This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

Born Outside The Box / 20 December 2014

Different. Yes, I’m different than most people. I find it virtually impossible to go into the front door of a building only to be told, for whatever reason I have to exit through a different door. I am not the same person who entered that first door.

My brain and me most of the time enjoy each others company, but then, for no apparent reasoning, like changing the exits my brain rebels.

Different has been with me since around seven maybe eight years old when in Mrs Gregory’s class all the other kids were working on simple maths. Me: a big hole just appeared in my head and everything to do with maths/logic dribbled run away never to be seen again. 

It’s not just maths: me, and my sense of direction are always losing our way. We become confused, frightened. Everywhere is a major challenge for me and my impairment. I, we have been lost in a war zone when the convoy thought I had gone walk about of my own accord. Wrong.  

I thought I would be okay in one of the most secret of all the indigenous native American Indian reservations in New Mexico, easy for most visitors: one way in, one way out. Not for me. Not only, but I took photos inside their church: wrong again. 

So while they chased me their side arms banged against their legs and I was just twenty yards from escaping when they, who were all like  prop forwards surrounded me, took my ipad and wiped out photos they didn’t want the world to see. 

They asked where I was from. They’d never heard of Wigan? My brain seems to like practical jokes, but I didn’t think having a pack of native Americans chasing me was funny, thank you very much.

My sense of direction often refuses to be involved and just leaves me to my own devices. It’s everywhere I go, even in my own town to places where I know like the back of my hand, that is until the route changes because of road works or something like. Then my sense of direction seems to sit down on the pavement like some spoiled kid and just refuses to move.  

It’s the same wherever I go. The group/friends or who ever I am with at the time seem to convince them selves I have gone walk about. Wrong. I will be totally lost, frightened and in panic. Even worst still when people give me simple directions, back to where i want to be.  I become even more confused and my body and mind become one and refuse to move from the very spot I needed to leave behind. 

The most recent was at DaDaFest last Friday. All I had to do was walk across the road and down a short lane, easy for most: wrong for me. Trauma kicked in and I was completely lost in a few yards of Liverpool which could have been anywhere in the world. I was in an unknown land of my own with hundreds of strangers walking past and I felt I was in a kind of see through box where nothing made sense.   

On the train home I somehow thought my last stop was Crewe and I would be home in a couple of hours. Wrong. I was going back to front. I was half way to London – bugger. My brain refuses to go into reverse. On the whole I have a good relationship with my brain. Okay, it likes rebelling with a warped sense of humour: regardless we have and are still having great times. It has helped/encouraged me to write six published books of poetry one section of my memoirs, new novel about Orwell, not forgetting my new project a play. 

Even with all the above moans I like being different: different is good: being born out of the box is even better than being born in it.  

Peter Street, poet writer and Royal Literature Fund recipient