Last week I was lucky enough to spend an evening at Westminster Abbey in support of Scope for Change, a campaign to encourage young disabled people to speak up about the barriers (both physical and attitudinal) that they have to face. Having tried to navigate London’s tube system with a baby in a pram I have had a tiny glimpse into how inaccessible much of our capital city is for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility. It’s slowly improving and is unbeatable as long as you’re trying to get from Hounslow East to Hounslow West, and don’t want to stop off at Hounslow Central.
The crazy thing is that disability is an issue that could easily directly affect any of us at any moment, whether though accident, terrorism, illness or age and yet most of us pass it off as someone else’s problem. I once asked a wheelchair user what the correct term was for someone who wasn’t disabled, as non-disabled or abled seem clunky or inaccurate (I may not be disabled, but I am certainly not very able). She said, “We call you the “not-yet disabled.” I don’t think a harsh truth of existence has ever been so succinctly and eloquently expressed.
Anyway, we were lucky enough to get an after hours guided tour around the spookily empty Abbey. I was hoping it would be like Hollyoaks After Hours and be a bit sexier than the daytime tours. And I wasn’t disappointed. It wasn’t sexy for most people, but luckily I get off on being in close proximity to the dusty bones of ex-monarchs.
What an amazing building it is, both in terms of architectural splendour and history but also as a monument to poets, scientists, reformers and other Great Britons. The tomb of the unknown soldier is particularly moving. An anonymous and unidentified Tommy from World War One, representing all those regular citizens who fell in our many wars, past and future.
I knew about Poets’ Corner but was surprised to see a section of the Cathedral dedicated to science. There’s a massive monument to Isaac Newton, celebrating his formulae and his ordering of the planets (if Westminster Abbey had any style there would be a giant marble apple that descended and bonked you on the head every time you stood in front of it). Newton was at least was religious, if unconventionally so. Stranger to see Darwin buried here, given his life’s work was a huge challenge to the church. But there’s something wonderfully British about that sense of fair play and acceptance.
They don’t bury bodies in the Abbey any more (because it’s already full to the brim with sexy dead king femurs), but vowed to my wife that they would make an exception for me. One day my bones will be laid to rest amongst the great and the good and the frankly wickedly awful. She seemed skeptical, but I still have time to become Prime Minister. Or write some era-defining poetry. Or save the planet from an alien invasion. Perhaps I could be interred as the Unknown Comedian. Not anonymous, just unknown. “Here lies Richard Herring, the Unknown Comedian. Just another death in a long line and by no means the worst”.
Anyway, my final resting place will be Westminster Abbey, even if I have to sneak in at night and bury myself. I’ll probably hide in the tomb of Edward Longshanks – it’s a cliché I know, but for me the longer the shanks the sexier the snuffed monarch. It’d be nice to hammer the Hammer of the Scots before I go.
In a doomed attempt to get fit my wife and I are giving up drinking alcohol for 100 days. It’s been easy and I couldn’t even tell you how long we’ve done. But it’s roughly 18 days, 10 hours and 43 minutes.
I don’t feel better. In fact I been quite poorly with a stomach bug. I’m no scientist or Noel Edmonds but this PROVES that alcohol is good for you and kills all diseases. Fact!