Month: December 2012

Dyb dyb dyb, dob dob… fuck off

The Radio 4 PM programme this week talked about the Scout’s oath and plans to make a version for republicans and/or atheists.

I was an Cub Scout for two weeks. I had friends who were Cubs and, always aware that I had never fitted in with any club even at age 7, I wanted to join. So I signed up and went along.

A couple of things went wrong for me. First of all, I’m not a natural joiner and that means I don’t fit in well with any club that will have me as a member. 

Then there was a dominant male in the group. He was too old to be a Cub and should’ve been shunted to the Scouts, but he was also an idiot who was better suited to being “king of the shits” and hanging about with boys 5 years younger rather than being “shit of the kings” in an older group. I bridled at being led by someone who was in charge because he was next in line: for that reason, I’m now a republican.

The group leader, ludicrously known as Akela, was a hard-faced bitch who hated children. That didn’t help.

And I had real problems with the rituals. Whenever I see a mob forming, I back off: I’m not a mob person. Rituals are a Bad Thing – nothing ever good comes from them and many, many bad things do.

One ritual was to get in a circle and chant the Scout’s oath. Something about doing my duty to god and the queen and so forth. This only came up on the second week and I was terribly, terribly uncomfortable.

It was made worse when everyone else put their arm in the air with three fingers hoisted. I did so too. Dominant Male was appalled. He spent the entire chant mouthing at me that I should put my arm down and should shut up. As it went on, he got more hopping mad. When it ended, he shot over to tell me I was a disgrace. I hadn’t been invested as a Cub and had NO RIGHT AT ALL to do what everyone else was doing.

I never went back.


Stick or spit

There’s a *lot* of inbreeding in my family. Trying to chart my family tree beyond my great-grandparents on my mother’s side gets impossible very quickly because of the number of cousins marrying cousins. Just trying to trace my great-grandfather Albert got me hopelessly lost because there were three Alberts with the same surname living in the same Ebbw Vale street in 1911 – all related to me by one route or another.

Needless to say, my mum’s generation have made sure my cousins have all married out, while nature made sure that my genes die with me (bless homosexuality’s many, many upsides).

However, the result of this unwise almost-incest has been to ensure that the cousins and their offspring all have a bunch of fun genetic disorders. Between us, we have thyroid problems (hypo and hyper), eczema, asthma, arthritis, haemolytic anaemia, spherocytosis, fibroneuralgia, deafness, migraines, heart disease, odd cancers and a propensity to thrush. Aren’t you glad I’m not in the gene pool? Alas, we’re all also hyperfertile, with the women particularly likely to get pregnant because he took his trousers off in their company.

I have a number of these things, but the main one I notice in adult life is the arthritis. Of all of the things I have or could have, it’s the one I think I could most live without. It’s not constant, but when it flares up, blimey does it hurt. You wake up on a damp morning and think… bugger. I’m going to be spending the day hobbling from room to room. It might be a knee, or a hip, or the fingers, or an ankle, or deep in a foot or arm. Sometimes it happens spontaneously later in the day, so you get to the supermarket fine, but walk home at an inch an hour, unable to put any weight on a foot that hates you and wants you dead (I’m told that’s the arthritis bursting blood vessels, just to make sure you’re not forgetting about its existence).

So sometimes I limp. I push on, because FUCK YOU ARTHRITIS. Sometimes I can’t push on, so I use a walking stick and push on, because FUCK YOU ARTHRITIS. This was fine and dandy for many years. Then this present government came to power with an agenda: people who get benefits are “scroungers”. The loyal press joined in, with the Tory comic The Sun even running a “shop a scrounger” hotline and putting sick people having a good day on their front cover.

The effect of this was to start ruining my life.

I work full time from home for a major multinational. I start early in the day and finish early, then, to make sure I see daylight, pop out to the gym or the supermarket or just for a walk. Even I need vitamin D now and again. This means that, at half past three in the afternoon, you may see me in the town limping and/or limping on a stick as I propel myself to Morrisons. I don’t own a car because I don’t need nor want one.

From late 2010 onwards, I’ve been getting abuse in the street when seen limping/sticking my way to the supermarket. Drivers wind their window down and shout “SCROUNGER!!” at me. Fellow supermarket customers tut-tut. Children say “what’s wrong with that man, mam?” and their parents reply “he’s malingering, darling”. Loping along behind the ball-and-chain one wet day while on holiday in London, a man walking in the opposite direction twisted his face and spat on me. “Fucking scrounger” he barked.

On the plus side, during the Paralympics I got waved at by several drivers; once, while using my stick, I got stopped and a young man asked to shake my hand because I was “a hero”. The week after the Paralympics, whilst limping but not on my stick, I walked past the local pub. Two drunk old gentlemen (it was 2pm) were just leaving. One tried to trip me while the other shouted about how I was a disgrace and – you guessed it – a scrounger.

So now I don’t use my stick any more. I just walk in agony instead. And when I see angry-looking people nearby, I don’t limp either. It hurts to the point that I’m left crying. But it makes you all happy, so, well, that’s better then, isn’t it?

This is all not good. Exhorting the population to hate a “lower” section of that same population will always work because humans are innately superior-feeling beings. Dictators the world over throughout history have used this to bolster themselves.

It is happening again.

And, if you’ve ever been ill, or you ever suspect you might get ill, be afraid. Be very afraid.