Sunday 1 July 2012

Netroots 2012 - Some thoughts

So Netroots was fun. Fun-fun-fun in fact.

I had forgotten to think about the logistics of getting there, which is just the sort of thing I do. On Thursday therefore, when it came to booking train tickets, I realised it would mean getting up at 5am to get to that big London and speak for 9.30. Clearly that wasn't going to happen. If it did, I would be an incomprehensible blob of stuttering exhaustion by the time I tried to open my mouth on stage.

But fear not, the chivalric order of the TUC swept in and booked me a nice hotel for the night before and took me for Chinese-food in Chinatown when I got there. There may even have been glasses of wine, but I couldn't possibly say. So many thanks to John Wood and Alen who were models of organisational skill and so attentive I felt spoilt.

The squidgable, adorable Mark Ferguson was there. He went a bit sad when he told me how he'd phoned Kaliya the day I had my op and was begging for help from recovery, how a friend had walked in and asked "What on earth's wrong with you" he looked so pale. He'd replied "I'm trying to save my friend's life. It's sobering to realise that if you blog, if you pledge to make corruption and incompetence public, others feel your pain and hurt when you hurt.

Netroots was a bit bit exciting! Packed with people, I soon met Matthew Smith (@indigojo_uk) Jamie Cartwright (epipsychidion86) Emma Round (@pseudodeviant) Jamie Robertson from Scope (jae2k1025) and Lisa Egan (@lisybabe)

It's sooooo odd to finally meet people you feel you "know" so well online but have never met in the flesh. Odd-diddly-odd-odd it is. Nice though - you get over the shock of faces that aren't quite the ones in your head quite soon.

Then it was time for my speech. I hadn't really prepared one - I never usually do. I just sort of stood up and told the Spartacus story - you know, the mess we were in for so long, how we decided to fight back, how we made Lord Fraud pooh his little pants - all of that stuff. I got a lovely long round of applause after, that made me blush and wave my hand in a stoppy-kind-of-awwwww-shucks way, but that just turned it into a slow hand clap of appreciation that made me sink into me chair and blush more. (Incidentally, Netroots, massive chair fail - they were sort of slanty downy and slippery, so my trousers-of-unknown-man-made-fibre kept making me slide off. Not very dignified.)

After my speech, I persuaded the disabled posse listed above to "bunk off" and get tea in the lobby to catch up. Matthew nobly took on the job of chief munchie gatherer and got us all delicious little jammy shortbreads from the Sainsbury's just down the road. It felt very nice for the guys in the wheelchairs and us others of indistinguishable disabilities to be the naughty kids. Somehow appropriate.

Then, I bunked off from bunking off and went for lunch with the incomparable Declan Gaffney (@djmgaffneyw4) author of the government busting statistical stuff from Spartacus Report. There may even have been glasses of wine, but I couldn't possibly say. Declan has taken it upon himself to provide unofficial PA support to Kaliya and I whenever we are in London and carried my bags, pushed me in a chair when it all got too much, escorted me all the way back to Victoria when the time came to go home and saw me safely on to the train. What a thing eh?

Anyway, we went back to the conference in time for the final session - lots of 5 minute segments on different ways to campaign effectively online, all rounded off with a barnstorming speech from Owen Jones. There was a race to the free bar after and much schmoozing - the bit everyone really goes to these things for. There may have been glasses of wine, but I couldn't possibly say.

I had an odd day. It's strange to walk into a very crowded room of people who all know who you are. It's slightly discombobulating to be "someone" when, clearly, in real life I am no-one at all, just me. It's peculiar to be a bit famous in my own lunch break.

Blogging gives you anonymity on the whole. None of the people I know in "real life" think of me as famous. But in the rarified atmosphere of a political conference, I'm constantly surprised by how many people know what we did, by the awe they treat "the disabled" with now. We are a force to be reckoned with my friends! We are seen as the indomitable; no longer the downtrodden. We are feted as the very model of kick-ass campaigners. People read our report and look at the amendments we won in the Lords and shake their heads in admiration. It's all very Alice in Wonderland. They listen to how we harnessed the might of the internet and they take notes!!!

Wriggling with discomfort, I deflected compliments with very poor grace.

My life has changed, I'm finding it awfully hard to comprehend. Spending, as I do, so much time tucked up in my pjs, blogging from bed, I'm not exactly sure who this other me is - she probably doesn't exist, but in the eyes of very many people she does - we do - and it takes some getting used to.


  1. Its nice to read that you had a good time

  2. There's a lot here you can't declare, but I cannot possibly say how pleased I am that there may or may not have been some fun-stuff-with-beverages involved without feeling too ill afterwards. Sounds a good time all round but also a bit of an eyeopener. And as the man said "The disabled are going to be in our faces from now on, and are not going away."

    No...we aren't. Hurrah!

  3. Sue, you ARE 'someone' of course. The best people are the ones whose egos don't get in the way.

  4. Goodness, Sue, haven't you yet realised just how many people are inspired by you (and Kaliya!). Without you both, the situation would have been so much more difficult for the disabled and their carers.

    So enjoy your memories of yesterday and remember - you earned every cheer and every clap the hard way. Through your own pain and difficulties, you have brought hope - and that is a wonderful thing to have done!

    Love and peace

  5. The government under-estimated the disabled. They failed to grasp that, for many, just getting through another excruciating day involves more raw courage than you'd ever be likely to find in generations of politicians. They thought they could scare the community with hardship, but what they fail to realise is that for many disabled folk hardship is just another day at the office. It looks bad still, very bad, but it ain't over till it's over :-)

  6. keep on keeping on Sue!

  7. Sue You are an inspiration, finding this blog gave me hope that things may change and I felt I was not alone with my ESA50.

    I just wonder who will eventually play you and Kailya in 'Diary of a Benefits Scrounger - The Movie!
    (The films 'On Expenses' and 'Made in Daganham' gave me the idea.) LOL

  8. So glad you had a fun time! :) Best wishes from Liverpool

  9. Sue, following your blog has become very important to me. Chronic illness is a lonely journey and I feel less alone when I read your words. I'm in the middle of another ESA appeal and trying not to let it make my condition even worse. Thank you for fighting on in spite of the toll it has taken on you. You are very courageous and a hero to me and many others.

  10. The difference is Sue,you go public,you gave up your anonymity for us.

    So pleased you had a good time.I could not do what you do.

  11. Thank you Sue. This post has cheered my day up no end.

  12. Thankyou, Sue.