The world has seemed so much smaller since the outbreak of the coronavirus. With lockdown, we've been limited to virtual socialisation and spent most of our time in our local area. I'm no socialite and am perfectly happy with my own company, but I've still noticed that my social circle has reduced, and I'm stuck at home borrowing my mum's friends.
It's also made dating difficult. Yes, I'm back on the (online) dating scene. It's been nerve-wracking, groan-worthy and smile-inducing. And in case you want a list:
(By the way, if you're an intelligent, good-looking guy in your late twenties to early thirties looking for a long-term partner, let me know).
In other good news, I've received my first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, it did make me very unwell for 24 hours. I spent that same night shivering in bed with my mum next to me and the following day lying on the sofa with achy limbs, a sore throat and a headache. However, I would much rather feel unwell for a day than hooked up to a ventilator in a hospital. Plus, my mum made me a cheese toastie for breakfast.
With all this going on, my world is starting to feel a little larger. Of course, I won't be going out and painting the town red just yet, but it's nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel at last. And, as my world grows, and I've started to think further than my own back garden, I've realised that I've neglected to discuss in my blog the views towards disability in other parts of the world. Instead, I've spent the last year interviewing British/American musicians and those working in the industry or with disabled people.
To rectify this, I spoke to the Hong Kong Enharmonica (HKE) orchestra hoping to gain a different perspective on music-making for the disabled and learn how other countries are supporting disabled musicians.
First, some quick facts:
The perception of disability in this area of the world appears to be very different. The HKE explained that, traditionally, disability there is seen as a sickness or a punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. As a result, many disabled people hide away and are forgotten.
I remember my dad once telling me that OHMI had never received submissions to the Competition from Japanese instrument-makers. And, it appears that this attitude is not limited to music. Microsoft, an American company and the creator of Xbox, designed the Adaptive Controller so that people who struggle using a traditional controller can still play. There is no such device for the PlayStation, the games console created by the Japanese company, Sony.
Of course, this is all a gross generalisation. Many modern-day people don't think this; the founders, organisers and musicians of HKE, for example. Edwin Chan, who came up with the idea after seeing the Thai Blind Symphony Orchestra perform, wanted to establish something similar in Hong Kong. It grew from there and became a platform for disabled musicians to showcase their talent and enjoy making music.
Jason Wu, who works for the AR Charitable Foundation that helped set up HKE, said in a documentary about the orchestra:
"[People with disabilities] often achieve good results in sport. We want to show Hong Kong...that people with disabilities can do anything."
In my opinion, the orchestra has achieved just that. Their performances are excellent, and they have even been supported by martial artist and film star Jackie Chan.
And these musicians are really enjoying themselves. Harpist Iris Chan said: "With other charities, I often feel like a recipient, but here I can...become a giver [of music]."
While Lim Yuen Fung, who plays the trumpet, said: "I really like our orchestra. I can play music with foreign musicians...I've never had that experience before."
It appears that perceptions towards people with disabilities are changing there. And the concert which the HKE organised proved to be a great success. The HKE has also given disabled musicians experiences and opportunities they wouldn't otherwise have had (who doesn't want to meet Jackie Chan?) And, perhaps, it has made their world just a little larger.