Saturday, 3 December 2016

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016

This year, as part of the events for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2016, the United Nations (UN) wants to look, amongst other areas, at the success or otherwise of the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD, which I shall abbreviate to UNCRPD).

If you have been following my blog, you are probably aware that the UN decided to investigate the United Kingdom for "grave and systematic violations" of UNCRPD, which they upheld.

According to the BBC:

UK welfare reforms have led to "grave and systematic violations" of disabled people's rights, a UN inquiry has said. [Link is to 22-page report from the UN's Committee in pdf format]

Changes to benefits "disproportionately affected" disabled people, the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons (CRPD) found. [7th November 2016]

The UK is the only country to have been investigated thus far, as the threshold for investigation is set very high and huge amounts of data and reports have to be amassed prior to any investigation even being considered. UK charities, think-tanks and disabled persons' organisations (DPOs), inter alia, submitted the required information, and continue to submit same for matters continue to pejorate for those of us with disabilities here in the UK. The UN's CRPD committee made several recommendations to the UK government. Lamentably, the Conservative, often referred to as Tory, government refused point-blank to accept a single one of them. The committee apparently will be reviewing the UK government's response in March 2017 at a meeting in Geneva.


 [Image description: © AltrinchamHQ's own image of the cobbles]

Another area the UN wants to look at this year is the accessibility or otherwise of the built environment, specifically in towns and cities. In the past couple of years my lovely hometown of Altrincham has undergone many changes to the built environment. Prior to commencing the works, residents and users of the town's facilities were asked to comment on planned changes. As a disabled person I put my concerns to the researchers and to the councillor-in-charge and enquired as to what account had been taken of disabled and/or elderly folks' needs, etc. The councillor failed to see any need to look into how all this might effect disabled folk (thus completely ignoring the requirements of UK disability legislation). I can no longer frequent one of my favourite eateries, The House Restaurant & Wine Bar as the ability to park close by has been removed (a loss of amenity). Despite making two freedom of information (FOI) requests, I never heard a dicky-bird. Alas I have long bouts of illness, which means I could not and cannot currently pursue this failure.

One of Altrincham's major stores is Marks & Spencer (M&S). The Council decided to remove the paving in front of the shop and along much of the main pedestrianised street and replace with a cobbled surface. Whilst not the traditional smooth-stoned cobbles, which can be lethal to traverse, they are small, rough-textured oblongs (see image above). I had to wait until this past Summer to try to walk on them, as much of the year I have to use my wheelchair. I find it very difficult to raise my legs when I "walk", rather I shuffle like many an elderly person. Alas, it is impossible to shuffle across the new cobbles. I can now no longer enter M&S under my own steam and independently. I actually moved from my former home in Sale to Altrincham to get away from a cobbled street upon which I kept falling. I wonder how many other disabled or elderly folk have reduced or stopped visiting the town?

 [Image description: screen-shot from AltrinchamHQ's faceboo page]

The organisation in charge of Altrincham's town-centre, AltrinchamHQ, could not even be bothered to respond to my comments (see above), despite replying to many others. This is the same town-centre with a multi-storey car-park with allocated disabled bays (fantastic) close by to the lifts (elevators) that transport one to the shopping level. Fabulous one might think? Except, between the parking-bays and the lifts are manually operated doors - not electric with a push-button to open them. So, one has to await an able-bodied person to come along to let one in. In short, tokenism towards those with impairments.

A further example of poor planning are pedestrian islands in the centre of roads built to such a stupid design that a person in a wheelchair or mobility-scooter cannot safely pass someone with a pram and similar.
In a nearby town, Knutsford, a recently constructed café was built without a lift to enable disabled or infirm or elderly folk to access the actual facilities, despite the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) having been passed in 1995! (This was replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act.)

No-one seems to ever bother to check real-world usage.

The UK planning system does not in fact expect local authorities to consider the needs and requirements of disabled folk. Rather, it is expected that disabled folk will take legal action once any building has been constructed. This to any sensible-minded person is farcical. However, the authorities rely on folk not taking legal action/s. Such has become much more difficult due to Legal Aid changes introduced by the former Conservative-led and current Conservative governments.


From my perspective, as a disabled person born and residing in England, the United Kingdom as a whole, is not currently a great place to be a person with disability. Great strides were taken in opening access to society prior to 2010, but since then the deterioration has been shockingly rapid.

The Centre for Welfare Reform attempted to do a cumulative impact assessment (cia) using all available data. They discovered:

For political reasons, the costs of this debt is primarily being paid by people in poverty, by disabled people and by other vulnerable groups. As we have explained:
People in poverty are targeted 5 times more than most other citizens
Disabled people are targeted 9 times more
People with the severest needs are targeted 19 times more

In other words the attacks by government on disabled folk are deliberate. And they continue…

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Language of Disability

The language used around disability is complex and can be nightmarish to traverse without causing someone offence. So stay chilled and just apologise if someone takes umbrage, without getting into justifications &/or arguments. That's my personal advice anyway.

I personally have no problem with calling myself crippled - by disease & by pain - or handicapped - in the context of "by society". I do not mind calling my impairments, disabilities. And when tweeting I often use - hear the overly-PC-brigade tusk - "disabled" rather than "disabled people" because I can use those six characters more usefully. I also regularly use the term disablies in an attempt to humanise us.

[Image description: the author in his wheelchair]

The name of my personal blog is Crippled, Queer, Anglo-European Ranter and hence my nom de plume, Criquaer.

The following article from The Guardian newspaper authored by professional comedienne Penny Pepper is well worth a reading.

We’ve had all the insults. Now we’re reclaiming the language of disability


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

The Kitchen Brasserie, Inverness: a Review

On this occasion, we flew up from Manchester to Inverness. The airline that flies the route is Flybe in conjunction with their partner airline Loganair. The in-flight magazine recommended just one restaurant in the city centre, The Mustard Seed. Chatting to fellow passengers, they too recommended it. Alas, even though we attempted to book during the afternoon, it was already booked up until 21.30. Not to be deterred, our Scottish chum apprised us that there is a sister restaurant called The Kitchen Brasserie (the link is to their facebook page as I have been unable to open their website).

The restaurant has been constructed in a modern architecture style, but is cleverly snuggled into the gap between traditional buildings by the River Ness (top image). Oddly, it does not look out of place. There are three storeys, but the ground floor is wheelchair-accessible with an immaculately clean disabled w.c. We were very fortunate to have been allocated the floor-to-ceiling window-bay table, so we had open views of the riverfront and passers-by. Additionally, we were snook round the corner form the main entrance, so were not blasted by any of the chilly winds. The décor is a cross between Scandic & industrial utilitarian: a great ambience for friends &/or family; probably not somewhere to dine for a romantic dinner for two.

There was no doubt about what we would be drinking as no-one needed to drive so we were all at liberty to consume: Prosecco it was then. The 2015 vintage produced by Cavit was delightful: not too dry nor sweet; plenty of bubbles without over-spuming; and, quite quite palatable. We collectively quaffed two bottles between the three of us prior to and during our meal.

Nary a scrap was left of our three starters (images above) on the plates/platters: always a good sign and an indication that the diner is very likely going to find something to their taste.

Our main courses (images above) were: rump steak & pepper sauce with chips; duck with parsnip purée (mine); and, pan-fried chicken on creamy mash. Again, nothing was returned to the kitchen save for dirty dishes.

Only my assistant & I opted for dessert. We decided to share a cranachan served with an 18 y.o. Tomatin malt whisky. Chef was even kind enough to share his recipe with me, which probably everyone who dines with us over the next few months will get to sample!

The bill came to a very reasonable £130, of which £50 was in relation to the wine. The cuisine is excellent. The service occasionally let itself down, probably due to it being a very busy evening; however, our main waitress, Drina, did her very best to keep us happy and every time she passed had a smile &/or a cheery word for us. Even the manager exchanged pleasantries and jokes whenever he passed by. A really affable ambience. We shall definitely be returning when next in Inverness. Recommended.

Rocpool, Inverness: a Review

My friends moved up from Manchester to Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland some five-and-a-half years ago. We have visited four times now and each time have paid at least one visit to Rocpool. Rocpool Restaurant, by the River Ness, on Ness Walk, was established in 2002 (and is not be confused with Rocpool Reserve Hotel and its restaurant on the Culduthel road).

One is always warmly welcomed, and I can personally confirm that the staff are child-friendly, having taken children along with us on two of our visits including the latest. Wheelchairs can be accommodated on the upper level, but one has to descend four steps to pay a visit to the w.c. I cannot state strongly enough that pre-booking is essential, for the restaurant quickly fills for both lunch and dinner sittings. We booked our luncheon a week in advance. When we arrived at 12.30 there was already a notice attached to the main entrance advising that the restaurant was booked out.

The rooms are immaculate, as are the glassware and cutlery. The furnishings & décor appear formal, with white tea-roses on each table. Noise levels, including background music, are fairly subdued - just perfect for nattering. The chairs/banquettes are comfortable enough for a couple of hours eating and socialising. Service throughout our meal was perfect: only there when needed, with no hovering; and, conversation was never interrupted. Our main waiter, Mark, (previously of The Dores Inn where I have also had the pleasure of dining) was completely professional and affable at the same time. A choice of waters was proffered once we had sat down prior to drinks orders being taken (we adults all plumbed for G&T's with rosemary sprig, ice, and orange wedge - see image below). And Mark ensured that none of my food contained garlic, so no allergic reaction. Much appreciated.

The lunch menu is a fixed £15.95 for starters & mains. The children did not have starters other than selecting some of the home-baked bread already on table, but tucked into their mains - but more on that later. We four adults all opted for a different dish (images below). All four plates were wiped clean. In other words - unless one is extremely finicky - one will find something to one's taste.

  "buffalo mozzarella salad with baby courgettes, broad
beans & spinach leaves dressed with fresh
lemon, mint & basil"
"parma ham & roasted butternut squash with manchego
cheese, toasted pine nuts & fresh
gremolata dressing"
 "cream of mushroom soup with truffle oil & parmesan"
"grilled king prawn with roasted red pepper cous cous,
chilli, ginger, coriander & citrus scented yoghurt"

For our mains, every adult and both children agreed upon the one dish, fish & chips. But, this being Rocpool, they were no ordinary f&c (image below). The firm flesh of the haddock fillets were enveloped in a light, crispy beer batter. The proper English-style chunky chips were crisp on the outside with a fluffy potato within. Petits pois had been crushed with fresh mint. Then to garnish was 'tartare sauce', but probably not as one knows it. The elements of the tartare sauce were each added separately to the plate: mayo, capers, gherkins and parsley. Just wonderful!

Our two friends decided they could fit in a dessert, my carer & I were stuffed. The male opted for plums with posset and the female for braised pears with iced-cream (images below).

Needless to say, nothing remained. I chose a double espresso and my assistant a cappuccino. Mine was the best cup of coffee I experienced in Inverness itself. The blend was smooth, mildly nutty and not too strong. Delicious.

We have never been disappointed or had any reason for complaint at Rocpool, so of course we shall return when next we are in Inverness. Highly recommended.

Monday, 17 October 2016

"El Classico" Tapas Restaurant, Tickhill: a Review

[Image descriptions: mural of the windmills of La Mancha, Spain, in the main dining area]

I reside in Cheshire and have some friends in Grimsby, Doncaster and Scunthorpe, none of which are places that might be termed trendy or even touristy. Normally my carer takes the motorways and we get there as quickly as possible. For my last visit across the Pennines on a lovely autumnal Saturday, we decided to take the scenic route to Sheffield and then onwards to Grimsby for a long weekend. The chosen route was expected to add an extra one to two hours, but we enjoyed the bucolic countryside between towns.

[Image descriptions: "El Classico" signage above the bar]

Hunger meant that we glanced at the atlas and decided to break for luncheon in Maltby. The latter was so dishevelled we did not even stop the car and continued on to the next town, Tickhill. And so glad we did so. Seeing a pub-sign ahead I advised my driver to pull in. There is ample parking to the rear of the pub cum tapas restaurant, El Classico. The name is Spanglish for the classic/el clásico.

[Image descriptions: left, drinks menu; right, tapas menu]

Inside are nooks & crannies, as in most traditional English pubs, but here filled with assorted dining furniture. However, after walking past the grand mock-Tudor bar, one enters a wide dining-hall prepared for large to intimate dining parties (see top image).

Our young waiter was immaculately attired in black shirt & slacks, Spanish waiter style, but soon gave the game away with his broad brogue that he was a local Yorkshireman. At all times throughout our meal, he was attentive, professional and personable. A genuine credit to the restaurant. The youngster explained how the eat-as-much-as-you-want system worked all for a fixed price. Drinks cost extra.

[Image descriptions: our first selection of tapas with beers]

Many of the tapas were comparatively small, more like the portion size of those served gratis in Spanish bars with one's drinks. However, the advantage is that one has space to sample other dishes - or more of the same if one so wishes.

Here I should note that the chef was more than happy to prepare dishes without garlic - to which I am seriously allergic. This is exactly what I find in Spain, where in some fourteen/fifteen years of visits, I have not once had an allergic reaction in eateries. Being a huge fish fan, I was absolutely delighted that chef was able to cook several fish dishes for me. All the delicious food served to my companion and myself was totally authentic, despite no actual Hispanics toiling in the kitchen. The tapas served are not haute cuisine - as found in many a Barcelona tapería, but the kind of healthy & tasty tapas found throughout Iberia.

I cannot say whether there is a disabled-accessible w.c., as on this occasion I was mobile and able to use the ordinary gents toilet. This was scrupulously clean and very spacious.

We intend to revisit El Classico, as it is in a good location, a sort of half-way house between chums, so friends can meet us there. Oh yummy!