I was building up a quite accidental following for my ramblings without any desire for fame until a certain FB page closed. Suddenly I felt that many people I had once been helping -or at least cheering with words that chimed in with their frustrations and feelings about current affairs- had essentially disappeared from my quite unintended readership.
To have my finger on any pulse or to be hitting the zeitgeist for even a few people out of 600 or so is quite an accolade for a one-time Conservative with one (or preferably both) wonky feet planted firmly in the dim and distant past of Shakespeare and Chaucer,and so I will admit that I enjoyed the feeling of being in the swim of things, even if to people outside disability circles I was still ‘out of work’ or ”not writing’ -a phrase familiar to any writer with family or friends – all of whom assume that unpublished means unwritten. After years of being told ‘no-one else feels like that’, ‘other disabled people don’t complain about things,’ ‘there’s no such thing as disability discrimination these days,’ or ‘you just want the attention’, other people would ‘like’ my posts or ask to guest blog or ‘tweet’ them.
Having very little computer ability and no-one to give me the access to the heady worlds beyond ‘FB’ not to mention that if I actually committed to a blog I would have to face my demons and risk showing the world my newly acquired dyslexia or worse a less than perfectly turned phrase, I created a skeleton WordPress blog named it, said ‘Hello World’ and then ‘bottled out’. I reasoned I could carry on giving my ramblings to a semi-permanent audience on Facebook.
Suddenly and without warning -in fact while I was taking some much needed time out to save having to take much longer if I overdid it completely – the plug was pulled and 600 people (more or less) found themselves without a ‘spiritual home’ or the back up, support and friendship network they had built up on one of the biggest Facebook pages to tackle the current welfare Issues head on and nurse people through the ordeal that is disability 21st century style.
Even if sometimes we had bickered like a band too long on the road, we’d all been in the same band, even if sometimes we were singing in different keys and from different sheets of music entirely or from different styles of playing, most of the time we knew where we were, who we were and possibly even where the next gig was, though certainly NOT where the petrol money was coming from. Some of us felt ourselves to be roadies and some groupies, but we all shared an interest in the band’s progress, it’s gigs, the health and families of its members (even if we never met them in person) and we were united in common hatred of the big corporate enemy that was trying to blast it off tour forever and leave us with no music at all.
All internal politics aside, my biggest worry was the number of people who would maybe have nowhere to go where they felt listened to, much as back in the bad old days before i had a computer I had assumed that no other disabled person felt as I did. Other groups (many and various) soon popped up to fill the gap but the sense of cohesion seemed lost.
And then one day, it happened. The band ‘s core decided it could get on without roadies or even groupies and that it only needed an audience and we were forced to make our own entertainment and work out how to play on battered instruments fro scratch ourselves. Still, we knew that the band played on out there somewhere even if gigs were no longer posted and heroes did not care that they’d lost their fan base or roadies. Some enterprising folk even went forward with tribute bands, new bands and new music so that the devil would not have all the best tunes.
That’s it with the musical tour analogy chaps.