Last week, as part of the efforts to promote The Umbrella Men, I was interviewed on two radio stations. One, North Manchester FM, is a local station serving Greater Manchester, where I went to school. The other, Men’s Radio Station (MRS), aims (to quote its website) to ‘open up meaningful, helpful, constructive conversation in a ‘non-judgemental’ way where men can talk openly and honestly about even the most sensitive issues’.
I remember the good people of Manchester well. They are a level-headed, down-to-earth bunch. No-nonsense. Unlikely to accept the role of victim or have much time for people who do – as I am prone to, when seeking to describe TUM concisely. The Men’s Radio Station blurb, on the other hand, conjures a far more touchy-feely soft-southerner vibe – although as it is internet streamed I presume people can tune in up North. Lapland, for example. I’ll bet they don’t, though; they’re as hard as nails, those Finns.
I’m new to this, and I must admit to having approached the interviews with a certain nervousness. The Umbrella Men is a novel, based on real-life experiences, set in the great Bankers’ Crisis of 2007/8. It is an ‘acerbic, witty novel of our times’ which ‘skewers the crisis’ and (I like to think) the bankers who caused it. How was I going to get sufficient references to the book into each interview, making it relevant to the diverse people listening?
There were two interviewers on MRS, both very articulate and good at prompting the conversation. They interacted with one another well, and the three-way chat approach was, I thought, a successful formula. They generously allowed me an initial opportunity to plug the book before getting down to … mental health. My mental health.
If you are reading this blog and are not aware that I am paraplegic and in a wheelchair, I’m doing something badly wrong. The nice people at MRS wondered about the effect on my mental health of this affliction. Is ‘affliction’ preferable to ‘disability’? I’m not sure. Certainly better than ‘differently-enabled’ which I have heard used to describe paraplegics; I’m ‘differently enabled’ in the same way as Jeremy Corbyn is ‘differently intelligent’.
The idea that we differently-enabled people should be more prone than able-bodied people to mental ill-health to match our physical shortcomings seems to me like the kind of thing we people with an Equalities Act 2010 ‘protected characteristic’ are supposed to find offensive. So the nice MRS chaps broached the subject with due tact and care.
As it happens I find the contemporary delight in taking offence one of the most irritating things about that other, really irritating thing – identity politics. Identity politics which divides us and revolves around those identities in the protected characteristics list. I found myself recommending Claire Fox’s excellent ‘I Find that Offensive!’ to MRS’s listeners before realising I was perhaps promoting the wrong book. D’oh.
We had a nice chat about avoiding feelings of depression and victimhood – why wouldn’t you avoid them? – during which I vaguely remember being (rightly) picked up for declaring that ‘many successful bankers are psychopaths’. This would have been the moment to plug TUM, but I probably didn’t. Maybe they just didn’t get enough hugs from their Mums or something, those bankers (another annoying thing is all the perpetrator-excusing barrack-room psychoanalysis that goes on).
In preparation for North Manchester FM I went on a little Google safari. I thought they might ask about my Mancunian background (they didn’t) and that a refresher would be a good idea. It looks like my school might have been demolished; should I feel sadder about this? Crikey, maybe I’m the psychopath.
Dragging that little yellow Google man by the scruff of the neck I traced my daily school trip by train from Broadbottom to Hyde. Yes, I lived in a village called Broadbottom. Very funny. Andrew Sidebotham, a schoolfriend from Broadbottom, grew up in a street called Summerbottom. Now maybe he’d have grounds to open his heart to Men’s Radio Station…