Talking About Disability #2 – Using a Catheter

One of the difficulties I had when I was growing up with the medical conditions I had was that I never ever saw anybody talking about similar conditions.  I think this is partly my conditions are slightly unusual but also, because they affect my bladder and bowels, I think it’s still seen as a bit unseemly to talk about such things.  Going to the toilet is a very private matter and one that most people would rather not think about or talk about.  And, when you do, it inevitably ends up seeming very crude or very childish.

Which is all very well and good but it does me make me think there’s probably people out there who, like me, have to use a catheter to urinate due to their medical conditions but never ever hears anyone talking about using a catheter.  Similarly there are probably people who’ve seen me or someone else using one in public toilets and have questions but feel it’d be a bit wrong to ask them.

For both those reasons, I’d decided to record a short video of myself talking about using a catheter for anyone who is interested to watch.  Obviously, if you do find the idea of inserting a catheter into yourself unpleasant to think about or talk about, you might choose not to watch it!

Here it is if you do want to so though.  It was filmed and edited by Tom Mayne.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Talking About Disability

Talking About Disability #1 – Attitude Is Everything

Summer_Camp_Flyer_-_full_lineup

 

On March 26 my band, Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences, are playing at Club Attitude, run by the organisation Attitude is Everything.  It’s a gig I’m really looking forward to (and one you can get cheap tickets for by clicking this link).  It’s a utterly fantastic venue and I’m very excited about playing with Summer Camp and the Art Club but the main reason I’m looking forward to it is because Attitude is Everything are all about making gigs accessible for people with disabilities and hearing difficulties.

 

As a disabled person making music, this is a cause that’s very close to my heart, especially as my thoughts about my disabilities are something I wrestle with a lot.  My disabilities aren’t particular visible so I don’t ‘look’ disabled and how disabled I feel changes depending on where I am and what I’m doing.  I certainly feel a lot less disabled than I did when I was a child, a teenager or even my early twenties.  I rarely feel disabled at work, never feel disabled when I’m on stage, often feel disabled when I meet new people (especially when trying to chat up women!) and feel extremely disabled if I wake up with a hangover.  Ultimately I suppose it comes down to how much I feel I can or cannot do the things I want to do for health reasons.

 

When I was growing up, nobody really knew what the extent of my disabilities would actually be.  People seemed to assume the worst.  Shortly after I was born, my Dad’s work colleagues sent my parents a sympathy card, my local primary school didn’t want to take me as they thought I wouldn’t be able to cope in mainstream education and the worst case doctor’s scenario had me needing constant care for the rest of my life.  These aren’t things I tend to talk about these days but they’re very much there in my mind, especially in darker moments. I’m very grateful for the fact that my parents pushed very hard to keep me in mainstream education, get support from my school and to find ways that I could do pretty much anything that any other child could do.   Now that I’m an adult, I can pass for ‘normal’ and generally I do – certainly I’d guess there will be people reading this who know me but previously had absolutely no idea about any of this side of my life.

 

But nonetheless it’s still a big thing in my mind.  The effort I spent as a child and in my teens trying to get away with seeming normal took its toll psychologically and, even as an adult, there’s certain aspects of myself I’ve never quite come to terms with and quite possibly never ever will.  Disabilities tend to loom large in quite a few of the characters I create in my songs and I think that the struggle between trying to decide to appear to the outside world as ‘normal’ or be open about the fact you’re different is a recurring theme in my writing.

 

Up until now I’ve largely gone down the route of appearing ‘normal’.  For a few years now, I’ve thought about being more public about discussing my disabilities – and indeed when I first met with Attitude is Everything a couple of years ago, it was because I was thinking about entering into a public discussion about the experience of disabled musicians and fans in small venues and was going to start a blog where I shared experiences with other disabled musicians.  In the end, I refrained from doing this as I don’t really like labels as a general rule and I didn’t want myself or anyone else to wear one.

 

But it was a big thing for me during my childhood that there were few disabled role models around – and certainly not ones with the same conditions that I had – and I’ve always been aware of a certain contradiction that, on the one hand, I’d quite like to talk about my disability more, if only just to let young people know that disability need not be a barrier to achieving the things you want in life but, on the other hand, talking about it risks getting you pigeonholed as that disabled musician, which doesn’t really seem to remove any barriers at all.

 

But ultimately talking about disability and promoting disability awareness is important and worth doing – especially given that, as I said earlier, how disabled I feel depends on the extent to which I can or cannot do what I want to do, due to health reasons – if other people feel similar then it strikes me as a good reason to make any simple adjustments needed to help people feel they can do as much as possible.   So whilst the absolute last thing I want is to become preachy or be seen as ‘that disabled author’/‘that disabled musician’, I do want to start spending a bit of time on this blog taking more about my disabilities.

 

So what will I be doing?  I’ll be writing some articles and doing an interview of the Attitude is Everything website.  I’m also going to upload a couple of videos of me taking about my disabilities and the equipment I use and also a podcast of some of my songs that are influenced by disability and me talking about them. I’ll also be writing more articles about being a writer and musician and other stuff to avoid any risk of me just ‘banging on’ about being disabled but hope, if it is a subject that interests you, the articles’ll be useful and informative.  I’ll try to make them reasonably entertaining too!

Leave a comment

Filed under Talking About Disability

What happens next?

So Christmas is over and one presumes “Bad Santas…” sales will tail off for the next few months.  The promotion and so forth was all great but obviously I don’t want to be that guy who had a book out once so I’m now starting to plan what comes next.  And, if all comes together, it’ll hopefully be an exciting list.

 

For a start there’s this blog.  The Diary of a First-Time Author articles will continue (or more specifically, restart again!) soon and I’ll try to share more useful advice and information for aspiring authors.  I’m working on two writing projects (more on those later), two music projects (the Awkward Silences and the Count of Chateau Noir, who made the Festive Fifty of 2013 with our song After the Carnival) and possibly a couple of theatrical/performance art projects too.

 

It’s probably going to be a week or so until things settle down in January and the blog posts start appearing regularly again but I will be back soon…

Leave a comment

Filed under Paul Hawkins

“Bad Santas…” Advent Calendar Day 24 – Thomas Nast

 by Thomas Nast

 

Coca-Cola’s billboards might have spread the image we have for Santa Clays today but the person usually credited with creating it was Thomas Nast, the cartoonist at the influential Harper’s Weekly magazine in New York in the mid-late 19th Century.. Nast’s father was a Protestant from the traditionally Catholic German state of Bavaria who had fled to New York for political reasons when the boy was six years old. Nast’s drawings embodied both the way that old Catholic traditions of St Nicholas were being rapidly redesigned through Protestant eyes and the way that traditions stemming from fourteenth-century Europe were reborn for the society of nineteenth-century America.

Nast’s first image of the character that came to be embraced as Santa Claus appeared on the front cover of Harper’s Weekly in December 1862. It was the height of the Civil War and a low point for the North, who had suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Fredericksburg only a few weeks before Christmas. Nast was a fervent supporter of the war and the battle against slavery but drew an image to reflect his sadness at the separation and loss that the war caused in everyday families. Nast, who had spent time in England, may have been influenced by the way that Father Christmas had developed as an expression of sadness for lost Christmas traditions and hope for a better future. He drew a powerful, striking image of despair as a wife sits praying at her window whilst her children lie in bed. Many miles away sits a weary, ageing solider. He has the beard and rotund gait that was already familiar in the pictures of the Christmas Men and would soon be known around the world as Santa Claus. But, far from the joyful personification of Christmas, he slumps sadly with a letter in his hand. Even 150 years later, it is a moving and heartbreaking image of longing, hope and loss.

Minolta DSC

A year later, Nast drew the same figure again, this time clearly identifying him as Santa Claus. He dresses in a Unionist flag and hands out presents to soldiers who are separated from their families.

thomas-nast-santa-claus

After that, Nast continued to draw Santa for the next thirty years. Once the war was won he seemed to cheer up considerably and he gradually became the man we know and love today. Nast’s German roots meant that he was aware of European folk mythology and his residence in New York meant that he was also aware of the Clement Clarke Moore poem. Nast’s drawings were the point where European traditions and Irving’s and Moore’s writings came together to create something new.

St Nicholas was no longer an austere saint but a jolly toymaker. His assistants were no longer angry fearsome devils but friendly elves. He did not judge children but simply stored their hopes and wishes in a giant ledger. He liked food being left out for him but he was not going to punish anyone who failed to leave him an offering. Nast was also the first person to encourage children to write to Santa and to locate Santa Claus’s workshop at the North Pole. Nast’s grandson Thomas Nast St Hill speculates that the reason for this was the combination of a neutral location, so that Santa could not be appropriated as a political figure by any particular country, and the fact that the North Pole made it easy for Santa Claus to access both the United States and Europe – even at this time Santa’s status as a global gift-bringer was beginning to develop.

Nast helped put European folklore back into the heart of Santa Claus, albeit in a much nicer and more child-friendly form than it had ever appeared before. In doing so, he helped ease the way for Santa to supersede the same myths he had been inspired by. It was through his drawings that Santa Claus became generally accepted as wearing red.

12-thomas-nast-santa-claus-granger

 

“Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters” by Paul Hawkins is available now from Simon & Schuster.  The images above are all by Thomas Nast.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Bad Santas Advent Calendar

“Bad Santas…” Advent Calendar Day 23 – The Mysterious Disappearance of Diedrich Knickerbocker

Knickerbocker

+

NewYorkKnicks

+

Knickers1

+

coca-cola-christmas-santa

=

washington-irving

The story of Santa Claus starts, as every good story should, with the link between a missing historian, a famous dessert, a pair of women’s underwear and the New York professional basketball team.

The missing historian in question was the New York amateur historian Diedrich Knickerbocker. Knickerbocker was of Dutch ancestry and his major historical research project A History of New York, which was published in 1809, told the story of the early Dutch settlers to what was then New Amsterdam.

Knickerbocker himself had disappeared by the time of publishing. He had been staying in the Columbian Hotel in New York but had disappeared without paying. The manuscript for the book was found amongst his belongings and the landlord, keen to recoup his lost rent, decided to publish the book. Adverts were placed in the local newspapers trying to find Diedrich Knickerbocker but the mystery of his disappearance remained unsolved for many months. Even after the truth was discovered, Diedrich Knickerbocker was never seen again. To this day, his body has never been found.

Nonetheless, Knickerbocker’s research is significant as it shows the point where St Nicholas became Santa. He describes the Christmas traditions of the first Dutch settlers, the building of the Church of St Nicholas (the first church ever built in New York) and the place that St Nicholas’s Day took in the hearts of early New Yorkers. He explains how St Nicholas flew over the houses in a cart pulled by horses and would shimmy down chimneys to deliver gifts. Essentially the description was so vivid that Knickerbocker became the first man to chronicle the modern Santa Claus.

There were two very small problems with all of this. The first is that Diedrich Knickerbocker never actually existed. The second is that the ‘traditional celebrations’ he described were entirely fictional.

In actual fact Knickerbocker’s History of New York was an elaborate joke by the then-unknown writer Washington Irving, who would later become famous as the writer of ‘Rip Van Winkle’ and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. It was intended as a satire of stolid, worthy and pompous history books, and the debacle around Dietrich Knickerbocker was partly a joke and partly a publicity stunt that had several unexpected consequences.

Firstly, Diedrich Knickerbocker himself, for a man who never existed, turned out to be distinctly influential. The word Knickerbocker became a slang term for New Yorkers with Dutch ancestry and ultimately New York itself. The New York Knicks and the Knickerbocker Glory ice cream sundae both take their name from the fictional character. When the book was published in England, the illustrations were done by Charles Dickens’s illustrator – a man named George Cruikshank. Cruikshank’s drawings of old-style Dutch trousers resembled ladies undergarments of the day and ultimately led to female underwear being referred to as ‘knickers’.

Secondly, whilst Irving’s traditions of St Nicholas in New York were almost certainly invented by him on the spot, they turned out to be surprisingly popular. St Nicholas might not have been known to fly through the skies and climb down chimneys before Irving’s writings but he quickly gained a reputation for it.

Washington Irving’s influence on  Christmas does not end there. In 1819 and 1820 whilst living in England he published The Sketch Book, which included a series of stories set in a fictional country house named Bracebridge Hall that popularised English Christmas traditions of the past in America (and indeed in England too). Along with Charles Dickens, Irving’s writings did more than anyone to promote the idyllic traditional Christmas and set out the customs and traditions that form part of our ideal Christmas today. Much like Dickens’s Christmas stories, Washington Irving’s tales purported to capture the spirit of Christmas traditions of yesteryear but actually helped invent much of what we now think of as the ‘traditional’ Christmas. Although Irving had spent a lot of time at Aston Hall near Birmingham, he later admitted he never actually witnessed any of the Christmas traditions that he described.

“Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters” is available now from Simon and Schuster.  As far as I can establish, the image of Washington Irving  is by John Wesley Jarvis, the image of a Knickerblocker Glory comes from http://knickerbockersicecreamparlour.co.uk, the New York Knicks’ logo belongs to them and I took the image of women’s knickers from Wikipedia.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bad Santas Advent Calendar

“Bad Santas…” Advent Calendar Day 22 – The Coca-Cola Santa

J (chapter10 main illustration)

Contrary to popular mythology, Santa Claus was already popularly depicted in red before Coca-Cola began to use him in adverts in the 1930s.  But Coca-Cola and their illustrator Haddon Sundblom – did create an image of Santa which featured heavily on billboards every year from 1931 onwards for the next thirty years and is still in use today. The cumulative effect of this advertising meant that the image of Santa Claus – which previously varied from country to country and region to region finally became defined and inescapable and no other image was possible.  To children everywhere, The Coca-Cola figure was Santa Claus.

coca-cola-christmas-santa

Films too helped to sell the image.   By the middle of the twentieth century Santa Claus was a regular fixture in movies and regularly appeared as a guest character on TV shows.  L. Frank Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis all featured Father Christmas in stories and he was used in television adverts and posters to sell not just children’s toys and games but everything from shredded wheat and soap to fountain pens.

And some far more inappropriate things too.

He has been used to sell cigarettes:

camelsanta2Vintage Santa Claus Cigarette Ads (5)20060404093210

Alcohol too is one of Santa’s advertising pleasures. Obviously everyone knows that Santa enjoys a sly tot of whisky when he drops by with the presents, but children would doubtless be shocked by the 1934 advert for Byrrh wine where Santa sits on a rooftop, swigging from a bottle and looking half-dead from intoxication. A beautiful angel kneels beside him and it is unclear whether she is joining in the fun or reading him the last rites. The image is supposed to suggest merry seasonal drinking but looks more like an alcoholic at his lowest ebb.

38435

And what of the recent trend for Santa being used to sell sex? This too is old hat. A 1947 lingerie advert shows Santa cuddling up to a leggy blonde who is extremely keen to show off her purchases.

Sex, cigarettes and booze may paint Santa as a bit of a rogue but it is the gun adverts where it really gets disturbing.

GUN-AD-NOV25_59$T2eC16J,!zEE9s3!(HziBSE-1PkY7g~~60_1

Of course, it is unwise to jump to conclusions. Just because Santa is advocating guns doesn’t mean anyone is going to get hurt – except in the 1947 advert for Arrow shirts, which shows Santa aiming a gun into his own mouth ready to end it all in despair at the number of shirts he has to deliver due to the anticipated surge in Arrow’s sales.

38430

Merry Christmas folks!

Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters by Paul Hawkins is available now from Simon & Schuster.  The Illustration at the top is by Melissa Four and is taken from the book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bad Santas Advent Calendar

“Bad Santas” Advent Calendar Day 21 – The ‘Shit Log’

6 (chapter6_end illustraton)

 

Those of you who read my post about the Caganer might think that having a Christmas tradition based around defecation is slightly unusual. But how about having two Christmas traditions based around defecation? For the caganer is not the only scatological tradition that the Catalans enjoy. There is also the Tió de Nadal – a rather unique Catalan Christmas log.

In fact, the Tió de Nadal gives the phrase ‘Christmas log’ a whole new meaning. It is, as you might assume, a hollow piece of wood. Originally this would have been a simple log but these days it is commercially produced and often has a pair of forearms, a cartoon face and a traditional Catalan hat. The log sits in or near the fireplace from around 8 December and, rather than being burned on the fire like a normal log, it is covered with a blanket to keep it warm. Children are encouraged to be kind to the log and to feed it and treat it well. And children know they have to follow this instruction – for the Tió de Nadal is actually a highly unusual festive gift-giver and children know that the kindness they show to their festive log will lead to them being rewarded with presents.  So children offer food to the log, placing it on or underneath the blanket. By the next morning the parents have taken the food and the children find that it has ‘mysteriously’ disappeared.

Finally on Christmas Day – or sometimes Christmas Eve – the ceremony of the Tió de Nadal begins. The children are given a stick and are encouraged to beat the log repeatedly whilst singing the songs of Tió de Nadal, which crudely implore the log to excrete presents for the family.

The songs tend to have translations that involve slightly unusual language for a children’s ceremony.

For example:

Shit log, shit me a gift

Shit me turrón[1] and shit me sweets,

If you don’t shit well,

I’ll hit you with a stick, shit log!

 

Upon hearing the song, and being beaten repeatedly, the log will excrete one gift at a time. These are usually small treats such as sweets and chocolate that the parents have concealed inside the log or under the blanket. The adult reaches under the blanket and ‘finds’ what the Tió de Nadal has excreted. A great play is made of the effort the log has gone to in order to produce the gift and then the next child (if there is more than one) takes their turn to beat the log and chant for a gift to be ‘shat’ out. And so on and so on until there are a number of sweets and chocolates for the family to share.

The ceremony ends when the log no longer produces sweets but instead excretes something sharper – usually a herring or a bulb of garlic. This means the log has run dry for the year and the ceremony is over.

 

Bad Santas and Other Creepy Christmas Characters is available now from Simon & Schuster.  The Illustration above is by Melissa Four and is taken from the book.


[1] A Spanish delicacy that’s a bit like nougat.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bad Santas Advent Calendar