Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Life (in Europe) with a Power Ranger

In this guest blog, family carer Dave Barker talks about the recent EU Referendum, and explaining the complexities of it to his son before they voted.

Matthew is a Power Ranger. Drummer, joker, worker, party animal, drinker, cuddler, smiler, chatter-upper, actor, laugher, friend, supporter, gymnast, horse rider, bowler, leaves clearer, cleaner, optimist, DJ, tonic, charmer, film critic, friend and son. He is also 36 and has Down’s syndrome but secretly – and sometimes openly – he is a Power Ranger.

Recently I took him to vote in the EU Referendum. I always take him to vote because he is a citizen with responsibilities and a contribution to make. It would be easy to view his vote as an extra one for me but I do try to talk to him about who is available to vote for, but my voice is not unbiased.

In the referendum there was no one to vote for and so I started the conversation by asking him if he liked going on holiday to France and Austria. He said “no”, undermining my leading question to point him to the remain camp. You see, he once had a bad experience with his gymnastic team in Austria when he was ‘looked after’ by an English coach with storm trooper tendencies (why is it that this political farce has encouraged people like me to introduce Hitler into the argument?) So, I was fairly confident that he didn’t like Europe because he couldn’t ‘follow orders!’

“But, you Like French people don’t you?” I said. His negative reply was surely because he spent a week in France with school when he was 14, practicing his “bonjour” and “vin rouge” but refusing to go to the toilet until he returned. Ah, that’s why UKIP leaders look like that!

The voting slip I printed off for him to practice on had two boxes and we had a conversation about which one to tick. Except you don’t tick, you make a cross, don’t you! Very confusing, surely a cross means that something is ‘wrong!’ “You can put your cross in this one or THIS ONE!!” It was a very neat cross, from corner to corner and with this preparation we set off for the village polling station.

Outside in the sunshine we were met by the smiling contented affluent middle and old aged. They chatted about the weather, some on their way in and others hanging around after demonstrating their civic duty. My stereotype detector was on full alert and surely I/we were in a minority here and any second we would be discovered and encouraged to go and live with my Polish dentist.

Inside the station the Power Ranger gave his address and name and was handed a slip and I was asked if I was supporting him, as they had to note it down. Had they seen me practicing the voting process? Would I be challenged over my level of support? When paranoia sets in anything can happen! Yes, they would challenge me over his competence to vote or maybe his right to. After all, Lords, lunatics and leotard-wearing superheroes are not allowed to vote, are they? My mind drifted back to the people I had overheard discussing the referendum. “Ooo, Boris was on the telly and he was so funny!” The Power Ranger has never heard of Boris, so his jovial, clubbable, blondness would not affect where the cross went.

I have just come back from a short stay in Islington in London. My French host was so helpful and full of tips about getting around and sight-seeing. I was worried about hearing the voices of city traders, hedge fund managers, and the self-righteous brothers. I need not have worried as I was reassured by the sounds of Africa, the Caribbean and a variety of accents from across Europe. I did regret getting into a conversation with a German man in a pub as he was searching for a lengthy conversation and the Power Ranger was not with me to intervene.

The first two walks into the Angel area took me past a typical London terrace where, outside, some photographers were gathering. There was a bit of greenery round the front door and I thought ‘Jeremy! could it be?’ I was not sure he would have been interested in my opinions about living in the disenfranchised north so left them to it. On leaving for the journey home the next day I bumped into a lone photographer preparing to leave the scene and asked who they had been stalking. “Boris,” came the reply. “You’ve missed him, he just left!” I shook my hand at his front door in mock rage as a local man was passing who laughed and said: “that’ll show him!” So, I had been a temporary neighbour of the saviour of the Sceptred Isle. Imagine my surprise, on boarding my train back to the northern powerhouse, to discover that Boris had a bloodstained toga and that his friend had a dripping knife in his hand.

What to do when I meet the Power Ranger at home? How could we cope with the endless election possibilities? With the deranged on one side of the house and the bemused on the other what chance do we have? Perhaps very soon I will be encouraging the Power Ranger to vote for that nice woman!

About the author

Dave Barker is a family carer

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