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I said I'd try to get around to writing up some details of the museum thing before I forget them all, and I've got a little bit of time and energy before my day starts getting hectic, so!

This is very long. )
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I mailed off my passport application first thing this morning, which was stressful because again being me I can't do anything in quite the standard way so I was a nuisance at the post office this morning. And I had to run through a torrential downpour to get there; some of the things inside my bag were soaked (though my application/passport/naturalization certificate seemed okay thankfully).

Then I went to the first proper meeting of my new volunteering gig, which is basically being a consultant on some new tech for accessibility to visually impaired people. I met the fellow blind girl they have doing this, too, who's 22 and honestly reminds me a lot of myself at 22. Which is awesome but makes me feel old. We had a great time but when I checked the time not long before we left I couldn't believe I'd been there almost three hours.

But it caught up with me, trying out a whole new-to-me haptic interface, giving feedback on it to sighted people, and then running a turned-out-to-be-futile errand across the street (the benefits of volunteering with a museum that's part of your new university! well, it'd feel more like a benefit if it hadn't ended up being futile, but never mind) meant I was so tired by the time I got home that Andrew worried something was wrong with me.

I'll try to write more about the details later, because it's super-interesting, but have I done enough to justify a nap first?
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I've had a better week this week anyway, but it's also been a busier one.

Monday and Tuesday I got a lot of stuff done around the house: caught up with everything that I let slide over the weekend while I was away and the week or so before when my mental health had been too bad. We're at only normal levels of disorganized and cluttered now, and while it's kind of sad that feels like an achievement, at least it's an achievement.

Tuesday I got a key and directions for feeding a friend's cats while she was away for a couple of days. She kindly paid me very generously for this, which was completely unexpected but so nice. I was worried I'd forget but I didn't! Even managed to feed them at about their usual times, except it was a bit later this morning because I slept badly last night.

Yesterday I had a meeting of the VI steering group I'm no longer running. The team manager who gets paid for it is sorting out the meeting dates and telling everyone about them, which honestly I think works better anyway. I feel bad I'm not doing it, especially since I'm interested in other volunteering things -- at this meeting I met someone from the Disabled People's Access Group who says I'd be good to join in some other stuff she does that did sound interesting to me.

On my bus ride there, I got to hear the finished product of a great fanfic audio story that I did one of the voices for. I wasn't too cringeworthy and the story turned out great. I really hope there are more stories in the series, partly because it'd be fun to play my one again, partly just because I want to see what happens.

Yesterday Andrew also got further in applying me for this university course; he actually talked to the clearing people. They asked for a scan of my high school diploma, which since it's at my parents' I was worried would be quite a challenge, but my dad's e-mailed it over this evening and said it was easy. Well done, clever parents!

This morning I had another meeting about a totally different volunteer thing. It's at Manchester Museum, involves some really cool technology and senior people who are very keen to get the expertise of visually impaired people. I am super excited. That probably won't start for a month at least, so at exactly the same time as Lib Dem Conf and this uni course if I get on it and so I am sure that will be fine. No really, I will make it all work.

And this afternoon my friend Mary was in town, which I hadn't known about until a couple of days ago. She's usually near Norwich so this is quite remarkable. I hadn't seen her in more than a year, since the weekend of falling in the river in Oxford (sadly you can't see the pictures right now; I still need to figure out how to get them off Photobucket and to somewhere useful). A train derailment (not hers!) meant she got in a bit later than planned but we still had time to rush around finding somewhere still open where she could buy euros for her trip to Ireland tomorrow and have dinner in a pub. Battered halloumi and chips for both of us (but I swapped my chips for sweet potato fries because sweet potatoes are great and regular potatoes are not). She'd never had halloumi like that before! We bitched about politics and she taught me some Irish words (I will probably forget them again, like I did last time, except not the one for "penis" because it has a joke as a mneomic device).

Saturday is the "Bi Takeover for Pride" event at the LGBT Foundation, which honestly I am treating like another bit of BiCon, down to going along to see people I know who are going as much as I'm there for any of the workshops. So that should be nice.

So yeah. Good week. Glad to know they're still possible.
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Andrew must think WI committee meetings are four hours long; I always stay for "just a quick drink" after...
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Yesterday I was on local radio with a couple of my fellow WI members talking about what we're up to (especially an event we're proud to have gotten funding to do as part of Transport for Greater Manchester's Women on Wheels initiative in March.

Then I caught up with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, who's also on the WI committee so that's one of the things we chatted about.

Then it was our WI committee meeting that evening. And then I stayed on after with a few of the others to have another drink and talk about all sorts of lovely things and stay out until other people's spouses texted them to ask what on earth had happened to them or to say that they'd gone to bed.

So I suppose it's no surprise after a day like that I ended up dreaming about the WI!
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Finally got the last of the unpacking done. I've never left it as long as this! A week and a half.

It's not hard work -- I just folded and (mostly) put away a load of laundry with about as much difficulty -- except that it's hard emotional labor.

New stuff. And we don't need more stuff.

There's nowhere to put what we already had.

I need a better system.

I need fewer t-shirts.

And sweaters.

I need Andrew to tell me which clothes he doesn't wear any more.

It's hard to get rid of stuff my parents got me, though. There is so little of them in my life as it is.

But... Some of what they've given me is control-top tights and I'm never gonna wear those; I've got tights that actually fit and aren't trying to make me into a different person!

I'd sort of like to be a different person in other ways, though. I'm angry so much of the time lately, which is so weird for me so it's disconcerting too.

I'm connumicating badly, to the extent it might've cost me one of my volunteering roles -- something that's still too stressful to think about enough to write it, but suffice it to say it's the one I'll miss least.

It'd be a relief not to be doing it except I don't know what's gonna happen with that thing now and I do really want it to happen, and because I think I was unfairly maligned which hurts my pride but honestly pride is pretty far down on the list of things I get to worry about.
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Can't remember if I've mentioned this here, but I'm regional lead for One Day Without Us, the immigrant strike/day of action planned for February.

I volunteered for this in the usual way, by asking on Twitter if anything was happening in Manchester back when they were trying to encourage various regional groups to start. And the answer was basically "no, do you want to?"

And (largely because I was applying for Job I Really Wanted at the time, and thought it'd look good on my CV, to be honest) I said okay. I was told that there were people who were interested in a group who lived in the area, just none of them wanted to lead on it -- a scenario familiar to any volunteer. And I thought, yeah, no problem. I started a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

Nothing really happened. I vaguely wondered if I should be being more proactive, but also I was busy with a bunch of other things and I had signed up to project-manage this, not do everything.

The occasional e-mail or phone call from the national org asked me how it was going and I was like "...where are the people?! I was promised people?" I was told well, most groups are just a group of friends at this point, so where are your friends? I did the mental equivalent of surveying the room and thought Oh. You wanted someone more middle-class for this, you should've said. My friends are all busy working tiring jobs, and poor, and probably chronically ill or disabled in some way. My friends are already volunteering. My friends are already doing all they can.

But of course they're also union reps or working in social housing or otherwise able to talk to people and put feelers out and stuff. And, of course, when I didn't get The Job I Really Wanted, the person from that organization I'd talked to over the summer put me in touch with the person who did get it -- which stung a little, like the ex you haven't gotten over telling you how great their new partner is, but it was clear to me even before I met her yesterday that they absolutely should've chosen her and not me.

One thing ODWU encouraged the regional groups to do was organize a face-to-face meeting early in December to brainstorm ideas for what we'd like to do on the One Day.

I arranged Manchester's for last night, pimped it out to my friends and even my local Wi (having been encouraged that it's Our Sort of Thing, which was nice) and... to cut a depressing story short, after a comedy of errors in getting there, turned up half an hour late to find the place dark and locked and with no indication of a meeting there. And out of all the people who might have turned up, only one was still there (and I think that was partly because she was waiting for her husband to drive back and give her a lift home as planned!), the person who got the job, R.

We ended up having the "meeting," her and Andrew and Em J I'd brought along with me for moral support, in a nearby takeaway over fizzy drinks. Some useful stuff got done, though! R is knowledgeable, unflappable (she was actually reassuring me about how okay it was that the meeting hadn't worked out as planned, despite her having been the one stuck outside a confusingly locked building in a strange area in the cold!) and the kind of welcoming that will make her great at a job that consists of having meetings with all kinds of different people and groups.

I gave her the information I'd excitedly printed out, she already wants me to come to meetings with her to talk about this and (since I ended up confessing I'd gone for the same job, which bless her made her feel bad and say that I should've gotten it, which made me feel bad...we're both immigrants, yet both still so capable of the British hang-ups) said she wanted to take me (and even Andrew and Em J if they want!) to a meeting she has to go to in London in January to showcase volunteers she's working with.

One of her reasons for saying I should've gotten the job instead is that it's a lot of work: lots of reading to catch up on, lots of meetings all over the place and co-ordinating public transport to get to and from. I knew this is the kind of thing that the job entailed, of course, and I kinda feel like I might've been more able to take it on if I'd gotten it because having the job would've meant I had a job, if you see what I mean: I'd have worried less about money and I'd probably have picked fewer fights with Andrew and that sort of thing: I might have had more energy to devote to it. But I was a little relieved when she talked about the work because it kinda does sound like too much for me.

I made a joke about how if it's too much for her she should tell them she needed help and they should give me a job, but I don't quite think it was successful -- she seemed to take it seriously and make good points about why that couldn't happen (she's too new at the job herself to have any kind of clout, of course) but also that's when she started inviting me to some of her meetings with people who she says might be interested in One Day Without Us and suggesting places we can meet, and that kind of thing.

I got home and I was...rightly spotted by Katie who rang me soon after as having a kind of low-level anxiety attack. I felt like a spring wound too tight. I'm unhappy with the venue that arranged the meeting as normal and then was closed. I'm unhappy with how much more difficult it's been than it should be to find people in Manchester who want to do something for immigrants for one day in February. I'm annoyed at myself for probably being shit at both of those things which is why they're in such a sorry state. I'm annoyed at how awkward I was about a job I didn't get and feel like I'm having my feels about not getting a job on someone who totally should have gotten it instead.
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A sort of lovely thing happened to me last week.

A branch of the WI was founded where I live this year, and I was excited about it after hearing about the WI from cool people like Cerys Matthews who had a feature about it on her radio show. I went along to an early meeting where our adviser was telling us about the history of the WI and its founding principles sounded marvelous to me: about tackling the problems of isolation and limited scope in life, specific to women -- especially a hundred years ago when it was formed -- to promote women getting together, educating each other in whatever they were skilled at (which is how it gets its reputation for things like jam-making, the hokey stereotype seems to be borne out of the idea that everyone has something valuable to teach as well as to learn, even if it's just their special recipe for a particular dish) and working on various political but non-partisan causes of their choosing. Even in the fifties and sixties they were about things like STDs so again, not so stuffy as the WI's reputation might suggest.

And over the year I've met some good people and the regular groups for things like crafts and walking/hiking as well as one-off days out have been really good for me. It's how I met the person who gave me the idea to include interviews with other people in my Kickstarter book.

But despite how great it's been, it's also been kind of difficult too. Attendance started to dwindle. I didn't see my fellow poor, queer, foreign, chronically ill/disabled etc. women around so much any more.

Communication was breaking down. When I said I'd consider standing for the committee next year, a few of the friendly acquaintances I'd made that had been committee members this year started sharing things. Concerns that hadn't been addressed. Procedure that hadn't been followed -- those hundred years of the WI come with a lot of formal structures! A few of us decided we wanted to try to get on this year's committee and...well, I've got a page of notes somewhere that has scribbled across the top "Democracy - Transparency - Inclusivity" because that summed up what we were aiming for.

We got our nominations in and agonized over little biographies of ourselves to go along with them. We all turned up to the Annual Meeting -- me with a migraine, a friend with terrible acid reflux from chronic illness, it was that important! -- mostly sat together at the back of the room, and sat through the formalities of officer reports and the strange voting system the WI uses.

Then we had to wait while the votes were counted. I'd made pumpkin pie, as I'd promised way back in the summer I'd do at the meeting closest to Thanksgiving, and a lot of people were telling me it was nice, many of whom had never eaten it before! One person said it was her favorite bake all year and even if no one else thinks so I'm happy to take the accolade of being somebody's favorite out of a whole WI in a whole year!

Then the new committee was read out, one name at a time. There had been fifteen on the ballot and twelve would be elected. My friends and others said that whoever got elected we'd be happy with. Mostly it was new people, not returning committee members. The list, like the ballot, was read out in alphabetical order and people were asked to come up to the front as their names were called. So I saw Pat and Zoe and others go stand at the front, and my heart rose each time. Then I heard Tas's name, and Tas was the one I wanted to be our new president -- the presidential election was done separately afterwards out of the people who've been elected to the committee, so of course it was a vital first step towards being president that she get this far! We clapped after every name was read but I clapped extra frantically for that one.

But then I realized: Tas's last name is after mine in the alphabet.

I wasn't elected.

The list went on and my friends' names kept getting called until I was the only person left sitting in our section of eight or so seats at the back. As soon as the new committee had been announced lovely Katy, who'd been so good all year at making sure things were accessible to me, getting me cups of tea if it looked like I'd just spill mine over everyone if I'd tried, and just generally being kind and awesome, came over to me and said "oh, Holly, I'm so sorry..." and sat down next to me to give me a hug. And it was only then that I felt a little sad, but I think I managed to keep my cool and say I was all right and that's the way democracy goes. I was all right, really, because I knew the new committee would do good things and that I could probably even still do what I would've done as a committee member without being one: we'd made it clear in our discussions of how we'd like the WI to be that one of the first things to go would be the kind of us-and-them mentality we'd encountered from some of this year's committee.

The committee stayed at the front of the room for the presidential election, where you just write the name of the person you want on a slip of paper, and Tas did win. I was overjoyed.

Then everyone came and sat back down again and I had lots more hugs and people telling me they were sorry I hadn't made it. We'd all worked so hard in sorting things out and getting ourselves this far that it did seem harsh for all-but-one of us to make it -- I told everyone not to be silly but I know my heart would've broken for one of them if our situations had been reversed. Tas the new president sat down next to me, wrapped her arm around me, and said I was still one of them and would still be helping out.

In a funny way, losing was better for me emotionally than winning would've been. Having lost meant I could see that my new friends -- almost all these friendships borne out of the adversity of this first year in our WI -- really did value me and the contribution they thought I could make.

The new committee had proper paperwork to sign and things, and ideally a bit of a handover from the old committee, but they'd said they were going to the pub after and did I want to go with them. I felt a bit sad at being the Not-Committee-Member among the new committee while I was waiting, but in the pub I was repeatedly assured that I had been co-opted and by the end of the evening I was in the new facebook group for the new committee members.

The other two who were unsuccessful in the vote were also approached and invited to join in anyway, since anyone who wants to contribute enough to have put themselves up for election is, our new president reckons, the kind of keen person we want helping out and we all have different skills and interests and whatnot. One wasn't interested but the other is apparently delighted at this but health problems haven't permitted us to spend time with her yet. I don't know her well but I know she brings diverse perspective and connections that can only be a good thing for our WI.

And in a way this has been perfect for me too: the person who didn't want to be on the committee expressed some of the same reservations that I'd had -- people didn't want me, they wanted someone else, so it'd be unfair for them to get stuck with me anyway -- and I saw how the new committee didn't feel the same way at all which put my mind at rest a bit on that score. And the person who is interested means it isn't only me who's been co-opted onto the committee so I feel less like an exception has been made for me because the committee's made up largely of friends of mine -- that's exactly the kind of cliquiness I want to steer well clear of. But I've been reassured on that, too.

It's sort of the best of both worlds, losing! It's nice to feel wanted, to have people sad that you didn't make it onto the committee, to get lots of hugs, to still be wanted and welcomed. It's only been a week and we've got so much to catch up on, so many ideas, so much to talk about. We're all excited and only slightly daunted by the prospect of what our WI can do in the next year.

This might be the only election of 2016 that went the way I wanted it to, but I'll take it.

Busy day

Nov. 20th, 2016 09:08 am
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Busy day!

Levenshulme is gathering for a walk through a park where a woman was raped earlier this week. This is close enough in my house that a friend rang me to tell me about it because she thought it was the park I walk Gary in (it's not, except on occasion, but it's certainly a park I've been to plenty of times, with dogs and friends and kids as well as on my own). So we're having a "walk without fear" through the park that I want to be at this morning.

And then it's Manchester Bi Coffee, a social meetup, which I've promised to be at as an organizer this month after leaving poor [personal profile] haggis to deal with it alone for a few months as it seems to always be a week I'm away. This time she's away, so that's only fair.

And then I'm meeting some friends from the WI.

And then I hope to get to Manchester's Trans Day of Remembrance event.

Volunteering-wise, after woefully ignoring the One Day Without Us stuff, I'm signed up to the forum, I'm tweeting again, and I'm trying to work out whether I can arrange a meeting in the first week of December like the national organizers are encouraging everyone to do. I'm worried no one will show up.
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So I haven't mentioned my volunteering for a long time. And there's a reason for that...

To recap: last autumn I found myself after my first meeting at the Visual Impairment Steering Group ending up as the "peer leader" the council wanted for this, because they're the council and they have no money to pay people to do this "peer-led" things are very on trend right now it's important for us to have ownership of our own advocacy, or something.

I didn't mind being "leader" because it seemed to just mean answering a few e-mails and going along to stuff if my e-mails saying "hey, does anyone want to do this possibly boring or talking-to-strangers thing?" (I paraphrase!), which is pretty easy. And actually interesting, since I do like boring things -- I notice (and talk to however I'm with, as many of my friends can attest!) pavement and pedestrian crossings and stuff a lot more now that I've been to a few meetings about them. I ranted at [personal profile] magister about this just yesterday in Bradford, and that was before we almost ran into a little-kid steam train blocking walking areas in the shopping mall...).

Of course it's not just e-mail; a lot of our blind people -- especially the older ones -- don't do e-mail so you've got to ring them and they never answer and so it took a long time for me just to figure out what times they'd had their meetings back when there were meetings, and that they wanted them to be the same.

So I e-mailed the contact from the council's sensory team about booking the room where they meet, and...somehow we haven't gotten any further than that? I've seen her once or twice and she seems happy about what I'm doing (which isn't much more than going to those couple of things she's seen me at) but...I guess there's been more chaos and turmoil in their team: people starting and leaving jobs, people being off sick, all the regular local-government bollocks.

I actually saw one of the group the other day at a bus stop, and we chatted about this; he said he'd been meaning to ask another person in the group about me and what'd happened with this. I tried to catch him up and I don't think I've done anything wrong but I feel bad anyway. They were worried about the group dying away and they were glad I'd taken over to stop that happening, and it feels like it's happening a bit anyway. But even with me happy to co-ordinate things, we do need the sensory team to help us out and communicate stuff to us.

It probably says a lot about the protestant work ethic I grew up with that whenever I hear myself thinking "there's nothing else I can do" or "it's out of my hands" I get immediately suspicious that this is an excuse for me to be lazy or apathetic. But in this case I don't really think it is! Though I might e-mail sensory-team contact person again...

The other thing I was doing was creating a tour for visually impaired people of an exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. This was intended as a self-contained six-week placement at the end of the course I did there last summer...and it ended up taking us about six months to get it into a state we were happy with.

I owe MOSI an e-mail with all my feedback about this. Basically, everything I said about this in November turned out to be true, and then some.

I don't think anyone had any conception of big a project they'd landed on brand-new volunteers. A little while ago I found in a stack of papers the plan the exhibit curator (who my fellow volunteer and I were working under) where all this was supposed to get done in six weeks and I laughed. There is a kind of ableism in this, in suspecting accommodation will be really straightforward and won't require any specialist skills...but it was like one of those fractals where there more closely you looked at it, the more complicated it became. Each little bit ended up being as much work as we thought the whole thing would be.

And when we did get the project sorted...it was actually pretty awesome. And as far as I know, no blind or partially sighted person ever got to take advantage of it. We got our bit done and then when the lovely volunteer coordinator said "what else do you need from us?" I said well, publicizing it. And I don't know if that ever happened, but I never heard anything (and the idea had been for me and my fellow volunteer to deliver the tours as well so I think I would've heard about it if there'd been anything!).

And again there were staff changes, again there was a lack of institutional knowledge (which was one of the hurdles I had to overcome in the first place; MOSI has had almost complete staff turnover (at the levels I'm dealing with) since 2013. And both the staff I started working with have left their jobs. And the exhibit we put all this work into is a temporary one that'll be replaced at the end of next month.

I feel strange and sad about this: I put so much work into something I'm so proud of. I learned a lot. And now all the effort will go to waste. And all the learning will too, if I don't find someone sympathetic at NOSI and explain this to them and carry on doing a lot of work for no money because if I don't it won't happen at all.

I love MOSI and I know it isn't very accessible to a lot of visually impaired people, and I'd love to help change that. But again it all feels so outside my powers as a volunteer.

Plus, I did that whole course about volunteering in heritage sites and now I'm...not really doing any. Which is a shame.

Of course this year I'm supposed to be writing a book anyway (it's going slowly; my mental health has been unrelentingly bad these last few months and that makes it hard).

Somewhat relatedly, after a random twitter conversation -- one of those where I was complaining about everything being in London -- I ended up talking to someone very nice from Migrants Organise who will actually be in Manchester soon and wants to chat. I felt self-conscious because I'm not part of a group or even any category of migrants that are really suffering but she seemed impressed by the book and the theme of "immigrants who don't look like immigrants" seems relevant to her; she said they'd had Western and Northern Europeans getting in touch lately saying "I've never felt unwelcome here before but..." and that kind of thing. Trying to make space for such "stealth" immigrants without getting in the way of POC needs and perspectives is something I've long been interested in. So maybe something will come of that; I have no idea what to expect and I'm not worrying about it.

And in a slightly more "heritage" type context, I keep meaning to investigate the Portico Library, after James and I fell in love with The Leeds Library when we were at this year's M.R. James conference there. James is a member now and it's somewhere I absolutely love visiting with him. I have grand ideas about how much more reading, and writing, I'd do at such a place.

Of course Leeds is a bit far, but there's a subscription library in Manchester and that's the Portico. Which is a bit more open-to-the-public than the Leeds one; it has a little gallery and a cafe and lots of events that sound cool, like this about historical American books right now. And they have volunteering opportunities that sound perfect for me: stuff I'm interested in, expected to be the same day every week for at least three months which gives the kind of structure I like (and have been missing in both of the volunteer things I've done so far!).

But really... I need to chase up the VI steering group, I need to talk to MOSI about how not to lose any more accessibility knowledge, I need to sort out my CV if I'm going to send it to the Portico (which would be no bad thing as it needs sorting anyway)...I'm overwhelmed, and stuck, by everything right now.

I've been meaning to write this for a while, thinking I'd feel better when I did, and I think I do. It's a start, anyway.
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I feel a bit bad, having built this up to be such a big thing among all my friends, that I haven't said much about my volunteering gig at the science museum since it started.

I am still glad to be doing it, I still think it is necessary work. But it has suffered a bit from a few things. The first of which is my own poor mental health at the moment. I'm behind schedule on this because, as with so many other things, I'm just terrible at actually accomplishing anything: chores, errands, other volunteering stuff, talking to my parents, answering e-mails, anything.

But part of the reason I think I'm struggling with keeping to the schedule is that I'm starting to question some of the assumptions of how it got this way. I don't think we're doing the right things now, so it's hard to do them.

I finally got in touch with the woman from Henshaws who runs their museum/art gallery tour group (she'd been on holiday) and she elaborated what the person I'd talked to briefly (and vaguely) in her absence had told me -- they'd done this kind of stuff for MOSI before. This woman has been running the group for twelve years now, she said, and in that time has educated various museum staff who have of course since moved on and as always institutional memory is poor. Faced with me, who clearly knew absolutely nothing about this and had been told (and thus told her) that this was a pilot project of something they'd never done before, I wouldn't have blamed her if she'd been less patient with me because I was the inadvertent messenger of frustrating news: that all the good work done by her and this other woman I keep hearing about who does audio description during the museum/gallery tours for visually impaired people...all that's basically been undone over time and basically needs to be started from scratch.

But it frustrated me as well, because I feel like as a volunteer I've been left with a steep learning curve to get up to speed on this, when really it's a far more appropriate job for professionals and people who have experience I don't. I feel like I've been given six weeks (the technical length of my placement, though it's not really expected to stop then) to reinvent the wheel, and I don't know how close I can get to that because it's a complicated wheel. And my inability to function coupled with other people's inability to get back to me is not helping, because it feels like I don't have anything to show for the month I've been at this already.

But, as an added fun twist, I found out a couple of weeks ago that my fellow volunteer, one of my favorites from our course, had pretty drastically misconstrued the scope of our volunteering project. English is not her first language and while she's perfectly capable in it she does struggle a lot, having only recently moved to the UK. And she misunderstood this placement, thought we were meant to be creating a general tour for everyone, not just one for visually impaired people. I must admit my heart did sink a bit when I discovered this, because I've ended up doing a lot of hand-holding through some complicated stuff -- this is probably the least straightforward placement of those available to us, and I think she'd have struggled less with any of the others -- and, happy as I am to do that because she's lovely and diversity makes things stronger and I wouldn't want her to miss out just because her skills in her third or fourth language aren't quite up to mine in my only one. But it has meant more work of a different kind for me, and I'm so low on energy lately that it doesn't take much to leave me feeling drained.

Our placement isn't as museum-based as the others, where people are actually there explaining objects to people, helping with the archives, or whatever. Since I'm the only person who'd even heard of Henshaws or considered consulting whatever experts or professionals I could find, all that's been left to me, and so far my volunteering has consisted of a lot of e-mails and phone calls and feeling a bit alone.

Our volunteer supervisor is the curator of the exhibit, which only opened a week and a half ago, so we started just as she was really insanely busy with getting everything ready for that and she hasn't had a lot of time for us. Which is fine because we do need time to get up to speed on all the stuff about the exhibit, and whatnot, but it also leaves me feeling pretty unsupported. I've only gotten around to telling her today "look, there are people who know this stuff way better than me" with the implication that they know better than any new volunteer could learn in a few weeks. I don't know what if anything will come of that. Really, the museum should be getting Henshaw's and the audio description lady in as consultants at least, but I suppose that costs money and there's never any of that. And really it should be for the whole museum and not just one exhibit. And and and. I'm sure all this is way out of the scope of the one staff member looking after me and my fellow volunteer.

I am convinced of the good intentions of everybody involved, but I worry that there are signs this has been set up to be no more than half-assed -- maybe quarter-assed -- attempt at looking like they've done something about accessibility beyond having wheelchair ramps and a disabled loo, without actually having it cost anything. But I'm so aware of the limits of what I can do in the circumstances that they'll get what they pay for.
hollymath: (Default)
...because not everybody's placements have been worked out, but I have been told that I've got the one I really wanted, helping on a new exhibition and running a tour suitable for visually impaired people.

Not, as [personal profile] haggis has been saying, because I'm the most enthusiastic, but just because people seemed to have different enough interests that there's only one clash in our whole group, so most people can do the volunteering they most want, which is nice.

I am really pleased; I did end up picking Ordsall Hall as my second place (no one's going there! I feel a bit bad for Ordsall Hall and am wondering if I can volunteer there anyway), and it would have been great too I'm sure, but I had my heart set on this and I'm already looking forward to it in a way I wouldn't be able to if it were anything else.
hollymath: (Default)
The volunteering course I mentioned at the end of this overlong entry is almost done. Next Thursday will be our last day of it, and then we find out who gets what placement and start those in a few weeks or whatever, depending on where we're going.

A few weeks ago, lovely Emma the volunteer coordinator at MOSI told me she'd been in a meeting the day before about the new exhibit they're going to have ready for the Manchester Science Festival in October, and that the people running this want to include a tour for visually impaired people. But they've never done this before and they don't know how to go about it. Emma said she sang my praises to them -- I mean, the thing that got us talking about this was that our group was on one of its visits to museums involved in the scheme so we'd know the places where we might end up with a placement, and I'd been bitching about the light levels and how un-obvious obstacles in the path were and stuff like that. Which I pretty much do whenever we're anywhere, including mooching around the galleries in MOSI which we do all the time as part of our course. This combined with my well-established "enthusiasm" apparently had her singing my praises in this meeting, and there was talk of the possibility that working on this could actually be my placement. Or, well, somebody's: the way this works is people from all the partner museums/galleries/etc. with volunteer roles to fill come and pitch them to us, and we just have to write down which is our favorite and which is a backup and next week Emma will hopefully be able to arrange it so everybody gets their first or at least second choice.

So it isn't a given that this volunteering position would go to me, but Emma did preface her description of it with "I know this seems like a fix but it's totally coincidental!" which I think is a good sign of how obvious she thinks I am for it. She'd even given me a call a week or two ago because she was concerned that if I ended up doing this I might feel a little disappointed that my volunteering ended up being so different from what we were led to expect at the beginning -- the other volunteer roles offered by all the different places are really front-of-house, out engaging with the public, and mine would actually have a couple of weeks of working in an office...but that's because I'd actually get to help the exhibit's curator create content for this, as well as then developing and actually getting to run the tour for visually impaired people. And I'm like, yeah, I'm completely fine with doing that rather than sitting behind a table with a taxidermied fox on it and, as the woman from Manchester Museum who pitched that role to us said, "I've seen that fox every working day for the last fifteen years but still when someone comes up you have to go 'Would you like to touch the fox?" and be excited about it like you've never seen it before yourself, because they've never seen it before." And that's a good and worthy thing to do (we saw kids go mental over that fox, and other museum objects they could touch, on our visit to Manchester Museum), and I think I could do it, but it sounds...awfully extroverted for me, to say the least.

And also, by design, the volunteer roles that tend to go along with this course are pretty interchangeable -- any of us could do any of them, more or less -- whereas this new thing that's come up, even though it really was entirely coincidental, makes me feel like I could bring something particular to it, that it'd be different -- maybe even better! -- if it was me on that placement rather than any of my coursemates, well-meaning and keen though all of them are. And I just think it'd be so fun.

Plus, with the exhibit running from now until next September, when whatever they have for the next science festival will replace it, this role unlike any of the others doesn't have as formal a six-week cut-off point as the rest. It was clear from a lot of the people making pitches for their museum that there are often opportunities for the volunteer roles to be extended past those six weeks if the volunteer and the organization are both happy with how it's going, but this MOSI one explicitly says it'd be ideal to be able to run the tours until next September. A year's worth of volunteering there doing something that awesome made me want it even more. And this is a pilot project, so if it goes well there will hopefully be more things like this, which I'd selfishly really love there to be, so I really want this to go well, whoever ends up working on the project...but of course that's just another reason to hope its me working on this rather than having to just cross my fingers for somebody else!

But lovely Emma is wisely giving us all a week to think over what we want -- we did hear eight or nine pitches in the end, and after all that I felt like my brain was so full of information it'd all slosh out of my ears if I turned my head too quickly. So I haven't even formally said yet what I'd like -- and I'm still kind of deliberating over my second choice actually; it'll be either another role at MOSI more like I originally imagined -- helping people who look lost or confused, pointing out interesting stuff they might miss, etc -- or else the one at Ordsall Hall, which is as great as its website is awful. We visited it last Wednesday. We went from I think a bunch of people not even having heard of it (even me, with the reputation of having already visited the most of the museums involved in this scheme) to a bunch of people falling in love with it and wanting to volunteer there. It's kind of the opposite of MOSI in that it's a tiny place with few staff so everyone does everything: you can help with tours, do some gardening, dress up in Tudor costume, sell tea to coachfuls of old ladies (I saw this happen while I were there; they were adorable), even clean. And despite my other interests being all in the behemoth that is the Museum of Science and Industry, I do really like the idea of doing a bit of everything, I loved the building, and everyone working there seemed friendly.

I've been saying all along that I'm sure I'll be happy with whatever I end up doing, and I'm still sure of that. The mere fact that everyone should be able to get one of their top two choices, and I'm having difficulty choosing among three, seems evidence of that. We haven't been anywhere I didn't like (except the Imperial War Museum North, which I think is just too inaccessible for me to want to volunteer there, and since a lot of that is intentional -- the rationale being to convey how disorienting and confusing war is, which fine but what's "slightly" disorienting to the average person is prohibitively so to me... I get the impression that they're another place that thinks accessibility just means wheelchairs can get around there). But I'm still impatient to see how this works out!
hollymath: (Default)
2015 was going to be the year of sorting out.

A couple of friends and I told each other this as we were around each other's houses, helping with DIY or painting the kitchen, accompanying each other to scary meetings and helping each other write scary e-mails and catching each other up on the progress we'd made in getting counseling, going to the gym again, talking to the GP about that thing that'd been bothering us, making difficult phone calls about money...

I started the year with two big things pressing upon me: Get A Job, and Get Registered Blind.

Cut for ridiculous length. )


hollymath: (Default)

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