Sunday on the tele he raised his inclination to push the trigger. I should have known then I could never dance the maypole with Charlie. Neither in December nor in May.

I’m still propped up playing the Not Dead Yet at a Die In in Westminster when I start to thinking on the living and those who like me prefer life and how we’ve never really had it. Merton’s Adult Social Services budget has been cut by more than 50% over 5 years and that’s before you consider inflation.

50% of monies put aside for independence, inclusion, integration, inopportunately inavailable in times of austerity and someone says one bomb wastes £50,000 just in the firing, never mind in the damage and the dying. £50,000 that’s half of what I dream of winning on a scratch card. I scratch cards. Bombs scratch lives. A white line on a chalk board. Another body on a road. Another corpse at the Die-In full of dying.

And yet i’m Not Dead Yet and i’m not sighing. Not started singing. Barely paused to consider chanting. I’m Not Dead Yet.

I listen to my lungs exhaling, my heart racing and pulse throbbing but I cannot call this living. This isn’t what I want to do. Lie on a cold road inside a barrier fence separating me from the house of Charlie.

Charles has lost some weight. Charles might think its such a waste that Charles has to wait before he can taste the blood that clings to his hands again. Charles is hungry. Charles is at the party. Charles and cheese and pineapple, bodies on a stick, bodies in the road. This is news from a Die-In for the dying.

Posted by Rich Downes, 4 December 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 4 December 2015

A Lesson Learned

Fans of this particular blog-o-sphere - and there are thousands - will know I spend quite some time bashing the tragegy model as often as I am able to. Someone has to do it. ANd here's another opportunity.

I never watch children in need. I prefer to attend Burn Pudsey Friday.

But there's no avoiding this really is there. A creature of habit my tele viewing usually goes from the news to the local news to the awful one show and the one show represents one of the pudsey peddlars. I was in the kitchen, washing up and a scream came from the front room. My partner had spotted puds and was going "oh no oh no".

A mother came on to tell us about her daughter. And her tale went something like this; she kept on rolling over so i knew something was wrong and took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy. Well, it was devastating. All those dreams you have for your first born well they just go out of the window. Anyway, she wanted to be a ballet dancer. Really, no way, was she going to be a ballet dancer and life was just, well you know.... disappointing for her. But not to worry there was this wonderful dance group probably sponsored by Pudsey where she can now go and waggle her arms and legs around.

Now, here comes my  lesson learned. I'd have really have thought that by now Pudsey would have got over these negative portrayals of disabled people. But he hasn't and he isn't going to. Doom! Doom! Doom! Devastation! and Dashed Dreams! No wonder my partner screamed.

And here's another one. The one show special.Get a group of kids who are having a bad time or who have survived a bad time and who proably did need support in education in health or in something else we should be seeing as a right andf get them all to line ujp and say thank you very much t hus demonstrating that the tragedy model demands smiles and gratitude. Its live, Its living. Its out there. And Matt Baker shags its silly.

Anyway, we know better. This friday its Burn Pudsey Friday and here's a picture Chris Hughes put up on facebook. I have a feeling its old news.


Posted by Rich Downes, 11 November 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 11 November 2015

Another Begging Letter in the Post Today

I got another begging letter from the Alzheimer's Society today. I can't remember how many that is now. But they clearly won't take no reply for a no. I was going to say indifference for a no there because when these things arrive I am usually indifferent to the causes they say they support, and having had once scanned them for negative imagery it's normally into the bin for them.

This time though I didn't even bother reading the letter except for the new post script that says we're sorry (as if) if this letter has reached you at a bad time. Maybe they should have said we're sorry that we're indifferent to sending you this letter regardless of the time it is for you as we really don't care when or when we crash into your lives and ask you for a penny to a pound or more.

Reminds me actually. I passed a woman on the streets yesterday who was asking for money and I met her with a sorry. She told me that I wasn't and I quickly reflected that indeed I wasn't. My politeness hadn't cost me anything. I gave it for free. But she could see right through it. The thoughts are still with me today and I wonder about the value of an apology if it arrives without another more foreboding stranger.

Anyway back to the letter, the envelop to which sits staunchly on my desk declaring 'A million people will soon be affected by dementia - they need answers'. Possible pause for negative imagery moment. "And it could be you". Back in real time now. I started shredding it. Not all of it. Just the bit with my name and address. I won't be getting in touch with them but I don't want anybody else to have it but they can of cause sell it on. I'm not sure why i turned over the page but I did and then I noticed they had sent a direct debit instruction to the bank and had very kindly filled it with my name and address. So, of cause that mean't more shredding and of cause charidees have probably been doing this for ages and I've only just cottoned on but this is really bugging me now.

Fortunately sometimes when feeling blue I leave the tele on. And would you Adam and Eve it only last night Watchdog were promoting the Telephone Preference Service. Now i know that won't stop the post but hopefully it will stop the calls. I can switch off the telefons so all that's left now is those chuggers on the street.

Posted by Rich Downes, 16 October 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 16 October 2015

Speak Up Sooty - That's Representation

Posted this on my work facebook page the other day:

"I'm really looking forward to having some little monkeys visit at the end of next month. But something has got my goat today and its a pig of an advert in the Times for Debra in support of Butterfly Children, kids 'living with Epidermolysis Bullosa - a painful genetic skin blistering condition which makes... skin as fragile as a butterfly's wing. To find out more about butterfly children.....'

Should be used to it by now but, this does strike me as just another freak show use of negative imagery (disabled people as animals) and to think it was only yesterday that I was thinking I never seem to see these ads on the tube anymore. Please tell me its not just me who feels this way"

It reminded me of a coffee shop shock. You're ssitting there with friends enjoying an americano and bakewell tart on the isle of wight when you see that hidden demon Sooty supporting the RNIB. You stammer and wonder why he ain't supporting you.

Sooty I love your silence. It apes mine. And there you are representing blind people. If jealousy hadn't have got the better of me I'd be wondering why that infernal organisation used Sooty at all. Is it because he's mute, not speaking for rights, a top celebrity who doesn't go in for speaking slush about his great endeavours for charidee, someone who's satisfied to just have you put your hand up his arse for payment.

And then I think of Barclays bank and a poster I have saying buy a womble to show your support for disabled people. If memory serves it was a Scope thing. Disabled People want you to buy wombles. Its what we're into. It speaks to our constant infantilism. I forgot that. So, thanks Sooty for reminding me. You remain my top star ini the celeb firmament

Posted by Rich Downes, 2 October 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 8 October 2015

And don't forget to eat from the plate

I've not been to the Isle of Wight for a long time. First time I went I stayed with Islanders. I was defined by being a mainlander. We were different. I am different. They are different. Our language, our culture, hopes and aspirations are not the same.

This time I was a black country man staying in a hotel owned by brummies. My regionalism stood on high alert. Warning! Warning!! Holte Ender ahoy!!! Separated by a borderline and the trammels of history. Yet Brummies are in my bloodline. Should I ever explore familial ties on Who Do You Think You Are what shame and tragedy would transpire from this southern darkland.

Such were my thoughts when coming across this hotel notice. Use a door to enter and exit. What else would I do with it? Call on it to salve my conscience whensoever my prejudicial stereotyping stepped into being, use one of the glass plates to eat my next meal from, use it as the key to unlocking answers with questions.

Here is a reason I am taken by photography. The silliness and stupidity it reveals within my fellow man, the laughter, the langour as I sit and wonder and puzzle.

I am a child of the enlightenment. I am skeptical and cynical. Empiricism is important to me. Is there any evidence anywhere that this notice could not only have been left by a brummie living on the Isle Of Wight?

Please submit your proof. I want to knock down the bias I am trusted to live with.

Posted by Rich Downes, 1 September 2015

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 September 2015

To interupt the series on Liminality.....

...... I went out last night with Suzanne Bull and Peter Hope and as i've already said on facebook

Its a simple comment but it blew me away.

We talk about isolation and loneliness and here are two people who i wouldn't normally thinks that applies to but Pete was talking to me about making friends with us all through our activism and finished by saying "and here we are twenty years on".

Blimey is it so long since we changed the world.

Another 20 and maybe we'll be gone but those ideas will live on and the changes we made will not be lost because as i've heard a lot of this year..... you can't defeat an idea.

Rock On Social Modellers, Independent Livers. We made it happen

Posted by Rich Downes, 25 February 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 25 February 2015

Flo Brooks - A Heavy Load; Participatory Review 3

Tribute to Colin Hambrook. Who said this review looks more like a series of blogs rather than a review. he knows so much that man.

The original review with this photo was short, succinct and so very, very, wrong and it contained this nugget:

"I am fascinated by the look of the Muddy Lane String Band. Folk is white, folk is old, folk is cashmere jumpers and a finger in the ear. I wear my prejudices well. Black and white for this colour snap".

And I know
What i know
And what I know
Is wrong
So very wrong
But what i know is right
The right i know
Diffferent from the wrong
I know
Changed circa 62
A curl
A hat
A snarl
A stare
65 Electric
Drug Addled
Lyrical Consciousness
Black and white dream
Turns to polaroid colour
68 Camden Roundhouse
Zep bowed to Albion
Fairport Folk Rock
Revolt turning
Guitar pounding
Ch Ch Changes
Stop changing
Til later
Old thyme time
by Martin
et al
and on and on
Never ever
What you read
The old folk
The new folk
The one folk
The you
The we
The people

Posted by Rich Downes, 23 February 2015

Last modified by Rich Downes, 23 February 2015