I turned 41 last weekend. Usually when I endure another birthday I post something that I hope will be reflective and thought provoking but which invariably ends up being negative and depressing. I'll do ny best to keep this one on the rails.
There are a few things to reflect on in the six days since my forty-first birthday. I'm not sure which are the most important so we'll just take them chronologically in the order they happened. With that, it is my duty to report that I spent what can only be described as a fuckload of money on the fat end of a new wardrobe. Some time during one particularly deflating day at work I decided that just because I am a biff I don't have to keep dressing like a biff. And so it was that after taking advice in a quite lengthy text exchange with Alex, my similarly-aged but much more fashion conscious cousin, Emma and I forfeited the delights of another Sky Super Sunday and went shopping in Trafford instead.
Without going into the details of the prices I bought two fairly expensive jackets, a stupidly expensive Hugo Boss jumper, a pair of ludicrously priced Kurt Geiger shoes (didn't he have a couple of hits in the 90s, or was that Curtis Steigers?) and rounded it all off with a few more modestly priced jumpers and tee-shirts. But something a little different from the Burtons and Next fair I normally sport.
Now predictably I took a lot of stick for this at work. How they all laughed as I sat there at my desk in my smart new jacket and dark t-shirt looking like a biffy James Cordon. And of course there have been those who have claimed that I have some kind of ulterior motive. One of Emma's friends at work jokingly suggested that I must have another woman. While I don't have time for the latter the former is also wide of the mark. I just wanted to feel better. I've not been feeling very good about myself at all. So much so that I succumbed to the beginnings of another water infection and took two days off work. Normally I wait until they get really bad before I take the knock from work but I was feeling about as depressed as I can remember feeling for quite some time. So I did something to help me feel better about myself. No ulterior motives, no affairs, no delusions of grandeur that I could suddenly turn into David Beckham. I'm well aware that you can't polish a turd. But you can roll it in glitter. So I did and it worked, to a point. I'm not feeling great today (but then I'm wearing a Burtons jumper) but over the last fortnight I have felt significantly better about myself. You can't put a price on that but if you could you'd probably argue that it's worth more than say......a tattoo...
Fast forward to Monday just gone, two days into ny 42nd year on Planet Earth. Despite this level of physical maturity (I'm starting to get nose hair. I've got more hair under my nose than I have on my fucking head) I still managed to fall out of my chair in the street again. I was just coming out of the cafe across the road from work having had my sausage and egg on toast. I go there for a bit of peace and quiet at lunchtime. It's usually quiet because it's expensive and so the students can't afford to go there. Those that are there are besuited legal types who probably work at the family courts next door. At least after my episode of what women call retail therapy I'm no longer the scruffiest dressed person in there.
Anyway, as I left I inexplicably hit the sharp end of a grid in the pavement outside. My chair tipped forward in slow motion and I knew, despite my best attempts to prevent it, that my expensively dressed arse was about to part company with my wheelchair. The next thing I knew I was sat on the floor watching a woman run after my chair as it rolled away on the sloped pavement. She was talking on her mobile at the same time, and her expression was one of part horror and part amusement. You can't blame her. It is kind of funny when a disabled person falls out of his chair on the street. Especially if he's checking to see if his expensive shoes are scuffed instead of trying to get back in his chair. Incidentally, those who don't think it was worth spending a little extra on shoes might be interested to note that they didn't fall off despite my tumble. My old shoes, which I bought from ASDA for £8.00, would fall off whenever I got out of my chair for any reason, deliberate or accidental.
Eventually I assured the woman that I was ok and that I'd be able to get back in the chair without further incident. Even then though it took three attempts for me to make good on my promise. Not because I was too drunk as happened one afternoon last week when I went for a post-work pint with a couple of colleagues, but because the brakes on the chair aren't great and I wasn't within reach of anything to lean it against for leverage. Regardless, I eventually resumed my seat, dusted myself off and pushed back to work as noncholantly as one can in that situation. I never told any of my colleagues and they will only ever find out if one of them reads this piece.
Finally today let's talk a little bit about Ched Evans. The footballer convicted of rape has today been found not guilty at his retrial. Now I can accept that. Due process and all that. Yet I can't help but feel a little dismayed at some of the nonsense posted on social media in response to the new verdict. Terms like 'liar' and 'slag' are being liberally bandied about on social media to describe the alleged victim. For some it is black and white. If he's not guilty he must be innocent and she must be a liar. No. Just no. Fewer than 6% of rape allegations end with a conviction. Are we suggesting therefore that over 93% of claimants are lying? That doesn't seem all that likely to me. Furthermore, the 'new' evidence which prompted the retrial came from former sexual partners of the alleged victim, who described intimate details of her sexual behaviour clearly aimed at portraying her in a certain light.
Now, there is legislation supposedly in place to prevent this sort of thing. It's designed to protect potential victims who might hesitate to come forward if they think that the details of their sex lives will be aired in court. Yet somehow the priviliged Evans has been allowed to flout this legislation in his ultimately successful attempts to clear his name. Why? I'm not saying that Evans did what he was accused of. I'm saying that just because it hasn't been proven today it doesn't necessarily follow that the alleged victim was making it all up. We all have to accept the verdict of the court, with some posters even asking for apologies from those who shunned Evans following his original conviction, among them recently retired Olympic golden girl Jess Ennis. Yet it is interesting to see those people asking for full respect to be given to the court's decision now when they weren't totally on board with that concept at the time of the original verdict.
The truth is we don't really know what happened. And though I'm not asking for Evans to be thrown back in the slammer I do think we should be less judgemental about the victim and just let everyone involved in the whole sorry affair get on with their lives.