Disability, climate change and community resillience.

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability Leave a Comment

Presentation at the Bristol ‘Untold Stories’ event: Arnolfini; July 27th 2019

In my last novel, CULL, published at the beginning of the year, I envisioned a dystopian ‘other England’ where life for disabled people was almost unbearable, where a bill had been passed to force the elderly and disabled into huge institutions and where the government was developing an experiment in state sponsored euthanasia as a cost cutting method.

It’s a blast!  No seriously!  I made it as funny and sexy and sharp as I could and it is, I hope, an exhilarating read BUT my research for it included real stories from our community, real experiences of abuse and isolation, fear and aggression from the last few years of welfare ‘reform’ as well as extended research into the Nazi T4Aktion programme of the 1930s.  I wrote CULL as a warning.  We are precariously close to the arse end of discrimination. It is a novel intended to shake the trees.

Although I must tell you this excellent novel is available in all good bookshops, including the bookshop downstairs, I am actually here today to start a discussion with you about another area of movement and change that needs our close attention.

Climate change.

We now know that climate change is a reality. Not only climate change but RADICAL climate change – protracted periods of heat and cold, storms, hurricanes, drought and flood – mass migration.

Possibly, hopefully, we are beginning to finally wake up to this. Extinction rebellion, Greta Thunberg, and we as disabled people need to leap right into the centre of this potential upheaval. Why?

Because if we don’t get in on this, we might die. Simples.

In May last year Marsha Saxton and Alex Ghenis from the World Institute on Disability wrote:

The clear evidence from past and current natural disasters and refugee situations shows that people with disabilities have a lower survival rate than those without disabilities, and may even be neglected or left to die. Photo journalism showing the impact of Hurricane Katrina in the southeast U.S. in 2005 documented this with tragic photos of dead people in wheelchairs as crowds of other displaced people streamed by.

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina’s death toll was 1,836 people. Old age was a contributing factor. Of those who died, 71% were 60 years or older. Half of them were 75 or more. There were 68 in nursing homes, possibly abandoned by their caretakers. Two hundred bodies went unclaimed. Over 700 people were unaccounted for. The storm killed or made homeless 600,000 pets

A key issue was poverty. Poorer people could not afford to evacuate. And, in America, as in UK – as all around the world –  disability and poverty often share a bed.

My April Rebellion: The CULL Launch Film!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Film, Guide Dogs 1 Comment

Rebellion against April’s hostile environments

A lean black labrador sits looking directly into the camera wearing a bright red towling cape.

I is ready!

Brexit extensions and Extinction Rebellions and here we are in April, ducking between showers, whooping at the sight of cherry blossom and grinning up into the lighter evenings. It’s a crazy time, but at least one can feel the coming of summer. I must believe that the days will lighten further and Mitzie is convinced of it! The delightful Mitzie is now six-months into her tenure and is proving a real superhero! There are still a couple teeny things… like the fact that she loves going out but isn’t that interested in going home again…  but I was like that at her age so I forgive!

In the darkness though, more death and despair is being caused by the current welfare system. Several suicides in the press since I last posted, including that of Jodey Whiting. Jodey, a mother and daughter, was informed she had missed an appointment and had been, in her absence, found ‘fit-for-work’. This in spite of her severe disabilities including a recent cyst on the brain.

Last week we were told of the horrific and obviously DWP-related death of Stephen Smith. Stephen had been found ‘fit-for-work’ whilst being so disabled he was unable to get to the kitchen to feed himself. At the time of his assessment, he had weighed only six-stone and had not been able to sit up straight. And all this still causes barely a ripple of outrage in the press and wider society even though the DWP were found culpable.

This is a hostile environment …a murderous one.  How hard it is to keep from giving up…but we mustn’t. We mustn’t.

Oh, What A Night!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Guide Dogs, Uncategorized, Visual Impairment, Writing 2 Comments

My Mum was over from France which was lucky.

‘How does this look?’ I asked, feeling 15 years old. My eyes are still  bit blurry but I also have NO fashion sense!

‘Emmm… it’s ‘nice”, said Mum with a worried expression. My heart plummeted.

Several piles of the novel CULL on a table.

Books!

You see my Mum can’t lie about things like this. Her using the word ‘nice’ is like a surgeon using the word, ‘hopeful’.  Not something you want to hear a few minutes before the op. I had to change.

‘Do you have less shiny trousers? A different top? ‘ She was trying to be helpful. I tipped out my laundry basket but with a feeling of savage hopelessness. The shiny trousers were clean. The others were not just stinky (we can use perfume for that) but muddy. Blinking dog walking.

I had to think fast. There was One Last Thing- a posh black cardigan I had never worn out before.  One of those things you bought because it looked lovely on the model but doesn’t really cleve to your life-style.  But now…?  I threw it on and amazingly Mum’s face brightened.  AND it worked with my blue sports bra. Seriously! And the shiny trousers. And the green-blue hair. Oh…did I forget to mention that? (Karen Silk – hairdresser extrordinaire!)

And just like my outfit, the entire evening came together because of other people helping, supporting, directing and saying ‘yes’ to just  taking part!  It was smashing!

By the time i got to the Town Hall, Bill and team had already begun hanging up the names from Callum’s List and the Black Triangle Campaign and ‘shop-a-scounger’ posters designed by the brilliant Mr. Ogg. The wheelchair was upside-down in the entrance and hemmed off by police tape. And Trish, who was directing the whole thing, had added that extra grisly touch – a bunch of flowers laid by the wheelchair’s side.

Charley B had been setting out the seating with the help of Steve, Rachael, Jane T, Jane D and Heidi and were prepping for their staring roles as dramatic readers- they were, with Paul and Phoebe the profressional actors, going to help bring the novel to life through the three dramatic readings.

Praminda, our frankly brilliant robot engineer, was working with on the tech and Louise from Cakeophony staggered in, barely able to hold up the huge and gorgeous CULL cake!  Janet and Helen from Corsham Bookshop and the lovely PGR rep arrived with the booze and books (such a wonderful combination) and we had a quick run through and…

Grace.

Grace arrived.

And then the evening kicked off with Miro Griffiths MBE, Esther Fox from Accentuate and D4D, a mini flash mob, those readings and a Q and A. book signings, very brief pub visit and home.

A view from the back of a large room with high ceilings and aerched windows. Lots of people are seated facing a large screen with CULL writtin on it and a woman behind a lectern facing and talking to the crowd.

A packed Town Hall!

I realise that none of this would make sense if you were not there! But please don’t worry!  We have got some footage of the evening and will be sharing it with you soon!

And know that we sold 55 copies of the novel that night and the very next morning, a woman strode into the bookshop and demanded 11 more for her friends. as she thought the message was so important! Onwards!

A very large cake with the CULL novel cover design on it in black and red with a 3d black dog in sugar fondant and a guide dog harness.

CULL cake!

 

Countdown to Launch!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, photography, Visual Impairment, Writing Leave a Comment

Okay, I reckon there is still time.

It is Tuesday night and the launch is on Friday. If I don’t eat, do fifty lunges, 100 press-ups and a thousand

A woman lies on her back with a plastic eye shield over her right eye. She is looking pensively to the left with just her face and hair on the pillow in shot.

Captain Plastic

stretches each hour, I can probably lose the weight and gain the two inches that I feel I need to face the public. I don’t see any real problem with this…apart from the eye thing. Ah…

You see I had cataract surgery two weeks ago and am not supposed to do too much bending, heavy lifting or jumping up and down. I shall blame my current state of podge on that then.  ‘Oh this, I shall say whipping up my blouse to expose my shivering pale expanse of belly to the gathered crowds. ‘This is the fault of Bristol Eye Hospital. I would have been whippet-like by now if it hadn’t been for those pesky ophthalmologists. ‘

The good thing is I get to wear the cyber punk-tastic plastic eye piece when travelling or sleeping. I asked if I could have a plastic cyber punk parrot to go with it but I think they thought that was just the effect of the sedation post-surgery.

It wasn’t.

I am nervous. Can you tell?

However, I have got the most incredible team of lunatic volunteers to help put on a bit of a show. Bill and Trish from this incredible organisation https://www.makebelievearts.co.uk/  are helping along with friends and family.

A man with blonde heair stands miling and holding an A2 size poster up against a wall. The poster ihas a red background and a strong black and white design on it with the words 'Shop a Scrounger' emblazoned. And look what Colin designed for the entrance?! They are the ‘Shop a scrounger’ posters from the first half of my novel.  He researched Nazi propaganda and the design resonates and is absolutely chilling!

So, come if you can and if you can’t, watch this space as we are having a short film made and will stick it up on this here website!  And if you ask nicely, I might even post you a bit of cake!

 

CULL Book Launch! Celebrate with Me!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Guide Dogs, Writing Leave a Comment

Three years, a PhD, a myriad rejections, eventually an excited agent, an amazing publisher and a torrent of support, encouragement and kicking up the arse and LOOK what happened!

Book Cover of Cull by Tanvir Bush with Front, Back and Spine. Colours are black text with red highlights on cream background. The C of the title Cull acts as a seat for a red stick figure, calling to mind the disability symbol of a wheelchair user.

CULL has been born and you are all welcome to the party!

I have so much to tell you but just for the moment, I wanted to let you know that, as of January 2019, the novel CULL is in the shops, thanks to YOU!

Your official invitation to the CULL Book Launch:

Tanvir Bush published Cull via award-winning crowdfunding publisher Unbound in January 2019.

In association with Unbound and The Corsham Bookshop, Tanvir now invites you to the launch of her new novel Cull at Town Hall, High St, Corsham, on 22 February 2019 in Corsham, UK, 7-9pm.
Assistance dogs welcome!

RSVP to:
Corsham bookshop — info@corshambookshop.co.uk — 01249 715988
or to: Dr Tanvir Bush

The official Cull book launch invitation has Launch info in white against a background image of an alert black labrador in guide dog harness gazing across a blue-and-white "police line do not cross" barrier tape in front of a green hedge.

Grace, CULL and the End (of 2017, that is)!

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Guide Dogs, Visual Impairment, Writing Leave a Comment

I have been out-calendared.

A middle aged woman in a green raincoat with brown hair is sitting to the left of the frame leaning down over a black and tan lab/retriever cross with a toy in it's mouth.

Hello Gracie!

Seriously. Here is me handing over a pretty (perchance a little dull) South West Guide Dog Association calendar to Grace’s new family for Christmas. ‘Grace is Ms December!’ I twinkle smugly.

‘Ahh, that’s lovely!’, they reply, handing me a calendar they have made themselves. On their shiny calendar, EVERY month is Grace month!!! Grace, and Max her new buddy, Grace with all the balls, Grace camping, Grace eating Grace, Grace…!

‘Holy Bonio, Grace,’ I hiss. ‘How did you pull this off?’

She grins widely and winks, going back to demurely ripping the Xmas paper off the carrot I have bought her on this my first visit to see her since August.

A black and tan lab/ retireiver cross's face fills the frame, eyebrows light brown and a toy in her mouth.

Hugely noble. me!

I can safely say that Grace is VERY happy with her new pack. She is currently doing the Noble Retired Guide (Diva) Dog and it seems to me the whole village has been taken in…I mean taken to her!  She has been on more adventures in the last few months than I can list and has made an enormous number of new buddies, human, horse, canine, chicken. And she is cherished.

It is time for me to move on.

But it is tough going. There is no news of another guide dog yet although I am high up on the list and so I continue without that interface between me and the world. I don’t have my Grace walking a little ahead, ice breaking, charming, guiding, disarming. I feel armour-less, a little raw.

Having said that I am enjoying the freedom from dog shit. Oh yes, siree! I still have poo bags in every pocket but I don’t need ‘em. All the dog towels are washed, some even folded in drawers. I have thrown away all the half-chewed toys. I keep her blanket though and sniff it every now and then when I am in need of the honey smoke smell of her ears.

It is 2018 tomorrow and the wonderful Unbound development editor has sent me back some cracking notes on CULL. The next three weeks will see me grapple with some style choices and fiddly but essential re-writes; the button-hole stitching and hemming to ensure the novel holds together in all weathers!

A middle aged woman with brown hair and a green rain coat is looking, smiling into the camera.

Here’s to the New Year!!

So, dear friends, a huge thank you for all your kindness, support and encouragement through what was for me, and perhaps you too, a particularly rambunctious year!

Have a wonderful start to this next one and I will be in touch again very soon!

Got Milk?

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, photography, Poetry Leave a Comment

Hello you lovely lot,

A beautiful and delicate cup and saucer are in the centre of the frame. the cup is full of dark coffee and there are two fingers of shortbread on the saucer. Are you well?  Many apologies for the long wait between updates but got a lot to tell you.  Need a coffee before we start? Milk? I’ll put the kettle on if you get the biscuits.

Okay, here is the dish.

The CULL special edition is going to be with you, the supporters, before Dec 2018 and the trade version out into the shops for around January 2019.

We are fully funded so what happens now…?

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Guide Dogs, Writing Leave a Comment

CULL is fully funded so what happens next?

An very thick A4 sized thesis bound with black along the spine and with clear acetate over the title page.

The original tome with added thesis!

The first thing I have to do is reread my original manuscript. It’s been several months since I did this and so it seems fresher with all rot, blots, clutter and shoddy bits now fully exposed. It’s my job to prune, clip, zapp and add compost. I have promised this will be done by 20th September, whereupon I shall send it post-haste to the Unbound production team in London. They will read said manuscript and get back to my agent and I with a plan for final editing, design, proofs and eventually printing and potential launch dates. Right now I have absolutely no idea on the timescale but will let you know as things progress.

I am editing slowly but enjoying it. Indeed, I had some fun tweaking a sex scene today, adding back the line ‘…more potential cystitis than sensation…’. 50 Shades it ain’t.

In other news, I am still dog-less and rather lost without my honey, Grace.  I have received wonderful snaps of her having a fabulous time on various holiday trips with her lovely new family which makes me feel much better but I am still waking with the cold sweats in the dead of night worrying that she thinks I abandoned her.

Beware of VI hiker!

During the day, I keep busy and try not to dwell. In between editing and waiting to hear about associate lecturing work, I have started doing rather fool-hardy and exhilarating hikes on my own around Corsham and out into the country-side. I take risks I would never do with a guide dog: ducking under fallen trees, clambering over bramble covered stiles and wading through thigh-high nettles, using my cane as a walking stick, weapon and depth detector for gullies.  This is not just me losing the plot. I am actually in semi-training for the Bath SkyLine walk to raise money for Julian House on the 25th September. Twenty miles with short legs and flat feet?  It will be a doddle, surely? Worth it though for such a great organisation!

Creating literary medicine from Nazi poison

Tanvir Naomi Bush Cull, Disability, Writing 3 Comments

I write this to celebrate the wonderful news that we have hit 91%

…and have 207 beautiful, brave, clearly remarkably intelligent and compassionate supporters. I want to thank you with all my heart!

I also write this because it is the 21st August and Deaf and Disability organisations from across the United Kingdom will today highlight the Government’s ongoing human rights violations and evasive behaviour towards a major United Nations committee.

This is happening today because the UK government has to date ignored all questions, recommendations and reports about the grave and systematic abuse of the rights of disabled people put forward by the United Nations and other bodies.  Their apparent refusal to acknowledge our human rights is frightening – more so when we see swastikas being waved openly in America and fascism rising across Europe.  As disabled people, we cannot help but feel under attack. We are reminded of the Nazi’s destruction of their own deaf and disabled community,  T4 Aktion Plans.

I wrote CULL as a way to counter the fear and importantly, to make some noise!

I do NOT believe that people would condone the mistreatment of deaf and disabled people if they first knew about it and secondly understood how it felt.

I have talked before about my use of plot and humour in crafting the novel but, and in view of all this grimness, I want to tell you another key secret behind CULL’s construction. Initially for authenticity and then also for characters and motivation, I extensively researched the T4 Aktion Plans perpetrated by the Nazis. From forced sterilization programmes, Hitler moved to killing of disabled children in 1939 (5000 suffocated, tortured, starved, poisoned and gassed by 1940) before moving on to disabled adults. An aggressive propaganda programme made it possible hardening society to the ‘useless eaters’, the ‘parasites;, or , as Ian Duncan Smith would call us in 2010, the ‘economically unviable.’