Pierce Starre: Breaking free: Part 2

An inspirational Pierce Starre travelled for several long weeks on foot, he chose to embark on an unplanned and organic journey that would see him breaking free from the daily rituals and triviality of our modernised lives. Along the way he continued to meet more people, many of whom shared a mutual view how one should be making the most of Mother Nature’s natural treasures that our country provides. Early morning sunrises breaking through heavy mist, the glorious beauty of rolling moors, refreshing swims in clear rivers and musical sounds of rushing waterfalls – all of these delights are described in Pierce’s blog: Born To Birth.

Photo by Pierce Starre

Photo by Pierce Starre

For us to comprehend the experiences Peirce was going through, he kindly agreed to share them with us alongside his journey, one that took him out of society and was an experience for him on all levels.

Hereby the concluding article;

1. As with last time I’ll start with how are you?

I am doing well and am feeling optimistic and positive despite missing my family and my ongoing hayfever and ankle difficulties.

2. Since you started have you encountered mainstream society, if so how was it?

There have been occasional reconnections with society. I took a trip into a supermarket to pick up rations for my journey and the noise was audibly and visually disorientating. It hit me like a brick. I hadn’t experienced that amount of noise for a while. It struck me how systematic everything appeared. The way people walked up and down the aisles in the same direction. The way people queued up to pay for their items, everything seemed really structured. Living life out doors is much more free, you move in the direction you wish to. Conventional life in general is very organised and mundane I think I might find it difficult going back to my systematic life. How I will deal with this remains to be seen.

3. Here is a toughie… You miss your family so much, how have you been coping?

On a trip like this where there are many days of being completely isolated, I tend to think of my family a lot. It is very difficult being away. It definitely brings a different level of appreciation. It’s easy to become complacent when you have your family around you every day but when you are alone and completely detached from them you realise how precious they are and how much more you can do to enjoy the time you have with them when you are around them.

4. You’re now fund raising for CIC, how did that come about?

As a young boy I had enjoyed playing outdoors, it shaped me as an individual. I have many happy memories of being outdoors, climbing trees, building dens, playing with other children and being part of a young community.

During the last couple of weeks on this journey, I have only seen two children playing outdoors. The weather has been glorious in England. It sad to see that children are not out enjoying everything the land/nature has to offer anymore. More and more children are indoors and consumed by the wide range of gadgets they have at a whim.

CIC’s such as Playing Out have useful resources to inspire parents to find ways encourage their children be outdoors and enjoying the spaces around them.

Playing outdoors develops children’s confidence, creativity, trust and social skills; all of which will go onto benefit their adult life. Playing Out also gives children those all important memories of their childhood.

5. You seem to have adjusted well to living simply, opening yourself completely to the raw land and the people in it…. but how have you adjusted coming back into mainstream civilisation?

What I have come to realise is the things that became unimportant to me on my trip are of upmost importance to me now, these are the things that have made me realise how trivial we behave in our systematic existence. The conventional life is confined and clinical. It has very little time for reflection.

Selfie by Pierce Starre

Selfie by Pierce Starre

During my journey I carried an iPhone which I used to update my blog, http://www.borntobirth.tumblr.com. I initially planned to write in a journal and be completely disconnected from my conventional life but after much consideration I decided to create a blog. The reason I decided on the blog was because I am a father. It was the first time I had spent such a long time away from my family home and I didn’t know how my absence would affect my son, The blog enabled him to see me.  Apart from my iPhone I was disconnected, when I say disconnected, I mean from my conventional existence.

My home is a static shell, I know it so well, it’s familiar. I learn very little when I meet the confinement of my walls and materials. When at home I look for means to occupy myself; to engage as I think a lot of us do. More and more of us spend less time outdoors so how do we escape and connect with what’s outside our walls? “The conventional escape” seems to be achieved through media, the things we read or watch but are we actually escaping? Media, whether it be news or social networking has the power to influence the way we see our world but a lot of what we see is what the contributor wants us to see.

When on my journey my abode was the space and the people that existed within it at that given time. The place I rested constantly changed and because of this it meant that I was continuously exploring and absorbing a vast amount of information. I didn’t need technology, I was connected with what I seeing. I felt like what I saw was my power supply, I was alive. I was receiving substance and I found myself reflecting more than ever before and now I am back in a dwelling that is permanent, static and confined by bricks mortar. I feel like my power supply has been removed.

I was unable to wash frequently, my level of cleanliness wasn’t the best. I was eating food with grubby hands, wearing clothes that I had worn for 4 or 5 days on the trot. These things didn’t matter to me, in fact I forgot about them, they became unimportant. I appreciated that I had air in my lungs, I had life and what I was experiencing made me feel complete.

6. Do you think you would turn your journey into a small book?

I realised how reflecting in my Borntobirth became paramount. I aim to use my blog as a pilot/blueprint for ideas I have for future projects I want to develop.

7. Do you think families have too many gadgets? Do we really need a constant stream of technology? Wouldn’t just one in the home suffice?

In truth I think media is disconnecting us from everything that is around us, including our nearest and dearest. It only becomes apparent when you disconnect from media and reconnect with the simple pleasures of life.

Kirsty – You’re quite right there. The evening usually sees Martyn on his smart phone and me in another room on the computer. Or if we’re watching telly, he is on his smart phone… At dinner time he is on his smart phone and the kids are watching the telly. I’ve coax, bribed and threatened my family to try and get dinner times to be just about enjoying our food and catching up with everyone’s day. It is hard for people to give up technology – additive and probably more so than cigarettes!

Pierce – This is the same in our household and probably most households in the UK.

8. Has your trip inspired you to change your household a little?

Definitely, I think my trip enabled me to see how amazing it was to just connect and learn from another human and not a screen.

Thank you for your continued support and shows of kindness which are very much appreciated.

Mr Starre is now progressing back into civilisation, recharging his batteries and recovering from his ailments albeit in very high spirits having completed his journey. He still feels rather overwhelmed with the amount of beauty he experienced and the kindness from people he met along the way.

Sara is now even more determined to turn a dream of hers into a reality due to being inspired by Pierce, to trek across Morocco with her kids in tow whereas Kirsty has arrived at the conclusion that perhaps it is not about being trapped by the routines of life but by our perceptions…. We work overly hard to bring our children gadgetry, and plastic toys when all we want is for them to be happy yet at the same time we are working ourselves far too hard. When perhaps all we need to do is take a trip to the countryside, swim in a river, eat berries straight from the bushes and leave our mobiles and watches at home.

Photo by Pierce Starre.

Photo by Pierce Starre.

“He is richest when he is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.” – Socrates.

~ SJ (Sara Jae) & Kirsty

(For part 1, click here to read)


Eyes down for a full house!

As a school girl, history lessons were never at the top of my list, so my neighbouring classmate and I would pass notes to and fro, silently mouthing or signing momentarily to pass some of the time. Under the watchful eye of our history teacher, she once asked me with a hint of despair “Why don’t you enjoy history?”

“It all happened in the past and that’s where it should stay?” would be my usual response. Even to this day when speaking of past experiences, I tend to leave it all in the past. I could never see the reasons behind dredging up the past to learn from. Do we actually learn not to make the same mistakes or was it merely the power of suggestion for some to be challenged by? Some figures within the deaf world have published books and held lectures on deaf history. Once again, I find myself within that zone. “Do we really have to listen to that record?” I would ask myself.

Someone once implied we should listen to our forefathers and take heed in order not to make the same mistakes they did, in this day and age. I pointed out that in the olden days the attitudes and times then were different to today’s so why should we have to listen to what was said before our time and follow suit? When its the present society we should be listening to, adapting to and learning from in order not to make the same usual delayed reaction like generations before us have done so.

Walking through the bustling streets of London, I tend look up to admire the architecture whilst everyone else grudgingly looks downwards. Every being, structure has its own story to tell, in their own unique ways.

The opportunity arose to see the Supreme Court of United Kingdom. I felt a spark of interest. Purely because I have a genuine interest in the Law and worked at the Immigration Appellate Authority. But, this tour was the first one they would be trying out with STAGETEXT, live captions on a tablet. I had never experienced this form of communication support in the past so felt rather intrigued, seized the day and reserved myself a ticket knowing a few friends were also going. Two birds with one stone.

Upon arriving at Westminster tube station, I was at once overwhelmed with how touristic London had become. Cameras were in full force everywhere, motors revving past, the chatter of people, and the whirlpool of colours – spinning all around me. Then there was this idyllic backdrop in all its splendour, Westminster, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben standing very proudly, tall and yet so intricate.

Having spotted my friend Rich, we decided to impersonate tourists ourselves by having our photo taken with Big Ben in the background. The hustle and bustle all around reminded me of the “Hands on ears” deaf awareness campaign so I asked this lovely lady if she would take a picture for us, of us. She smiled and willingly obliged. I suggested to Rich, “Let’s put our hands on our ears!” The lady seemed to question “Why hands?” in such a way that I realised she might be deaf aware so indicated I would explain after. She understood my body language. How strange but nevertheless posed for the #handsonears photo with our positive support regardless.



Intuition encouraged me to ask her, if she could sign. She smiled and signed “Yes” We smiled too in wonder, consequently holding a brief natter. What are the chances of that?! A tourist, who knew sign language supposedly had to cross our paths, right there and then.

Making our way to the Supreme Court, there stood a grand looking building decorated with stone carvings, sporting the Royal Coat of Arms. Walking through the front doors was like going back in time but with hints of the present and future. It was a mix of old blended in with the new. This was because the old building over time wore out and since restoring and renovating the building as it had previously used to be a courthouse, Guildhall and then a Crown Court better known as the “Middlesex Guildhall” before being chosen to date, the location for the Supreme Court. The stone walls and original chandeliers looked at home side by side engraved glass panels with combined phrases from the Judicial Oath et cetera.

Holding the tablet for the very first time, I had no idea what to expect. How did it work? I asked a very kind new face which I could now put to her name. She explained that it was all through Wi-Fi. The speaker would usually have a microphone that someone would listen from and type, which sent out live subtitles over Wi-Fi. I was a little dubious knowing how bad live subtitles were on the TV. Much to my delight, which at first was a very surreal moment, the subtitles started flowing on my handheld screen – I looked up and around me, smiling seeing how everyone was following with ease. Equally. It is a bit like seeing all the passengers around you on the tube looking at their phones but in a different setting, for entirely different reasons.

It was amazing how this technology worked, so quickly and accurately. As it was their first time, it was only natural there would be patches of areas where the signal cut out and tablets had to be rebooted but knowing the speaker was achieving this via a Skype phone call, who on the other end sat a most patient lady called Wendy. I have to say, I was very impressed. It was nothing like I envisaged it might be but better. Kudos to STAGETEXT for all their hard work in order to overcome barriers on an united and equal basis, so we could enjoy this experience we would never had been able to fully enjoy or understand without them.

Live captions on a tablet.

Live captions on a tablet.

On the first floor, there stood courtroom two and this huge impressive glass wall. An inspirational quote from the human rights campaigner Eleanor Roosevelt, which read “Justice cannot be for one side alone but must be for both” This stopped me in my tracks because it was extremely clever the way they designed it, to run along both sides of the glass panel.

The Supreme Court's official emblem.

The Supreme Court’s official emblem.

England: “A symmetrical five-petalled wild rose with stalk and leaves, an English symbol since the Tudor dynasty.”

Scotland: “A purple thistle, associated with the tradition that an early Scottish army was saved when barefooted Viking invaders stepped on prickly thistles in the dark, crying out in pain and waking the defenders.”

Northern Ireland: “A light blue five-petalled flax flower, representing the linen-weaving industry which was so valuable that nineteenth century Belfast was known as ‘Linenopolis’.”

Wales: “The green leaves of a leek, deriving from the medieval legend that St David ordered his Welsh soldiers to wear leeks on their helmets during a battle against the Saxons.” All four symbols placed inside an almost circular frame depicting Libra, the scales of justice, and Omega, representing finality.

These four symbols were also integrated into the carpet’s design – specially designed by Sir Peter Blake who is better known as the designer for the album cover of the Beatles “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The carpet reflected his personality and era in a psychedelic sense which seemed quite groovy.

A relative question regarding the design was raised; If Scotland was to gain independence what would happen to the symbol that represented Scotland on the emblem?? The answer which was not expected, was one of that the emblem would have to be redesigned (to remove the symbol) and the carpet would also have to be replaced! If needs be, needs must.

The Supreme Court poem was written by Sir Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate between 1999 – 2009, to mark the creation of the Supreme Court.

Tides tumbled sand through seas long-lost to earth;
Sand hardened into-stone – stone cut, then brought
To frame the letter of our four nations’ law
And square the circle of a single court.

Here Justice sits and lifts her steady scales
Within the Abbey’s sight and Parliaments
But independent of them both. And bound
By truth of principle and argument.

A thousand years of judgment stretch behind –
The weight of rights and freedoms balancing
With fairness and with duty to the world:
The clarity time-honoured thinking brings.

New structures but an old foundation stone:
The mind of Justice still at liberty
Four nations separate but linked as one:
The light of reason falling equally

The poem is also inscribed on the semi-circular stone benches opposite the main entrance.

The Library which is not open to the public was such a privilege to view, just being allowed inside. There was even a book on display from 1661! The whole building and tour experience left me feeling extremely grateful to be on their very first try out tour. There was a mixture of humour, education, technology and history. My goodness, if my history teacher could read this now – she would be rendered speechless!

The Library.

The Library.

So thank you ever so, to the staff of STAGETEXT and to Simon especially, who was our guide. He had a lot of patience and the right customer service skills needed. All the best and we shall look forwards to more.

~ SJ (Sara Jae)

From Netscape to Google

All this talk about social media has made me reminisce about the first few hours, days and weeks that I spent exploring the wonders of the internet.


Let me give you some background: I’m 29 years old (and 30 is fast approaching), so I’m a Gen-Y-er, and the internet was just hitting its stride when I became a teen. So by the time I was in year 10 (GCSEs) at secondary school, Netscape had arrived and a world of forums and the early days of social networking was taking off. My childhood was internet-free – I grew up with a sense of freedom and exploration, finger-painting in the garden, reading and crafting, annoying the family cats. I often wonder what life is like for children now – how will it be when they grow up in this world of fast-paced digital information and technology?

So, as I said, it started with Netscape. Then along came Bolt.com, the early teenage-infested waters of social media. This was an interesting site, it had profile pages not unlike Facebook now, but you could post your own writing, poetry and essays on your own profile and choose to make them public or private. There were many topic related boards, a little like Facebook groups now, where you could start discussion threads or post your writing for people to comment on. There were also the chatrooms – the one me and my friends frequented most often was called ‘Movies’, but anything except Movies was being discussed – although occasionally there would be a discussion about new films or favourites. Usually there would be a load of people singing song lyrics at each other. This is where I met my now husband, 13 years ago…

This was a wonderful atmosphere, although there were some difficult moments when people would have arguments or would be going through a hard time and needed support. I will never forget all the characters that populated Movies – it would probably look a lot like a group of the misfits in an American high school drama: from the spiky haired guy with piercings from Glasgow (who loved Michael Jackson songs) to the cute indie girl with a checked floppy hat, and the geeky tech guy. Very late-90s/early 2000!

These were the days of MSN messenger and long chain emails, where we would answer a load of questions about ourselves and pass them on to our friends to answer. I often miss that naivety and sense of a whole uncharted internet to explore – this was the time when the boundaries of the internet had not yet been fully explored. Amazon was still just a bookseller and blogs were very low-fi, more like journals than anything else. I didn’t start a blog until 2005, when Facebook was just starting up, competing with Myspace.

When I started blogging, I was at University and needed a place to start writing for myself again. I credit the internet with inspiring me to start writing again: when I started, I wasn’t looking for an audience, but a bit of internet ‘real estate’ of my own. I hadn’t written anything of my own for a while, even though I used to write a lot when I was a teen – Bolt got me writing lyrics and poetry. So in many ways, the internet has been a driving force behind inspiring me to write.

As a deaf person, I have found the internet an incredible place to find information, research, network and share my writing with other people. It has exposed me to the good and bad sides of human behaviour – though I have experienced bullying and trolls, I still find that there is an ideal of free-information and DIY-activism underneath all the capitalism and advertising. Though we chafe at the changes the Facebook founder keeps making, Facebook has still been a good place to network and start up activism.

What worries me about the internet and social media are the same things that other people are worried about – not experiencing the ‘real’ world and forgetting to live in the moment. Another thing that worries me is how people will use social networks to become ‘popular’ and to feed their narcissism or will start bullying people. Although all movements and groups have people who will try and use the internet to further their own interests, there are those of us who use it to facilitate thinking, activism and to bring people together.

As with all things humans do, there are always going to be moments of difficulty and times when ego comes up against the desire to do good. Social media can’t replace face to face interaction, which is why the Tree House aims to do ‘real-world’ activism and campaigning alongside projects and campaigns on social media. It is still early days, but I’m looking forward to seeing everything develop and grow.

Although part of me dislikes how reliant I have become on social media – on Facebook and Twitter in particular – there is another part of me that enjoys interacting with different networks of people. For myself, I find Twitter an invaluable place for activism, keeping up with the writing and publishing industry, and for real-time reporting. My interest in various movements – feminism, deaf rights and access, body acceptance and self esteem, and disability, amongst others – means that I’m able to follow an eclectic stream of interesting information and ideas each day on Twitter. An endless stream of inspiration.

As with all things, how you use social networking has a lot to do with the quality of your experience. As a deaf person, I can say that it has opened my world up and allowed me to connect with people the world over. Although I’m wary of how much time I spend on the net, I wouldn’t change it – it can be a great equaliser. It allows people to interact on fairly equal ground – to communicate with each other whether they are deaf or hearing. Although I have my bug-bears about certain things, like v-logging where there are no subtitles, I continue to be hopeful of the power of the internet as a tool for change and spreading information.

– Lizzie Ward-Mclaughlan

The Era of Computers by Angel Sign

laptopdaguerrotypeAs I was growing up, so began the era of computers. Of course I learnt how to use them at secondary school, they didn’t exist in primary back then, and as I grew so did the use of computer generation X.

I am the first to admit that I really only used the Commodore 64 to play games on at home, Mr Wimpy, one of my faves, a must to play every weekend, competing with my brother to reach level after level. Another favourite of ours was the infamous Donkey Kong.

Once I left school, life took over and the only real place that I used a computer was at work. At home, and I played only if with my boyfriend at the time, it was the age of consoles. We had moved on from the Atari and it was now Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog racing to collect the golden rings.

Up until this point the internet was not widely used by the public and as I was enjoying life too much it held no real interest to me. In fact unless I needed to search something at work (which was rare), I felt I had no real use for it at all.

This all changed when my family arrived and once the children began school, things changed. Of course nowadays computers are available to use in Nursery right through till they leave school. My children are from Generation Z and will be thought of as the sophisticated technological generation who are internet savvy. I now had a lot to learn!!!

So I took an ICT course at the primary school my children attended, learnt how to understand the keys and formats of various programs on the computer. This in itself aided me to support my children with homework and various other projects. Of course I still had no real clue about the internet and how to use it with full potential. Even now I am still learning and from my children who understand it naturally like water off a duck’s back.

After a few years of growing in confidence, I was able to help my children search information, I could buy online, do my banking and so on, however I was still yet to enter the world of social media.

For many years I berated the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bebo and so on, saying that the youngsters of today were not able to socialise face to face very well and that society would lose the ability for physical contact in communication. I still believe that this could lead to the downfall of Generation Z.

However, I was soon to join the masses as through my BSL course, in order to support each other’s learning, it was suggested that a group was set up on Facebook. Imagine my horror. Still after a couple of months I crumbled and agreed to set up an account and join the group.

So, for the first year I kept it purely to do coursework and supporting and nothing more. However with something as nationwide and sporadically placed as BSL, I found as I went up the levels, I started to branch out and look for more support with my learning. I also used it to find social clubs, events and groups of varying nature hence my entrance to The Treehouse.

To conclude my history and begin answering the question, of course the internet has changed my life. In respect of having such a busy life, I can do my shopping or banking online. I am able to research for topics of interest, learn things I never knew before, and support my children’s education and so much more. Through social networking I have talked with some diverse people, had some interesting and occasionally heated debates and made some new chat buddies who have similar interests or goals in life.

As a deaf person, has the internet changed my life? I do not feel it has drastically changed my life any more than the average person however I can see how social media networks is a huge change for those that are lonely, isolated for whatever reasons and not necessarily just for deaf people. For those that already have a healthy outdoors life, I see them sharing and continuing to enjoy. Then there are those that are in between who have a life before the internet and have become lazy through its addictive nature, which is possibly the biggest con of them all.

The pros are that it is a diverse piece of technology on tap, for those that have it; it can help you to find information worldwide and meet people from all over. However, I still feel as a member of Generation X it is our responsibility to ensure that those from Generation Y and now Z learn that the world they see on the screen is also alive and kicking outside their front door, and sometimes they need to step out into the bright sunlight and embrace nature’s natural way of learning too.