Leeds Pride 2018.

After the disappearance of Tribble on Saturday I didn’t particularly feel like celebrating, but I managed to persuade myself that watching the Pride parade go past would be worth it. Indeed it was, and I was glad I went. Below are the many photo’s and videos taken over the hour-long procession!

First of all, here is a video of the West Yorkshire police marching band:

 

Here are some of the best costumes from the parade; a Harley Quinn bear, a furry, a a blue Mohawk wig, a gay storm-trooper, a pink T-rex, and a carnival dancer on stilts with rainbow butterfly wings.

The spectrum of colours was visible throughout the parade in many forms; on balloons, flags, umbrellas, confetti, hats, and garlands.

It was really great to see so many children involved with the celebration, helping to normalise LGBTQ+ people, which should reduce discrimination in the future.

The fire brigade and police were also involved in the parade, including one fireman leaning out of the window of a real firetruck, with a bubble-gun.

As a bisexual it was great to see bisexuals have their own segment of the parade.

Here are some of the best signs from the parade, including “Asexuals pirates aren’t interested in your booty”, and “Ey up, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.

As a spectator I made sure to wear appropriate clothing; black sequin-covered leggings, a t-shirt with “This is what awesome looks like” written on it, and red, glittery cat ears.

My favourite part of the parade, though, had to be all the very good doggo’s supporting LGBTQ+ rights!

To close, enjoy another video of some dancers that came towards the end of the parade:

I’m already excited for next year!

A Tale of Two Cities.

For my entire, although admittedly not very long life I’ve only ever lived in two cities, both within sight of each other in West Yorkshire, the best county in the UK.

I spent my school days in Bradford, a city built in the basin between many steep and sprawling hills which has a mildly unfair reputation for being a city full of low-life criminals. Aside from the several decidedly high-life criminals living there, most of the citizens are decent people trying to make a (mostly) honest living. It has a rich industrial history and some of the best food in the UK. As someone who spent 18 years there I can say from experience that it is a multicultural hub of people from all backgrounds, just like many cities around the world.

Unfortunately for the disabled, perhaps as a combined result of steep hills and historical architecture, the track record for accessibility is not brilliant. While the modern buildings have to make provisions for access by law, many of the older buildings are protected by historians who are more concerned with historical preservation than equal rights, making it incredibly difficult to install disabled access. Similarly, a lack of funding often means that smaller shops and businesses simply can’t make the necessary changes to allow wheelchair access. However even if every building in the city centre was accessible some of the hills are so steep, the pavements so narrow, and the car parks so expensive that it is virtually impossible to traverse the city centre with any kind of disability. Geography simply wasn’t on our side when Bradford was built.

Although I had a great childhood in Bradford I never felt like I belonged there. This was not entirely due to the disability as even before suffering meningitis I didn’t quite fit in. My interest in higher education may have been a large factor here, as those running businesses in Bradford quite rightly feel that being clever doesn’t always help day-to-day life. It may also be that my drive to progress and move forward, while many in Bradford are perfectly content to stay in one place doing what they know, set me apart from others. Whatever the case when I finally came to leave school, I was ready to move cities.

I have lived in Leeds since starting university in 2014. Although hills are still a common occurrence here, they are nowhere near as steep as those in Bradford and the city centre is actually quite flat. Most of the buildings are modern and have automatically incorporated disabled access, and even the historic buildings often have some form of provision for disabilities. It also helps that when the pavements are disrupted due to building work, ramps are put down for wheelchair users in place of the blocked kerb drops, and they aren’t stolen within a week. Living in the city centre means that everything is nearby, so it is rare that I need to rely on public transport, which is still readily available for me when I do need it.

From day one of university I fell in love with Leeds. While not quite as culturally diverse as Bradford it still houses many cultures, and that means the food is pretty good. Leeds is the type of city where you will never get bored; you can guarantee that there will something going on somewhere, whether it be a concert, show, or special event hosted by the council. The council make a particular effort to maintain disabled access at these events so I’m never excluded. I always enjoy just wandering around the shops, particularly near Christmas when the lights and decorations are on full display. Although it can be cold I’m never far from warmth and a hot drink.

Obviously university quenched my thirst for higher education but I was impressed by how forward-thinking Leeds was as a city. Admittedly this shouldn’t surprise anyone as the city has three universities and many more colleges, so a lot of innovative minds congregate here. Many people say that London never stops but that it is always bustling with activity, and I would say the same of Leeds. It is in this fast-paced, liberal, and ever-changing environment that I truly fit.

We still get low-life criminals though…

A Pub Roll

One of the most common aspects of student life is the pub crawl; going from one pub to the next and getting shamelessly drunk along the way. The most popular of these in Leeds is the Otley Run, which goes through 15 pubs and is usually themed.

My personal favourite of all the themes I’ve seen was a Donald Trump theme, where a group of approximately 20 men staggered through the door of a bar in the student union, dressed in suits with cheap red ties and false blonde wigs. The news was being broadcast on a television behind the bar, and when the president appeared on the screen, the entire group started roaring and jumping up and down in their drunken state. However, much as I would like to join in with such an event, there is one small but significant problem; over half of the pubs have steps into them, and wheelchairs cannot levitate like Daleks.

In contrast to my predicament, I am not prepared to sit aside and be excluded from this. I decided to take action and designed my own pub crawl, the pub roll. Jarred and myself started in the students union, in the modern bar called the Terrace, before heading down to the basement to sit in the cosy and traditional Old Bar.

Terrace

After a couple of drinks we headed out into the brisk Winter night, and wandered down to Dry Dock, a bar stylised to look like a boat beached on a mound of grass. Much to my surprise the bouncer held the door open for me, and did the same on the way out, wishing me well as he did so.

I would like to think that although I was a tad tipsy no one could tell, as I did not have to face the troubling task of balancing on two feet, and could rely on six wheels instead.

We crossed the main road and entered City Bar, which was in the union of the rival (and inferior) university, and then headed up to a branch of Wetherspoon’s called the Stick or Twist.

Stick or Twist

When we were done there, we meandered slowly down to another Wetherspoon’s. By the time we were done there, I was seeing three of everything, so instead of progressing onto the Botanist as planned, we dragged ourselves home. Trying to drive my wheelchair in a straight line was something of a challenge, but the quiet streets posed no threat to unsuspecting pedestrians.

I was proud to have done something about the Otley Run situation, that being getting drunk in the name of social justice. It’s always good to know that with a little extra thought such issues can be overcome and it is worthy of note that the shops, pubs, and other venues that make themselves accessible are the ones to receive my money.

 

Introducing…

I was born and raised in Bradford, England, which contrary to popular opinion, is not a bad place to grow up. The city is full of history and culture, and looking down from the top of the valley towards the city centre is a surprisingly charming view. The intricate architecture at the  base of the valley complements the bleak rows of terraced houses sprawling up the hills, and the parks provide small patches of green at regular intervals.

As an only child, I often missed the company of other children my age, instead spending most of my time in the company of my parents, and the cat. I spent many hours winding up toy cars and releasing them from the back door, watching them rush along the hallway and into the lounge with Bramble, our cat, not far behind. When I wasn’t doing that, I was sat in my room immersed in a book with Bramble sat on my feet, or I was playing outside with Bramble sunbathing on the metre-squared patch of land we called a patio.

My primary school had previously been a middle school, and so had it’s own library, sports field, and science laboratory. It had a happy-go-lucky vibe, and despite being quite the misfit, I enjoyed my time there. My time at secondary school wasn’t quite so cheerful, and the bullying although not much worse than the name-calling and occasional beatings I received at primary school, somehow felt more damaging. I kept my head down and worked hard so that I could leave for university as soon as possible.

As I write this post, I’m in my final year of my degree, BSc Nutrition, and these past 2 and a half years have been some of the best of my life. The bullying stopped, and as I developed my skills as a scientist, I grew happier and more confident. I made friends with an I.T student who lived in the same halls of residence as me, and we spent countless hours playing pool and listening to rock music together during my first year. In my second year, I bumped into Jarred, a social misfit who enjoyed rock music, Marvel comic movies, and wrestling. Over the following 18 months a relationship would flourish that is mostly based on laughter, Star Wars, and My Chemical Romance albums, and strangely seems to work.

By this point I had become a self-confident 20 year old, whose wardrobe resembled a black hole, and who just so happened to use a wheelchair. This blog is the marker of the next stage of my life; actual adulthood, where I have to start acting responsibly and behaving like a civilised human being. I want to provide an insight into life with a disability, and the small and sometimes hilarious consequences of such a disability, because disability has been a taboo subject for too long. So, get ready to step into my shoes…actually that should be wheels…and prepare to witness both how normal and abnormal my life actually is.