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Elizabeth Kinder
Photo: Sophie Ziegler

The Elusive Ethnomusicologist

Elizabeth Kinder’s monthly column

My mum used to say that Leonard Cohen made music to walk under a bus to, but I’d spend hours happily singing along, every song on repeat – over and over, ad infinitum. This sprang to mind recently because I’ve been on the phone a lot, putting together the shoot in Scotland next week (film, not livestock) with my friend Al – as described in last month’s column. It’s a film about his journey to Iona where he longs to return and it’s been a bit of a nightmare because Al is paralysed from the neck down. It’s extraordinary how disabled people are excluded from simple things like having a shower or eating in a café or staying in a hotel through lack of thought and an understanding of what’s involved. It would really very often take so little to make inaccessible places accessible to all.

Anyway, I was not thinking about Leonard Cohen or walking under a bus because of the people in Scotland. After a call to Visit Scotland explaining I was doing as they suggested, everyone there has been so fantastic that if there’s an SNP candidate standing in my bit of West London, then they’ve got my vote. Everyone there simply picks up the phone, from the MS charity Revive MS Support, based in Glasgow, to that city’s brilliant marketing bureau, the Crowne Plaza hotel (who all made me feel like Cinderella when the fairy godmother popped up and waved her wand and said “Oh you shall go to the ball”), the Allied Mobility people, Calmac Ferries, The Tralee Holiday Park and The Isle of Mull Spa Hotel and the St Columba on Iona. This long list of enterprises both small and large have people who talk to you down clear lines and say wonderful things like “it’s a pleasure to help” and you can understand them (even with the accent) and amazing things start to happen.

And it’s not just the Scots who’ve been fantastic. Also on my list of fairy godmothers are Panavision who have supplied every cinematographer’s dream kit, S&O, and Cinelease for the lighting that will help make me look fit to venture out and not like some knackered bird from Zombie Apocalypse. I know, I know, I should save all this for the credits, but thing is I’ve been so very gobsmacked by the kindness of strangers.

And then there’s British Airways. Trying to explain the needs of a passenger who’s wheelchair-bound and paraplegic to a customer service operator in downtown Delhi is to plunge into a Kafkaesque nightmare which involves having to provide shed loads of information, the extent of which is only revealed through repeated calls which force repeated listening to bloody Delibes’ bloody Flower Duet from bloody Lakme. Perhaps if I’d listened to this in my room whilst singing along I wouldn’t want to kill myself listening to it on hold. Not only have I lost the will to live, I’ve learnt to absolutely hate the music. I was thinking that if they had Leonard Cohen singing Suzanne or Marianne or something then things wouldn’t be so bad and I’d remember all the words: though on second thoughts, it would probably destroy my abiding love for lovely Len. Truly, music on hold, probably all music on hold, is music to walk under a bus to.

Elizabeth Kinder


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