Ted Shiress

The Vulnerability of Independence

Posted on | July 8, 2015 | No Comments

I put off blogging about this as I’m not one to milk attention, but the Friday before last (Saturday morning actually) I was reminded how vulnerable crips are. I arrived home at 3am in a state that was legally dubious to be driving a mobility scooter and as I entered my back garden (ooh err misses!) I heard a voice. Drunken logic dictated someone upstairs was watching tv loudly with their window open so I didn’t worry and kept driving, but then I found a mound of clothes over my front-door. After a while this mound started to talk and I concluded there was a human beneath it. (Bear in mind I live behind a code-protected gate so jumping the fence is the only other way in.)

She kept saying something along the lines of “I know your boyfriend…”, (great, even the women I have no interest in feel they have to cockblock!) “and I know what you’ve done”. This (bar the gay stuff which I’m immaturely making light of) somewhat scared me, though luckily Dutch courage from my meeting with the Reverend (Reverend James – Brains’ best beer) meant I could maintain composure and call 999.

The police were great, they understood me perfectly, came quickly and stayed on the line comforting me while they arrived. They then took her away with haste and complete professionalism leaving me to enter my flat and start trolling Facebook for pity.

I then realised just how fragile one’s independence can be. I live life assuming nothing will upset the equilibrium – eg I get up assuming my scooter doesn’t have a puncture so I can go out and I come home assuming there’s no stranger on my doorstep. It’s vital we make these assumptions otherwise we wouldn’t get the most out of life, but when they don’t prove accurate it’s as scary as fuck. One cannot linger on these things which is why we have to become good at thinking in the moment.

This is why I have no regrets about calling 999 – the woman probably was harmless and may have left by her own accord eventually – but I saw potential danger and acted immediately. So the purposes of this blog is to say one must not ponder the ‘what ifs’ but they must be prepared to act in the ‘what nows’. Life is too short to ponder but also too short to let crazy women harm you.

What’s In A Name?

Posted on | June 28, 2015 | 2 Comments

I have read many members of the trans-community putting forward very sensitive and provocative arguments to why Facebook’s latest ‘Real Name’ policy is problematic so my angst at having to drop my faux middle-name ‘Cynical-Spack’ is rather trivial in comparison, but still – here tis. As discussed not long ago we live in a time where identity is incredibly plural and fluid, no-one is only one thing indefinitely (except maybe dead). Being a comedian this is especially pronounced as I have an act which I enjoy adopting in order to make people laugh, this in itself is an identity but one I detach when talking to my parents on the phone, and importantly it’s the identity I use on social media.

And so I named myself on Facebook ‘Ted Cynical-Spack Shiress’. Obviously it was another chance to drop the s-bomb and, if you know me, I never let these opportunities pass by; but the second (and more moral reason) was to make no secret of what I’m like online. To put it simply: anyone offended by the word ‘Spack’ in my name won’t go for my Facebook output.

As I recall discussing before, being disabled makes you flypaper for such an absurd range of misfits online – I’ve had native Africans asking me for jobs in London, pre-teen American girls with cp (no, not like that!), bible thumpers, trolls, you name it – all bar attractive women I can relate to. Therefore I thought firing an automatic warning shot with ‘Cynical-Spack’ was the most moral thing to do.

What makes this any less of a real name than Ted (the name I’m most commonly known as)? Anyone who knows me by anything other than Edmund Alan Shiress is assuming a degree of a rapport with me. Also, what does this matter to Facebook? A friend just told me he recently reported a hideous use of “nigger” in a comment only to be told Facebook doesn’t police comments, so why the clampdown on names? I’ve read that Facebook believes ‘fake’ names inhibit interaction which inhibits ad-revenue, if this is true it is as disgusting as it is bullshit – Facebook is a means for interaction to the point that if you don’t want to interact you don’t use it. ‘Fake’ names only promote interaction as they give a much more vibrant description of who you are right now and whom you want to be seen as.

As I regularly argue, Facebook profiles are for friends and pages are for the public – hence me rejecting friend requests from unknowns and telling them to like Ted Shiress – Comedian instead, so why should Facebook determine what your friends identify you as?

Fuck off, Zuckerberg.

Progress (perhaps)

Posted on | June 24, 2015 | 1 Comment

As most who read the sometimes-polite-sometimes-less-so words I shove onto the internet’s face I’ve been trying to fight reductions to my care hours. I previously alluded that part of the issue was the desire I and many other disabled bods have of underplaying their disability which is a faux pas in assessments, however there seems to be another factor in this and that’s making sure they understand how you use your hours – because many don’t. Having just had my fourth meeting with a social worker I am slightly optimistic in that she finally got my apparently ‘radical’ method of allocating hours.

It’s somewhat of a hypocrisy I feel, we’re told Direct Payments are to be used as the client feels best and then when we do use them in an apparently atypical fashion it takes three social workers to understand we’re not just playing the system. My “whacky” approach to cleaning illustrates this: I eat food when my PA is there – she cleans, I eat food when she’s not there – she cleans, I get my papers in a mess after going through forms – she cleans, I get toothpaste allover the bathroom (well, she believes it’s toothpaste!) – she cleans. So yes, when a social worker goes through these tasks in a rigid one-dimensional way she concludes that my pa spends a heck of a lot of time cleaning and this can’t be accounted for. But the truth of the matter is the time she actually spends cleaning isn’t that great – although these tasks are many, the time they take is minimal indeed. Plus they’re often done in conjunction or even replacement of other tasks (ie she’ll spend more time cleaning the table on the days when I sort myself out for breakfast but, if you merely digest that fact, we’ve already cut that time through her not coming in to prepare me breakfast!).

Understand that? Well good, you’re now better than two of the three social workers I’ve seen!

The notion that it can take time to save time was also something only a third-party social worker was able to understand. For instance, my pa spends a reasonable amount of time putting everything in place (often literally) for me to go about my everyday life – she’ll pack my bags when I’m going out, she’ll organise my setnotes when I’m gigging, she’ll call me a cab to the station. However such tasks are done for one main purpose: SO THAT I CAN DO THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITY WITHOUT HER! In asking her to do these things I am effectively minimising the time she’s with me as she therefore doesn’t need to join me for the main activity.

It annoys me that many don’t think these things through to such a degree and as this social worker is a third-party independent it is still up to the council’s digression whether they raise my proposed hours. I just hope that even with the cuts councils will begin to see how ‘essential’ a task is varies from client to client.

Being assessed? Think disabled.

Posted on | June 5, 2015 | No Comments

It’s true, I have a huge peni… sorry I mean ‘ego’, but I do try to make it a tongue-in-cheek thing (the fact I spelt that out is proof I’m not 100% sure I succeed). The one area I will admit to genuine arrogance in however is my independence, for someone with my level of disability I can do a shitload for myself – my pa compares me to her other clients and is surprised how easy her shifts with me are. I admit I find myself traveling >100 miles to a gig alone, patting myself on the back afterwards and saying “Dude, you’re awesome”.

With maturity you realise you cannot be gloating in every social setting and one must realise needs/care assessments are one of those inappropriate circumstances. I’m currently fighting proposed cuts to the hours I get with my pa and these cuts come from two things: one, the government being murderous shits; two, my natural desire to [metaphorically] jerk off when my social worker asked me how much I can do for myself. Here I was making the mistake of letting my independence talk, not my incapacity.

In these kinds of assessments there are all these false-binary questions such as ‘Can you make a cup of coffee?’. Now as my pa doesn’t come in every morning and I fucking need my caffeine I have laboriously developed a system where yes, I can make myself a coffee. However the method I have developed takes ages and is probably not safe (it’s one of the things I talk down when conversing to my parents) plus it also involves my pa putting everything in the right place the night before. So when asked this question you need to play their game – yes, if you try hard enough most people however impaired ‘can’ make a cup of coffee, but can you really, in a non-ideal setting and safely?? The answer for me is probably not and giving the answer yes will only mean they’ll tick the ‘is safe to handle burning liquids’ box, so please say no!!

If you’ve become used to a pa (I’ve been lucky enough to have Esther for six years) there are many things they’ll do for you that are so routine you become unconscious of them, but this isn’t to say they’re not essential. For instance, Esther will tidy clutter away to minimise tripping hazards, she will clean surfaces thoroughly to stop germs spreading, she will organise my filing in such a way that I can retrieve what I need – all these things I have become so accustomed to that I can forget they’re being done. However, they ARE being done and the social worker needs to know this.

Plus maybe, like me currently, you’ll go through phases when you’re not spending that much so you’ll treat yourself to an extra few meals out than usual. You are truly free to do this however you MUST not exaggerate this as they’ll pounce on it when assessing you; remember this is just because your cashflow is currently better than it usually is and your care-package should address your standard circumstances, not your optimum ones.

And no, if you’re one to twist meanings, this blog isn’t encouraging people to lie, [genuine] benefit fraud is a disgusting thing that can be done by anyone. This is merely promoting harsh honesty, assessments focus on incapability and independence is irrelevant – remembering that will minimise how much they can bite you in the ass!

Is it wrong to conform?

Posted on | May 23, 2015 | 3 Comments

I mounted my attack on Simon Stevens a while back now and as we’ve shook hands (spaz-stylee) and accepted our differences I have no desire to refuel the fire, but in the interest of free-journalism and debate I see no reason why I can’t counter his arguments. He recently took to the Huffington Post to discuss ‘normality’ or rather his understanding of it, and as normality is a somewhat artificial and fluid concept this is a problem in itself.

Many rightly argue that gender is not a binary concept and, to take this further, this applies for identity in general; people are a mix of many different things and it is which identity they decide to front that makes them who they are. Put me on stage and I’m a comedian, leave me with my record collection and I’m an obsessive music freak, put me in front of a woman I fancy and I’m a pathetic babbling nobody – these are three established identities that when put in the melting pot make Ted. As I’ve become older and [perhaps] wiser I have learnt to create a ‘live mix’ of my identities (though preferably less of the third) in accordance to who I’m with. This is the standard way of establishing one’s overall self and the most successful, if we didn’t conform in any way we’d have no means to interact with others – it is how we combine these parts that make us unique.

Perhaps several decades ago there was more of a clear trend in society but now there just isn’t, we have labels and in them we have subdivisions and if anyone is able to fully conform to one of them I’d argue they are pretty damn unique. This is why I’m uncomfortable with his attack on goths – I accept it is just an example but a bad one at that. People’s ‘gothness’ may manifest itself in many ways and many may like being part of a group and knowing you’re never too far from someone you share common ground with. I can’t see why a little feeling of belonging to a group is a bad thing and if that’s what normality is I’d argue it must be a good thing.

And should we really let our disability govern if we’re ‘normal’? The argument ‘I’m disabled and therefore an outcast so why should I bother?’ reeks of defeatism, and that’s coming from cynical me! I do somewhat admire the stubbornness not to change for anyone but this severely caps how much one gets out of relationships. Everyone aspires to others and seeks self-improvement and doing so is not compromising one’s identity but making it stronger.

Sorry Simon, but this is clearly the babblings of someone not very in touch with society and with little desire to engage. It’s fine that you are not very in touch because, as you’ve just argued, that makes you ‘You’, but considering this maybe lay off judging others?

Does Content Drive Traffic?

Posted on | May 4, 2015 | No Comments

One thing that bugs me about vloggers, Generation Youtube and that culture in general is it’s always a case of content over quality, many of them even admit what they make isn’t that good it’s just regular. Their shear perseverance in sharing whatever they do every day is what brings them their traffic. A healthy man’s stools seems an apt comparison for a number of reasons. This is irritating when it comes to making Cynic, which we can’t promise any regularity or consistency when it comes to uploading – so our hits suffer.

Having a huge ego I clearly have insecurities too and I felt jealous of these people, I wanted to see what it’s like to achieve mass-traffic just with a regular and reliable flow of content. Therefore I created a Youtube channel that promises to do just that and only that: the Ted’s Content channel.

contenttopUntitled

As you can see from the banner I made it quite clear that this is a one-stop-shop for content thinking that will be more than enough to drive the hits. I admit I had to drop the apostrophe in the channel title which brought me great pain, but this is what all the cool youngsters do so I thought if anything this would help. Also just with this tiny section of a screengrab you can see how many times the word ‘content’ is used, I was hopeful the shear frequency would be enough to convince viewers that this is what they are getting.

I have been running this channel for four weeks and every day I have uploaded content, like here…

And here…

And here…

And here…

Ok you get the picture, but I was hoping that this would be enough to drive the hits, as this is what everyone claims. Unfortunately a quick look in the Video Manager would confirm this is negative as all videos are on zero.
hits

So what am I doing wrong?

…I know, it’s giving a shit what people think! So come on people, through this labourious parody of vlogging culture you can see that it’s not regularity of content alone that drives traffic and no true fan gives a hoot about how often you upload as long as it’s good. So please, stop cluttering up the internet giving us a daily account of what you’ve eaten that no-one really cares about and I will stop saying the word ‘content’.

Though just one more time…

New Zealand – where bad food is good.

Posted on | April 10, 2015 | No Comments

My taste in food is close to an oxymoron, I like bad food that’s made well – treat me to a high quality burger, pie, curry or fry-up and I’ll do something very appreciative in your face. Perhaps with the exception of a curry it amazes me how hard you have to look to find a decent one of these over here. Breakfasts are the worst, you can either find a massive greasy job where the sausages contain less pork than a mosque or something caringly made with decent ingredients… but it’s tiny! What about those who like to cure their hangover with a pile of succulent crisp bacon, three flavoursome bangers, a couple of decent eggs and a load of butterfried fresh mushrooms? I’ve found very few places over here that satisfy this desire.

Having come back from a holiday in New Zealand I can say that like rugby, this is something the Kiwis do much better. I sampled some of the greatest breakfasts I had over there – making the daring combination of quality and quantity. Over there when you order bacon you get BACON! It’s fresh, crispy, often honey-cured, has less water content than the Sahara and there’s tonnes of it. Same with the other fry-up essentials, the sausages are big, fat and made of very little but pork; the eggs are fresh, usually local and massive and the tomatoes are plump, plentiful and sweet. Why can’t it be this way over here?

Me at the Par Homestead cafe, Auckland. OH YEAH!

Me at the Par Homestead cafe, Auckland. OH YEAH!

Pies too. Like the UK, NZ is pie mad – but Kiwis actually care about what goes in their pies. Even the ones you get from a standard cornershop (a ‘Dairy’ as their known) are seldom anything less than satisfying containing huge chunks of things that actually resemble meat. Although I have a soft spot for Cardiff’s ‘Clarkie’ there is no other cheap readily-available pie I’d go anywhere near over here. I have no doubt put on weight due to the amount of pies I ate over there, but I don’t care as it was worth it.

The slightly disappointing thing about this trip was the decline of the ‘NZ takeaway burger’ as the cult of American ‘Gourmet’ burgers is phasing them out, but I did find a few and they were definitely worth it! The pattie itself is homemade and often consists of little but beef and the other fillings are so generous that I don’t see how anyone could eat one tidily. And the proper NZ-style ones actually contain beetroot. Yes, beetroot! What more could you want along-side your parttie? It’s not just burgers, everything else on a standard chip-shop menu is just laughably better than here – and often cheaper!

So yeah, that’s why I’m larger than I was four weeks ago.

Masticating With Company

Posted on | March 16, 2015 | No Comments

Readers here know that if there’s two things I like it’s talking and food, but one thing I’m seeming to dislike with age is talking and food combined. As children we are taught not to speak with our mouthful but mothers woefully neglect to tell their young not to expect others to talk with their mouthful and it drives me mad. This may be a Cerebral Palsy thing or just a me-being-an-anti-social-pig thing but I adore masticating and I also adore doing it in public with others (it’s a perfectly good term, calm down); but I always find my enjoyment capped when I’m expected to answer illtimed questions.

Invariably I’ll be at a social gathering, I’ll locate what seems like an empty twenty-second window, take a nice big faceful and bang, I get asked a question! What is expected to happen in those twenty seconds? I’m not really expected to answer, am I? And, if so, do they know what this will entail? Perhaps, despite what mummy said, most able-bodied dudes have mastered juggling lexemes and foodstuffs simultaneously but expecting a dude with CP to do it is just a recipe for disaster. Instead I’ll be sitting there silent chomping and all the while I can see them wondering why the question has gone unanswered. I try to use a series of gestures including pointing to the mouth and a circling of the finger to denote a process being in place but these often fall on blind eyes. (Yes, it’s an idiom I just invented.)

I kicked off the year with a series of promising dates with someone but unfortunately both parties agreed the spark waned after repeated meetings. One of the most recordable signs of this was the amount of food she had projected in her face. On initial meets conversation flowed so easily that… well, so did other things from my mouth I could not find time to swallow. But after a while the conversation, while still good, wasn’t quite enough to retract any semi-digested food from my mouth. I’m just looking forward to finding the girl I’m still firing food at on Date 10.

Dining out alone this often happens with waiters, they’ll bring me a new pint just as I’m chewing thus leaving me the dilemma of how to thank them without sharing more than they’d wish. Most of the time I just settle for a series of appreciative grunts and a thumbs-up but even then I wonder if my appreciation has been registered.

My PA/carer/helper/whatever-the-term-is is great here, she understands fully that eating-time for Ted is no-talking-time for Ted. She doesn’t mind that I will probably load her up with a number of things I need doing before the plate hits the table. I do worry this is rude but feel more comfortable after realising the alternative involves a load of spitting, coughing and burping.

So what’s the conclusion? I guess it’s people with CP eat alone for a reason!

Why I Rant

Posted on | February 18, 2015 | No Comments

I like to rant, noticed? I shan’t bore you with the reasons you’re already expecting from me (eg, cp sucks, people suck, the world sucks, I, when against your mother’s nipples, suck etc) but there’s another reason why I favour ranting on stage: it’s more creative. Many times something will happen that seems just perfect to retell ‘as it is’ on stage but the trouble here lies you’re relying on fate to come up with something just as honed as your other material. For example, at my last few gigs I have tried retelling a stand-up-orientated version of The Empire tale, and it’s working ok but I can sense bits where it lacks pace due to my desire to tell the full tale.

The trouble with funny stories is that they are already funny (or you can easily tell them in a way that makes them funny), they are like a fillet steak to a chef – too expensive to mess around with. Therefore you will inevitably end up with sections of narrative that go on too long without a punchline but are essential for the tale to work; and yes, you can insert your own bits between the narrative but this feels like you’re breaking the tale up and if it’s not that funny why tell it? Perhaps when and if I build hour shows I’ll have one or two narrative bits in the middle to slow it down and bulk up the show but in a shorter set they still feel a distraction.

My bit on navigating my mobility scooter through a Tesco’s Metro is my favourite routine to perform and the one I’m most proud of, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there was originally little funny in the premise. When I started creating this routine it came from a place of genuine rage, as navigating my mobility scooter through a Tesco’s Metro does genuinely do my nut, and there was nothing immediately funny to say. However I had found a great place to be funny, being so emotionally fused by the topic all I had to do was convert the reasons this makes me angry into a series of reasonably honed gags and I had the perfect routine. This bit even contains a borderline-hack joke about self-service checkouts and a shamefully obvious joke about confusing petit pois and a little bag of peas, however when wrapped up in rage they work perfectly.

Or perhaps I’m just a bad story-teller – or one whose stories aren’t best suited for his style of stand-up. I have once done a story-telling night where I talked about growing up at a specialist boarding school and enjoyed it, though being used to stand-up the decreased consistency of laugh breaks did make me feel uncomfortable. Either way I’ll mainly stick to ranting for now. RAH.

The Picky and Pointless

Posted on | February 15, 2015 | No Comments

As everyone knows I detest having people run around for me. OK, that was a lie – I love it, but I love it when it’s done due to worship of my undeniable superiority to every living thing; I don’t love it when it’s down to me requesting things that appear picky and pointless. However, when living with a significant disability sometimes your independence can rely on the seemingly picky and pointless.

Four words I use very often and despise myself for saying are “Drink on the left”. Both my arms move around more than the average pair but as my left moves a lot more it gets banished under the table away from any food and drink; therefore the left of my plate is a safe place for a glass and a straw I can just duck down to reach. This can’t be said for the right, with a haphazard arm flailing around trying pathetically to insert every scrap of food into my desperate fat face, therein lies the importance of my frequent request for the “Drink on the left”. The issue is, I tire of saying this and I’m sure many waiters who can’t think exactly like someone with my variety of CP find this a pain too. There are times I’ll be in a restaurant and a pint will arrive when I’m mid-mouthful meaning it won’t be until the waiter is almost back to the kitchen before he’ll get called back to put it on the left. I’m also sure my father often puts my pint on the right of my food when we’re eating together just so I have to annoy myself by repeating this request.

(The amount of times I’ve used the words ‘drink on the left’ above has caused an acute batch of self-loathing, excuse me while I apply an icepack to where my head has been banged into the wall.)

Similarly there’ll be times when I’m trying to attack something like pizza, naan or a steak and I have to request the waiter recut it as the cuts aren’t clean and the bloody thing is still joined up! I’m aware this makes me sound like a right arse but the truth is clean cuts are what determines my ability to insert it into my fat face.

Admittedly people are far too pc to ‘fess up to feeling annoyed at a disabled person’s requests but I bet they are sometimes especially if their importance isn’t obvious – I’m sure I’d be – and that’s especially after I ranted about people making their own mind up how to help you. However it is often the little things that make a big difference. There’s no real solution to this other than to feel comfortable in your requests and to hope people are more understanding than me!

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