Hardest Hit

Wednesday 11th May is a date I shall never forget, it was the day that around 4000 disabled people descended on London and told the Government exactly what they thought of them. We left Stockport at 7am and made good time to North London arriving around 11am, then we hit the traffic it was almost an hour later that we arrived at Embankment Gardens to join up with the other Mind marchers.

We were given out T shirts, bright blue!  I NEVER wear blue! But for today, it matters not what I think, so blue it was. (Note to National Mind, T shirts should be black!) . Armed with our placards, the making of which kept us amused for part of the journey, as you can see there was a hiccup or two!

If at first……

 So we raised our placards, clapped our clappers and set off to the rally point. For some reason we were shepherded to the front of the march rather than being given time to hear the rally, but that was a mere detail, we were ready to go. The march started, after about ten minutes I was pulled from the march for an interview with Scope,  a segment of which has been included in their great film of the day http://youtu.be/3LPqXauvrg0 .  This meant that I had to run back through the march to the front to rejoin my comrades. Just in time for the last 200 or so yards. One of the highlights of the march was people on the top of sightseeing buses shouting with and cheering us, we responded by applauding them.

We were led to the Methodist Central Hall where we chilled, eat lunch and chatted with other people representing Mind from as far afield as Edinburgh and Somerset. All too soon we had to head off for Parliament to lobby our MP, Pat, one of our service users, came with me as we share the same MP Mark Hunter Lib Dem for Cheadle. We had written to him with our concerns and he appeared to be sympathetic to our cause… up to a point. He has promised us written answers to all our questions, so we will see. Ian Duncan Smith came to sit at the other end of the table but appeared to upset his lobbiers very quickly, no surprise there! We talked to Mark for half an hour, which made our hour long wait to get in worthwhile. Mark also promised that he and Andrew Stunell would come and talk to us at Mind. Pat was exceptionally pleased to have been to Parliament for the first time, she said that it made her feel worthwhile in stark contrast to the way she is usually made to feel. I have to say the look on her face as we stood in the lobby was the highlight of my day.
Once we had finished lobbying we rejoined our group and found our bus. We arrived back at Mind at around 10.30pm tired but happy.
PS The media seemed to be swarming the march, but apart from the Guardian the coverage in the newspapers was pathetic, we have to work on raising the profile of the disabled in the media.
More pics of the day


Music and Madness – Thank you Syd

The Madcap Laughs

When I was a patient on a psychiatric ward one of the things that kept me going was music, I had a walkman and when the batteries died I used to hog the CD player in the dayroom. Looking back; the music I listened to had an underlying theme, the theme was madness! There are a number of musicians from my era that have been diagnosed with various mental health problems and a number that died young under questionable circumstances.

 The album I played the most in hospital was Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. This album explores madness, I used to play the track “Brain Damage” over and over, not a popular choice with some of my fellow patients! Especially with lyrics such as…..

 “You lock the door
And throw away the key
There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.”

 I think that the genius needed to create music often pushes the creator over the edge, Roger Waters who wrote the above must have experienced insanity in one form or another to have written many of his songs. He originally worked with Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd, Syd was a man touched with genius, capable of producing songs that either touched your heart or your funny bone, subjects ranging from fetishism (Arnold Layne) to mythology (Gnome) to twee (Scarecrow), even using James Joyce poetry set to music (Golden Hair). It is well documented that Syd used “mind expanding” drugs very regularly during his time with Pink Floyd and that his behaviour became at best erratic. It has been suggested that he experienced severe drug induced psychosis, although I have no evidence that he was diagnosed as such. After two solo albums that ranged from genius to self- indulgent (the Madcap Laughs and Barrett) he disappeared from the music scene and became a recluse, refusing to answer to the name Syd ( a nickname, his actual name was Roger) and refusing to acknowledge his music or Pink Floyd.

 The Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here is said to be a message to Syd, the track Shine on You Crazy Diamond aimed directly at him with the lyrics

 “Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.
Now there’s a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky. “

 I would prefer to remember Syd for his music rather than his madness, although I believe that the two are inseparable. Genius is often associated with mental ill health and in the world of music there is no better example of this than Roger “Syd” Barrett.

Welcome to weareallbonkers – enjoy

I decided to set up this blog after a twitter conversation with some good friends. We made a (failed) attempt to get #weareallbonkers trending on twitter, but I loved the name so much I decided it needed to be used. I wanted a blog, so stole the name, yup that simple.

I intend to blog on politics, mental health, religion, work, family or anything I feel passionate about on the day.

As an intro my first blog will be to set you, my readers a challenge, what’s in a name?  Mental health is full of names, from depression to schizophrenia, from bi-polar to borderline personality disorder from PTSD to OCD, all invented by psychiatrists to make labelling easier. The general public, however are used to calling us mad, loonies, barking, schizo or psycho… actually the list is endless. When I run my mental health awareness courses or especially my stigma and discrimination course, I get people to list out the “bad words”. I usually get around 25 – 30 names within 5 minutes. My favourite is 2 stops short of Becontree….   (if you look at a London tube map you’ll see that Barking is two stops short of Becontree!). When I was in an art group we called our exhibition, “two pictures short of an exhibition”.

I am very “non PC” when it comes to my illness and when discussing mental health with fellow .. ah what should I put..  normally I would say fellow nutters, or fellow loonies, but this is a public blog, not in a pub with … stuck again!  Hence my challenge, what should we call ouselves?  Nutters, loonies, mental health service users, experts by expoerience….  HELP.

Please use the comments to tell me what you think, personally I think we should reclaim our own language, I’m a nutter and I’m proud!

Somewhere in Yorkshire

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A story of everyday Tory folk.

Somewhere in Yorkshire, at a plush office, a group of young men in suits are huddled; discussing more ways of stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Enter Dave Phillips, ” Hi guys, I’ve just been meeting with a few of the unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed at a Minned Centre and they’ve given me the most amazing idea”. A hush descends as the sycophantic group gather round their esteemed leader, “eeew” says one, “don’t you need a shower?”, they look at each other in total surprise as he replies “that can wait! you have to hear what they had to say first, it’s pure gold, Camoron will love me for it!”. They look adoringly from him to the picture of Camoron Divide on the wall and back to him again.

“Apparently these oiks can’t work, every time they apply for a job they get turned down because of their ‘problems’, something to do with their thought processes or something, you can tell they’re not right they lean to the left and don’t like what we do.” A chorus of head shaking and tuts greet his statement.

“But Sir… you said they’d had a great idea”, the minion look puzzled.  “No, you fool, they gave ME an idea, you know that we’ve been trying to find a way to produce goods that are as cheap as Primarni get from the sub continent?”. “Yes” they chorused.  “Well I think these people and there are literally hundreds of thousands of them, would love to work for sixpence an hour just to have jobs. So I’m going to tell all the chaps down in the smoke that if we can just change the law a tiny bit, they can all have cheap labour, we’ll all be so much richer and won’t that be great and to cap it all I’ll look so philanthropic that everyone will love me!”

Great shouts of “Huzzah” ensued as Champagne corks filled the air and Dave Phillips was hoisted shoulder high through the town.

A few days later…..

Dave Phillips returns from the smoke, downcast and disheveled …

There was silence as he sat at his computer and accessed his Titter account. He groaned, sighed and then screamed at the screen…. “It’s a conspiracy, a Marxist conspiracy, how can they do this to me. ” He pulled the plug on his computer and turned to his minions. “Those people at Minned have twisted my idea and made me look bad to Camoron, they’ve ruined my plan. What right do they have to pretend stand up for these people, depriving them of work. They’re the villains, I only wanted what was best and I made it look as if it was for their good, how can  Minned claim to know what these people want better than I do?”

A glint appeared in his eye, “I’ve learned something though, apparently it’s not just these Minned people that can’t get jobs, there’s thousands more out there who are different and would jump at the chance to work long hours for a pittance now that Camoron has taken away all their money. Oh yes, they’ll come begging us for jobs once we’re finished with them…………. I’ll be back!”

That was a cautionary tale for all those that don’t believe in Ogres and Trolls… they exist and they are out to get US!