Minette Marrin, please shut up.

Special needs is a loaded term. It brings some fluffy connotations of cute, lovable and unchallenging kids, but for the most part it is an incredibly broad definition that encompasses pain, anxiety and uncertainty. And that’s just for carers. Those with special needs have a full spectrum of health issues that fate has cherrypicked for them to deal with. Then there are the ongoing social issues ranging from being ignored to being targetted for abuse.

But we band together as we can. The internet provides us with some wonderful connectivity and allows us, mostly the carers, to compare notes and feel part of a wider community. What doesn’t help is when somebody who’s technically inside the camp, someone with quite powerful influence through her high-profile newspaper column, ends up pissing all over us.

I have written about you before, Ms Marrin, but last year I had the time and patience to have a little fun. Twelve months on and I have neither the luxury nor the inclination for gentle ribbing. Your oppositional stances on this issue of intellectual disability are confusing and downright dangerous to a minority of people who need advocacy, not mixed signals.

You can write beautifully, and with touching insight. I wonder if this is because your younger sister was born with a mental handicap. Having a son with Ds certainly gives me an insight I would never be able to buy, and when you wrote this piece about the gifted singer Susan Boyle appearing on X Factor or whatever show it was, and the feeble-minded audience reaction to her, I sensed understanding in your DNA.

…the jeering audience of vain young people trying to catch the camera’s eye and the preening judges of this contest are the nasty boys and girls of fairy stories who mock the poor old lady because she is not young and beautiful, only to be punished when her real self is revealed. And their punishment is to be revealed as they truly are – heartless, thoughtless and superficial. They will grow old too, to be ignored in their turn, and then they will understand that appearances are not everything. And those who despise people who are not thin, not young, not beautiful and not cool will one day find themselves despised in exactly the same way, by people just like their younger selves.

But then you swing to some unforgiving default position as is your way, seen here in last week’s article in The Times. As if your special needs insight gives you the right to choose for all, you have decided that it all boils down to the cost of care workers, and what becomes of a child born to intellectually disabled parents. I’m not about to dismiss these as insignificant factors. They are not. But nor am I about to let them decide whether people we don’t know should be prevented from ever living. While you ponder the grubby cost, from the cosiness of Britain’s unimaginable wealth in the eyes of four fifths of the world’s population, let me direct you to the case of Kelly Fitzgerald, from New Zealand.

Go tell Kelly that a) costs; and b) a future that only your crystal ball seems capable of divining are the two reasons that you have for slamming the door on any idea of her being a parent. Have you seen the way that her mother gently ensures that Kelly doesn’t get any more credit than her siblings? Have you? She’s a stunning tower of virtuous equality, that woman, proud of all her children in an unfussed way, and you and I could both learn from her. Mostly you, though.

Another avenue you could learn from, Minette, is closer to home. Learn from the person who said that ‘Susan Boyle managed to rise above [the bullying and belittling sneers of the studio audience]. She found herself in church choirs and karaoke, restored and triumphant in music; it’s a story of the undefeated spirit.’ Learn from yourself. If you can sort out your own Jeckyl and Hyde handicap, Minette, and use that column of yours to advance the cause of life with the altruism you can sometimes show, you too can help to ‘break the grip of this sneering world’.

Otherwise find a more worthy opponent for your bias. Intellectually disabled people have enough to deal with.


Put the kettle on! There’s visitors!

Seems that while we’ve been blogging, Jacob and I, the cyberbell has been ringing and a neat queue has formed at the door. The lovely India Knight has linked to us at The Times Online and now we’ve been caught napping.


This blog hasn’t had a lick of paint in forever, Jacob’s been hopeless at encouraging me to post new info, he hasn’t written a sodding thing himself since he turned fourteen months last week and now we’ll really have to organise our shoddy categories so people can muddle around in a vaguely not lost way. And as if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, these aren’t even my best y-fronts.

Ach so what! This is us, you’re most welcome to our place and don’t worry about the snow on your boots.

Another idiot with a column

looks-like-we-got-us-some-readersThere we were, meself and the youngest the other day. Reading. And who should we chance upon but the lovely Minette Marin. She writes with the Times (the posh English one) and knows a thing or two about a thing or two. It’s worth having a look at her considered opinion of people with Down syndrome here. Worthwhile because she comes at it fresh from the novel viewpoint of not having Down syndrome herself, the staggeringly lucky gal. Anyway, I read her opinion and, bless her little head (below), she has it sussed. Not only that but she is funny. I’ve read it a couple of times now because when you get belly-aching humour like this:

columnist_marrin_25526aI am convinced that it is a grave misfortune for babies to be born with Down’s or any comparably serious syndrome.

well what else is there to do but laugh along and spread the infectious fun? Oh she be a hoot and no mistake, Auntie Gretchen. I probably wouldn’t blog about it at all, being drawn to the lazier end of the pool myself, but something this good deserves a wider audience in my community. I mean, the Times must have a paltry couple of million online readers, and more than anything that prompted me to help spread the message that Sharon started. She’s done a sight more on it than ole lazybones here will, but if even three or four hundred thousand of my regular readers can in turn blog about it, and the inherent humour in nuggets like:

columnist_marrin_25526aSad observations over decades have convinced me: a damaged baby is a damaged family, even now

well then Mimette’s brilliance can only help people like me and lots of you too. Now she has obviously not done this in some kind of fluffy, schmaltzy way either. She’s had people not like her for her opinions! I know you will be as shocked as I was. Listen to this:

columnist_marrin_25526aThere have been vicious attacks on me in the blogosphere by disability-lobby extremists.

How can people be so cruel? And I’ll wager that some of those vicious attacks were by scum in heavy tubular wheelchairs with those sticky-outy bits for their feet, BANGING RIGHT INTO POOR MINUETTE’S SHINS! I’m not going to let that kind of nonsense go unanswered, by God. Extremists! Attacking her! In the blogosphere! Of all places!! I got a basketball once in fifth year on the upper courts, whummpp right in the blogosphere, and I can tell you that even the memory of it now, seventy years later, brings tears to my eye. Bloody disability-lobby extremists. Nevertheless, sticks and stones and all that, but Minewt’s humour is unflappable. She bounces right back with a pithy creaser to leave not a dry seat in the house:

columnist_marrin_25526aMy point of view does not make me a heartless eugenicist.

Well, it made me laugh anyway. I can’t help it if you lot are slow, can I? But enough of the single entendres. It’s when she gets to the dirty talk that Minitwit really goes for broke. It also reveals the true genius of this towering colossus of forward thought. She sees things, she goes places that you and I, mental cripples that we are, cannot even dream about. And that’s the genius bit: she goes to these uncomfortable places, thinks these uncomfortable thoughts, and solves these uncomfortable problems for us. I’m beginning to think we should start to worship Mini-god instead of just laugh at her.

columnist_marrin_25526aWhat happens when the Down’s child becomes a teenager, interested in how he or she looks and keen to discover love and sex? It is all too predictable – a growing sense of sexual rejection. Any babies born will be taken away, probably rightly. It is heartrending.

Always back to the nookie. It’s almost as if she’s reaching back into my own teenage years growing up in rural Catholic Ireland and going to an all-boys school. And I can tell you, it can take months to get over that growing sense of sexual rejection. And somehow, she predicted it. In teenagers. The vision!  (She didn’t really say that bit about the babies being taken away. I, like, totally made that up. Except I didn’t. And she, uh, did. Quite rightly, of course.)

Ultimately though, and here’s what you all should’ve seen coming, it’s about the economy, stupid! Them Downs babies, as designer genes go, are reahhly, reahhhally expensive. Downer. Sorry for mentioning the r-word, but Mine-ette (French for little landmine, non, Nan P?) said it first:

columnist_marrin_25526aAt a time of recession, with social services understaffed and underfunded, there will be little money for social care. Even now there is nowhere near enough money to help everyone with learning disabilities lead a full and semi-independent life.

Of course it’s not all incisive cut-to-the-heart-of-it candour from our heroine. There’s the other, tiresome side of it. The pansies bloom too whenever Mintybreath’s sun shines. Dominic Lawson in the Independent warbles on, having a go at those poor, defenceless UK doctors who are trying their best – in difficult conditions, let me add, in difficult conditions – to save everyone from the scourge of Down syndrome. Sigh. We just have to have the lily-livered softies, don’t we? And reactionary nitwits like India Knight (name like that she must be a hippie, right?) are trying to bring love into the equation, like that’ll make up for the cost of having a relative with Downs. Puhleeze!

Anyway, I hope you’ll join my jolly crusade in trying to stamp this nonsense out. If you read through the responses to Minivan’s original article you’ll find lots of the ‘Well done, bravo, needed saying’ comments in there. They’re the ones who get it. The ones who remember when a mongoloid’s place was in the loft, not out affronting right-thinking people on the bus, for the love of Jesus! These sandal-wearing bloody Special Olympics crowd get right on my tits! So we’ll start the great row-back right now. Who’s with me?

jacob1Will we tell him or will you, Minette?

Postscript: Thanks Sharon for keeping an eye out. And you’d think I’d lighten up and get with this lovely seasonal WordPress snowfall, but it seems all the gobshites* come out in December too. So a kinda semi-mumbled apology for the heavy post, maan. Next one will have Bob Hope and Lou Abbot as guest bloggers. Or was it Lou Costello. Eh, we’ll dig up something.

*Dear non-Irish readers, you have just been initiated into Irish English’s greatest little gem of an insult. The harder you can stress the gob part of gobshite, the more you belittle your intended insultee. My Christmas gift to you. Use sparingly for maximum effect.