Growth.

It’s that time of the year again, the time where I sit down and reflect on the year and what I’ve learnt from it. Pop the kettle on and pull up a seat, it’s been a busy year. Where to start…? 

January

I woke up one day and decided to get a tattoo. What did I want to get? A Phoenix. Why? Well, I came up with a quote whilst talking to Sebastian in a pub in Shepherds Bush in 2014. We were heart-broken and drowning our sorrows that night. We definitely came up with quite a few quotes in that pub…

Anyway, this one was about the after-effect of a relationship/a break-down/a life-changing incident, and the impact it’ll have on you. 

 “We are like snakes. Every couple or so years, we lose ourselves and shed our skins to become new people.” – Abigail Gorman.

That quote has always stuck with me. I believe that there will always be moments in life where we will break down and lose ourselves. It’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, and even frightening, but it comes with an important message; your emotional needs are telling you that they need to be listened to. The breakdown is your body telling you that you need to look at yourself… and change. It’s not easy, but it’s a cathartic experience that we all need to go through in order to achieve growth. So, I wanted to get a tattoo to commemorate that but I didn’t want to get a snake, because… ew.

So, what else signifies growth? A Phoenix. Plus… I’m a Harry Potter fan. 😏

I was also with Natasha and Jarrad, two of my favourite Aussies! Jarrad and I have had two tattoos together, one individual and one matching. So I wondered if he wanted to make it a hat-trick, but he couldn’t think of one on the spot, so it was just me.

I walked into the tattoo parlour and said I wanted a tiny Phoenix on my inner arm and I was told that they couldn’t do it. It would have to be a big-assed one. Dammit. I had to think quick on my feet and came up with the word, ‘Rise’ instead because a Phoenix always rises from the ashes, no matter whatever happens. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it actually fitted in with my philosophy on life.

I got ‘Rise’ because I feel like that word is significant, now more than ever in this current climate. I have seen Deaf people be oppressed several times.

I have seen women be told to shut up and move to the side far too many times for my liking.

I have seen the LGBTIQA community fight tirelessly for their rights.

Enough is enough.

But… despite all the obstacles and barriers we face, we still manage to rise up above against them. That’s the beauty of being part of a community. When you see someone else in need, we rise up for them. When you feel like all is lost, remember you are not alone.

We will rise. In spite of the ache, we will rise up a thousand times again.’


At the end of January, Colin, Kaisa and Markuu graced us with their presence for Colin’s birthday! It was lovely to have them over, and we can add Kaisa to the long list of people who have been locked inside our bathroom… oops. 😯


Birthday meal

February 

And it was off to Latvia I went to complete the second part of my Human Rights training with EUDY! It was good to see the group again, and it was interesting to see how much we had changed in the space of a few months; the way we thought about certain things, how we delivered our presentations and how we reflected on our weaknesses/strengths and made changes to work together. I’m proud of the group and hope to see more workshops being held in the future, and that more conversations will be had about various subjects – people need to be aware of their rights. Because how can we fight for our rights if we don’t know what they are?

Back to England and it’s another birthday, and this time it was Camilla’s ‘Alice in Wonderland” themed 30th! I absolutely loved all the effort that went into it! 

As soon as the party was done, there was no rest for the wicked because I had to grab my bags and fly off to Budapest again! Why? Well, the European Student Union were holding a week-long ‘Queer Feminism’ study session at the European Youth Centre, and I was lucky enough to be a participant. The week focused on various aspects of feminism and encouraged us to explore it from all kinds of perspectives. We looked at why abuse happens, how it’s enabled and the outcomes of it. Topics included; advocacy, gender mainstreaming, master suppression techniques, conflict resolutions, gender bias, intersectionality, power structures, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, gender equality and colonial capitalism.

Halfway through the week, the Netherland’s Human Rights Ambassador, H.E Kees van Baar, paid us a visit and spoke for an hour about the importance of human rights and how denying people their rights would have a significant impact on their lives. So, I decided to ask him what his definition of human rights was? Did he consider linguistic rights to be a human right? If so, why hadn’t Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT – Dutch Sign Language) been recognised as an official language yet? Official recognition/passing an Act would lead to better accessibility in schools. Access to language is a basic human right, is it not?

His response, “I admit I don’t know much about that, but I have every confidence that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Handicaps, which was ratified in 2015, would be a great help.”

Just… no.

Firstly, it’s Disabled, not Handicaps. Secondly, it was ratified in the Netherlands in 2016, not 2015. Thirdly… yes, the UNCRPD is a powerful and useful document that helps fight discrimination against people with disabilities. However, its main focus is inclusivity. Which means in education, all children should be in the same school and be treated equally. In theory, that’s a lovely idea – for everyone to be treated the same, regardless of their disabilities. But in reality, this means that deaf children will be mainstreamed and be taught in a language that is not their own – therefore they will be linguistically deprived, which in turn will lead to isolation, frustration and increased risks of mental illnesses. Deaf people are a linguistic minority, so instead of trying to make them fit into a phonocentric world, allow them to be educated in their own language – sign language – and give them access by giving sign language legal recognition. Accessibility means more people in employment, which in turns improves the economy, better quality of life, higher socioeconomic status and a decreased number of people with mental illnesses…?

*ahem* 

Unimpressed face and not so pleased body language above

Anyway, it was an incredible week and I was blown away by some of the insights some people had and as a result of that, my perspectives on certain issues shifted. In order to improve society, we need to put our egos aside, open our minds and our hearts and work toward removing different forms of oppression. Do you believe in equality? Do you believe that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of their gender, sex or race? Do you believe that everyone should be able to live their life freely, without any fear of persecution? A life where you aren’t constricted by heteronormativity? If you said yes to any of those questions, then my friend… you too are a queer feminist.

March

It’s March and it can only mean one thing…

I am always blown away by the overwhelming sense of femininity bubbling inside the rooms every time I go. There were so many things going on at the event but a few stuck out for me. ‘International activism’, a panel with Li Maizi, a women’s rights and LGBTQ+ advocate.  Li Maizi, one of ‘China’s Feminist Five’, was arrested for ‘provoking trouble’ after planning a multi-city protest aimed at bringing an end to sexual harassment on public transport. Hyeonseo Lee, who escaped from North Korea at 14 years old, Quhramaana Kakar – Founder and Director of Women for Peace and Participation and Gulalali Ismail, a Pashtun human rights activist from Pakistan and Chairperson of Aware Girls and the Seeds of Peace network. The conversations they had really stuck with me.  Hyeonseo said that she still fears for her life because she is so vocal about the regime in North Korea, and given how vicious their dictator is about people who break the rules, imagine what it’d be like for defectors? So, she has to have security detail everywhere she goes. Quhramaana told us about how she received death threats daily when she was the Gender Advisor in Pakistan during the Taliban regime. When asked why they continue to do what they do, Gulalali had this to say:

“I’m a very unconventional voice in my country. A state where women’s freedom is considered a very bad curse word. When your life is at threat.. it is very difficult when you’re being threatened with acid attacks and mob attacks. Change is very difficult. We have to continue because we don’t have an option. Silence is not an option. If we continue to be silent, it won’t change. We’ve been facing this for decades and we can’t let it continue for more decades to come. We know the cost will be dangerous but it’s something we have to do.”

This was only one event out of hundreds throughout the week. Events range from educational to sexual to comical to whatever you can think of, Women of the World has it all! I wish it was on every day. Make sure you go to the next one!

https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/women-of-the-world#events

A few days later, I was invited to the House of Lords for a reception dinner hosted by Snowdon in conjunction with DBE Tanni Grey-Thompson. She’s one of British’s greatest Paralympians, hailing from Wales. She is now a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords – someone who is not tied to a political party and does not have to follow a political party’s line, therefore are free to make an independent vote –  and has been on the board of several disability charities and sports councils. It was inspiring to meet a politician who is genuinely passionate about inclusion, and I hope to see more politicians devote their time and focus on ensuring that people are included.

It was also British Sign Language week, and the highlights of the Paralympics would have deaf signers on it… LIVE, not pre-recorded.

No pressure…

Apart from there being no subtitles in the first minute, I managed to get through the hour-long programme without any hitches. Nerve-wracking but also exhilarating! A big well done to the team! Proud of you all. 

April

April came along and it was time to go to see Sam Smith at the O2! The One Show wanted to make a programme about how concerts can be more accessible for deaf people, so they interviewed us. We spoke about how accessibility should be a priority for organisers – whether it be a concert, stand-up show or event – instead of being an after-thought. I have seen plenty of changes been made so far, but there is still a way to go. Some people are still fighting for access to public entertainment. Take the case of three mothers who wanted to see a Little Mix show with their children, for an example. They were denied access to the whole show. They are currently fighting to change the system to make sure events are fully inclusive for everyone. Read below to find out more about their story.

Access4All

Showing them my dance moves…!

It was also the BDA AGM in Manchester! We said our congratulations and goodbyes to the previous board for all the work they did the last three years and welcomed in the new board! The BDA also handed out awards to people for their dedicated support and loyalty to the Deaf community throughout the years. 

The new board, minus Ashley and Robert

May

When I lived in Australia, Loranc and I lived in an amazing apartment with some pretty cool Australians. Lacey was one of them, and now she has moved to London! I do love me some Aussies.

3/6 of the Tardis housemates reunited!

The UK Parliament organised an event with TerpTree to encourage individuals and campaigners to come together to debate and discuss the issues which are important to deaf people today. Topics included how to take action and make an impact on the decisions made in the UK Parliament. We also talked about what tools we could use to influence debates, decisions and legislation. We spoke about the importance of networking and learning how to build effective relationships with MPs and members of the House of Lords. It was a very productive evening, and I hope to see more Deaf people get involved in politics in the future; this could be on any level – reading the news, having conversations with others, going to talks, or actually running for office – because we need more representation in politics. We need more people talking on our behalf, who would know what we need because they’d also be speaking for themselves as well.


We also celebrated a very special person’s birthday.

Drinking one of her several Baileys…

My nan turned 85, and we held a surprise party for her. She’s the matriarch of the family and is an amazing woman. I hope that one day if I’m even half the person she is, I’ll be happy with that. Anyhoo, she got absolutely sloshed  – I think she had about 10 glasses of Baileys – to the point where I had to try and force her to drink water! Hilarious. It was a lovely day and I’m glad she had a great time.

One conversation went something like this:

Nan : I’m okay. Honestly.
Abi: Yes, but you still need to drink water.
Nan: I don’t want anymore to drink, but your sister likes water. Give it to her.
*someone is telling me to stop bothering her*
Abi: But she’s drunk.
Nan: I don’t want water. I don’t like it.
Abi: You need to.. you’re getting older. You need to hydrate yourself.
Nan: No, I don’t. I will sober up in my own time.
Abi: Hmph.

Another conversation went like this:

*Nan tried to stand up and then sat down*

Nan: I’m drunk. I’m so drunk. I feel like I’m in a movie. It doesn’t feel like I’m here. I’m watching you all, but I… I’m not here.

Alright. Settle down, love. I think you’ve had enough. 

Trying to get her to drink water

Prosecco Picnic at London Bridge. Such a random night out but also an enjoyable one! 

June

We headed to Amsterdam for Camilla’s 30th, and it was certainly a trip to remember… or forget, depends on how you want to see it. we were stuck on the plane for about 3 hours due to weather conditions or whatever. So, we asked if we could climb into the cockpit, and they let us in! It was such a fun trip, filled with art, food and lots of sight-seeing. The Van Gogh exhibition was an interesting one. So many self-portraits. Vain much? I learnt a lot of interesting facts when I was there. Did you know that it was likely he was involved in a tumultuous relationship with Paul Gaugin, and it’s speculated that Gaugin accidentally cut Van Gogh’s ear off? I did not know that. Mm… we also went to the Banksy exhibition. I have to say, I’ve always admired Banksy, but when we saw his work, I was blown away by them and the messages behind it. I think Camilla was especially mesmerised by it. Brunch on the boat was a great experience – sailing down the canals, sipping on our Proseccos – absolutely lush.

What we didn’t find so funny was realising that we had been locked out of our Airbnb, and the hosts were uncontactable. So, we booked ourselves into a 4* star hotel instead. Knobs. Overall, a very amusing weekend, indeed.

And as soon as I landed it was off to Dublin to see my girls and their adorable kiddies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again several times, they’re all brilliant mammies, and their kids are gorgeous. We just chilled out in the sun, caught up with each other and played with the children. Sometimes, the simple weekends are the best. Then… a pub crawl! The hangover the next day was not so pleasurable though. I am getting too old for this kind of shit now.

When Dublin was over, it was back to Budapest I went to again. Budapest. The European Youth Centre. Again. I was chosen with some others to be a trainer for an EUDY and Council of Europe study session on Human Rights which would be held in November, so we had to fly over to Budapest for the weekend to prep for the week. This will mean I’ll have been to Budapest 4 times in the space of a year (I went in November for WFD). Keen much? Every time I go to Budapest, it’s always very full-on, and I hardly get time to do some sight-seeing, but when I do, it’s always breath-taking.

However, I do not appreciate being molested every time I go to the airport. I do not like people touching my feet, and I swear that Hungarian people have a foot fetish. They always like to take their time rubbing and caressing my feet to make sure I don’t have anything in my sock. Grow up. I can just simply take my socks off for you. If you continue to caress my feet, I will kick you in the face, and that’s me being very polite.

Deaf Academics was an interesting event. We spoke about equality and audism and the effect it has on our progress in academia. There are a lot of hidden obstacles; finding an interpreter that matches your register, booking interpreters, administration support, cancelled bookings, budget restrictions, workplace relationships, language choice, collaboration and so on. However, despite all those obstacles, resiliency seems to be something we all have in common as proven by the number of deaf people we have in academia. It’s heartwarming to see so many people succeed, and I hope to see many more do the same. I remember a piece of advice I got from an interview I had with Maartje De Meulder during my Frontrunners time about doing a PhD. She spoke about how important it is to have a support network of peers, regardless of what field you’re working in, to support you. They will have faced the same barriers you have and will be able to give you tips on how to navigate your way through it. They will also be able to give you some emotional support.

July 

The release of Deaf LGBTIQA website! We felt that there should be more awareness of the Deaf LGBTIQA+ community as well as having something that could provide valuable information in an accessible way, so we created a website so it could be used to educate others and also guide people to the right source of information and support. A lot of hard work went into creating it, and I’m grateful to those who were involved. However, it is all entirely voluntary, which means we’re always looking for more people who would be interested to help us run it and be more active! I’m also pleased to say that we’re now in phase two, which will be focusing on sexual health and the arts. Whilst I am excited that we have a growing and thriving Deaf film community, I am also saddened to see that the LGBTIQA+ community is rarely featured in it. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to find me 5 Deaf films that have leading LGBTIQA+ characters in them. Mind you, I’m talking about the UK. I am aware that other countries do have some representation, but on the whole, it’s still not enough. How many LGBTIQA+ people do you have in your life? Now, do you think those numbers reflected in the films or programmes you watch? I can answer that for you. No, they are not. So, this is why I’m excited for stage 2, and I can’t wait to see what next year will bring for the Deaf LGBTQIA+ community!

http://deaflgbtiqa.org.uk

It’s summertime, and we all know what that means…. festival season is upon us! Latituuuuuuuuuuuude! For me, it would be an interesting experience because last year, accessibility was a massive issue for us. We weren’t able to see the interpreters because of the seating arrangements, unable to book interpreters for shows we wanted, unable to see the interpreters because of technical issues and had issues with some of the staffs’ attitude and behaviours. However, after writing a letter to Festival Republic and Attitude is Everything, we had a meeting where we reviewed the handbook on accessibility and revised it. As a result of this, more deaf co-ordinators were brought in to work with the Access team at festivals and this was a huge step forward. So, I was the coordinator at Latitude, and as tiring as it was (especially in the heat) it was also very rewarding to see people enjoy themselves. There are so many things that people take for granted, that could actually make a difference to a deaf festival goer; making sure that they have front row seats to the comedy show so they can see the interpreter, a raised platform so they could see the interpreter perform a song, making sure there’s an interpreter for a yoga class or teaching staff how to sign – all of those things can make a person feel included, and yet, it was so hard to get all of those done. Why? Is it ignorance or apathy? I don’t know, but we had a great team, great feedback and a great time! Well done!

Time for a little girls holiday and Barcelona was the destination! Sun, sea and shishas aplenty! No trip to Barcelona could be complete without a trip to Ziryab! Apparently, Emlyn reckoned we ordered way too much, even more than our group of friends – hungry men who had come in a few weeks before us – but I told him to not to judge or underestimate us. We finished it all off, and in record time apparently! 😏 Mischa sadly couldn’t make it… or so we thought. She surprised us one night and then the group was really complete! The highlight of the trip would probably be hiring a GoCar – although the palaver we went through to get them wasn’t pleasurable – it was fun to ride around Barcelona! Lost count of the number of times we lost each other though! 

Then it was off to Italy I went to, and this time it was to the Agape International Ultragender Camp, up in the mountains in Prali with Kat and David who would be interpreting for me. But first… Milan. Such a picturesque city. We walked aimlessly around the city and found an OAP dance party. I kid you not, those people know how to dance. We happily watched them for hours and even joined in! They know the meaning of romance. I want to be like them when I’m old, dancing away without a care in the world. Then it was off to Prali we went. It was an experience. The aim of the Ultragender camp was to educate and share experiences with everyone, de-construct gender stereotypes and privilege, create and share new languages and promote best practice for inclusion in our workplaces. The camp was open to people of all religions and identities, which I was wary of at the beginning. Additionally, there were about 60 people there, and I was the only deaf person. For those who know me well will know that I am a fiercely independent person, so for me to have to rely on my interpreters (who were absolutely amazing all week long, by the way. Thank you, Kat and David) nearly all the time made me feel very vulnerable. I cried on the first night because I hated the feeling of having to be reliant on others. However, people were supportive and some went out of their way to make sure that I understood what was happening and felt included. For that, I am very grateful. Thank you.  

As for the topics discussed at the camp, some opinions were raised and made for interesting conversations, which made me realise that we need more camps like this. In order for us to gain awareness, to be able to advocate and ensure that inclusivity is at the forefront of our minds at all times, we need to have more conversations. Granted, there may be times when you may not understand something, but that’s okay. Some discussions will need time to let it all sink in. What’s important is that you accept the fact that it’s important to them, so treat the issue with respect. We’re all humans, and our differences are what makes life so much more interesting. People should be able to be whoever they want to be without fearing what others will think about them. 

August

The infamous BBQ where it took 1 hour to cook the chicken…! This is why you should be a vegetarian… 

Ashley is back! #content group is reunited once again… at the BDA Away weekend in Cardiff. All work and lots of play make the #content group fun people to be around with! 

September

I decided to take an impromptu trip to Denmark to catch up with my friends, and I’m glad that I did. Coming back to my old home, the land of hygge, made me realise that I need to make more time for myself and people I care about. Time and health are two precious things we don’t recognise and appreciate until they have been depleted. So, make the most of what you have around you, with the people you care about. Talk about who and what inspires you, reflect on the good and bad times and how they shaped you and most importantly… appreciate life.

A random siblings night out with Ben, Damaris and Mischa turned out to be a hilarious competitive night at the O2! 3D Mario Go-Karting is definitely something you should try out!

Then it was off to Warsaw for EDSU Board meeting! Our meeting was held at Institute Głuchoniemych, a 201 years old building which is used as a school, college and training centre for Deaf people. The history is amazing. Inside, they have memorials to Deaf people who contributed to the war efforts. In the evening, we hosted a presentation for the youths where we explained what EDSU was about, the benefits of collaboration, accessibility, and then we had a debate which got a little heated! Afterwards, we went out in town, and apparently, deaf people like to drink outside. The police, however, does not like it when they do that. Cue me being angrily told off by a policeman…! The next day, we did some sight-seeing and were blown away by the history of the place. 

From one board meeting to another, it was off to Belfast I went to for the BDA board meeting. Firstly, we were invited by Kinghan Church to meet with the Deaf community to celebrate International Week of the Deaf. It was lovely to meet the members, and learn their regional signs for the days of the week! Afterwards, a special commemoration was held at Belfast City Cemetery for Francis Maginn, the man who worked hard to improve living standards for the Deaf community, and one of the co-founders of the British Deaf Association. We also paid our respects to Reverend John Kinghan and Wilhelmina Tredennick, who were instrumental in ensuring that Deaf people had access to sign language and education. 
In the evening, we celebrated International Week of the Deaf at Jordanstown School where we watched videos the children had made about influential members of the Deaf community and unveiled 4 benches in their honour. It was lovely to meet new and old faces.

October

Invaded by one of my favourite Finns, Anne! She was working with the Finnish Association of the Deaf, they make programmes on various topics and this year they wanted to have a look at what’s going on in Europe; obviously, Brexit is a hot topic at the moment so they decided to come over to find out what our opinions about it were. I definitely enjoyed having Anne and Gavin over! 

To watch the programme, visit: Kuurojen Liito


Some more of my favourite Aussies came over to stay with us for a couple of days. It was honestly so lovely to see them and spend time with them. Having Aussies friends around always makes me pine for Australia even more…

Then it was off to Valencia I went, to the First Deaf Women European Forum. It would be split into two parts. 33 delegates from 18 countries were in attendance. The first few days, there would be work sessions with the focus on exchanging experiences, analysing how active deaf women are in terms of participation; at a local and national level, how to incorporate a gender perspective in governance and look at what guidelines had been developed. We were then split up in groups to talk about three topics: gender violence, gender perspective and women health. It was interesting to see that out of all the countries in attendance, only two countries have a domestic abuse service run by deaf people – England and Spain. There are some countries that provide interpreters/mediators or some kind of support, but not a full service. This is something that needs to be looked at, especially when you consider how small the Deaf community can be – safety is paramount. We had a lot of interesting discussions, one was about whether safety or culture comes first? Safety is essential, but so is culture – we need to be immersed in the deaf community in order to feel whole. But when it comes to domestic abuse, do we need to relocate? Do we need to change our circle of friends? Do we need to stop going to the Deaf clubs? How can we ensure that you are able to have both safety and culture? How can we create safe places for people? Food for thought. Statements were created to reinforce the implementation of human rights in governance; presented as the ‘Valencia Declaration for fundamental rights, empowerment and elimination of all forms of discrimination against deaf girls and women’. We then went to Valencia Deaf club, where they hosted a pre-Halloween party for us! They created a haunted house, and I’m telling you, it was the best amateur haunted house I have ever seen in my life. It was humongous and absolutely spot on. Luckily, urinary incontinence is not something I have a problem with, otherwise, I would’ve wet myself several times that evening. 

On Saturday, we had the forum. There were so many inspiring women from all kinds of backgrounds talking about so many things. I was honoured to be asked to give a presentation at the conference. I spoke about queer feminism, intersectionality and the importance of LGBTIQ+ education in schools, and why we need more exposure in the arts. It was nerve-wracking but I’m glad I did it. Words cannot describe how proud I was to see so many women go up on the stage and be passionate and proud about what they’ve been doing. The week was incredible. I met a lot of amazing and inspirational women, who I have no doubt will go on to be very successful, if they aren’t already. The people I got to know to that week are amazing individuals. I feel proud and honoured to know them and call them my friends.

Stand Up to Cancer would be broadcasted live, but it would be SEVEN hours of live signing and live simulcast subtitling, with songs and several performances. Luckily, we’re pros, and there were no issues at all. Well done to the team! However, I did not appreciate having my friends take several photos of me and my non-manual-features throughout the night. Twats. 

November

Agape reunion with my Huguenot twin.

And then… Budapest. Again. EUDY’s study session for a week and the theme was  ‘Encouraging Human Rights Education through media’. 38 youths from all over Europe came to the European Youth Centre to take part, and I was blown away by the insights some of them had, and saddened that we all had a shared experience – audism. I hope that they will use the tools given to them during the week to advocate for their human rights in their own countries, and become human right activists! “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” 

Additionally,  I also received some very bad news that week, and I don’t think I would’ve got through the week if it wasn’t for my team. Thank you for being so supportive and helpful. LIS.

I had a belated surprise birthday party, and believe me, it was certainly a surprise! Especially the cake! James, even more so. He organised the whole night and came down from Newcastle to surprise me. Thank you darling, and to everyone who came along. You’ve all been amazing friends. Love you lots.

December

The bad news I mentioned earlier has taken its toll on me, combined with frustration about my access to university and other things has meant it hasn’t been an easy month for me so far. It could be easy for me to just sit down, be pessimistic and give up on everything. However, as I look back on what I’ve accomplished this year, I realise I have done a lot and I’ve had a lot of fun. It’s important to keep sight of the bigger picture. I look back on what I said last year, which was, ‘continue to be yourself, work hard, appreciate what you have, treat people the way you would like to be treated, and enjoy life’ and I’d say I’ve done that. Although, I think may have taken the ‘work hard’ mantra a little too literal. Anyway, what I’ve learnt this year is that whilst it’s good to give, I also need to look after myself. I found this poem, and I can’t credit it because I don’t know who it was written by, but it struck a chord with me.

‘I need you to understand that it is okay to have a soul that is both tender and tired. I need you to understand that it is okay to be gentle with yourself, that it is okay to feel what you are feeling, that it is okay to let it all crack within the weight of your bones. I need you to know that it is okay to not be okay, that it is okay to feel sad even if you do not fully understand it. I need you to know that you do not have to live in one extreme. That you do not have to force yourself to feel perpetual happiness, that you do not have to sit with your damage and make a home out of it. I need you to know that you exist in multitudes. I need you to know that you are the product of what is both hopeful and haunted within you, and it is okay to exist in this world as someone who is simply figuring out how to balance that.’

Which brings me back to my quote I mentioned earlier on this blog, the reason I got the tattoo. We all change. I am not the same person I was at the start of the year, and you know what? I’m okay with that. I decided to see a therapist a few months ago, to deal with the stress of university and other things, and it was actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Seeing the therapist has helped me to cope with stress, helped me to compartmentalise my worries and fears, and has helped me to devise strategies for coping with certain issues. I’m able to gain perspective on whatever the problem I’m struggling with. It’s helping me to see the problem without feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or sadness even though the problem is still there. In that way, therapy can help you analyse the problem you’re dealing with in order to make a strategy to help you move forward. That, for me, has been one of the biggest accomplishment this year. It’s helped me to establish better emotional wellness in my daily life. Sometimes, it feels like we live in a society where everybody thinks they have to do it alone, but that’s not the case. There are people out there for you; you just have to reach out and let them know that you need them. It works both ways as well. If you think someone is in need of help, talk to them. Help can come in many forms, it can be: a hug, a dinner, a text, a silly meme, little presents, etc. Those little things help.

This is where self-care also comes in. Self-care is so important because when you are physically and mentally exhausted, you’re less able to deal with stress. Take some time out, get a massage, see your friends, eat healthy meals, exercise more, keep a gratitude journal and get some rest. Because we are more resilient and more able to handle life’s stress when we are feeling our best both physically and emotionally. So, that’s something I need to work on and that’s my aim for next year. 

All in all, I would say that this year has been bittersweet – but I’ve learned so much from it. I met people who taught me about life, hurt and healing. I visited places where I watched the sunrise by the river and set behind torn buildings. I found love in several new ways – in the form of friendships and colleagues. I shed parts of myself and gained new parts; parts that were wiser, kinder, softer and bolder. I found happiness in my own arms and in the arms of people who have settled inside my soul. Friendship. The kind that leaves you smiling at the memory of easy experiences, how it feels to be around with them and the laughter you share. I’ve also experienced loss, which meant losing a part of me as well. I have spent days smiling from cheek to cheek, but I also have cried and cried until my heart couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve learned that there will be times where I will find myself in situations that I’m unable to take control of, and I have to learn how to let that go. However… what I can do, is make the most of it. I have healed and taken steps forward, but I also have stopped and stumbled and fell (metaphorically, not literally… although that wouldn’t come as a surprise, knowing my lack of spatial awareness). I received more love that kept me going, and it’s the people I have around me that keeps me lifted up. Life isn’t always smooth sailing; it’s a sea of ups and downs. But it’s all about how we weather the storm and the life lessons we learn from it. So, don’t be afraid to set sail.

“I have been told sometimes the most healing thing we can do is to remind ourselves over and over and over other people feel this too.” – Andrea Gibson.

This year has been bittersweet, where I have loved and gained more than I could imagine, but I also learned, experienced, and forgave.

I leave you with this quote.

“All happiness depends on courage and work.” 
― Honoré de Balzac

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Change.

2017.

What a year. I decided I would use my blog to summarise up my year, and when I logged in, I saw that the last posting I made was actually a year ago today.

I read the post and I rolled my eyes. Every year, I am always doing this and that… I think it’s in my nature. I’m not one to sit down and watch things happen, I like to be in the midst of it. However… I think in this year, something has changed within me.

My resolution last year was to stop, breathe, and learn… and I truly feel that has happened.

As I look back on this past year, I find myself reflecting on how the year has changed me.

In January, I attended the Women’s March in Copenhagen. This was in retaliation for Trump’s Presidency. The march was to promote equality and the protection of the rights of women, immigrants and marginalised groups.

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At a time like this, when people are being oppressed, it’s important that we stand together and create communities of safety for each other. This was an inspiring moment for me. People of all ages, races and sexualities came together to march in unity for our human rights and dignity. At the end of the march, there was a stage where people came up to recite their poetry, sing their songs, and made powerful speeches. Looking back at that moment, I remember it being… absolutely fucking cold. I mean, it was January and it’s near the Baltic sea. I opted for vanity rather than sensibility and as a result of this, my shoes were soaked and I was this close to getting hypothermia… but, there was something about that moment that made me warm. As I looked around, I could see people laughing, smiling and jeering. Sometimes in life, when it looks like the cards may be stacked against you, and there’s no way of winning… does that mean we should give up? No. We keep on fighting until we win. Winning isn’t always about winning big. No. It can also mean little steps. Those little steps, one by one, creates a path. It may not be a path that you’ll walk on, but someday, others can.

In February, I suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it hit me hard. Every year, I claim to be suffering from SAD, because… y’know, it’s bloody cold and depressing. But this year, it was different. This year, I was living in the Bay of the Baltic Sea…! The weather was harsh and unsympathetic. Snow after snow after snow. To some, that may sound romantic, being cooped up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow.

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It wasn’t. I was unprepared for how cold it would be and the effect it would have on me. I became quiet, sullen and didn’t want to participate in anything. In fact, when I think now about how I felt at that time, I feel upset. It was a horrible time, and it really makes me feel for people who are continuously battling depression.

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Depression is a hidden illness. You don’t know who suffers from it. The most important thing to remember is to not belittle them but to support them. Some days are better than others. Some days are worse than others. It can get messy. No matter where you are on the spectrum – your thoughts and feelings are valid. You are precious. You deserve to be listened to. You deserve compassion.

In March, Sarah Jane, along with some others, appeared in an RTE documentary, Deafening. The documentary followed Sarah Jane as she spoke about how she and her husband navigated their way through IVF, what it was like to live in a world where deafness is the norm, and her hopes were for the future. I felt very proud of her, I usually am, but even more so because she was honest about having IVF. That’s something not many people are open about, and truthfully… that needs to change. She also spoke about how relieved she was that her children were hearing. I know that may be a controversial thing to say, but I can understand why she said it.

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“It’s not that their deafness would be a problem, it’s other people’s attitudes that’s the problem. The world won’t change for us so we have to adapt to fit in.” 

The documentary and that statement had an impact on people, as proven so by the responses from people on Gogglebox. That statement made people consider why she said it. It made them look at their actions and made them think about the things they say. The Gogglebox programme ended with this belter line, which shows that they had done some reflecting, and then some.

“If you knew someone who was deaf, you’d say “You know me deaf friend?” But you shouldn’t be.”
“No.”
“You say, ‘you know me friend?’. That shouldn’t be discussed.”
“The way you introduce me. ‘Y’know me fat friend, Tracie?’ You shouldn’t be saying that!”

Brilliant.

In April, we went to Finland for a study trip. Again, the week was an inspiring one and the lectures complemented our curriculum perfectly. We visited the Finnish Association of the Deaf, World Federation of the Deaf, Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, Ursa Minor, and had a guided tour around Helsinki where we were shown pieces made by Deaf people, spoke about De’VIA, Deaf View Image Art and how it evolved throughout the years. I enjoyed meeting those people and was blown away by all the hard work they put into their projects.

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I was particularly inspired by Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, a minority group who use Finland-Sweden Sign language to communicate. How the language developed is interesting. The first school of the Deaf was founded in 1846 in Porvoo by Carl Oscar Malm. Malm used the language he learned in Sweden to educate children. As a result of this, Finnish and Swedish sign language became fused and FinSSL was born. However, the school closed down in 1993, and it was decided that there would officially be one sign language, FSL. This caused some problems for FinSSL users. The younger ones were offered to either be integrated into a State school with the help of interpreters, attend a Finnish Deaf school, or move to Sweden for Deaf education and retain Swedish as their written language. The elder ones struggled with access to services, interpreters and so on. Nevertheless, they persevered, and research into the language began. In 2002, Finlandssvenska Teckenspråkiga, the organisation for FinSSL-users, was founded. In 2014, the government decided to finance a project to “vitalize the FinSSL” – Lev i vårt språk – Live in our languages. In 2015, FinSSL was recognised as a language in Finnish Law.

This inspired me because it proved that no matter how small your community is, if you fight for what you believe in, and you will succeed.

May, the last month leading up to the end of our year at Frontrunners, was eventful. Exams were fast approaching, and emotions were running high. The year was coming to an end,  it was time for us to reflect on the past year and what we wanted from the future. I’m not going to lie, there were a lot of tears and arguments. We lived together, worked together, ate together and played together 24/7. Our patience and tolerance were tested to the limit, that’s for sure, but as a result of that, we also learnt how to regulate ourselves at even the hardest time. We learnt how to reflect on our actions,  how to express our feelings and opinions in a way that was respectful (well, not always…!) and how to become respectful of differences. They became my family. Despite all the shit we put each other through, we still love each other… and if any of us ever needs help, we’ll be there for each other in a split second.

 

Those people below, the teachers, also became my family. They were the people who gave me advice when I needed it, they offered me their shoulders to cry on, and they spurred me on when I thought I couldn’t do it.

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I’ll have to admit, it did feel weird at first because of the age difference. I’m older than one of the teachers, there’s a two years difference between another one, six with another, and a fair few with another one…! But after a while, that went out of the window. It didn’t matter how old we all were, it became about what we had to offer each other. Some of us have knowledge in a particular area, some of us have skills in another, and some of us have a way of making people see things differently. Ultimately, we all learnt from each other, and I think that’s one of the wonders of Frontrunners. No matter whatever happens, you will walk away with memories of a lifetime and life lessons to live by.

In June, I made the most of my new-found freedom! As soon as I landed, I was already off to Dublin to see my girls and their beautiful kiddies. I hardly spoke to them, because the kiddies demanded so much attention! But it was lovely to see all of my girls become so settled in as mothers, and I hope that if I do become a mother one day, I’ll be as good as they are.

Then it was back to London to collect an award at the Creative Diversity Network Awards at the BAFTAs for our documentary, Life and Deaf!

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Then it was off to Glastonbury! As always, it didn’t disappoint. I love how varied it is, how there are so many different things you can see, people to meet, and just have a goddamned good time. One of my highlights would have to be when Jeremy Corbyn came out. He spoke of a little girl he met in Syria. She had lost everything. He asked her what she wanted to do in the future. She replied, “I want to be a doctor so I can help people.” Amidst the chaos, sadness and loss, she still wanted to do good. There are many people out there, made to become refugees through no choice of their own, who can contribute to the world, but are shunned. This is wrong on so many levels. He also spoke about success. Success means better education, better NHS, better housing, and a thriving community. For the many, not the few.

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Legend.

In July, I took some time out to relax and reflect. I spent some time with kiddies, and it was lovely to just sit and watch the world go by.

Then I went to Latitude. as a festival on a whole, it was great. It was in a beautiful location and the people I went with were absolutely bonkers!

But the access wasn’t up to par, which left me feeling very disappointed. However, this led to a meeting with Attitude is Everything where we reviewed the current handbook on accessibility, which I’m pleased about.

In August, I applied to university. Very late, I know but I figured I had nothing to lose. I went for an interview and I got accepted. BSc in Social Sciences at Birkbeck.

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Little did I know how stressful it would be, having to fight to be able to have a decent interpreter and notetakers. There were times when I wanted to give up, but I persevered. Don’t let the system defeat you. We have a right to education, and we have a right to have it delivered to us in our language.

In September, I went to Malta for the EUDY Human Rights Training session. I particularly enjoyed the week for several reasons. The training itself proved invaluable and I know that it will hold me in good stead in the future, but it’s not only just that… the people in my group also played a big part. It was particularly encouraging to see a group of young people from all over Europe come together to learn how to train and empower future generations of youths. It was such a diverse group of people – some played a big part in establishing youth associations in their countries, and some on a European level. Some had no experience but were keen to learn, and some had plenty of experience and were more than happy to give advice on how to lobby, campaign and advocate.

This quote sums it up perfectly.

“I want my friend to understand that “staying out of politics” or “being sick of politics” is privilege in action. Your privilege allows you to live a non-political existence. Your wealth, your race, your abilities or your gender allows you to live a life in which you likely will not be a target of bigotry, attacks, deportation or genocide. You didn’t want to get political, you don’t want to fight because your life and safety are not at stake. It is hard and exhausting to bring up issues of oppression (aka “get political”). The fighting is tiring. I get it. Self-care is essential. But if you find politics annoying and you just want everyone to be nice, please know that people are literally fighting for their lives and safety. You might not see it, but that’s what privilege does.” – Kristen Tea.

I believe it’s important to speak out when you see or feel something is wrong, because if you don’t, how can you expect things to change for the better? It may not be instant or happen in your lifetime, but the important thing is there must be change.

 

I didn’t particularly enjoy getting thrown into Immigration because I put my passport into my carry on luggage which was later put into the hold. Fun times.

A pleasant surprise made its way into the shape of gorgeous Faolán, who surprised his mother by popping out 3 weeks earlier!

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Read the article below to find out about his speedy delivery.

Faolán is famuzzzz

I then went to Bestival as a BSL co-ordinator with Performance Interpreting. I appreciated this opportunity as it allowed me to see what goes on behind the scenes and the effort it takes to put everything together. I felt this was an important step towards building a good relationship with festivals and the deaf community.

 

Oh, and I had a three-way wedding. Fun times.

In October, I attended a beautiful wedding. My gayboys finally got married. I’ve known these boys for years, and I can honestly say that they will go all the way. The love they have for each other is so sweet, it kinda wants to make you throw up at times.

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Mr and Mr Twine-Smith. I wanted them to change their names to Swine, but they put their foot down. Damn.

In November, it was the 3rd International Conference of the World Federation of the Deaf in Budapest, Hungary, and I was fortunate enough to be part of their team. The week was action-packed. I have to say I have the utmost respect for the WFD team. It’s a small team, but the work they do is no easy feat. It’s all hands on deck at all times, and everyone supports each other. Such a lovely team and I hope to work with them again in the future. If you’re in a position to be able to donate, please do so. The work they do is truly inspiring.

Donate to WFD

Thanks also go to SINOSZ and the volunteers for hosting the Conference. Last but not least, praise goes to those who delivered presentations. A lot of hard work went into their research, and it’s making a difference to our community. Thank you.

Oh, and €100. That is all.

I also moved in with Robert, and I truly do feel #content. *inserts smirk here*

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Which brings us to December. Finally… I’ve been at this for ages. I need a cup of tea now.

Okay, so December has been a busy month. I got elected to the Board of the BDA. Thank you to those who voted for me. I will do everything I can to make it a good term, and hopefully, bring about a lot of positive changes!

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University has also taken its toll on me, what with fighting for interpreters and all the assignments… but I have to say it’s been a valuable experience and I’m glad I chose this journey. I realise my path hasn’t been a conventional one, but it’s what I feel is right for me. I didn’t go to university when I was 18 because I didn’t think that at that age, you could determine the rest of your life. Instead, I moved and worked in various countries, I met different people and learnt their cultures. As the years have gone by, I’ve learnt more about myself. I’ve learnt more about my abilities and skills. I’ve learnt to stop being deprecative at times and to stop putting myself down. I look forward to finishing my studies and potentially continuing more studies afterwards…!

 

That was a year. Told you, I’m always running about. But this time, I’m running about with a sense of purpose. There’s a fire inside of me, and I want to use it for good. I feel like a door has been opened, and there’s a world of possibilities out there. I finally feel settled in myself, up there… which is what I said wanted to achieve at the end of last year.

So, what’s my resolution for the next year?

I’d say… continue to be yourself, work hard, appreciate what you have, treat people the way you would like to be treated, and enjoy life.

 

Adios

xxx

Stop. Breathe. Learn.

2016.

Wow. What a year. I was going to do the usual summary of the year and put it up on Facebook, but its been an action-packed year and I didn’t know how to fit them all in, especially with photos, so I thought I’d put it here instead.

Saw in the New Year in Sydney on a rooftop overlooking Sydney Harbour Bridge. Fireworks porn.

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Carried on zig-zagging all over Australia, next stop, Brisbane and ended up getting my 7th tattoo in Gold Coast with Jarrad.

We made the decision to get a compass because it signifies our love for travelling. We like to be spontaneous and go where the wind takes us.
The lines and the arrows signifies the wrong turns we have taken in our lives. However, regardless of the decisions we have made, we learned from them and we moved on.

The circles represent the people we’ve met in our lives. Some people stay in your lives for a season and then leave you. Some people stay for a lifetime. They fill you up with happiness. Some leave you feeling weak and empty. Some people are taken away from you before it was their time. Whether you like it or not, they made a difference to your life.
Life makes twists and turns, and you’ll find yourself in places you thought you’d never end up in, but life has a way of revealing the hidden magic in these moments down the road at the appropriate time.


Live for adventure. 


Adventure should always be about the experience, it should be about the people, it should be about the memories.

Adventure should always be about discovering yourself or remembering something you had forgotten.

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Road trip down Great Ocean Road with Saul and Lisa. Visited the Twelve Apostles and Blue Lake on the way. Beautiful.

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Adelaide for the Australian Deaf Games. Reunited with old friends and made new lifelong friends.

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Won two Silver medals. See? I told you I was an honorary Australian.

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Midsumma Festival!

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Watched Susan and Mikey perform with Cats in Melbourne.

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Back to London just in time to see Ashley win the ‘Young Person’ award at the RAD awards night.

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Ashford has a new heart! ❤️

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Off to Iceland for Tobi’s birthday.

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Snowballs, snowballs and more snowballs. Quiz night. Cheaters. Shameful behaviour. Visited a volcanic crater.

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“Don’t go down the crater. It’s dangerous.” Ashley and I slide down the crater.

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Wine and mud pack in the Blue Lagoon.

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Saw my wife, Adele, at the O2 with Marie.

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Finished my script for my play and saw it come alive at New Diaorama Theatre.

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Got a cochlear implant.

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Moved to Brighton.

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Started 100 Happy Days again.

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Got accepted on the Frontrunners course.

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It’s a wrap! 10 months of filming BBC documentary is done with Camilla and Clare.

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Random last minute trip to Barcelona for a date. Mimosas for breakfast, Prosecco on the beach, Dinner at Ziryab Tapas and shishas at Ziryab Lounge.

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Popped over to Lisbon to see Adele with Claire.

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Medina has new lungs! ❤️

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It’s a wrap! OFC magazine is done. Well done, Belén, Netta and Lisa!

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Glastonbury, fuck yes.

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Saw Adele at Glastonbury. National Treasure.

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Brexit. Fucks sake.

Had an article published in The Telegraph.

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Our documentary, Life and Deaf debuted on BBC4.

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 Shaved my sisters hair off. Ledge.

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Gorgeous summery weekend in Tenby for Jodie and Hasan’s wedding.

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Olympics! Go Mo! Proud Brit.

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Dyed mums hair blue. Smurf.

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Reading Festival. LOVEYOURTITS. The mangina.

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Conor and Louisa finally arrived! Absolute beauties. ❤️

Moved to Denmark for Frontrunners.

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Became a vegetarian again.

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Became a coffee addict. Shocking.

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Road trip around Denmark. Illegally camped on Skagen beach. “PUT THE FIRE OUT! PUT THE FIRE OUT! Oh. It’s not the police.”

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Watched Veronika get smashed to pieces on the rocks at Thy beach. Dilemma. Laugh or comfort her? Both.

Jugendfestival in Stuttgart.

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Birthday.

Trump wins. Hell freezes over. Civilisation as we know it is coming to an end soon.

Erasmus+ where 50 Albanians, Belgians, Danes, Kosovars and Spaniards descended on Castberggåard for two weeks. Craziness.

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HOT TUB!

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Colin on the drums. A memory I’ll never forget.

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Nice Deafs came to Denmark. Cards Against Humanity. Camilla, you dark horse. Tivoli. Swing ride. Robert hates me.

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Photo shoot. Paint in my eye. I am blind.

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Walk in the woods, æbleskivers, gløgg and the drillnisse reveal at Ole and Elinors house! Hygge.

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Aaaaaaaaand back to London for Christmas.

Today I was asked what my resolutions for next year were, and I thought about it carefully. For a minute I thought one of my resolution should be to calm down, because… well, I’m always zig-zagging all over the world. Last week, I had an air of melancholy around me. I was reflecting on the last few years and what I had done with my life. Instead of feeling happy about it, I actually felt sad, because despite doing all those amazing things, every time I go away, I am drifting further apart from my life here. I spent a day or two in a fugue state, wondering if I should abandon all hopes and dreams of future travels or migration and stay in good ol’ England instead. Then I spoke to a few friends about how I felt and they shook me out of it, and I realised… going away didn’t lose me friends; it had shown me who my true friends were.

Travel speeds up the process of separation and exposes the quality of your friendships. Being away strengthens the friendships that will withstand the distance of time and space. My lifestyle doesn’t make maintaining friendships easier, but it doesn’t make it impossible either. I have friends around the world I only see every few years but we make the effort to stay in touch. When we are together, our bond is still strong. I’m grateful for all of my friends.

This year, I’ve learnt so much about myself. Every year, I say that, and I’m so glad that I keep saying that, because life… is long. I think that much is pretty obvious. If you’re still the same person you were five years ago, then how can you progress? No matter how old we are, we can still learn something new about ourselves. We learn new things, we apply it to our life, and we evolve. Then we do it again.

The Frontrunners teachers have a mantra.

Make mistakes.

Yeah, I know… I didn’t think it was particularly inspiring as well. I mean, whatever happened to ‘Aim for the sky‘, ‘You can do it‘ or ‘Try your best‘…?

But now that a few months have passed, I truly understand what they meant by that.

On the last day of class, we had to write two positive statements and two things that could be improved about each person in class, including the teachers.

I read mine, and to be honest, I already knew what most of the notes would say.

‘Stop interrupting’ or ‘Stop procrastinating’ and I was right. There were some comments that I was touched by and some I were surprised by, but like I said earlier on, we all learn and we evolve. I will take those comments onboard and look at myself more.

Yeah. Look at myself more in the mirror. Hey, you sexy thing.

Grow up, Abigail.

There was a note that I particularly liked.

To be improved

Give time for reflection.

Do not be ashamed of failing. Every one of us learn by making mistakes. 

Positive

You spread lots of positive energy and laughter.

You are good with people. You treat them as you want to be treated. You are authentic.

So… maybe I was right earlier. I do need to slow down, but not physically. Up there. Take a deep breath, Abigail.

2017: Take time to slow down and reflect on my actions, realise that I am only human, and that I will make mistakes in life.

Neil Gaiman summed it up perfectly, methinks.

‘I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.

You learn, and you realise that you have to change.

So, my new year resolution is to… stop, breathe, and learn.

Equity.

Today, Nyle DiMarco won Dancing with the Stars with his dancing partner, Peta Murgatroyd.

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People not only from America, but from all over the world cheered for him.

Why?

Because Nyle DiMarco is deaf.

A deaf person, in a dancing contest? But…. that’s silly. That’s like… a blind person trying to be an artist? 

10 amazing blind painters

Oh. Okay, I suppose there are some blind people out there who can paint. Mm.. okay. How about this? People with no legs… wait for it… running! Or people with no arms… swimming! Ha!

*insert a rolling eyes face emoji here*

(That had me in tears. Check this one out too)

Highlights of the Invictus Games 2016

Oh. I guess some people are able to do that. How about thi-

No. How about you shut up?

He won because he was a shit hot dancer. Yes, he wasn’t able to hear the music, but when you can’t do one thing, does that mean you give up? No. You find an alternative way. If the front door is locked, do you sit outside your house all day simply because you can’t get in the house in the conventional way? No, you ask someone for a ladder and climb up the ladder to squeeze in a tiny bathroom window with an already suspected broken thumb.

Yes, this has happened to me before.

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(The aforementioned window)

Nyle wasn’t able to hear the music but with perseveration, determination, communication and support from his partner, he was able to deliver. That’s what it’s all about.

Communication and support. 

“Communication is a huge, huge part of this whole competition. It’s only us speaking, only us moving together as one. we’ve got to make sure we have that down.” – Peta Murgatroyd.

It worked.

Nyle couldn’t hear but Peta could. She showed him the moves, told him when the beats were, devised a series of cues to direct him such as turning the wrists, tapping and eye contact. In return he showed her a new way of communication, he challenged her teaching methods and together… they both came alive.

They came from very different backgrounds and have different life experiences, but they were able to come together as one.

Overcoming obstacles sometimes means looking at it a different way.

They danced to the song, ‘Sound of Silence’ by Disturbed. The band allowed them to dance to the song after reading a very moving letter from Nyle.

‘My name is Nyle DiMarco. I am Deaf. I’m the fourth generation and I have over 25 Deaf members in my family. I am now in the semi final towards the Mirror ball on Dancing with the Stars. I am writing this letter to let you know how much your song ‘Sound of Silence’ means so much to me and my Deaf community and that I would love to dance to your song for the finals. I feel this is important for you to know that we the Deaf people underwent a terrible history and we are still stuck in the darkness. The darkness of oppression that your song truly reverberated to me. 

Before the year 1880, we the Deaf people lived normal lives. we were perceived normal. We held political positions. We joined the army. We had jobs. We had an education through sign language that greatly benefited to our visual eyes and silent ears. It was until the Milan Conference in 1880 that led to language deprivation and… ultimately our culture, job opportunities, and our intelligence. We were tortured. Our ancestors underwent electric shock chairs, surgeries (without anaesthesia), and so many more torturing methods just to help us regain our hearing. We were also punished if we used sign language. We were whipped. Slapped with our rulers. Abused. We were requited to try and learn to speak (and that always, always miserably failed).

We also lost jobs. Many now perceive us as disabled, that we can’t serve the army, hold political positions, nor teach.  

Because of the conference that almost led to the death of the Deaf culture (and was basically genocide and cultural-genocide), we are still trying to get out of the dark. I just founded Nyle DiMarco Foundation and our focus is on Deaf kids. We are working with state and U.S. senators to write and pass the bill that requires bilingualism (American Sign Language) because it was recently  proved by science that it will benefit the Deaf child a lot more than English only. We feel that with you, your song, and us, we will make/change history and help people better understand our history, and build allies all over the world to help better Deaf lives. 

Help us resurface from our darkness, from the systematic oppression. There is power in Sound of Silence. We hope you will grant us the permission. Lets change history together!

Nyle DiMarco.’

Now, I’m not usually one to laud praise and admiration because someone won a dancing competition. It’s not why people all over the world cheered for him. No, it goes way deeper than that.

That wasn’t a letter from a model, asking a band to use their song because, you know… he wanted to win and be more famous and all that shit.

No. It was a letter from an intelligent guy who graduated from university with a Maths degree (ugh) with the intention teach deaf children in their first language, American Sign Language, who suddenly was put on a new path and decided to use his new-found fame for the better good.

Nyle is trying to highlight the oppression that deaf people have faced for many years and are still doing so, and trying to change that by advocating for Sign Language to be used by parents along with English, instead of English only. He directs attention to his Foundation. The Foundation aims to improve access to accurate, research-based information about early language acquisition – specifically, the bilingual education approach. Through the early intervention process, the child’s language and literacy development should be the focal point.

When a deaf baby is born, their parent will hear this.

“I’m sorry, but your child is deaf.”

Straight away, your baby has a negative label put on them. Barely a day old and apparently already a disappointment?

This is Audism.

Audism – The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or to behave in the manner of one who hears, or that life without hearing is futile and miserable, or an attitude based on pathological thinking which results in negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.

Let me take this situation and put it in a different context.

“I’m sorry, but your baby is white/black/yellow.”

Would this be acceptable? No. What is it? It’s racism, that’s what it would be.

Lets take those two situations and put them side by side. Guess which would cause public outrage. Guess which would be… simply forgotten?

Why is this still happening every day?

Take a look at this video from Alex Jones talking about Audism.

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Bilingualism works. I am living proof of it. I grew up in a Deaf family and British Sign Language was my first language, English is my second, and I am able to use both fluently. The reason for this?

I was given communication tools at a very early age, therefore I was able to express myself and understand what was being said to me when I was unable to hear. Some children are not able to do that, and I find that very sad.

Nan – #whyisign

‘Most of the Deaf people do not get any education in developing countries and approximately 80% of the world’s 70 million deaf people do not have any access to education. Only about 1-2% of the Deaf get education in sign language.’ – World Federation of the Deaf.

This needs to change. This is a violation of our human rights

Human rights – All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The improvement of one right facilities the advancements of the others. Likewise, the deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.

This is the 21st century and yet, it feels like we’re in the Neothlithic Era. Why are we still fighting for the right to be able to use our language in schools?

That’s why I’m applauding Nyle. He could’ve spoken about himself, to bathe in the adoration of his fans and all that. Instead, he chose to talk about education, human rights and his Foundation. Good on him.

Nyle DiMarco Foundation

It’s not only Nyle that’s making a name for himself at the moment.

Colin Allen, the President of the World Federation of the Deaf and the newly elected Chair of the International Disability Alliance (the second Deaf person to hold this role) took to the stage at the World Humanitarian Summit to highlight the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities in the event of any natural disasters or crises.

A message from Colin

You can see his speech here.

Colin’s speech

Alastair McEwin has been appointed as Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

al

(Alastair McEwin (far right) with Attorney-General Senator George Brandis with age discrimination commissioner Kay Patterson, human rights commissioner Edward Santow)

“We still have a long way to go in recognising the human rights of all people with disabilities, and I look forward to working with the government, the disability sector and the human rights commission to realise equity for all people with disability.” – Alastair McEwin.

Last year, Rebecca Atkinson, a journalist and creative disability consultant, established the online #ToyLikeMe movement in April 2015 to call on the global toy industry to positively represent 150 million disabled children worldwide. A change.org petition gathered over 20,000 signatures. This year, Lego responded by introducing a mini figure that uses a wheelchair.

rebecca

LEGO wheelchair

On Saturday, Satoshi Tamura from Japan became the first Deaf man to climb Everest.

everest.png

I am incredibly proud of them all. We need more people to fight and prove that we are able to do anything.

However, why should we have to prove that we can do anything? Of course we can do whatever we like. It just takes determination, effort and commitment.

We need to stop seeing disability negatively, and embrace individuality instead.

Equity and Equality.

Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help.

This is what we should be fighting for.

Equity.

Give sign language legal recognition all over the world. Give us the chance to express ourselves in our own language. Even better, why don’t you learn sign language?

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I’ve made the effort to learn your spoken language, why don’t you make the effort to learn mine?

‘If you have a dream, don’t just sit there. Gather courage to believe that you can succeed and leave no stone unturned to make it a reality.’ – Roopleen.

 

Who are you?

So… Glastonbury.

That was a mad one.

224,000 people congregated from all over the world to be at Worthy Farm.

it was a plethora of astounding, breathtaking and thought provoking acts and a myriad of entertainment for our delectation and delight. Admittedly, it involved a fair bit of travel, and a three hours queue to get in, but as long as you have a fold up chair and crates of Koppabergs, it’s all good. When you overcome these impediments, you enter a huge tented city where anything goes. Everyone’s there to have their own fun, and nobody’ll judge them for it. The busy whirl of excitement may not be to everyone’s taste, but that’s okay.

it was a long week, and I made sure that I made the most of it. I met people of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities, lifestyles and faiths. There were some people that I steered clear of because…. well, because they were off their rockers.

Each to their own, though.

I partied hard, and before i knew it, it was 6am on Monday morning, and I was lying on the ground at Stone Circle, surrounded by drums, guitars and people singing. I basked in the joy emanating from the sleepless revellers.

glasto clouds

There was a Kurt Cobain lookalike guy in a poncho playing the guitar, with a troop of groupies clustered around him, hanging on his every word. It was such a cliche, it was really like the pictures you see on Instagram. Everyone was dancing, and having a good time. Admittedly, there were some zombies staggering around that couldn’t string a coherent sentence together.

We sat down, and two of my friends went off to find some smokes. One was content to just sit down and take in the scenery, and another friend was one of those incoherent babbling zombies. Great.

I decided to lie back on my back and think about the week – what were my highs and what were my lows?

The highs… well, there were too many to mention. Standing on the platform, watching the sun go down as The Who belted out their greatest hits was pretty damn good.

IMG_3528

I thought back to when Reni Eddo-Lodge chaired the panel discussion – Feminism with Borders and thought about how I could incorporate some of those discussions in my feminism group.

leftfield

I thought about the debates I had.

if you had one billion pounds to spend, how would you spend it?

  • SAVE THE NHS
  • MORE NUCLEAR WEAPONS
  • COMBAT CLIMATE CONTROL

Ponder on that one.

IMG_3434

I thought back to when we stood at Arcadia and watched anarchic metal monsters explode with dynamite and saw lasers pierce the darkness, danced to the gigantic speakers and watched the flames engulf the sky.

arcadia

Standing in the pouring rain as The Vaccines played their set with my fucking ridiculous hat was… well, it was interesting.

maher

Watching the flares go off above a sea of aloft arms into the sky, as The Chemical Brothers brought the festival to a euphoric close with their amazing set was… amazing.

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The lows…? Well, I didn’t get to see the Dalai Lama. I had the opportunity to see him twice, and both times, I missed him. I wanted to be angry, but I know Buddha wouldn’t want me to be angry, so I won’t be angry.

So, I lied down on the ground and stared at the clouds and admired the yellowish and pinkish hues of the skies as it got lighter. I began to meditate, and thought back to my time in Australia, when I was pretty into my meditation. I thought of Thich Nhat Hanh – a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist – a very wise man.

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.

– Thich Nhat Hanh.

So, I continued to stare at the sky and ignored everything else, and just… stared.

ckiyds

It was glorious.

Then I looked at my watch and realised that I needed to go back to camp and pack my things because we were due to leave in a few hours, and everything was still strewn all over my minuscule tent floor. I abruptly stood up and said my farewells to my friends and walked back to my tent.

It took me an hour to walk back to my tent. It was at this very moment that one week of sleep deprivation, heat exhaustion and severe alcohol abuse had finally caught up with me and I started to have a panic attack again. As I stumbled down the uneven muddy ground, I felt lonely and alone. I know I wasn’t exactly alone, because… hello? 224,000 drunken revellers.

I contemplated the world, and where I stood in it. How I was received by the people around me and what their perceptions of me were. I thought about all of my exes and how we left things between us, and how we could resolve it. I thought about the world, and how I could improve it.

I decided there and then it would be best for everyone if I moved to a cabin in Denmark.

Irrational, I know. But like I said… walking down a muddy lane at 6am at Glastonbury after a week of no sleep and heat exhaustion will make you go off with the fairies. I think I was rather hard on myself during that walk.

As I walked past the Bandstage area and walked towards the Pyramid, I started to feel a little bit better because I knew I was nearly at my tent. I looked to my right and I saw a dishevelled girl walking beside me. She looked a mess… and she was kicking an umbrella. She stood there and kicked it. It leaped a few metres, and she laughed to herself. She walked to the umbrella and kicked it again. It leaped further and she smirked. She walked over to it and gave it a mighty kick and it flew in the air and her laugh was infectious. It was a simple act, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I felt a warm glow wash over me, and realised that for the last hour I had been a complete and utter twat.

There will be times in your life where you will be sad and lonely at any particular time. You’ll be inclined to retreat inside yourself and keep everything inside. There will be times when you’ll feel alone, and you don’t want to impose on anyone so you don’t say anything – but that’s not a reflection on your family or friends, because they’ll always be there for you.

It has been 48 hours since I returned from Glastonbury, and my emotions have been all over the place. I’m exhausted, I’m teary and I’m burnt out.

But I’m also happy and content. Look at the bigger picture. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored – people to meet, things to learn and lovers waiting to be loved. If you’re not happy with your life – change it. If you’re not happy with your friends, tell them. If you’re not happy with your job, get a new one. If you’re not happy with your partner, sort it out.

Be happy. Be content.

Happy and content seems to be a running joke between some of my friends.

They poke fun at me because I’m always posting #happy #content on my pictures. 

Yes. I am happy and content.

I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live.

– Thich Nhat Hnah,

And you should be too. if you’re not, then you should try to be.

Life is for living. You have to be the kind of person who can make the best out of a Tuesday. Those people who live for the weekends? They’re wasting their lives away. You have to find something worth living for or else you’ll look back and realised you’ve wasted your life away.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
– Buddha.

Be happy for yourself. Be happy for others. Love yourself. Love others. Question yourself. Question others. Challenge yourself. Challenge others.

“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche.

In the last two years, I’ve gone through so much.

i made the decision to go backpacking around Australia for a year. At the time of making the decision, I didn’t exactly know why I made that decision. When I left, I realised why.

Here’s an excerpt from my travel blog.

“I had realised that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I was. I thought I was going travelling because I wouldn’t be able go when I was older. 

I realised that I was wrong

I left because I wasn’t happy with some parts of my life. 

Sometimes I’d get panic attacks

What brought it on? Well, there were some people who would undermine me – I’d hear negative comments and put-downs, and it affected my confidence. Why they did it.. I have no idea. There could be several reasons for it. Maybe they didn’t realise they were doing it? Maybe it was classic transference – deflecting their own insecurities and negative thoughts onto me? Maybe they didn’t like me? Or maybe it’s because they’re a twat? I don’t know. I’m not going to psychoanalyse them. All I know is.. they were doing it, it’s not nice and I didn’t like it. 

I suppose you could say that I didn’t realise how badly I was treated until I left..? That’s not to say that everyone treated me like shit. No, no.. far from it. I have amazing friends and I love them. But I think I needed to get away and find out who I really was. I needed to define myself, instead of letting other people do it for me.

When Rikki left, I was truly on my own. As terrifying as that was, it was also exhilarating. 

‘When you’re travelling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.‘ – William Least-Heat Moon. 

Fast forward a year later. 

The year has been an amazing journey for me. 

I’ve met people from all walks of life. 

I’ve seen places so beautiful, it took my breath away. I’ve created friendships so strong that it’ll last a lifetime. 

I found my confidence. I found my voice. I found my bravery. I found love. I still haven’t found my iPhone though.. bastarding taxi driver. But most importantly, I found myself.  

I’ve learnt so many things about myself and people around me. I’ve come to realise some ugly truths – about myself and others. Irrational doubts and issues reared its ugly head, and I faced it head on. I’ve also realised my strengths. I’ve come to admire my morals, conviction and I appreciate my determination.  

I’ve realised that sadly, some people may not treat me with kindness and care. While I may not be able to change that, what I can change is how often our paths will cross and what my own reactions to it will be. There is a place in everyone that yearns to love and be loved, that longs to be safe, that wants to treat others and ourselves with respect. Unfortunately for some, sometimes that place is buried underneath layers of fears, old wounds, cynicism and pain that they use to protect themselves from injury. But I think being out here has made me realise that forgiveness is about choosing happiness over hurt. 

So.. when I come back, it’ll be a fresh new start – for myself and everyone. If the fresh start happens to fall on deaf ears (excuse the pun), then I will wish them luck, let go of them and go my own way. 

Letting go isn’t giving up. It’s about being determined to live life with the intention to be your best self. So you have to do whatever it takes to get there. You won’t ever get there though. Not really. But what you can do is stop being who you aren’t. 

In order to do that, you have to make mistakes.. and learn from them. I know I’ve made plenty of them and I will still continue to make them. I know I’m not perfect. But I do know that it’s important to take some time out every now and then to just… stop… and take stock of everything. Stop and stare off into space. Into the middle distance, squint my eyes and wistfully stroke my imaginary goatee. This is when I have my best ideas, my deepest insights, and realisations.  

Whatever cerebral understanding we apply to our lives, we have to remember that there will always be a constant theme recurring – our need for support and love. This is what I’ve found whilst in Australia. Support and love.  

The year has been a series of highs and lows. I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. On one end I’ve experienced happiness, falling in love, passion, and all that. On the other end though.. I’ve had to to deal with loneliness, death, frustration, and confusion. 

I’ve been in tears because I missed home so much, and I’ve been in tears because I didn’t want to leave Australia. I’ve been a shoulder to cry on, and I’ve cried on people’s shoulders. I’ve helped people out when they’ve had nothing and vice versa. 

As much as I’ve had to deal with the shitty lows, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I believe that everything happens for a reason. The shitty lows have made me stronger, braver and slightly more emotionally intelligent, I guess..?”

Reading back on what I wrote last year, I could feel my heart constrict – that always happens when I think about Australia – it really was an experience. My heart also constricted because I can remember the pain I felt back then. I can remember sitting by the pool in Sydney, crying my heart out because the realisation that I had lost myself hit me hard. But it also constricts because I also can remember the warmth and the love I received when I was out there.

In the last two years, I have lost myself, found myself, fell in love, but then I lost myself again, and had my heart broken.. but I’m finding myself again.

And I’m glad I went through all that shit.

Let me explain.

Throughout your lifetime, you will lose yourself most unexpectedly, and find yourself most unexpectedly.

When I returned from Australia, I had a plan. I was going to do this, and do that, and then i’d do this and then everything would suddenly all fall into place.

That didn’t happen.

I came back home, and everything was.. still the same. I came back because everyone wanted me back into their lives. But I soon realised that they also had their own lives, and I only slotted into some parts of it and I didn’t feel complete. I had my own life back in Australia, where I felt fully complete, and I left it? I regretted coming back, and became angry with myself. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Others called it ‘The holiday blues.’ I don’t know what it was, but it was fucking depressing. I lost myself again. I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by people who loved me. I think it was because I left my heart back there. I cried for a long time. I felt stuck.

My saving grace came into a form of a job. For those who know me well, will know how much I love working. This finally gave me a purpose.

I had to get up and go to work. I had to use my brain. I had to be productive.. and I loved it. This in turn spurred me on to enrol on a course. Slowly but surely, I began to build myself up – I gained my confidence, and I trusted my abilities.. I was starting to find myself. I realised you cannot find peace by avoiding life.  Life spins with unexpected changes; so instead of avoiding it, take every change and experience as a challenge for growth.  Either it will give you what you want or it will teach you what the next step is.

Then my heart got broken. Now, I won’t go into details of what happened, except that it was obviously a painful experience. But instead of letting it destroy me and turn me into a bitter person, I decided to look at the positives of it. I decided to not dwell on the fact that we were no longer together, but appreciate the fact that we were given the opportunity to be together, and learnt so much from each other.

“Not everything is supposed to become something beautiful and long-lasting. Sometimes people come into your life to show you what is right and what is wrong, to show you who you can be, to teach you to love yourself, to make you feel better for a little while, or to just be someone to walk with at night and spill your life to. Not everyone is going to stay forever, and we still have to keep on going and thank them for what they’ve given us.” – Emery Allen.

I hate being sad. It’s not who I am. I thrive on happiness. I love being a twat. My twattiness seems to bring happiness to people. It’s a win-win situation. I will always strive to be positive. A happy person is not a person who is always in a good situation, but a person who always has a good attitude in every situation.

Whilst having a drink with a friend in a pub, he said something that struck a chord with me.

“Rome was not built in a day. To build something that lasts for ever, you must build brick by brick. Eventually, you’ll end up with a  colosseum or ruins. But If you did not try, there would be just flat land. So either it is..

1) A colosseum to last for a thousand years. 

OR

2) Beautiful ruins that also last for a thousand years.” – Sebastian Cunliffe.

No matter whatever happens, it stays with you forever, so appreciate it.

Something going wrong in the course of your life may not make sense in the moment, but it will. Sometimes they’re the greatest blessings in disguise. Now, I’m not saying that the break up was a blessing, but i believe that everything happens for a reason. I appreciate everything I’ve gone through. It has made me who i am.

So remember that everyone suffers in life at some point.  Everyone feels lost sometimes.

Finding yourself is not a comfortable process, nor should it be. It is petrifying.

This period of confusion is the catalyst for questioning everything, for evaluating your life and your place in it. When you start asking the questions, you will find the answers. Just be prepared—your answers may not be the answers you want, but they are always the answers you need

The key is using your experiences to grow.  When you apply what you’re learning to your future choices and actions, you move forward not backward.  You become stronger and wiser.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it in the end.

I trust I am where I am supposed to be, and I will end up where I am meant to be.

This is your one life. It would be a tragedy to never discover yourself.

You can’t discover yourself unless you look for yourself, so get lost.

Ramblings of a very random person.

Reading my old travelling blog made me realise how much I missed travelling, (http://www.travelpod.com/members/abigailgorman) so I decided I’d set up a little blog, see what I came up with and if it was actually worth continuing?

So, here goes…

Mm.. well, this is awkward. I’m not quite sure what I should write about?

‘What should I write about?’  I asked my friends on Facebook.

‘Write about what’s on your mind right now.’

Okay. Well, right now, I’m thinking..

‘Why is my back burning..?’

Well, I already know the answer to that. It’s because I’m leaning against a radiator. A hot one. I’m actually sitting on the floor in my kitchen, leaning against a hot radiator. I have a whole flat to myself. I have a luxurious double bed in my bedroom, a gigantic sofa in the living room, and a decent chair and table.. and yet, I choose to unnecessarily burn my back by sitting on the floor in the kitchen? Why? Well, logical isn’t what comes to mind when I think of myself. I mean, when asked ‘Where does the Queen spend Christmas every year?’ at the Christmas work do quiz, my answer was..

“The toilets.”

Well, to be fair, I still think that was a pretty decent answer. I mean, if you think about it.. basically, they have a full English breakfast before church, and turkey and all the trimmings for Christmas lunch. For supper, they eat a buffet that they actually serve for themselves cuz once Christmas lunch is served, the staff get the rest of the day off. They then go downstairs to play Charades and drink until midnight, drinking cocktails. Apart from the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles, who enjoy dry Martinis.

(Yes, I actually spent 10 minutes researching this.)

All day long, the Queen does nothing but eat and drink and eat and drink. She may be a Royal, but I’m pretty sure she has to take a crap every now and then. I also bet you that she has, quite a few times, drunkenly staggered around the room, waving her hands in the air, shrieking, “WHY SO MUCH GRAVITY?!” before seeing a toilet seat and whispering, “Oh, look.. a bed.” and having to be carried off to bed by Prince Phillip.

Abigail. No. Your first blog is NOT going to be an essay about the Queen, her bowel movements and how she usually spends Christmas drunkenly mumbling and hugging the toilets.

Okay… fair enough.

See? Asking me to write about what’s on my mind right now isn’t a good idea – you’d only get lost in a labyrinth of some sort, where you’d see floating images of the Queen drunkenly hugging the toilet, radiators, and fruit salads. (I’m peckish. I want a fruit salad) 

No. Okay, let’s get some professional advice.

Google.

‘How to write a good interesting blog.’

Ooh, sounds promising.

‘Pick a topic that you know and are passionate about, one that other people can relate to.’

Mm..

Oh!

Travelling.

Or MAYBE.. mishaps whilst travelling..? *insert smirk here*

I was having a conversation with a friend the other week, when the topic of travelling came up.

“What was the worst holiday experience you’ve ever had?” I asked my friend.

“Oh, my friend got this really bad bug. She was throwing up for days and days. We had to take her to hospital and have her put on a drip. Ironically, the hospital bed was much better than our hotel room. Eventually, we had to fly back earlier. What about you?”

“Mm.. I got shot at by the police in Barcelona – they were wearing riot gear.”

“What?!”

“Don’t worry, I didn’t actually get shot. The bullets went flying around me – they were rubber bullets anyway. So, that wasn’t so bad. It was fun, actually. I don’t think that’s the worst thing though..? Oh! There was that time where I was absolutely convinced I had got myself kidnapped by sex-traffickers in Thailand. Mm.. what else? Ah yes. Egypt. I flew to Cairo by myself and booked myself into a hostel in Tahrir Square, a well-known Mafia area, a couple of days before riots started. I got told by some local deaf people I’d get raped, chopped up and have my parts sold on the black market because I’m a foreign woman wandering around on my own… on my first day. Nice welcome..! OH! I was also convinced my friends and I were being kidnapped by a crazy taxi driver in Sharm, so I told my friends to be prepared to jump out of the car and run away, even though the car was travelling at 60mph on the road. But don’t worry, we didn’t. I gave him a massive bollocking afterwards when we eventually arrived at the hotel. A couple of days after that incident, I told my quad biking leader that I was a lesbian – he told me that if his brother was gay, he would shoot him in the head, take him out to the woods and bury him. A charming man. Ah! There was also the time our car broke down in the middle of nowhere, 3 days after we arrived in Australia. All very reminiscent of Wolf Creek. But it was okay – we called the AA. Well, not the actual AA, but the Australian version of it, and they came to get us 4 hours later. We were just surrounded by cows and trees. So, nothing to worry about. Then my mate decided to bugger off to Asia, so I spent the year travelling in Australia by myself. I think I have more stories, but I can’t remember. More wine?”

“…. seriously?”

“Mm.. my life has been rather eventful, hasn’t it? Sometimes, I do wonder if I made the right choice – living in various countries and going travelling, instead of staying in England, buying a house, and all that? You’re lucky – you’ve got a mortgage, you’ve got security.”

“I do have a mortgage, yes.. but I haven’t got stories to tell like you do. I wish I had gone travelling and experienced life.”

That struck a chord with me.

Maybe travelling gives us something that we don’t get when we don’t travel? Maybe we need to feel our connection with the whole world by wandering around it and connecting with people in all kind of places. We can do this to some extent by reading about other people and watching films, but it isn’t the same as the personal contact that you get when you actually go somewhere and meet the people who live there?

Travelling provides you with an opportunity to understand your place in the world: who you are, where you come from, and what things you may have never understood about your home before. There are plenty of chances for reflexivity (moments of awareness about your assumptions and the assumptions of others that are usually accepted as fact) at home. But travel, by taking you to places where the normal rules often don’t apply, increases the opportunities to understand on a deeper level who you are at home and that you have the potential to grow beyond ‘mundane life’.

I embrace change. I enjoy seeing things in new ways. I think change is essential to living well and coming to a deeper understanding of our humanity and of human potential and spirit. And travel is one fantastic way of doing this.

What about you? Any dramatic travel experiences? Do you think travelling has added value to your life? Has it changed you as a person? I’d love to hear your views.

Well, first blog post – done. I hope you enjoyed the read. I know that it was inconsistent, but please bear with me – let me get into the groove of the whole blogging thing. I’ll have the hang of it before long..

You can stand under my umbrella..

Melbourne, Australia


I was eager to make my way over to Melbourne, but I bided my time. The reason for this? The World Federation of Deaf convention would be taking place on the weekend of the 18th. For those who have never heard of it, let me explain. The World Federation of Deaf is a non-governmental organisation that focuses on promoting equality for deaf people, amongst deaf people and promoted by deaf people. This conference brings people together to recognise their contributions to global prosperity, to secure the human rights of all deaf people, and to prepare the deaf communities for challenges in the future.

This conference would celebrate the linguistic, artistic, social, political and cultural contributions and accomplishments of deaf people. It would also strengthen deaf communities to work towards the recognition of sign languages and the rights of deaf people around the world. It would prepare us to look towards the future with a clear vision and renewed capacity for positive change in local communities – draw us together in renewed appreciation of our common heritage, common challenges and common aspirations.. over a thousand deaf people from all over the world would attend.

But really.. just a good excuse for a good **** up. I was looking forward to the weekend because it would be a perfect opportunity to meet old and new friends all in one go.

So, how did it go? Well, I only have 7 photos of the weekend and they’re all of me downing shots, so I guess you could say it was a good weekend. What I loved most about the weekend were the boys from Melbourne – crazy, down to earth and a great laugh. I instantly knew that I would fall in love with Melbourne if the people were anything like the boys.

So.. the day came and I woke up, all ready to go to Melbourne. Well, I wasn’t, but I knew I had plenty of time to pack. Or so I thought.

Kieran, my housemate told me 1 hour 30 minutes before he was due to drop me off at the train station that we had to leave in 25 minutes instead cuz he had to go to work earlier than expected. He has obviously never told a woman currently packing that she has no time left – I shrieked like a banshee and scared the **** out of him. I ran upstairs and threw everything in my backpack and my heart sank when I saw that the zip for my 25l backpack had gone. There would be no way I could attach it to the larger backpack, and I couldn’t take it on the plane with me because I already had a handbag. ***** sake. At that moment, I was already drafting up a strongly worded email in my head to Ospreys – strong, and durable? My ****.

Plan B – I took all the straps from the larger backpack and tied it around the smaller one. I was really paranoid that it would fall out somewhere between the check in counter and loading bay. After 10 mins of sweating profusely, tying up every single strap into any hole I could find, it was secure.

Then I found the zip, nicely tucked up underneath. I felt like it was mocking me.

“Ha. You ****. That’ll teach you.. lugging and throwing me all over the country. Treat me with some respect, *****.”

I have never been so angry with an inanimate object in my life. But, whatever.. another 5 minutes was wasted untying the straps, and I was ready to go.

I boarded the train and headed to Sydney Domestic airport. On the way, I saw two guys asking a passenger for some information. It was clear that they weren’t Australian – their accents were different. I don’t know why but I felt compelled to carry on watching them, and I realised that they were deaf! I have no gaydar – there’s no way I would be able to tell if someone was a lesbian until they stick their tongue down my throat.. or tell me. No.. instead, I have deafdar – I seem to be finding them here, there, everywhere. So, I approached them and found out that they were going to the airport too. Matthias from Germany and Jan from Switzerland were on a tourist holiday visa, and were in their way to the Gold Coast. We made our way to the airport and they went through security and I went to drop my bags off. Apparently I was too early because Kieran decided he had to leave earlier. Meh.. so I wandered around the airport, looking for food when I saw the boys come back. They had forgotten to drop their bags off! *****. I realised I could check myself in and save myself some time later. So I went to the self check in machine and proceeded to check in.

‘Passenger not found.’

What do you mean, passenger not found? I’m right here. Hi. I found myself. Lets carry on? I then realised I tried to check myself in on the wrong flight. ********. I typed in the correct flight number and it said, ‘Please check itinerary or see staff.’… **** off. I’ve had enough of this kind of ****. Why can’t I have a day in my life where everything goes smoothly? Is that too much to ask for? So.. I went to see the staff and asked her to help me.

“Oh. You’re at the wrong airport.”

Great. Just ******* great. (WARNING: there will be quite a lot of swearing in this post, and I apologise profusely for that.. but when I’m angry – I swear. I know it’s not very ladylike, but.. if you have a problem with it – you can **** off.)

“You have to go to the International airport. You still have time, if you hurry.”

I ran to the bus terminal quicker than Usain Bolt would’ve had if he had IBS.

“Terminal 1! Now! Please??” I pleadingly barked at the driver.

“We just have to wait for everyone to board the bus, miss.”

5 minutes later, and nobody boarded the ******* bus. Finally, he made his move and 10 minutes later, we arrived at the airport. If I had realised it would be that quick, I would’ve been a lot calmer, but this is me we’re talking about – mountains out of mole hills and all that jazz.

Finally, I checked in and casually strolled through to security gates. The queue was loooooooooong, I had to fill out forms and I would be going through Customs and Borders..? I instantly started to panic, I always do when I see Customs and Borders – every single time. I’m convinced that they’ll ask me questions, I’ll panic and give them the deaf nod – they’ll raise their eyebrows, quietly confer and then immediately drag me off to a quiet room where Big Bertha will be waiting for me.. snapping her rubber gloves, and winking at me..

“Well.. who’s been a naughty girl? Strip.”

*shudders*

I then realised I was in the International queue, not the Domestic queue.. just typical. I made my way to the correct queue and happily strolled through to the screening area, where I was greeted by a man who clearly looked like he was NOT having a good day.

“You. That way.”

He pointed to the body scanner queue. As I walked to the queue, I must have had a face like thunder because as soon as I looked at the guy who was manning the machine, he quickly said I could just go through the normal machine. Hmpf.

I found a sushi bar and tried to get my zen back. I got a text from Janelle, the girl who I would be staying with in Melbourne for a while, that said Matthew, a friend of ours, was looking for a housemate. I figured that if I got a house, it would stop me from zig-zagging all over Australia and force me to settle down for a bit. Screw it. I said yes.

I boarded the plane and things were starting to look up. I would spend the week having fun with Janelle, and then I would move in with Matthew, Bizo, Daniel and Miranda. Life was good. I sipped my tea, took my hearing aid off and put my earplugs in, closed my and listened to some Etta James.

I woke up and my hearing aid was gone. What the ****, Carol?! I looked in my handbag, no luck. I looked under my seat, no luck. I looked in my seat, no luck. It can’t just have disappeared. Bear in mind that this is my LAST remaining working hearing aid, so you can imagine how distraught I was. I grabbed the male flight attendant and asked him if he had taken my hearing aids when he collected my cup of tea. He said no, but he would go in the back and c
heck. He came back with headphones. I already had my ******* earphones plugged in my ears, why the hell would I want headphones?

“No… heeeeearing aids. Me.. deaf. Hearing aid.. help.. me.. hear. No hearings aids, me nothing hear. Important. Please.. you.. go.. check. Brown. Ear moulds. Go.”

I honestly do not know why whenever I’m without my hearing aids, I instantly revert back caveman talk – my vocabulary usually consists of two words sentences. That’s how much I rely on them.

2 long agonising minutes later, he came back with my hearing aid.

“I’m SO sorry.”

Thank God. If he couldn’t find it, he would’ve been sorry. I would have climbed into the cockpit and commandeered the plane all the way back to London.

I landed and met Janelle – the weather was absolute *****, but I was in high spirits. We went to collect Penny, her housemate, and made our way to Victoria Deaf College for an art exhibition. The work by the students were lovely, and the food was amazing, I think I was a little bit more interested in the food than the art, to be honest.

The next day, Janelle, Penny and El, the other housemate, went out and left me to my own devices. I decided that I would go shopping and then meet Janelle later on for basketball training. I got changed to go out, and as soon as I opened the door, the weather changed. I got changed again, and guess what..? So did the weather. ***** sake, 4 seasons in a day. It was raining like hell, but my spirits couldn’t be dampened. I boarded the tram and asked the tram driver how much the fare would be.

“No, you have to pay by card.”

Oh. Ok. I got my bank card out and tried to pay with it.

“No, no.. you have to use a tram card.”

***** sake. It was pouring cats and dogs outside, and I had 30 people staring at me.

“Ok.. where can I get a tram card from?”

The seconds that passed felt like hours and I could feel 60 eyes burning into my soul, I could feel my face getting redder and hotter.

“You’re not from Melbourne, are you?”

“No! I’ve just moved here! It’s my first day.”

“I’ll tell you what.. here you go.”

He reached into his wallet and took out his own tram card, and gave it to me.

“You keep it. Shh.. go on. Off you go.”

I went to sit down, and I was on the top of the world. It was a simple gesture, but for me it instantly reassured me that I had made the right decision – Melbourne is a place of diversity, culture, open-mindedness and love. Melbourne is the kind of place where people would let you stand under their umbrellas. As I got off the tram and began to walk through the rain, I started singing in my head..

#When the sun shines, we’ll shine together, told you I’d be here forever, said I’d always be a friend. Took an oath, I’ma stick it out ’til the end. Now it’s raining more than ever, know that we’ll still have each other. You can stand under my umbrella, ella ella eh eh eh.. under my umbrella, ella ella eh eh eh.. under my umbrella, ella ella eh eh eh..#

Nobody did actually offer me their umbrella, and I got soaking wet, but.. yeah. I love Melbourne.

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