Angus somewhere, April 2018
I've been listening to lots of radio programmes of late. Now we can choose specific programmes (using the BBC i-player mostly in my case) it is possible to fill your mind, if you need or want to, with a pretty much non-stop flow of ideas via sensible people talking about interesting things on the radio. Just today (no paid work having come knocking on my email door... ) I have listened to Chris Wood on music, church and bodily functions, nearly all the 5 parts of Benjamin Zephaniah's autobiography 'The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah' and a 'Point of View' by Tom Shakespeare on disabled sexuality. I've also read a great piece of writing by Zadie Smith in her book 'Feel Free' ('On Optimism and Despair - you can read it here) so it's been a quiet day on the one hand... but a full one too. And thank goodness for other people's ideas because I have been in a bit of a poetry rut of late too... a run of knock-backs and a decent helping of 'why am I still doing this at all?' Self-pity is always so attractive... let's say no more on that.
Anyway, the Tom Shakespeare 'Point of View' started off with a look at the use of the term 'special needs'. "Disabled people don't have special needs," he says, "we're not aliens, we have ordinary needs... We want education and employment and a place to live and access to healthcare and all the other taken for granted things of life." I like this clear kind of talking and thinking and it reminds me that some time ago I wrote a poem looking at special needs in a similar way (if from the opposite starting point... that in fact all our needs are special in some way or other... which does make them ordinary). If I remember rightly it was the now very out of favour Germaine Greer who, at least in part, prompted the writing of the poem (she was on Question Time, was asked about disability and said she considered people with no sense of humour the most disabled of all... or something like that...). I can't find the quote because all you can find about her online now is trans-related. I wonder if she still has a sense of humour...
Anyway (again), here is the old poem (from 2007 or so - back in the days when I rhymed a lot more and was allergic to end-of-line punctuation).
Pay heed to the special need
Personally I need a lot of help with moving
I need public transport, I need constant soothing
I need my hand holding and I need some quiet time
These needs are special and these needs are mine
You might need a teacher, you might need a school
You might need some help with obeying a rule
You might have a thing about folding and drawers
Those needs are special and those needs are yours
I can’t do sitting in well-behaved rows
Snobbery and claptrap get right up my nose
I’m not very good at just following a line
So many needs out there but these ones are mine
You might be allergic, you might be alone
You might need assistance from more than a phone
You might need a moment, a break, just a pause
Because all needs are special, especially yours