Don’t you understand?

Why does nobody believe me? One of the main thrusts across cyberspace at the moment is the concept of invisible illness. As a sufferer of MS, my symptoms are life changing yet vague. Who believes me when I have to groan and grimace when trying the simple act of sitting down or getting up? Does anyone know that my legs are aflame with the fires of hell and damnation? When I’m lying in bed late into the morning, who can acknowledge that the great beast of fatigue has come calling to lean its great heavy carcass on my shoulders?

Who knows about the mental strain of understanding that you are failing as a physical being? I get looks of suspicion and disbelief. I am just making this up because I’m lazy and disrespectful. Your house and your living room is a prison. Your sofa is a cell.

Those around you may be ranting and raving about the pressure and burden of care. Soon it becomes a major obsession and more important than the care. Let’s gripe and grimace about the things I have to do because you are unwilling to do them.

Yet I sit in my chair wanting to help and make peace. But the barrage continues. Does anyone understand about sharp noises? The living room is my world. I like a peaceful world. You can be focused, hard working and peaceful. Why do you have to be so angry? Why do people who are meant to understand talk about me in the third person when I’m in the same room?

Why do they never ask me where the tomato sauce is or which shelf in the fridge do we keep the mayonnaise? Do I not know because I’m stuck on the sofa? And why am I stuck on the sofa? Because there’s a bloody great table in front of me and to move it would be like shifting the axis of the earth.

How about letting me go to the dining table so I can prepare some vegetables and help with the cooking? Is it so important that I make more mess than it’s worth as opposed to giving me some sense of usefulness? Just sit there and blog because because that’s all I can do. Keep me believing that I’m useless. The ranting really helps to confirm it.

The house I’ve provided from the fruits of my labour is not a shithole. It’s the best I could do. The best from a career dogged by MS yet I’ve had the prudence to prepare for early retirement and cater for those around me.

What can be denied? The indignity of being called “him” or “he”? The pains of my illness? Broken promises? Being dismissed, ignored or ridiculed? Being mocked for asking for anti-depressants when 90% of people with a chronic illness get depressed? Welcome to multiple sclerosis and a host of other invisible illnesses. Why don’t people believe me?

Thank-you for reading.

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Things I can do

I can do pulled pork. I have this sensational mini cooker which can do everything. It was fifty pounds or something. But the other day, I sat placidly by my kitchen table preparing everything. Remember I’m essentially one handed but I have some very useful tools.

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This knife sharpener, £16.45, renders any knife into a super sharp precision blade. It doesn’t last long with cheaper knives but you can always sharpen them again. It makes onion peeling a doddle. Then I have the mother of all garlic crushers.

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£11.20

There is no need to peel, just grit your teeth and squeeze. Anyway, I prepared a rub of cumin, turmeric, pepper and sugar and bathed my sad bit of Danish pork leg; it was bought in error as Denmark’s reputation for porcine welfare is appalling. Then it was seared in a dry pan which was the inside of my non-stick multi cooker ready for the cooking sauce. Here we go:

Tablespoonful amounts of:

Pomegranate molasses.

Balsamic vinegar.

Chipotle sauce.

Salt and pepper.

Treacle.

Garlic.

Ground ginger.

Paprika.

Tomato puree.

And anything else you deem to be sticky icky dicky to give this poor animal a dignified send off. It all went into the cooker and stuck on 100 degress at about 14.30 yesterday. This morning I added some apples in big chunks and finally got to eat it at around 19.45 tonight. Mother mercury it was deep and rich and mmmmmmmmmmmm. (That’s a technical term.) But the best thing was the ease of preparation. I’m sorry there is no photo. The camera lost the race. The rest of it is all boxed up ready for the freezer.

Thank-you for reading.

I love Margate.

I was brought up next to a seaside resort. New Brighton once boasted a tower, a pier, two fairs and a host of other holiday resort type things. Unfortunately it became run down as the attractions closed one-by-one.

Only recently has some life returned, due to the opening of national chains on the sea front. But like the local retail parks; while it brings focus and some much needed work to the area, some of it’s character has been sucked away.new_brighton_waterfront_fc110909_1

So I love a sea-side resort. Over the last ten years, some resorts have become associated with economic depression and shed loads of scroungers spending their days and their benefits on junk food, cheap cider and fags; or a cocktail of other less legal drugs. _90351978_mediaitem90351977

The transition from jolly tack to crack has been seamless. Did it happen overnight?

Margate too has a similar association. If there was an OFSTED for seaside resorts; SEASTED, for example it would probably rate it as “needs improvement”. But I am here to praise Margate, not bury it.

You can’t beat the pure thrill of seeing the sea for the first time after a couple of hours in the car. I was always excited by it as a child and I still am now. On a bright and blustery Thursday afternoon, Margate opened out in front of me. Grand old Victorian and Edwardian terraces lined our majestic entrance.margate-and-seafront-2013-05-05-imgp0013

Earlier I had been marvelling at the size of Thanet Earth. How many tomatoes does it grow? It was all sort of square and high tech.

EARTH TE 8.1.09

Margate on the other hand, still has its old elegance. There it sat staring out to sea, bravely facing a rasping wind and restless waves. Behind me in the car, Jane and Martin were reminiscing about child hood family holidays with parents and grandparents.

But I was a Margate virgin. Two months ago, I went to Deal to find a gentle old bird bathing in the calmness of the warming sun and rippling sea. It looked trim and well kept. In contrast, Margate is more of a party animal.

Over the years I’ve followed the fate of Dreamland. I have sat watching South-East Today, willing it to open. Now I’m willing it to stay open. It is a unique piece of history.Finishing Touches Applied To Dreamlands Theme Park Ahead Of The Official Re-opening

Yesterday, my destination was the Turner Gallery. In stark contrast to the historic facades all around it, the Turner sits proud, shiny and angular. It’s Margate’s new baby.turner-contemporary-18

And it’s currently holding an actual Turner exhibition. I wanted to see more of this man’s work. It was worth it. I found the whole thing magical. Some of the biblical and mythological works were both a surprise and a delight.turner-34

Less magical was the disabled toilet. It’s a modern building. Why is the heavy door sprung? Do I try to get in on my own,risking decapitation or do I wait, legs crossed hoping for a kindly soul to open it for me? Then the toilet itself; in a wheelchair, there’s always a lot of stretching to do to reach things. The support bar took an age to drop down. Again, I had to have the strength of Man-mountain Benny to lift it up. Oh and trying to flush the thing. The flush buttons could only be reached with a stretch as they were flush with the cistern. Did you like the way I used the word flush in two ways. Well the damn buttons were mechanical and needed the pressure of a steam hammer.

“Doctor doctor, I have a back strain.”

“How did you do that?”

“Flushing the toilet.” The patient has to wait a few moments whilst the good doctor tries to compose himself.

Coming out of the building I was able to take in the glorious view across the curvaceous sea-front. The mid afternoon light bathed the old rock chick in the faint glow of a fading spotlight. The wind bullied my hairline as I took a deep breath of sea air.20161020_134309

I hope that those with the power can replace the spotlight and bring the old girl back to glory, as she sits smiling at the dark clouds and chill breeze, heralding the inevitable approach of winter. Thanks to my mate Steve for the day trip and thank-you for reading.

Stop, I want to get off.

I’m currently working on five short stories called “Running in the Shadows”. They’re all different scenarios based on running. (Obviously!) This the first one:

Tom looked ahead. It was a strain to bend his neck. Then he remembered his father’s words:

“Don’t waste time or energy looking at the finish. Look at the ground and open your ears; you’ll look ahead when you need to.”

On the sound of the gun he flew from the blocks. With arms pumping and legs pounding, Tom eventually looked to the line. There was no-one in front of him. He could hear the frantic pulses of his punching breath. The line came and went. Tom tumbled onto the track. He lay there panting, looking at the sky.

“Have I won?” It was only a passing thought. Tom didn’t care. He was just glad it was over. All that training; hour upon hour running up and down while the world lay sleeping. Days in the rain and wind, fighting the stopwatch, trying not to answer back to his over critical coach. Then he remembered his father and what he would have to deal with. Win or lose, the consequences filled Tom with a sense of dread. As he stared blankly at the swirling clouds overhead, the approaching march of his father’s footsteps shuddered towards him. He could see a tall dark-suited figure tower above him. Tom still didn’t care about the result. Then he heard the sigh.

“What did I say? What did I say?” Tom’s dad had an annoying habit of repeating himself. Tom closed his eyes. “You jumped off the blocks, you just jumped out of them. Then you missed your rhythm; missed your rhythm and ended up flapping your arms. After a strained pause, he looked at his father silhouetted against the fluid sky. “Flapping your arms.” He walked off. Tom sat up to see his coach bounding towards him.

“Nice one Thommo. I’ll check the time again but it looks like you’re below eleven.” Tom smiled back. He didn’t like his father or his coach. They ordered him, worked him and punished him. Yet they always criticised.

“Did I win?”

“Yes, you stormed it,” replied the coach, making a running gesture with his arms. “Just get that start a little bit tighter.” Tom let his head drop.

“You’ve got hockey tonight.” Tom looked to his father. “Hockey, tonight,” he repeated as if expecting a response. Tom sighed a silent sigh. It was no good arguing or trying to say that he was too tired or had no real interest in chasing a vicious hard ball round a field with a big stick.

This is what is was like. Every day of the week had some extra little activity. “It won’t do you any harm Thomas. It’s good to keep busy. We’re known as a sporting family. And you will get your time below the under-sixteen record.”

Tom was finding it hard. He liked doing things and keeping busy. He liked the friendships he had made. He even liked winning things and being on show. But once in a while, all he wanted to do was go home and do nothing. Tom was not into gaming or ploughing through social media. In fact he hated his phone. While almost everyone he knew would spend every spare minute of their spare time with their noses buried in their tiny screens; laughing or shouting “Oh my god” with their virtual friends, Tom kept his own phone in his bag. Days would go by without it being switched on.

On those rare occasions when there was no after-school club to go to and everyone would be doing their own thing, Tom liked to read about the countryside around him. Whether it was in a book or online, he wanted to know where every street and footpath would lead to. He was constantly playing different birdsong so he could recognise it when he heard it live.

“Can you hear that chaffinch?” Tom would say. No-one ever answered him. Mum was always texting and Dad would give him the look of death before launching into a rant about his training.

“You’ve got the nationals next week.” Tom would close his eyes as he heard his father’s reiteration. “Next week! You can’t let your training go.” His look of passive resignation always prompted more: “See if you don’t impress in the nationals you won’t get the opportunities for the training. They want boys who are keen and hungry.”

“But I am keen,” Tom would reply. “You’re keenly complacent.” His father’s comments prompted a long silence. But it was no a calm silence. This was a sharpened spring-loaded mousetrap of a silence. Tom certainly felt trapped. If he tried to break out, the jaws of his father’s discipline would snap around him. Tom’s whole life was being mapped out before him and there was nothing he could do about it.

The journey between the track and home went through Hunger’s Woods. The road would twist and turn amongst the bright green tangle of trees. Just before the top of the hill, the road began to descend into town. At this point, there was a clear footpath leading to the highest point. It was not much higher than the road but Tom knew it gave a great view over town and beyond; at least that was what Danielle had said. Danielle was the nine-year-old daughter of Andy and Donna, their next door neighbours. She would chat to Tom while both fathers bragged to each other about their sons’ sporting prowess. She liked to talk about the walks she did with her mum and Monkey, their grey Lurcher.

“Can we stop here so I can see the view?” Tom was always wary of being ridiculed. He did not know why he asked on that occasion; the mocking followed immediately

“Views are for girls.” Tom said nothing. The mousetrap returned.

“It’s a wonder he didn’t take off.” Tom’s mum looked up from her magazine. “He was flapping that much it’s a wonder he didn’t take off.” Tom studied his feet. his feet. Mum looked back down.

Upstairs, Tom sat on the edge of his bed and stared at the house across the road. Its front garden was divided into four sections. Separated by a low hedge, each quarter had a centrepiece. Tom’s favourite was the one with the rose covered archway. The man he saw was always trimming a branch and gently caressing each flower head. Tom did not know who he was. Father did not talk to the people across the road. They had a bigger house.

“Clarinet.” Father’s voice boomed from the bottom of the stairs. “I can’t hear the clarinet.” Reluctantly Tom put the three pieces of the instrument together and began to play one of his old tunes. It was a jolly piece from an old exam book. He didn’t need the music. The door burst open.

“You’ve got your grade five in two weeks.” Tom stopped and glanced up. His face remained passive. “Grade five. Where are your scales?” Tom closed his eyes closed for a few seconds. He returned the mouthpiece to his lips and started one of his dreadful scales. The door closed and he was left alone. But he wasn’t alone. He couldn’t even play for pleasure without incurring his father’s criticism. Yes he did have an exam coming up. Yes he did have to practise his scales. But why could he not do it his own way? Why was his father constantly on his back?

“Are you ready for hockey?” The sudden booming of his father’s voice made Tom jump. He was lost; lost in his imaginary wanderings. After some pained clarinet scales, Tom had immersed himself in some local mapping. He had the satellite map of the hill in Hunger’s Woods. With his finger, Tom traced the route he wanted to take. He was trying to memorise it.

The week before, Danielle and her mum called at Tom’s house. They were going to take their dog for a walk and thought they’d offer him the chance to join them. Tom did not know this at the time. He had heard the door bell but had no idea who it was. He had no idea that his father had been downright rude to them, announcing that his son had far more important things to do. Dog walking was a pointless exercise for a future champion.

It was only when he was being packed into the car along with his kit that Danielle came bounding down the driveway.

“Tom, Tom. We’re taking Monkey to the hill. Do you want to come?” Tom looked at his father. “I told you before.” His father’s face grew red. “He doesn’t do dog-walking.” Danielle waved to Tom as they drove past her and raced off along the road.

“Had she asked before?” Tom asked after a long strained silence. His father mumbled disapprovingly. “When did she ask before?” Tom rarely pressed his father. There was a long sigh.

“The other day.” He turned to his son. “And?” The silence returned. It remained until the end of hockey, when there were things to be said about Tom’s deteriorating technique and how he was becoming prone to distraction.

But Tom began to mull over it. It went round and round, churning in his brain. He missed a chance to go up the hill. He missed it because his father did not bother telling him. It raged on through every waking hour. Firstly it was distress. He was distressed because it was a missed chance. Then distress became determination. He was going to go up that hill.

Sometime in the middle of the night, Tom went onto his pad. With the mapping programme, he began to plan his escape.

“Four point three miles? I can run that.” Although Tom’s strength was speed, he was a natural athlete. Running was second nature. At school he often went on cross-country sessions. He liked the solitude. There was no-one around to bark their pathetic orders. Then thought about running times. “How long would it take me? Half an hour? Forty minutes?” It was turning into a masterpiece of meticulous preparation. As he was finishing, the morning light began to appear behind the curtains. There was one last thing to be decided; when?. Tom thought carefully about an opportune time. He had even prepared his road running gear for a quick getaway. Then without any more thought he put it on, crept out of the house and began to run.

Outside the air was clear and fresh. An early morning shower had left the verges glowing with spring moisture. Tom went into his cross-country rhythm. This was better than school. This was better than a sarcastic coach or a father too wrapped up in his own little cloud of self-importance. Going up the hill, Tom felt the pressure from his legs. It was the pressure of the sprint but in slow motion. He had memorised his route. There was only a mile on the road. Before long he was running over the soft green carpet of bright glistening grass. The occasional splash of ground water and the shivery streak of long grass and fern gave an instant of refreshing coolness.

The hill was getting steeper. Up ahead was the top. Tom sprinted. As he reached the highest point he was laughing uncontrollably. Still laughing, he turned round to take in the view. He gasped. It was magnificent. Below him was the sleepy little town. The daylight had arrived and tiny figures were beginning to scuttle about as the day was starting. Tom sat down. He was sweating from the run. The dampness did not matter. This was the most joyous moment of Tom’s short life.

Tom was only six when the news came. His brother Simon was at the hospital. He was having tests. That is what he was told. Tom could not remember the details but he could recall missing Simon not being at home. They ran and played together. Simon knew all sorts of secret places they could hide in. But Tom didn’t know what a tumour was. No-one explained it to him. But he knew where the brain was. He wasn’t allowed to go to the hospital. There were hours and days spent with Aunt Lindsey. Film after film, board game after board game and late night after late night. Tom never had fun with Aunt Lindsey. Her boyfriend Darren hated him being there.

One day Tom’s mum took him aside and told him Simon was never going to come back home. She looked dreadful; even to the eyes of a six year-old boy. Her hair was greasy and her face was thin and tight. She stank of cigarette smoke. Long nights followed. These were nights of tears, tempers and an absent father. When he saw him, Tom’s father smelt of whisky.

After they moved to their new house next to Danielle and monkey, Tom’s father began to come home at the right time. It was in time to eat as a family and in time to take Tom to training. The training became constant. Even at the age of seven, Tom found himself embroiled in an intense round of daily work-outs. When the hockey started, the weekends began to disappear. Like every young boy, Tom wanted to please his parents. He took part without complaint. But it was too much. He was not Simon. Like his brother, he was now fourteen and wanted to do his own thing. He loved the country. He loved nature. He loved his own company. He did not want to be a champion sprinter. He would look at pictures of athletes’ distorted bodies. The last thing Tom wanted was a neck like a tree-trunk.

When the morning sun began to warm the ground sending pockets of steam rising all around him, there was a familiar voice.

“Monkey fetch.” The laughter was unmistakable. Donna, Danielle and monkey came over the brow of the hill. Donna was surprised; Danielle was delighted.

“Look mummy, Tom’s here.” Donna looked at Tom.

“Shall I tell them?” asked Donna. Tom nodded. She produced her phone and took a few steps back down. She tilted her head and placed the phone against her ear. She stretched out with her other hand at some unseen object and raised her eyebrows. Tom smiled. It was not the sort of thing he’d noticed before but every woman or young girl he knew used their phone in the same way. The style was identical. He took a deep breath. Then she stopped. Donna looked back up:

“Shall we leave it a few minutes?” Tom smiled as he nodded. He knew there would be some explaining to do.

“Look!” Danielle was trying to show Tom how Monkey could catch his ball. She tried a couple of times before she sat down next to her big friend.

“Do you like it here?” she asked.

“I love it here,” replied Tom with his eyes fixed on some distant object.

“I love it too,” said Danielle looking the same way. She sat down next to his and rested her head on his shoulder. Donna came back up the hill to join them

“I’ve just spoken to your mum. I’ll take you home.” She looked up at the blue morning sky. “After we’ve finished here.”

Thank-you for reading.

An eternal debate.

I’ve just been watching a news article about the pressure young people feel and the consequences of depression and self harming. What do we say to that?

“Get a grip.”

“You have no idea.”

 “You want everything on a plate.”

You get the gist of this?

I know some people may relate to their own experiences and be very happy to have come through the dark wood of childhood and beyond relatively unscathed. Some have been less fortunate. But I believe these issues are real. They are real because of the pressure the young are under. Who do we blame? Here is an extract from “The Unicorn Balance.” It relates to an incident in a fantasy adventure following the fate of two young friends and their quest to banish evil from a distant kingdom. We can also relate it to the transition from childhood to adulthood and the realisation of the perils of life:

“Once they were used to the strength of the wind they found the run quite thrilling. Cookie looked across to Kate. Taking a little longer to adjust her stride, she had drifted over to the right. Between the ages of two years old and whenever, it is very difficult for anyone to run down a hill in a strong wind without beginning to giggle and squeal. As she ran Cookie was doing exactly this.

Half way down she noticed a dark shadow around her. The giggling stopped. She looked back across to Kate. Just slightly behind and above her was a huge black flying animal. Cookie realised that the shadow surrounding her indicated that she was being chased as well. The giggles turned to screams. Kate looked back over. Missing a slight dip in the hill they both tripped. The sheer force of their speed meant that they were rolling towards the solid wall of the building. They braced themselves. There was no collision. They had continued to roll through a low gap in the bottom of the wall. They came to a halt.”

What do the flying monsters represent? flyingfoxesflyweb1-courtesy-of-soulsongartThat very stark realisation that as you get older, things will be out to get you? You will begin to understand what sort of place your world is going to be. There will be pressures to conform. There will be pressures not to conform.

peer-pressureYou will be chased and harried into making decisions which may not be to your benefit. People will want to use you. The pressure issue is indeed a dark shadow. It is a complex myriad of cause, effect, reaction and counter reaction. To actually unpick the fundamental elements from such a tangled web of issues is quite impossible. It’s like the beleaguered teacher getting hassle from two sets of parents. The children of these parents may have some ongoing differences which manifest themselves regularly in the playground. The teacher wasn’t there. How can they possibly extract the truth from two totally self-centred versions. Then, like a set of Chinese Whispers, the version that goes home with the child may be considerably disproportionate to reality. Each parent may also get another version from other children or adults who have learnt third-hand about it. Then at the end of the day the head walks into the classroom after her own ear bashings from said parents.paperwork-mountain

The things is, that no matter what is taught and controlled in the classroom, has little effect on the learning in the playground. The encouragement and cajolement of the family home has been traded for the merciless environment of playtime. The development of friendships and dislikes will build some form of pecking order between children. It is one of the first realities they may learn about life. The first shadow of the black flying thing if you like. In the book they’re called reets. It’s nothing to do with a Yorkshire exclamation however.

The following observations I now give have valid arguments for, against and somewhere in the middle. An element of the above-mentioned “get a grip” can be applied as we think about personal, parental or peer responsibility. If I were to strip down these pressures into some form of reasoned criteria, I would say:

Parents.

Friends and peers.

Other siblings.

Teachers (yes those evil little critters who make young people work;

“But to go to school in a summer morn,
Oh! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.”

(William Blake’s The Schoolboy.)

The media.

Marketing.

Wealth (in its broadest term).

(I’m sure I’ve missed some other significant elements here!)

Now that’s a lot of interaction. Running through all of these are the twin arrows of image and ambition. We can also add pride onto the pile. And it’s not just the pride of the individual.

At some stage of our lives we have all been the subject of manipulation.

Controlled businessman

In fact if you imagine the deliberate and incidental machinations of the above categories, we are all being manipulated, all of the time.

In days of old, all classes of people felt the pressure to go to church. Now I’m not knocking the concept of collective worship or faith of any kind but this is just part of my observations. At church the illiterate poor were confronted with the images of the stain-glass windows.

Among the glorified icons of the christian faith, there were pictures of hell and damnation.629541329

It was a plain pictorial warning to anyone who had thoughts of stepping out of line. It reminds me of that verse from a well known hymn:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And ordered their estate.”

That verse tends not to be included these days because we know better. There lies another argument; we may believe in the equality of all but do we practise it?

Back to the pressures on the young. The old fashioned church idea is an example of blatant manipulation. Keep the working classes in their place. We won’t let them learn to read and write because they’ll start getting ideas.

But look at the images everyone is confronted with. Look at the adverts aimed at young people._75865699_ad-304

Some are so predatory they err on the side of sinister. Look at the attraction of the image and the clever use of the word “calorie”. That word is a powerful marketing tool. Will some people actually do anything sinister to persuade us to part with our money?

Before I start getting too involved with my meandering thoughts, I will finish with some more questions. It’s not a quiz. There maybe no definite answers but it is just food for thought. Isn’t food for thought the best fuel for the mind? (Answers on a postcard please.)

Questions:

Did the older generations have equal amounts of pressure when they were young?

Do older people have the same pressures but are better at handling them?

Is this a sick symptom of the civilised (and uncivilised) world?

Where do the seven deadly sins fit in all of this?

Can these sins be a motivating factor for all of us?

And finally:

Do people (like me) who have some form of disability feel the pressure more acutely?

Thank-you for reading

Little wheels mean little things.

Because I spend a lot of time moving in a wheelchair, I have less contact with the ground. There we go, that’s a prime candidate for the blatantly obvious. It does mean, however that I am no more prone to those nasty little static electricity surprises.

It may be an innocent, seemingly harmless action; switching a light on, opening a cupboard door or putting a towel onto the radiator. But that crafty little beggar, Mr Staticfantastic sends his evil little bolt down my fingertip.18ixbb22stc2ujpg

I’ve had some proper electric shocks in the past but they’ve mainly been caused by my own neglect.

One spectacular mishap occurred many years ago when I had my greasy little paws in the bowels of an engine. I can’t remember what car it was; it was probably a Vauxhall. (Those infernal Vauxhalls have always plotted against me. The characteristic road noise and general sagginess of the upholstery are just two of the things which wind me up. Oh, and I can’t help feeling that the designers just try a little bit too hard to get an innovative line to their vehicles.

4335027339_82c5113c84_zI’m sure there are many good points about Vauxhalls but I find that when I sit in one it could be any model. They all have a similar family feel about them. And often it seems to be a family with an attitude.

I will now cease my vitriolic aside as it’s probably all in my head. Vauxhalls are a major employer and I’m sure it’s full of lovely people.)

Well, with my hands focused on something below, my steel wristwatch strap crossed two terminals and gave me a nice distinctive burn, thus welding the strap to my skin. As I said, it was own fault because I hadn’t turned the ignition off. I’m still scarred.

So what can I do about this evil Staticfantastic? Maybe I should have one of those earthing strips trailing on the floor below the wheelchair like many cars of the seventies and eighties.car-torx-anti-static-earthing-strip

One of the other little things now affects a different extremity. This is my total lack of awareness of my feet. I now have crenellated toe nails due the constant battering they have taken with door frames, radiators and table legs.aid2120539-728px-treat-a-torn-toenail-step-6

The best trick is leaning sideways and forward over the dishwasher and inadvertently driving my poor big feet into the cupboard door. I really should switch the chair off before I go leaning against the joystick.

Over the last few months, I’ve noticed a development of additional markings inside the door frames. They are all the same height giving a sense of symmetry to their distinctive carvings. Of course, this is another little thing. I don’t always watch where I’m going. This has resulted in spectacular collisions in the door areas.

You know that sound of steel on wood? Wood is strong but it will always lose out to steel. It cries a splintering lament as the rear frame of the wheelchair cuts its canal deeper into the unfortunate upright. The wheels are awesome. They can shift anything.

When I wanted to move my bed a bit, I just drove slowly into it. The poor bed. It was like arm-wrestling knowing you would lose; you can resist but you will never win.9stgmv

The final little thing is the state of the pavements on the streets of Crowborough. They are appalling. These narrow strips of undulating tarmac are being constantly riddled with the signs of progress. I’m quite happy for people to get their super-fast broadband but I’m less than delighted for the filling in of the holes to result in each trip to be raised to the level of crossing an ocean in a force ten.

I suppose it adds a new excitement to posting a letter but perhaps those of a more delicate constitution may be prone to sea-sickness.worn-and-uneven-pavement-and-road-surface-uk-b0bmkr

Thankfully, I gained my sea legs on the Mersey ferries. The usual eight minute skip across the river was so easily extended by the whipping up of the swell when gales struck the North West coast. I would stand proudly on the top deck, roaring into the wind. I gripped the front rails. My hands would be red with cold and exhaustion. No theme park could match that thrill.

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The Egremont-my favourite ferry.

As for the other little things?

People who park on the pavement.

The lack of access to shops in the High Street.

The now well documented bottom line at which my eye level now operates.

High shelves in the supermarket.

A house full of battery chargers.

I will stop now. It’s all a new voyage of discovery. Another day, another level of destruction or irritation. But I don’t mind. Wheelchair equals freedom.

Thank-you for reading.

Morning Break.

What makes a perfect time?

A quiet moment,

Sitting by the window

With tea on the table,

Watching the rain fall.

Nibbling the corners of a biscuit

Delicately removing the chocolate.

Then bravely holding the trimmed remains

Soaking in the sweet brown brew,

Before swiftly placing the soft mass

Into my waiting mouth.

But for now,

I wait.

I am not by the window

Where brother and sister sit

Happily disintegrating theirs

Into a chocolate mess.

I wait for Father

To lift the cup

Slowly to my lips.

With every tilt,

A sigh of disappointment

Disguised with a look elsewhere.

A frown,

Pained by guilt,

As each piece of biscuit is broken up

And fed between my dry lips.

In a fit of hope

I reach out.

The cup falls.

Father gives his smile

And wipes the little brown pond,

Spreading before me.

I’ve seen him,

Shaking his head

As I try to play

With stunted arms

And withered fingers

When will he see

Beyond this sentence of anguish?

I can forgive him

For my shackles of impairment

I can forgive him

For the times when I sit

And wait

What cannot be forgiven

Is the stigma of difference.

For I am just like the others

I am both strong and weak

When will he see?