Equality Schmequality

Come on Britain, open your eyes and look around you. Is everyone the same as you? No? Thought not.

I ran a stall at a Christmas Fair yesterday to raise a little money for charity – mainly the MS Society. And Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice, as I’d bought a load of Christmas cards from them to sell. I was also supporting a relatively large event being run in a small village. It’s almost an hour’s drive each way, and Martin and I gave up our Saturday for this. I’m just setting the scene before I start criticising.

Because most people we met were very nice.

But the ones that stick in my mind were the rude ones. The ones who can’t cope with anyone being different from themselves.

One woman wanted Christmas cards, but told me she wouldn’t buy the charity ones because “charity encourages lazy people to expect everything for free”. I sold her some that didn’t say they were charity cards and forgot to tell her where her money would go.

A middle-aged woman told me how much she liked to support new talent and asked me which of my books I would recommend. I suggested The MonSter and the Rainbow, thinking she may appreciate that. She flinched when I mentioned it was about disability, so picked up a copy of Chrystal Heart to read the back. It took about three seconds for her to read my tagline, “She’s a 188 year old, bisexual, cyborg vampire and she might just save our world” and put it down as if she might catch something. She left my stall in a hurry.

I’m afraid if you don’t want to read about people who have disabilities, non-mainstream sexual preferences or interesting personal habits, then you’ve come to the wrong writer.

If anyone’s thinking of reading Chrystal Heart, I should warn you that it includes a character who cross-dresses, someone with a disability and even a redhead. There’s also one character who will behave in an unexpected way after their initial appearance – but you’ll have to wait for the next book to find out who. Unless you’ve already spotted the clue, that is. 😉

Personally, I like a fictional world to bear some resemblance to the one around me. That includes people of different shapes, sizes, skin colours and modes of dress. I’m not going to set a story in the 21st Century and pretend no-one is blind or in a wheelchair, not will I insist all my characters stick to heterosexual relationships and dress in three-piece suits. But I won’t include people from minorities just because of some belief it’s the “right” thing to do.

The weirdest behaviour yesterday, though, were the people who decided I was a rubbish bin for their use. I spotted a man dashing away – having left a couple of polystyrene cups in my stock behind the stall. At least I assume it was him- he didn’t wait to be asked, just came behind our stall and the cups were there when I went to investigate what he was doing. I was too busy to take them to the bin, but I looked round a little later to see a woman adding another cup to the stack.

I said, “Excuse me – that’s not a bin!”
She gestured at my wheelchair, “So you put it where you want to.”
I tried again. “Can’t you put your cup in the bin?”
She snorted, “You people,” pointing again at my wheelchair. Then she left.

She didn’t know me, she hadn’t even looked at my stall and evidently had no interest in me, except to assume that my wheelchair entitled her to treat me like a servant. Or a bin.

A few minutes later, I spotted a man adding an empty beer can to the growing pile of rubbish in my stock.
“That isn’t a bin,” I said.
“It’s not mine,” he replied. I must have looked as dumbfounded as I felt.
“We just found it outside,” he explained.
“So you thought you’d add it to my stock?”
The same woman who’d shouted at me before shouted again, “Just leave her to it, if she’s going to be bad-tempered about it!” and the man left again.

Bad-tempered? Yes, I was. I think I have every right to be bad-tempered when someone’s rude to me, expects me to clear up her rubbish and then sends her husband (or whoever) to do the same. She could have told him to drop the can into the bag of rubbish in the car park – or to put it under the stall closest to the door. Instead of dumping it in the stock of the person in the wheelchair who had the nerve to complain that she wasn’t a bin.

I hadn’t gone all that way to be a servant for a lazy woman without any courtesy for someone who happens to be in a wheelchair. Neither do I write my books for people who can’t see beyond their own cosy world.

If you disagree, don’t try to read my work. It’s not erotica, but neither is it dumbed down to only include white, middle-class middle-aged people with no unusual habits. If you’ve bought a copy, it’s yours to burn as heresy, if that’s what you want. In fact – you’re welcome to burn as many copies as you can buy. I don’t mind. I’ll even sign them for you, if that’ll make you feel better.

It isn’t illegal for someone to be different from you. What is illegal is treating them as lesser because of those differences. And being rude when they object.

Come on Britain, we’re better than this, aren’t we?

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Trip-End Tuesday 13-11-19

The snow is thawing! It came to visit for a few days – to give us a chance to see how beautiful Iceland is in its white coat. This morning, everywhere is black rock and brown vegetation, with only the occasional streak of white highlight to make the point.

Still no aurora last night. This winter may be the highest sun-activity season for many years, but we seem to have picked a low patch. A shame, but we’ve still had a great time.

One final breakfast of freshly-baked waffles with lashings of syrup (but no ginger beer), squeeze everything into the suitcase and heck the bag full of knitting wool isn’t likely to explode on the plane. (We brought this bag in the suitcase, just in case!) Leave the booze we didn’t finish for the hotel staff to enjoy. Pile everything into the car one last time and checkout.

MK Waffle Stack

I chatted about knitting with the staff behind the Reception desk while Martin checked the tickets before our bill was printed out. An interesting difference- in the UK, Hotel bills are usually designed to be vague, listing just “meals” rather than details. Our bill in Iceland is detailed, clear – and accurate. There are no hidden charges – and we’ve already been informed that we are not expected to tip anyone here. Refreshing, really!

We drive out onto a black road, tarmac chewed up at the outside edge where snowploughs dug in to break up the ice. Our tyres are studded with metal – as is every vehicle here and it’s clear that the country has a policy of replacing roads as they become undriveable and expecting drivers to be prepared for freezing conditions. We haven’t seen any gritting or salting a road and less evidence of drivers having lost control than we would at home. Even the tourists seem to cope well with the conditions – given the right vehicles and rules. And most drivers in the UK don’t even have a set of winter tyres. We could learn a lot!

Mountains Clouds

Our flight isn’t until this afternoon, so we head into Reykjavik one last time and park in a different area – I think Martin’s afraid I’d buy more wool if he took me anywhere near the yarn shop. And we can’t cram any more into the luggage!

Instead we check out a few tourist shops (decent quality tat, but still tat) and take photos of a Viking boat on a roof, a really cute fountain and an open square with excellent wheelchair access – which was obviously part of the original design, not just added later when someone complained. This is a civilised country!

Reykjavik Ramp

And so to the airport, back to normality. We check-in and find the travel company have booked seats for us at the rear of the plane this time. The staff do what they can, but can only bring us a few rows forward. So I’m forced to hobble most of the length of the plane to reach our seats. Then the plan is half an hour late taking off. Yup, this is reality. The pilot makes up for the delay, but doesn’t have a miraculous solution to the seating problem.

It’s been a great break. Iceland is stunningly beautiful and we’d love to go back again to see more of this unique Island.

Happy Hour