The catalyst for this project was the Welfare Reform Bill 2010-2012, something which affected my father directly. As with all people who claim Incapacity Benefit he was due for a re-assessment and was asked to complete the required WCA (Work Capability Assessment) forms in order to prove his entitlement to the new ESA (Employment Support Allowance) which has now replaced the original Incapacity Benefit.
My father’s application was denied after several appeal forms and questionnaires and he now faces a possible return to work after 16 years of previously being declared unfit for work.
My father had a brain haemorrhage on Saturday 27th July 1996. Not only was he lucky enough to survive but he has been lucky enough to have only been left partially sighted, with a form of epilepsy and with frequent severe headaches. Even so there is no denying that he still lives with his brain damage.
The start of this project was an initial reaction to how unjustified I felt my father was being treated and also how I felt about the whole experience of going through this re-assessment procedure. It was a way of literally putting a face to the name that was printed on the countless number of forms he had to fill out and an attempt to make the statement that this is a person, a father, an individual’s life not just a product of guidelines and paperwork. The project title itself is taken from the denied response to my father’s appeal.
The morning of Saturday 27th July 1996 was bright and sunny and warm. The weather had been the same all week and I felt immensely optimistic about life, I honestly remember having one of those rare euphoric moments when you know that things are going to work out alright...
I had been living away from home for about a year which had proved sad but necessary at the time for both my wife and I; a trial separation I suppose. I saw the children, almost every night and always at weekends. My wife and I had been getting on far better with each other as a result of this arrangement.
I was at the end of a two-week holiday and I really did feel refreshed and rested and ready to get back to work. I’d had a wonderful time with the children over the holidays. I’d had a great two weeks break.
Anyway back to the morning of Saturday 27th July……I drove over to the family home rather early. As I parked my car on the drive and got out from behind the wheel I would have had no idea that within half an hour I would never be able to drive a car again. How could I know?
The children were having breakfast and as I had arrived unexpectedly earlier than usual, I sensed a little bit of tension between my wife and I, something we both wanted to avoid, so I slunk off into the garage to lift some weights. Even though we were living apart we had agreed that I could still use the “home gym” that I had built. I had converted the garage of the family house into a small home gym. A bench, a squat rack, a sit up bench, a chinning bar and lots of free weights. Dumbbells and barbells littered the floor. My bikes hung on racks from the ceiling along with all kinds of racing wheels.
I used to shut myself away for an hour or two in the ‘gym’ about 3 to 4 times a week all year round, sweating in the summer and steaming in the winter. I used to bench press too much weight, failing the press after a few reps and getting trapped underneath the barbell. This was a dangerous regular occurrence so I never put collars on the barbells which allowed me to slide the weights off if I found myself in this predicament. The weights crashing to the concrete floor as they slid from the bar causing the whole garage to vibrate but saving me from asphyxiation. Ha-ha ,what an absolute dick I must have been to put myself through such torture.
A large poster of multiple Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain and an equally large print of Vic Reeves adorned one wall. A bizarre combination but they were great posters. Miguel for inspiration and Vic for the humour and for the pure hilarity of the look on his face.