Sunday, 20 November 2011
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Friday, 2 September 2011
Suddenly you’re riding out of Barney, up past the Glaxo factory, you know the hills ahead, you count them down. Up towards Egglestone, passing the Moss Mire telecoms mast on Windy Hill keeping the cadence going, back in the days when you were actually fit. Suddenly the sweeping Upper Teesdale panorama opens out in front of you, the meandering River Tees at the bottom of the valley framed by the rugged stonewalled fields. Plunging down Folly Top and taking the right after the garage at the junction below in the shadow of the wooded Stobb Green, you can smell the pine filling the air, you smile. It was a brief respite, past the old houses and The Three Tuns Inn, around the large broad leafed tree and soon climbing again, you can see the Moorcock Inn up on high ahead, hit with more memories of good times spent there with friends. But today it’s just you and the road …..and the sweat. It’s a relief to pass the Inn, the last hill short but steep, out of breath you keep on, down and around the road’s tight hairpin, over the almost Guinness stained beck, climbing slightly again where you’re offered a choice.
Do you lead off through the right side gate taking the fire tracks up over the windswept Egglestone Moor? The long and twisting jagged climb, you know it well. Knowing that the pain in your legs pushing you further on will reward you not only with panoramas of breath taking, literally, natural beauty but also the swooping (and whooping) singletrack through the purple heather before Hamsterley Forest looms up ahead, all dark and foreboding, yet exciting all the same?
Or do you stick to the road ahead knowing that you will soon be up on the windswept Stanhope Road. The open road with rarely a passing car, just you on your pedal-driven machine with Mother Nature for company? The sweeping stonewall-quilted emerald green moorland enveloping you. Pushing ever further upwards knowing that your reward will be riding down the old tin mine track, your old friend, leading on to the fire roads of the forest?
Friday, 8 July 2011
I've been working voluntarily as a mountain bike racing team manager since the early 90's, Development Racing, it's something I thoroughly enjoy, it's challenging, emotive, rewarding and I still hold great enthusiasm for it. During the later 90's, I managed to score one of my team riders at the time a small frame and forks sponsorship with an American so-called boutique brand. I knew their UK distributor at the time was struggling so set about putting a business plan together with the help of the local Business Link, which took me quite some time as I had never done anything like that before. The end result was a pretty much water tight plan. So, faxed it over to the American manufacturer, ......who in turn faxed it to their then UK distributor and they saw their UK sales take off using my ideas. That was very nice of them wasn't it..... it was sheer naivety on my part, but, what can you do?!
So onwards I trundled..... moved down to London in 2006 and have been trying to get myself into the broadcast music industry. I have worked on my own programme synopsis to open popular music up further to the deaf and hard of hearing. Thus I have been busy plugging away to various sections of the industry, the production teams, the channels et al. On receiving a reply from the UK's (possibly global?) leading music channel in regards to a meeting with two of their senior executives I jumped at it. It was suddenly all very exciting. So I arrived all eager, was introduced to the execs and had a rather interesting meeting. I gave my 'sales piece' at it were and no sooner had I mentioned the eternal catchphrase ....'...to increase target audience access to music...'... they went off on one giving me various percentages being met and further targets for the coming year in regards to each of their channels' subtitling output. Completely and utterly missing my point! I tried three or four times to get the conversation back on track to no avail I was being drowned out by the numbers and percentages being thrown at me, so admitted defeat and left them to it. Interestingly though, they have no deaf staff from what I am aware of!
Moving on, a further opportunity arose for me to meet the senior exec of a production company that produce music shows for a mainstream TV channel. The meeting was fantastic, it really was, he took what I was saying on board, we had an in depth chat and threw ideas around. Now this meeting was on a Tuesday lunchtime, their main music TV show was being broadcast that Friday night, recorded that same Tuesday evening. Lo and behold he had changed his production company's programme format using my ideas, needless to say he didn't do a good job of it mind but...... oh bloody hell!
And on I trundled......
I applied for a broadcast music based role with a mainstream TV channel. The application was successful and I was in the final 10 out of some 4,000 applicants, this was, to me, a feather in my cap as I was the only disabled person there. I fought a good fight as it were and although not selected for the job made some good contacts. I was later invited back to a disability and ethnic networking evening with the channel. The level of support they gave me at the start with access to what was being said in the auditorium was absolutely brilliant. However with the actual networking and drinks afterwards it was much more difficult. It was held in a dark on site bar which made lip-reading very very difficult, I couldn't wear my implant as there was loud music being pumped out and a lot of background noise. Although I wanted to speak to so many people there I couldn't, it was too difficult and rather than make a fool of myself by not being able to communicate properly I left the event feeling very down heartened.
Decided to have another bash at importing American bicycle frames to the UK, met with the Business Link people again about how to do it. The guy there didn't really speak to me, merely gave me internet links to look at and read and told me to set up a business bank account. Absolutely fucking pointless! I wanted to know face to face what I do about tax payments, import duties, how and when it's paid - they didn't offer any help. Needless to say this didn't get off the ground, I'm still in the process of trying to close the business bank account (yes, the bank really are that incompetent), and still paying national insurance contributions on a business that no longer exists - damnit!
I'll now skip to the fore.... most recently after a discussion via email, I was able to meet with another exec, this time from a big international music label. I thought the meeting went OK, it wasn't great as was in a coffee shop near his building with background noise playing havoc with my cochlear implant, my lip-reading wasn't too good of which I apologised for and on top of that I was very nervous as was so hoping that it would lead somewhere. I learned how the company worked, the filtering down between the various in-house labels per genre of music. It was concluded that the guy would speak to the company's HR and arrange a meeting with them for me to discuss things further. And that was the last I heard from them, despite me chasing up by email a few times.....
I laugh to myself at times. Just one little opportunity is all I ask for, one little crack in the door that will allow me to get my first foot on the ladder. Admittedly a lot of able-hearing people, from my own experience, find a deaf person who is so into music a little too quirky to comprehend, this barrier needs and must be broken down.
As a deaf person in a hearing world I feel the best way forwards is to go self employed, but this in itself throws up even more problems. Disabled people NEED support in order to do this and from what I have seen so far it's very scarce, or where it is available, it's substandard. So sick and tired of dealing with people who are all mouth and no trousers that seem so prevalent in this day and age.
Just keeping your determination and your self-worth, keeping on fighting...... after such a time you get sick of fighting though, casting your pearls before swine, and wish that some people out there would just give you a decent break.
I'll step off my soap-box now!
As many of you are aware I am profoundly deaf with speech and use lip-reading as my main form of face-to-face communications, for everything else there is email which is a godsend!
I have encountered many problems, being placed as support staff in a very busy external office, which was absolutely fine in itself. But the inability to deal with all the queries coming thick and fast from all walks of life there was virtually impossible! I may be good at lip reading one-to-one, but when several people are talking at once I retreat into my shell and would rather hide under the table! It got to the point where I just got the administrative duties done in the morning and ignored anyone asking me questions. It takes time to lip read people and once I’ve explained I’m deaf and lip-read, sometimes even before finishing what I have to say, they’ve either turned around and left the room with no word or become impatient where I’ve asked them to repeat what they have said as I was struggling to lip-read them, heaven forbid you need to ask them to write something down! I just wanted to scream at some them "It really doesn't help when you mumble!" Whilst in this office there were no computer systems for me to use, no minicom systems for me to make telephone calls with and therefore I had no way to communicate with people in the main offices should I need any documents etc. This resulted in me running, physically and quite often sweatily, backwards and forwards between the two places, and I'm not the fittest of people these days either!
A bit further down the line I was placed into another external office to answer the telephones, (yes, really!) which completely beggars belief and also the (many, many, MANY) queries from all walks of staff, I couldn’t cope with it at all. Due to the stress and frustration I broke down in tears later that morning and left the office, I have never ever been in a situation like that before and I never will again, it was absolutely horrible. I went back to the main office and had a serious talk to my Line Manager to never EVER put me in that position again. When I have found myself stressed like this and on the verge of tears I leave the office and walk by the river to calm myself down.
I have had run-ins with people I work with one example is with a senior female member of staff. She came to my desk, moved my chair around and physically moved my face with her finger to face hers, she spoke to me in stunted English with exaggerated lip movements “Have”……”You” (pointing to me)……”Seen”…….”This”……..”File” (Points to the documents in her arm)….. and then spelt out the defendant’s name in ‘baby English’… “Ruh”…..”Oh”….”Buh”… “Eh”….”Ruh”….”Tuh” (….etc). I turned my back to her and told her to go away. She also had a tendency to raise her voice at me, thinking if she raised her voice I would be able to ‘hear’ her. As said I am profoundly deaf, and although I utilise an artificial cochlear implant I do not wear it for work as the office hubbub and environmental noise is very distracting from the work in hand.
Another member of staff came over on several occasions waving pieces of paper in my face and babbling nonsensically as if I’d understand what he was going on about. Another had a tendency to come over and in a joking manner keep saying “You read my lips, you read my lips, you read my lips” whilst pointing to his mouth, it's not a joke, I don't find it funny! Yet another member of staff kept raising her voice at me as well. I snapped with this person and called her a ‘patronising cow’ as she just went off with a ‘well you lip read me then’ and I wasn’t going to stand for it.
After a few years I got a transfer to another office, although this was part of internal staff movements and nothing to do with the problems being encountered. At first all was great, couldn’t believe my luck that I had three managers who I loved to work with. Sadly my line manager transferred into a different section and a new one from another office came on board to manage the my team. It was now a case of deja vu.... we have one member of staff come in each day early to 'man the phones'..... can you see where this is leading yet?! By this point in time and having had to deal with everything else thrown at me in the past I just ‘got on with it’. I can’t answer the phones, obviously, even with my implant it won’t work and no-one will be using the Typetalk service, ....and obviously anyone calling in won’t know I’m deaf, ....and nor will I know which phone is ringing! .....erm?! Regardless I'm normally the first person in the office every day these days, it's one less thing to worry about!
Most recently we have been told to travel to another branch further out in the suburbs to assist them with their work. I queried whether this office had a minicom system for me to use, they said no ......and then gave me a list of telephone numbers to ring should I have any problems at that other office....... erm "Hello?!"......... you can only laugh!
I do my job to as best ability as I can, I've spoken to people about the problems I have encountered and they send me self-help pamphlets! There's only so much you can take before you retreat into yourself and that's where I am right now. I have seen able-hearing colleagues being promoted and I'm still stuck where I am, and without sounding arrogant, it was me doing most of their jobs..... so, well, what can you do eh?! Although wine helps!
It's not just at work either, shopping is an experience in itself. Up at the tills, having to tell people you're deaf and I really hate myself when I say "I'm very sorry but I'm deaf and lip-read" - I mean why is it MY fault, why should I be 'sorry', but it's force of habit I'm afraid. Some cashiers are just too ignorant to even begin to explain. On the flip side some others are absolutely fantastic, so I'm not tarring everyone with the same brush...... you soon click with which chains of shop to start avoiding at all costs! I'd love to do the Absolutely Fabulous quote of "Drop the attitude, you only work in a shop!" sometimes.
Then just the other week on the train home.... I was sat with my back to the inter-carriage doors and someone, unbeknownst to me, wanted to get through. There was a guy further down the carriage waving and shouting at me and I didn't know, he was getting rather het up, once I realised he wanted my attention I did the "I'm sorry I'm deaf, what....." (WHY do I say that, damnit!) and then realised what was going on. I felt about an inch high after that, it's not my fault that my ears don't work!
You live to fight another day and all that eh?!.......