Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

My friends in the North


This weekend I took a trip up to the wilds of the north east – Newcastle to be precise. It was to be only my second ever trip to that city and the reason was a tad unusual.

I’d agreed to do a stand up comedy set for a meeting of the Northern Alliance Ushers & RP Group.  This is a get together of folk who have the same eye condition as myself along with those who have Usher’s syndrome – same condition but with added “bonus” of gradual loss of hearing.

I was wary of the trip. Partly because I could find myself in the company of people who speak an unusual form of English, but also because I wasn’t sure what to expect from a large crowd of people with such conditions (would the room be full of bods tuning pianos or weaving baskets?  I’m joking of course). To be fair, I was also anticipating quite a lively afternoon.

And, so it was. As I arrived, the pub function room was alive with conversation, laughter and the occasional bark coming from the front end of one or other of several guide dogs. I was struck by the upbeat nature of the people there.

During the afternoon however, I had a number of conversations with attendees and, actually felt quite saddened by a theme that applied to most of them. When asked whether they were working they said not. Now, was I dealing with what appeared to be people incapable or unwilling to work? From what I experienced – no way! These were bright, intelligent individuals who expressed a real desire to earn a living along with an intense frustration at currently being unable to find employment.

I mused to myself that having the burden of a disability can be massively exacerbated by difficulties in becoming as independent as possible through working.

At risk of sounding hackneyed, I found myself counting my own blessings. It appears that, being a visually impaired man in his late 50’s, earning and supporting a family is pretty much an exception rather than a rule. For that I remain grateful.

I’m also grateful I was invited up there to perform. And, how did the comedy set go? It seems it went down very well – my new friends in the north certainly know how to laugh. More than anything, I’m glad and relieved that a softy southerner like me was actually able to hack it!

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One Response to “My friends in the North”

  1. Reblogged this on Equalityedge's Blog and commented:
    I have previously re-blogged one of Chris Markiewicz’ blogs. His weekly offerings always make me think and challenge my perceptions and occasionally my prejudices too.

    This week, Chris has highlighted one of the social problems of our day: the employment of disabled people. There are at least 5 million disabled people of working age in the UK, of whom only 45% are actually working, compared to 75% of the total population. Which means disabled people are not fighting on a level playing field.

    What does this create – a culture of dependency and welfare; not what disable people want or need. Employers, it is time to address this issue – what would happen if a disabled person applied for a vacancy within your organisation. Would you give them an equal chance. Some would, most do not!


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