Journal – February 2007

Here’s another month of entries from my journal. The big event this time has been a trip to Blackpool with my visually impaired friend from Bournemouth University, to give him assistance at the National Union of Students Conference. Plus I had another of my regular trips to see a friend in Exeter. And I’ve mentioned various other little things as always. So I hope you enjoy!

Saturday February 3, 2007

The trip to Bournemouth on the coach today was easy enough. My mate S met me at the coach station along with 2 of his friends – M, who I’ve seen before, and C, a Spanish girl. We all went shopping first as S needed some stuff. The 2 girls went off to do their own bits and pieces, so S & I were waiting for well over half an hour for them to come out after we had finished.

M also said something which started a running joke for the weekend. She said she thought I had ‘girly genes’, because it looked like I had packed a lot. That’s because I not only had my black holdall as usual, but also a big shopping bag to carry my sleeping bag (for sleeping in S’s room) and dark shoes (in case I needed them in Blackpool).

Anyway, I twisted it round to say how I would look in ‘girly jeans’. So every time anything vaguely girly was mentioned during the next few days, I would say that M thought I would look good in girly jeans. Sad I know, and it doesn’t look as funny written down. But we had good laugh with it.

We all got a taxi back to the uni and said goodbye to the girls. When we got back to S’s flat, he cooked a nice chicken curry for our tea, and we said hello to his flatmate (the one that works for the BBC). S & I had a quick game of Trivial Pursuit on his laptop while we were eating (which I won through sheer luck), before going up to Dylan’s bar for a drink and a bit more to eat (we had a small pizza between us). We also had a game of Monopoly on his laptop when we got back to his flat, which S won. He ended up with a whopping £21,000 worth of assets, which is very good!

Sunday February 4, 2007

S & I had to get up at around 8am on Sunday. We met up with A (who has cerebral palsy) and his helper T by the car park, as we were getting driven to Blackpool in a hired car. The driver was a Polish guy called Darius, who was very nice with a good sense of humour. A & T are cool as well. A can’t speak perfectly because of his disability, but he’s still understandable. He’s got a good sense of humour too, although his fiancée had split up with him a few days earlier, so he wasn’t perhaps as lively as he apparently usually is. And T was good fun, understanding some of the more rude things that S, A or I came out with!

It took about 7 hours in total to get to Blackpool, including a couple of toilet stops and an hour break for lunch en route (in Burger King). We had a game of Monopoly on S’s laptop before lunch, for as long as his laptop battery lasted. Then we just listened to our iPods – or in S’s case he borrowed my CD walkman to listen to an audiobook.

We got to Blackpool at around 4pm, at the Norbreck Castle Hotel. It’s a huge place – 480 bedrooms, 22 conference rooms, gym, swimming pool, ballroom, etc. Other than all the students there for the conference, the main clientele seemed to be older people. Our bedroom was ok – not as good as I’d expected maybe, but still pretty nice. My only niggles would be that the lighting wasn’t as good as it could have been (they don’t give you a big light, just a few side ones on the walls) and the tuning on the TV was very bad (although there was nothing worth watching anyway).

After tea, most of the evening was spent in the bar with some of the other students. I mainly listened to all the conversations, as I’m not really involved with any of it, but they’re all a nice bunch of people. Then S & I went back to our room and played another game of Monopoly, this time trying to beat the Simple computer character. Which we amazingly didn’t manage to do – it conquered both of us! Because of that, we didn’t get to bed until about 2am, which wasn’t our intention!

Monday February 5, 2007

We had to be up early for breakfast on Monday, eating at about 8am. I had a lovely cooked breakfast – bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans and toast, plus some orange juice. Then we all went to register for the conference, and I briefly read through the motions on S’s laptop so he knew what was coming up.

We were given packed lunches to take into the room with us (sandwiches, crisps, an apple and a bottle of water), and the proceedings started at noon. First we had a delegate training session, so that everyone could get used to how the conference was going to work. It included a mock motion that had to be debated – to promote the benefits of eating 5 portions of fruit a day. In order to demonstrate that parts could be removed from motions, the text “apples are evil” was added to it. So it caused a fun debate to start things off.

Then, around 1pm, the conference started properly, with a guest speaker. She was a doctor, who had been writing about disabled people, and talked about the social model of disability (as opposed to others like the medical model). She was quite boring though, because she had a very monotonous voice, so it was quite a challenge to stay awake!

After that, we got into the main debates about the various motions. A motion is simply a statement of what the person submitting it thinks the conference should believe, and what should be done about it. For instance, they may argue to take a stand against tuition fees – believing them to be unfair, and resolving to campaign for them to be scrapped. If everyone agrees, then this is what will need to be done over the following year.

Basically, the process of approving motions works like this:

  • The motion is presented, with a student from the institution that submitted it giving a 3 minute speech in its favour. 
  • If there are any amendments, these are then debated, with 2 minute speeches arguing for and against them. If the amendment is then voted in, it gets included with the main motion.
  • After any amendments are dealt with, there is an opportunity for someone to give a 3 minute speech against the motion (which doesn’t always happen, especially if the motion is obviously worthwhile).
  • Then there is another round of 2 minute speeches for and against the whole motion. People can request further rounds of speeches after this, but one-third of the conference must agree for the extra speeches to be heard.
  • After those speeches are done, any ‘parts’ are debated. ‘Parts’ are elements of the motion (words, sentences or paragraphs) that someone wants to remove. So, if the parts are voted for, they get removed from the motion.
  • Finally there is a 1 minute summation, and the whole motion is voted on (including any amendments that were added).

Some motions went through easily, while others took a while longer to debate. The motion about assisted dying and abortions was probably the most controversial – the motion arguing that the conference should take a pro-choice stance. I agreed with that personally, but I couldn’t vote because I was only there as an enabler for S, and therefore had to stay quiet and not influence him.

Anyway, the assisted dying motion was hindered by a ‘procedural motion’ which had to be voted on first – it’s basically a motion suggesting that the procedure be changed slightly, hence the name. In this case, some people wanted to vote on the assisted dying bill by secret ballot, rather than waving their voting cards openly. The debate on this matter alone produced a few rounds of speeches. And eventually, the conference agreed to vote by secret ballot for that motion. The assisted dying bill ended up being the first motion debated on the Tuesday because of that.

That night, after the conference, we had a gala dinner – melon chunks for starters, chicken for the main course, and an apple tart for pudding, all of which was pretty nice, and we got to meet some more of the students.

Then we had a couple of comedians entertaining us – the two people who do the BBC Ouch podcast for people with disabilities, as they are disabled themselves. They were pretty funny, and their jokes certainly weren’t always clean! The guy (Matt) sang a few songs as well. And they had a game where 2 people from the audience came up to do a quiz. But instead of a buzzer, they had to shout out their disability. A went up to do it (the guy with Cerebral Palsy) and his opponent had Spina Bifida. The quiz was about things that the comedians had been talking about anyway, so it wasn’t hard. A didn’t manage to win though, so Spinal Bifida got the title of Disability Of The Conference! It was all good fun.

That was followed by a disco, although we didn’t get involved for most of it. We sat around chatting for a while longer, then S, A, T & I went with a couple of other students (a visually impaired guy and his helper) to draw out some cash. It was the only time we went out in Blackpool for the whole weekend, and that was at night, so we didn’t see much! We had a few rounds of drinks then joined in for the last few songs of the disco, which included doing the Conga. There was quite a long line of us doing that. And there was the Hokey Cokey too of course. We had a couple more drinks after that before bed.

Tuesday February 6, 2007

Another cooked breakfast and another morning in the conference room was how our day started. The first motion was about assisted dying. In fact, the debate on that, despite having a couple of amendments as well, didn’t take as long as everyone expected. I think there were people who were against it, but were too nervous to openly speak out. The secret voting did slow things down a bit though. S was happy for me to help him tick his choices each time, as he didn’t mind me knowing how he’d voted.

The motions only lasted a couple of hours, in fact, and then there were elections which none of us were involved in. So the 4 of us (S, A, T & me) just sat around chatting for a while until lunchtime. Lunch was a buffet choice – I had battered fish, croquet potatoes, potato wedges and sweetcorn. And then at 2pm we got picked up by Darius again and taken back to Bournemouth, again stopping off for an evening meal on the way (McDonald’s this time).

Another running joke developed on that journey. We saw a sign for Basingstoke and T said it wasn’t particularly great, but it does have a Chinese. I just made a comment that it wasn’t the greatest advert they could have, as it makes it sound boring. Somehow we just kept cracking jokes about poor old Basingstoke after that, just to wind T up a bit! She didn’t mind though.

After we got back and said goodbye to A & T, S & I popped up to Dylan’s for a drink, and listened to the last couple of rounds of the quiz they have every Tuesday night. It’s good fun, if difficult sometimes – one round we heard was about quotes from movies, which was quite hard. They do little games in between as well, like getting people to draw pictures around a theme.

We also had a go at their Sit Down Bingo. It’s basically a raffle, as you have to buy raffle tickets, but in reverse. Everyone stands up, and they pick out numbers in turn but if they call out your number, you sit down. If you have more than one ticket (S & I had 2 each for instance) then you can stay standing until all your numbers are called. The last person standing (i.e. the number that doesn’t get read out) wins the contents of the pot, which that night was £14. Apparently it’s been higher in the past, over £30 sometimes. Anyway, neither of us won.

We finished off the evening in S’s flat. We ordered 2 pizzas, as the takeaway we rang were doing an offer – buy a large pizza and get a medium free (we got a Meaty Feast and a Chicken Lover). While eating those, we watched Family Guy on DVD, an American cartoon series. It’s quite funny. They’ve been showing it on BBC2 and BBC3, but I haven’t got around to watching it before.

Wednesday February 7, 2007

Not much to say today. We bumped into A & T as we were leaving the uni, so said a last goodbye to them. Then S & I went and had lunch in KFC. S took me to the coach station, then headed back, leaving me to wait… and wait… because the coach got delayed. It was due to arrive at 12:20, then have a one-hour break, before leaving at 1:20pm, which is when I was waiting for it. But because of what I presume were traffic and roadworks problems, it didn’t arrive until 2:30pm! Luckily, the driver had had his break somewhere else, so we set off at about 2:45pm. Other than that, the journey home was fine. I even got to Exeter St Davids station bang on time for the next train home.

And that’s it. S will be popping down to Exeter in March for his next eye check-up, so it won’t be too long until I see him again. That’s assuming I can get the time off work, because his appointment will be on a Tuesday, and therefore he might not come down over the weekend. Plus I don’t know how busy we’ll be. It should be fine, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Friday February 9, 2007

I’ve had a couple of quiet and easy days at work since I got back from Bournemouth, nothing too exciting to report there.

I haven’t seen a lot of the news over the past week either, as you can imagine. But from what I’ve heard, I didn’t miss anything interesting anyway. But there has been a fair amount of snow around the country over the past couple of days, causing some schools to close and flights to be cancelled, among other chaos. We missed out on that in the south west, which is a shame. It would be nice to get some snow for once.

And here’s a bit of very good news to finish on – Dad’s going back to work next Monday! He’s got the all-clear from the doctor following his recent operation, and has now booked an appointment with an optician to sort out some glasses. So that’s great. I think he was probably getting a bit bored. And at home, our builder’s finished the hallway and stairs, so they look good now.

Friday February 16, 2007

As I expected, there isn’t too much to mention this week. Work’s ticking along as usual. One of my colleagues ordered in cream cakes for her birthday, while the girl whose wedding reception I went to had a 3-day trip to Barcelona with her husband for Valentine’s Day. And next week our manager will be back from his 3-week holiday in Australia (we got a postcard from him this week).

Home’s just as quiet. Dad’s ordered his new telly (a 37″ Toshiba model), due to arrive tomorrow, and we got another Tesco delivery today as usual. Poor driver – he was half an hour late anyway, thanks to a woman holding him back at the delivery before us, because she was missing items and wanted to check it all through again. And then, as he tried to leave us, his van broke down outside our house. I don’t know how long he had to wait in the end, but it seemed to be a while!

The news hasn’t been very exciting either, it’s all as depressing as usual! The trial of the men suspected to have carried out the Madrid bombings in 2004 has started in Spain. It will take months, with 100,000 pages of charges against over 20 men, and it is being shown on TV and the internet there. They’re all denying any involvement of course. And back in the UK, there have been some shootings in South London, leading police to step up their presence there.

But to finish on a happy story, doctors managed to use Viagra to save a premature baby’s life, after everything else they tried seemed to fail. The drug opens up blood vessels, which helped blood get around the baby’s body easily. So there is good news out there if you look hard enough!

Sunday February 25, 2007

This entry’s a bit later this week because I’ve been at my friend AB’s in Exeter for the weekend again. It was just me and her on Friday night when I went up, and we went to The Globe for a couple of drinks. Her boyfriend AL arrived on Saturday afternoon, and ST came along with the three of us to Exmouth.

We went there on the bus, meaning those of us with Devonwide bus passes did the trip for free – woohoo! We went into a pub and watched the rugby (which England lost dismally) while having a late lunch. I had Cow Pie, which was basically chunks of beef under a puff pastry hat, along with mashed potato and peas. It was delicious and very filling! Then we went to another pub after that for a drink before getting the train home. It would have been a longer wait for the bus, and it’s not far by train either, and we still got a third off with our disabled railcards.

After ST went back home, AB, AL and I went back to the flat and watched an Eddie Izzard DVD, munching on Doritos and shortbread biscuits.

And then today the three of us went out for another late lunch in the town (I had chicken and ham pie this time) before I left to come home. Which, after the fun relaxing weekend I had, wasn’t the easiest journey. The first of my 2 trains was replaced by a bus, and then I had to wait an hour for the other train. But after getting on that train, we got turfed off again, because all the front carriage lights had failed, both inside and outside. So we had to wait for the bus to take us all the way to our final destination! But I’m back now, even if it is now 8pm as I write this.

AB is fine. She and her boyfriend have been together a year now, so they’re having a meal together tonight. And I saw her cat too. She’s called Sally, and she’s very friendly. She normally sleeps on AB’s bed, but had to wander into the living room to see me while her boyfriend was also sleeping there. Sally hopped up on the sofa bed a few times during the night to let me stroke her, purring away happily. She’s got a good home, even if AB can’t persuade her to go out of the cat flap yet. The Cats Protection people – from whom she got Sally – will be visiting her soon anyway to check up on things, so they’ll probably try then.

As for me, work is getting a bit busier at the moment, as usually happens this time of year.  Our manager’s back from Australia as well, he and his wife enjoyed their holiday. And things are pretty quiet at home, nothing major to report there. Dad’s new 37″ telly looks great though, it’s got a lovely picture!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

2 thoughts on “Journal – February 2007”

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