Sunday, 2 December 2012

Day 211 - weekends, walking and Vangelis

Yesterday marked the beginning of the last month of 2012. How surreal is that!? That gives me eight months until I graduate (sorry for the reminder, fellow finalists - I'm as terrified as you!) and, therefore, until my goal. This is both scary and exciting; I've come so far and yet have so far to go.

To calm the tumult in my mind, then, it felt as though the time had come to break things down a little - and what better month than that of the overly-commercialised collections of bitesized boxes we call Advent calendars? So, because I've worked out that (bar two days this week) I shall be at home for the entire month of December, my Christmas treat, instead of chocolates, can be the endorphins I get from having the time to do some really structured (and awesome) exercise.

This is a response to two challenges. Firstly, and extremely generously, my good friend Sam has told me that he and the cast of Chariots would like to contribute to my sponsorship. In order to be worthy of their support I want to do something inventive (quelle surprise!) and he has suggested I attempt a lap of the race-track in the Gielgud. As I'm not quite at the stage (oops, what an awful pun!) where I could do that now, but because the show finishes in early Februrary, I thought it would give me a good incentive if I did something along those lines in January. I haven't finalised things with Sam or anyone else, as we're just bandying ideas about at the moment, but...

Secondly, on hearing of the possibility of something like a lap, my dear Mama has offered me a mission, should I choose (and I do!) to accept it. She suggests that we deem December the month of 'Drive, Determination, and Positive Inner Dialogue'. Not that any month isn't determined, since I'm a perfectionist, but I'm going to make a concerted effort to banish even the slightest niggle of negativity from my mind, body and self, and to see where it takes me by my Gramma's birthday on 1st January. I figure that I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain. After all, I'll need something to distract me from my 8,000 words of essays [plus dissertation] I've to write in that time, too. So watch this space.

And now (given that I've spent a considerable amount of time banging on about advent calendars) here's a little treat for you - and a taste of what's to come - with some not unrecognisable music behind it. It was recorded yesterday, so I can truly say...

  Happy December!

And RIP Ian Charleston <3

Friday, 30 November 2012

Day 209 - stand, stand, stand to the loo...

Don't worry; this is the only (I repeat, only!) time this blog will have a post title that even remotely resembles toilet humour. Today, however, it is necessary - and you shall soon see why.

In case I wasn't clear enough yesterday, I'm home very briefly for some R, R & R (the usual 'rest and relaxation' coupled with a physio regime). This couldn't be more fabulous...except that on a Friday Mama and I are on our own, so we have no-one to help with the loo. Today, though, it was fine...because I took my own weight completely and stood on my own with no support while she pulled up my trousers! My knees were rather bent, but still...I haven't stood unsupported, and felt that I wasn't about to collapse, in years!

Then I went and walked in my hoist for the first time since the botox and did six lengths of my room, each one stronger than the one before it.

So I guess you'll forgive the toilet humour, eh ;)?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Day 208 - come the little white flakes of snow

Okay, it's not actually snowing yet (at least not here in Warwick, nor at home in London) but it certainly feels like it might. This weather is icy, and neither my body nor my mind are enjoying it very much. Yes, the botox has magicked away my spasms, but it's also given my legs a deep-running desire to get back on the road to this walking wish of mine (pun absolutely intended!) so my muscles have been aching with lack of use...who'd have thought it!?

Clearly I need a running-track at uni. No, what I really need is a hoist-track that is more moveable than the one above my bed here (which I don't use for its intended purpose anyway), and a hydrotherapy pool - both of which are available at home. This time, though, I've been here for two weeks - pretty much since I had botox - and I've had lots of work to no exercise for me, and cold feet.

Cue weather-related soundtrack, especially Noel Coward's song from Cowardy Custard, 'Come the Wild, Wild Weather' that I've always loved. (Then imagine my horror when, googling the song, I discovered the play toured last year, and not only with Savannah Stevenson, one of the girls from Chariots, but with Kit Hesketh-Harvey, who I've never met (sadly) but who's helped us Opera Warwick lot with translations for the last three years! Considerable failure of ticket-booking on my part, but that's what you get for going to a uni away from home and being nowhere near Greenwich when it's on, eh =p?)

Yet I digress - because the song has done what I hoped it would and kept me afloat this last fortnight - and I found Savannah's version, which made me even happier!

Now homeward-bound for physio, so all is well in the world, but that's not the most important thing. I've learnt, I hope (thanks to Coward, and Savannah), that I'm resilient enough to keep going and that there's always a silver lining to every cloud (or snowflake)! Huzzah =)!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Day 200 - guess who's back, back again?

Jessi's back, tell a friend.

Wow. So it's Day 200 (seriously!?), and I haven't blogged for nearly a month. It's shameful, and I'd like to apologise very sincerely, before reassuring you all that I'm back. A lot has happened in these, the first twenty-one days of November, and this post will aim to tell you about, well, my life since the 28th October.

It seems rather apt, then, that this return to the blogsphere is happening late - because, for those of you who know me in the real world, November is the month of my (premature) birth. So, although I wanted to post on my actual day (especially as it was my twenty-first!), in some ways I'm rather happy I didn't because my main message about it is as follows:

It feels as though I'm finally allowing myself space to grow into life fully, to be physically ready to take on the world. I had a wonderful day, surrounded by wonderful people, and I'm looking forward to a wonderful year ahead. It's been an interesting time, as my spasms came back (clearly the weather before wasn't that cold in reality), but it actually felt like something of a rebirth (or, to use the favourite word of one of our lecturers, catharsis). I don't mean to be clichéd (goodness knows, once you've gone to a Warwick Writing Society session you live in mortal fear of that!) but I really was taken right back to my incubator with each of them and, now I've (figuratively) grown up again, I'm ready to stand on my own two feet.

This was helped by two things - Mama made me a page-a-year scrapbook from birth to twenty-one, which is the most beautiful book, and reminded me of abilities that I possessed in the not too distant past. Then I had what we both agreed is my best birthday present - the second round of botox since I started this blog.

Cue relaxation, cue raring to go, cue a wonderful beginning to my twenty-second year - a resurgence of excitement and enthusiasm for Walking by 2013!


Sunday, 28 October 2012

Day 176 - babysitters... ;)

On Friday night, Bee, Lynda and I wanted to watch a film, but we realised we had no DVDs with us except Ice Age 3...which we had watched on Wednesday. Thank heavens such a thing as BBC iplayer exists - for there we found a gem we would otherwise easily have dismissed. It is a 1999 release called At First Sight and, whilst I could simply direct you to IMDB for a synopsis, I'm not going to because the one they offer is far too reductive: 'A blind man has an operation to regain his sight at the urging of his girlfriend and must deal with the changes to his life.'

That's not what happens. The above sentence deals solely with the middle of the plot - and misrepresents it to boot. It's true that Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer), a severely visually-impaired masseur, meets Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino), an architect, and that together they eventually decide to go ahead with the surgery. Without spoiling things, though, that's not the end of the film - and I would suggest that its main theme is the couple's journey (both together and as individuals) towards a fuller understanding of themselves and their relationship, as well as the impact and implications that disability might have on them and the people around them. Actually, it is those 'people around them' that are perhaps the most important factor in this development and, as such, the film could be posed as a treatise on the attitudes of society towards disability. For fear of straying too much into the territory of my dissertation and boring you, however, I'll try and keep it...relevant to life [read here, this blog].

What I took from the film, I suppose, is that even though there are implicit difficulties in having a disability, however it might manifest itself, these are undeniably instrumental in shaping our 'view of the world' (and, in Virgil's case, they do so quite literally). Sure, there are jerks - like Amy's ex-husband Duncan, who dismisses her love and ridicules her as 'a babysitter' (hence the title of this post). Sure, I've heard similar things plenty of times myself, and I'm not afraid to tell you I expressed my rage by shouting obscenities at the screen [side note: Gramma, this is completely untrue!] - but I guess my point is that, without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today. It's true that I want nothing more than to walk to collect my degree, but that is not without an acknowledgement of all the lessons my disability has taught me that I wouldn't otherwise have learnt.

I'm discovering that it's not something to shy away from or to feel guilty about, that I can be grateful for the part it has played in how far I've come in life and how far I've still to go. Basically, it's only through learning to accept myself as I am that I've been able to move forward towards what I want to be and, however much of a cliché it may seem, the film has reminded me of that, just as every one of even the tiniest spasms reminds me I need to take a moment to pause and breathe before I take the next plunge.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Day 175 - in the cold, cold night

This blog seems to have a thing for the number sixteen. I started posting on day sixteen, I recently left it sixteen days without posting, and if I'd waited 'til tomorrow, it would've happened again. Sorry. As I said then, I can only plead an influx of reading and my arrival at what I like to call Dissertation Station on this, my train journey to graduation, which is steadily coming to resemble a rollercoaster ride.

Anyway, I'm back, and capitalising on the fact that I've done most of my reading for the next week already. (When I finish this, I shall return to the last fifteen pages of The Merry Wives of Windsor, and then 'most' will become 'all'.) So I thought I'd use this new ability to speed through work as a jumping-off point to illustrate in this post just how far I appear to have come in my time at university.

Most of you, given that you live in this country, will have noticed how cold the weather has been recently. You'll probably also be aware that, for me, cold, and especially wind, is pretty much equal to spasms - spasms which, more often than not, have been known to lead to no work whatsoever being done and extension after extension on essay deadlines.

Not so any more. Last night I met Becca and Wei, two of my fellow exec members and dear friends from Warwick Writing Society, at Curiositea (the uni vintage tea shop) for hot melted chocolate (yes, really!) and a chat. 'Twas lovely - because, aside from the fun and laughter and home-made birthday cake, I was filled with a warm and fuzzy sense of gratitude that I can call these two delightful humans my friends. It's still something of a novelty to me that people enjoy my company; though, perhaps because I am learning to like myself, it's not half as much of a surprise as it used to be. Softly, softly, catchy monkey, as I have been wont to say...

Then there was the wind on the way home, and I thought it would cut my jubilation down to size in its effort to transform me to an icicle, but it failed. Instead, though I could feel the tension teasing its way up my thigh and the sciatica snatching at the nerve-endings in my ankle, I won. I made it to our front door without a murmur, let alone tears - and truly realised quite how far I've come.

As of 25th October 2012, cold does not necessarily equate to spasms. Whilst this might seem a tiny, insignificant  detail to the greater part of the human race, indeed of the readers of this blog, to me it was a huge revelation. Now, you must understand, my response to cold weather will be more along the lines of this:

 ...with the wonderful Bee riding on the back of my chair for good measure, until we can walk side-by-side.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Day 160 - looking at life and laughing at life

The title of today's post is a complete (mis)appropriation and paraphrasing of a quotation from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. In chapter four, discussing various authors' treatment of what she terms the 'male sentence', she writes: 'Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it'. Now, today's topic is not literature, nor am I aiming to align myself with the majesty of Austen...or indeed Woolf.

Nevertheless, re-reading this book for my module Feminist Perspectives on Literature, I was reminded of my most fundamental coping mechanism for life - to look at it and laugh at it. If I couldn't do that, as those of you who are well-acquainted with me will be aware, I would be in the Slough of Despond. So, somehow, I take a leaf from Jo March's book (though not literally - I'd never deface the pages of Little Women) and fight my inner demons with a laugh, however choked a chuckle it might be.

I've needed to do this quite a lot in the last eleven days, which is why I haven't blogged. There are times when the situations I find myself in seem more appropriate for the script of a sitcom than for 'real life' - and such was the case in these first two weeks of term. One of my relief helpers broke her ankle getting off a bus and my dad had to come up to Warwick for six days. My mum was in France. Then I heard that one of my friends from my boarding school, Ollie, had passed away. He was two years above me but it still hit me hard because the school was small and everyone, quite literally, knew everyone. My heart went out to his twin brother Tom and the rest of his family, as well as to our Treloar community. Whatever misgivings I may have about certain aspects of my time there, I am extremely grateful for the friends I made, among students and staff alike. I love you all.

The news had a twofold effect. Nobody at uni knew Ollie, and Hampshire isn't near Warwick (obviously!), so I was largely silent in my contemplation and thoughts for him. It also put the difficulties of a broken ankle in perspective - there was nothing I could do but laugh about the ridiculousness and be grateful for the impromptu time with Papa.

Ollie laughed a lot, as I remember. I'd like to thank him for setting that example to all of us. Much love, QPR has lost its number one fan.      

Monday, 1 October 2012

Day 149 - final year and unknown answers...bring it on!

Those of you who read this blog regularly (and even those who don't, just by looking at the date) will notice that I've not posted for a while - over two weeks, in fact. Suffice to say that the latter part of September each year is a difficult time for me. It comprises the anniversary of a very close friend, Vicky's, death and the birthday of another, Gemma. Gemma was eleven when her appendix burst in 2001, and she would've been twenty-two this year, so her whole life again has passed since then. It's five years since Vicky.

I wanted to blog about them both on their days (17th and 26th September respectively), as I had done for Tina, Erica and Lauren in June, because their presences in my life have had a profound impact on me, my personality and they, too, are driving forces of my determination to succeed in this goal. I will be Walking by 2013 to thank them - Gemma, for her belief in me from the moment we met, Vicky, for her example of quiet courage in her own life, and for making mine wonderful through her laugh, smile and spirit.

I say I 'wanted' to blog because I found I could not. I was too overwhelmed to be able to do justice to my Gem and my Vicky Angel; and, whilst it is true that one often writes most eloquently amidst emotion, I couldn't have done it without my keyboard getting soaked in the process. So, instead, I went up to my favourite tree on Hampstead Heath and meditated on the joy they have brought to me. I hope that was okay, dear girls - you were (and are) forever in my thoughts.

Then there were plans to make for, and things to be done before, third year. A paediatrician's appointment in which he asked me how I was doing and Madeleine said, gleefully, 'She's back to walking!' I nearly fell over, not just because of the look on his face, but because she was acknowledging that it's possible. She's always positive, of course, but 'realistic' - so that was amazing to hear! The end of a truly sublime summer.

Now I find myself back at uni, in October, not having blogged for sixteen days. Back at uni to start the final year of my degree. I'm not quite sure what that means yet, and where I'll end up, but I'm going to try and take it as though it'll be the best year of my life. I'm surrounded by amazing people: friends, helpers, friends who help and helpers who've become firm friends. There are lots of unknown answers, but I'm okay with that. Life is just the greatest show on Earth and since when did theatre go to plan!?

I've got a soundtrack for this new term, too, provided in part by Natasha North:

So bring on final year, bring on dissertations, and bring on walking to collect my degree. It's going to be a cracker!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Day 133 - Brookfield School 4th Annual Family Fun Run

In Chariots of Fire Eric Liddell, on being asked to speak at an Edinburgh Under 12s athletics event, says something along the lines of: 'the thing about achieving a certain level of notoriety is that you get asked to give things away.' Now, I don't know that I'm quite at the level that he was (even before the 1924 Olympics), but I can say that I felt very privileged today.

I was asked by the organisers of our local primary school's annual fun run if I would declare the race open and help to hand out the medals at the end - and it was lovely. Lovely to see the anticipation on everyone's faces as they waited (very patiently) for me to cut the ribbon. Lovely to witness the way that anticipation morphed, first into effort as they ran, and second into joy as they realised what a huge achievement it was for them all.

Not just because they'd run the 2km to and from the bandstand, through trees and over some tough terrain, supported their teammates and crossed the line, but because many did so in rather intricate costumes (which we judged and found amazing!) and some even with a manual wheelchair in tow! Each and every runner is a winner for me, and the medals you all have around your necks are so very well-deserved.

So many people, parents and children alike, came up to me afterwards to thank me for being at the race - I think they had it the wrong way around. I want to thank them, because it was so inspiring to see everyone having such fun and giving it their best, and I feel so grateful for the reminder that the journey is the most important part of any goal - and that I'm not so far off running myself.

So, here's a thank you to Ali, to Mark and, most of all, to Brookfield Primary School, for welcoming me with such wonderfully open arms - winning is best when it's done together, as the photo below shows:

Sorry it's not very big...

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Day 131 - the summer she learnt to sit alone (again!)

I've just realised how sad that title might seem, if it were figurative and referring to the state of my social life, but it's not - because this has been one superbly social summer. No, it's actually rather literal - I can sit on my own. Big deal, you might scoff, you've always sat unaided; and, if by 'unaided' you mean strapped into a chair with a very supportive backrest and seat, you'd be right.

I don't mean that, though; I mean sitting on a dining chair with my arm resting on the table next to me and feeling perfectly safe.

I mean conquering sciatica, startle and spasm and catching a glimpse of that little girl who used to zoom about the house on a wheely office chair.

I mean the suggestion that sciatica might merely be a sign that you need to take things a little slower and not something to be scared about.

I mean letting your body catch up with your mind and learning that you have to sit before you stand.

I mean going from having people sitting on your lap to being brave enough to sit on theirs.

I mean...

I can sit safely and independently again and there's lots of fun to be had.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Day 125 - Chariots of Fire reprise

You may remember a post sometime in June about how inspired I'd been by the stage version of Chariots of Fire at Hampstead Theatre. Well, on Wednesday evening, I was lucky enough to see it again (this time with Eileen, in the West End at the Gielgud) at the invitation of the wonderful cast. This is to thank Sam (Simon), Tam, Jack, Daniel (and James and Mark in absentia), Savannah, Antonia, Natasha, Dave, Joe, Paul, Andrew, Lloyd, Simon and Simon (so many Simons!), Matt, Gareth, Sam, Henry, Leemore, Nickolas and Nicholas...and all the other fabulous people I met for their generosity, support and interest in this little girl's dream to run.

It truly means the world to have you all behind me, and to have a link to 'Team GB of 1924', as Sam so aptly put it. Not only do I know that I've got the embodied spirits of Liddell, Abrahams, Lindsey and Montague guiding me, thanks to my newfound friends, but I've learnt I'm like a combination of all of them: my technique's awful, I'm way beyond the border of obsessive, I won't let a hurdle lie until I've jumped it, and I'm running for the contentment and joy of the race. I really needed that boost of motivation, and I got it on Wednesday, so I can't thank you all enough.

Equally, I'm so grateful for our chat afterwards, because it confirmed for me that I really do want to act - and that there's hope for work after graduation, because most of you are my age!

All my love and thanks,

Jessi - the girl who's leaving her chariot behind ;) xxx     

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Day 124 - look up to the stars, not down at your feet

The Paralympic Opening Ceremony was over a week ago - I can't quite believe how quickly the time has gone - but that's where my title for today's post comes from, because it's one of those events. Everyone will remember where they were, and I certainly do - with my Woodlarks family at Pathfinders 2012: United.

(Yes, it's that post. You finally get to find out what happened that one time at...'red, white and blue' camp.)

And, you can be sure of it, there was lots of looking up to the stars. We had to - if we'd looked down at the floor, let alone our feet, we would've seen the mud we'd tracked into our tent. So we slept outside instead, and really looked up to the stars:


But even breaking our chairs didn't get us out of the drying up:


Seriously, though, it was a week of achievements - Claire completed a 26th length swim in a fantastic one hour and twenty minutes, raising over £700 (last I heard) for Chestnut, her local hospice - something she'd never done before:


And it's my Pathfinders family, who welcomed me with open arms a year ago, I have to thank for their support in making the (literal) strides I have for you below:

Thanks especially to Nori, Hannah and the rest of Red Patrol (to Levi for the hug at the end), to Jill, Hattie, Helen, Hazel and Sam, and of course to Jane and Dave for leading yet another wonderful camp. I feel truly blessed to say that the first video of me walking in my hoist was made at my favourite place in the world, with my favourite people.

The Wonders of Woodlarks will never cease to amaze me. I love you all and am ever grateful.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Day 120 - for Jess Hunter

Yesterday I got back from a wonderful second holiday at Pathfinders Camp - it truly was the best ever in my ten years at Woodlarks, a place that seems to get more special every time I go there. My post about it will have to wait 'til Tuesday, however, for two reasons: firstly because so many awesome things occurred that I need to get them coherent in my head so I don't make it more rambly a post than it already is and, secondly, because there's someone else achieving amazing goals this week who deserves a mention today.

So -

To a best pal, namesake, once-upon-a-time roommate and eternal soulmate,

I've known you since that very first night you wailed down the corridor of Maple House because you didn't want to be left there. How far you've come, my Boccia Baby, from a timid teenager - through laughter, tears, midnight conversations and broken arms (anything to get out of those exams, eh?) - to a proud and prepared paralympian. Of course we always knew how awesome you were - we could see it in the cheeky glint of your eye, and I called you my happy-go-lucky girl from the start - but now it's your chance to show the world the majesty of Munter.

I love you, dear, and I'm right behind you today, tomorrow and forever - Rainbow Girls together always!

Can't wait to see you play in the morning; I'm so very, very proud!

Marrott xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx    

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Day 112 - MY secret garden

It's time for camp. I must ask you to excuse me for a week as I shall be sleeping under canvas, eating all meals outside, rolling around on the floor (because I can again!) and getting covered in soot - and partaking in all manner of other awesome activities.

For the tenth year and eleventh camp running.

Bring on Woodlarks 2012 - and Pathfinders Mark Two. Woot.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Day 111 - keep your head and heart facing in the right direction, and your feet will take care of themselves...

Since I blogged last - ten days ago, I'm sorry! - I've been ill. Just the 'flu, a cough and our family's signature symptom (a high temperature), so nothing major; but it knocked me. It mostly knocked my confidence, because things were a little more difficult physically, except for the day I had the fever, when I was totally relaxed. This, though, is not my point. I don't want to spend a post rambling (albeit not deliriously anymore) about being sick - save to say that it taught me a lot about fear.

How obtuse can I get? I'll try and explain. When I get ill and I'm conscious of the fact that I'm ill, everything tightens up, and I usually get concerned that the slightest twinge is evidence of my downward spiral into the Slough of Despond, à la the melodromatic (awesome) heroine of Anne of Green Gables or the (entirely valid) hypochondria of Colin Craven in The Secret Garden (which, by the way, is the best film to watch when you're feeling like a toddler and need snuggling - and when your DVD of Pride and Prejudice is too scratched because you've watched it so many times. Oops...). I say I 'usually' get concerned because, whilst it did happen to some extent, I was able to see it for what it was and just let it be, because sometimes a body just needs a break, and I forget that.

Then I was reading a magazine, which I got largely because it had interviews with some awesome thespian people in it (so many plays/films/shows on at the moment, a few of which I've been lucky enough to see), and I noticed the horoscopes. I don't normally give them too much credence, but I like words and I'm a great believer in synchronicity, so the Scorpio 'Motto of the Month' really caught me. It's the title of this post - Keep your head and heart facing in the right direction, and your feet will take care of themselves - and, though I realise most people wouldn't take it literally, the metaphor seemed far too apt to ignore.

That's what I'm trying to do - and I think it's working - because my 'unfailingly realistic' main physiotherapist commented on how my pulling myself up on my new frame has improved a huge amount. She also talked about the possibility of taking 'a few independent steps'. This is the woman who repeatedly reminds me that I won't walk! I might even get brave enough to tell her about my plan and this blog...

Either way, the lesson of today is to remember that sometimes bodies need to integrate changes, especially ones like these, because they're big and scary - and that there are peaks and troughs, ups and downs, that aren't the be all and end all. On the contrary - they might just be growing pains, of the spiritual as well as the physical variety, and a necessary part of the journey - and I still walked ten lengths of my room today. So, in the words of Bobby McFerrin, 'don't worry, be happy'.

And RIP Tony Scott.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Day 101 - imagine...

You'd be forgiven for thinking that, as Sunday brought us the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics, this post (which largely concerns said ceremony) would be the last on the subject of sport that this blog will see for a while. You'd be wrong - not only would I argue that the essence of my mission is inseparable from sport, given that I'm learning to walk, but the Paralympics start in a little over two weeks. (My best pal Jess Hunter is playing boccia - rather like bocce, the Italian form of bowls - in the BC3 Pairs event for Team GB, which you'll hear more about very soon!) Nevertheless, today's post takes its basis from that other tool for the confusion of the masses, music; because, whilst I'm not going to sing the praises - terrible pun, very sorry - of a ceremony that, quite frankly, paled in comparison and construction to the spectacle created by Danny Boyle, at least they paid homage to Freddy Mercury and John Lennon.

Both of these artists are very close to my heart - and they had much to say about 'fantasy' and what we can 'imagine', which is what I think, behind all the horror of the buzzword, is truly the legacy of these games. I've talked before about the credence I give, despite the somewhat cringeworthy cliché, to the slogan Inspire a generation - because that's precisely what is necessary. Young people need to return to the root of that word, then take a deep breath, and dare to do what they never thought possible. 

Impossible is nothing. Just do it. However much I struggle with some of their ethics, Nike are right - if you put your mind, heart, body and soul into a project, whatever it might be, there isn't a single barrier that you can't surmount. You can learn to walk at the age of twenty, if you want to...and I do. I wished upon a star and it's steadily coming true. 

'If you can dream it, you can do it,' Walt Disney said, which brings me to my awesome thing of the day - we've granted our first wish! I've known for a while, but I wanted to clear everything with the family before I posted this little snippet on here:
Chloe and her identical twin sister, Rebecca, are thirteen years old and live at home in Belfast with their mum. Rebecca and Chloe both suffer from cerebral palsy and undefined myopathy which causes muscle weakness. Irrespective of her condition, Chloe is very caring and always asking if everyone else is ok! She adores going to school, being with her friends and making new friends all the time. Chloe is always singing, at home, at school, in the car and at church. Chloe loves spending time with her sister Rebecca - they do everything together and go everywhere together. Chloe's dearest wish would be to go to Disneyland with her sister and mum. 
I'm hugely happy, and I'm sure you all will be too, because it's thanks to you! Not only have we helped a girl's dream come true, but her sister and her mum will benefit as well. Here's hoping I get to meet them and give them a huge hug, if they come through London - and, at the rate I'm practising with my new frame, I might even take it with me and walk to see them!

So many thanks and so much love to you all - let's hit that target and grant some more! -->

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Day 95 - faster, higher, stronger...longer?

I'd planned to blog on Sunday but last minute tickets for the Olympics got in the way. I'd like to say it was a shame but, well, it wasn't. It was a wonderful, if slightly surreal, experience and one I'll never forget. We watched synchronised swimming, which has zoomed up in my estimation, and the GB women's basketball team make a valiant effort against Brazil amidst the weirdly hilarious antics of Ukrainian cheerleaders. We got home at one, too, so I think I'm excused - especially as our visit to the Stratford of the East London variety provided me with the impetus to attempt what is the subject of today's post.

Yesterday we had what I think was our final two hour session of physical performance (we have more, but I don't believe they're longer than an hour). By now I'm pretty comfortable with the floor work and it hasn't felt necessary to bore you with an account of each and every moment I spend down there - but you'll probably want to know about this. Our tutor opened the lesson with the reminder that our bodies are their own textbooks and that, as a result, they don't depend on anything external to decide what they are capable of achieving. So I decided to try lying on my tummy - something I've not dared to do for years. I felt (and looked, I'm sure) like a toddler, scrabbling to move my arms and legs - and, afterwards, it was so comfortable to lie on my back that I stayed there for a good ten minutes and danced a little.

Then, just after the lunch break, we had our final voice session. We didn't do floor work, as I had thought we would, but mum stayed anyway and I ended up sitting on one of the ordinary straight-backed chairs for about twenty minutes without it setting off my sciatica at all.

Having had such a tiringly successful day, I didn't walk much when I got home last night - but I had a Nori come to visit me, so I did do four lengths to demonstrate to her. I made up for it tonight, though, and I figure if I can walk ten lengths when I'm tired after my final performance of my monologue I've nothing to worry about when I'll have the boost of the adrenaline of collecting my degree. Usain Bolt, watch out!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Day 91 - glorious summer

Today marks three months since my most recent round of botox injections, as well as almost three months since I started this blog, and the toxin is now out of my body so, in theory, the effect should have worn off too. I'm here to tell you that it definitely hasn't because, despite struggling with sciatica for the last week and being terrified that my spasms were coming back, the sciatica has gone and I walked twenty consecutive lengths of my room (in my hoist) just before blogging today!

How has this come about? Well, that's a question which brings me to the title of this post - a quotation from the opening monologue of Shakespeare's Richard III - and, thereby, from the monologue I chose for our speech presentation in this, my final week on the summer school at RADA. It's a piece of verse which deals quite frankly with Richard's disability and, as such, I thought it would be both interesting and cathartic. I didn't realise quite how cathartic, though, I must admit - and it got rather scary. In our session of Physical Performance following my first run-through of the speech on Thursday, all I could do was lie on the floor and weep, as these huge shudders (not spasms, because although I don't really know what they were, they weren't painful) coursed through my body. It was what I've always called an 'incubator moment', because it seemed to release subconscious memories of my early times in special care, and I felt as though I was in a glass box. The music appeared to get really loud, despite the fact that the volume didn't change, and I felt overwhelmed by the fact that my mum was so close but seemed so far away. Then, watching a brilliant fringe production of Donizetti's L'elisir d'Amore later that evening, I went into spasm and scared myself again - but I managed to hide it and relax. When I got home I got out of my chair almost completely independently, and every transfer since then has been similarly good, so I guess I had to work through stuff to come out the other side. I certainly have - and it's hugely thanks to the support of all of my wonderful new friends in my group at RADA, who are almost as gleeful at the speed of my progress over these three weeks as I am. This truly is a glorious summer - each step of the twenty lengths I've walked today was for them, full of gratitude for their awesomeness and acceptance.

Also, whilst I might not quite be at the standard of my namesake, Jess Ennis, I owe my spurt of inspiration to walk those twenty lengths to the knowledge that she was undertaking a feat (feet? Haha) of her own today. Congratulations, Jess, and go Team GB - you're certainly inspiring a generation, if only to walk to collect a degree!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Day 88 - going for gold

I wonder how many blog posts there will be about the success of Team GB today? However, I'd venture to say that this one won't be entirely ubiquitous, because (as much as I'm delighted for dear Wiggo) I want to focus on our female rowers and emphasise how I think they're the epitome of inspiration in the Games thus far.

Not only are they the first British women to get gold in rowing ever, which is a massively impressive feat in itself, but Helen Glover only started rowing four years ago - and her message has been that you really can do anything if you put your mind to it. She is aiming, she says, to place an especial emphasis on the possibilities that exist for older-than-usual potential athletes (i.e. those already in their early twenties). This is what I have taken to heart because, whilst I'm not (yet) planning to make a dash for the next olympics, it has confirmed for me that now is the perfect time for me to be on a mission to walk and that, if I keep at it, I can definitely get there in time to collect my degree.

Then, who knows, maybe hurdles in Rio? I'll have jumped enough metaphorical ones by then, that's for sure!

So thanks, Helen and Heather, and many congratulations - very well-deserved!

(Oh, and my back is getting straighter and stronger - and I'm reaching the point where I'll be able to stand independently and sturdily with only my new frame for support. Not quite so softly catchy monkey. Just putting that out there! So happy.)

Monday, 30 July 2012

Day 86 - from floor to frame

Monday seems to be floor day. I say that because today not only marked the beginning of my third week of RADA but it also brought me another opportunity to revel in Physical Performance - and 'revel' isn't simply a Shakespearean/Elizabethan word for party or triumph. It also appears in the word 'revelation' and, whilst I'm not certain that there's an etymological connection between the two words, it was definitely a day for more of the latter. I lay on both sides again - and the left was almost more comfortable than the right! 'Shock' doesn't even begin to cover it. Then, having rolled around for quite some time, I was extremely relaxed getting back into my chair - and just as desperate for the loo - after all the movement. So, because mum was there for the floor work, she could take me - and when we got there I stood up and swivelled with minimal support! Woop.

Strange as it may seem, though, that's not the main point of this post. This evening, when I got home, my physio brought a walking frame to try. It was the one I'd mentioned vaguely, a while back, but I hadn't elaborated, mainly because I wasn't sure exactly what it would involve, and didn't want to count chickens. Now, however, I can inform you that it's sort of like a zimmer frame with wheels. Pics will be forthcoming when I get my own, which will be slightly smaller than the one she brought, because although I'm tall we have to account for my slightly bent knees...for now. After that, though, bring on the free walking!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 81 - nothing to fear but fear itself

I didn't think I'd have either the time or the energy to write tonight - yet the very thing which has drained my energy necessitates that I do, as it has done so in an extremely positive manner. One of today's classes was in voice and, whilst it's always something of a transformative experience, this session was particularly so. For, having been brave enough to lie on the floor on Monday, I did it again. Then, in order that I might fully appreciate the feeling of the vibrations of my voice through the floor, our tutor suggested that I lie on my left side for a while as well as spending time on my right. Well, I'm normally too scared to try it, because it's caused me considerable discomfort in the past. This, though, proved to be the fallacy of inductive reasoning - just because something's hurt before it doesn't mean it will again. More than that I learnt that my fear of the pain is precisely what causes it. So today I spent ten, maybe even fifteen, very comfortable minutes on my left side. Then I cried with contentment because all my coursemates clapped. They're awesome.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Day 80 - the girl who doesn't cry in public...

...did so yesterday. She would've blogged about it yesterday, too, but Shakespeare got in the way - or at least his Complete Works did. No, really, I'm not reading them from cover to cover - though I'd very much like to. I haven't had the time or the head space to attain that level of geekiness, yet, just as I've not had the time to blog. I am, however, currently immersed in the Shakespeare Summer School at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, if you're not a Brit or particularly well-versed - pun intended, sorry! - in all things thespian). We're now just six days in, and I can quite honestly say it's already been the most amazing experience of my life, I've learnt and grown so much. We've had absolutely everything thrown at us, some things I've practised before and others I've not, ranging from vocal studies and historical dance to the Alexander Technique and Colour Therapy - all with the aim of enhancing our theatrical presence and ability.

I've taken something from each of these classes - I could wax lyrical about the delight I felt when our Stage Fighting instructor not only let me handle a sword but actively encouraged me to use it - but today's post is focused specifically on a single class and the tears it provoked, albeit ones which were shed in a similarly happy fashion, as I went down Gower Street at 5.15 last night. This class is called Physical Performance and it allows us to explore movement in order that we may get truly comfortable with our physicality and thereby (literally) embody our characters. So, yesterday, our wonderful tutor had everyone on the floor pretending to be an octopus (which I want to pluralise, but I think I shall be called a pedant if I use 'octopodes'...).

Anyway, I hadn't been sure about getting on the floor, and especially lying on my back. Those of you who know me as more than just the words on this page will be aware that, over the last few years, even my leaving chair to do physio (and, when it got really bad, to sleep) was considered an achievement. This, then, is a Public Service Announcement to inform you that the lie of the land has most definitely shifted.

After deliberating during the break, you see, I enlisted the help of my dear, dependable Mama to get down on the floor. Not only that, having stayed on my back for quite some time, with the freedom to move my arms around, I then rolled onto my side and (wait for it) asked her to move and stretch my legs far more than I would normally allow. It really was the most fabulously freeing experience and I'm extremely glad I was brave enough to do it - especially as it didn't just affect me on the floor, but sitting up as well, because when I got back into my chair both my shoulders were in equal contact with the backrest.

It was all rather overwhelming - hence my tears of joy on a London street. I knew that things were changing, and I knew that the achievement of the goal I am documenting here was becoming more conceivable, but this progress and the impact of the RADA course has made me truly believe that I can do it. If I can act, if I can roll on the floor and feel comfortable when I do so, then I can definitely walk to get my degree when I graduate next year. I realise that, before, I thought I could - but now I know I can. The power of Shakespeare, eh?

So thanks, RADA - it really means everything that I'm there.           

Monday, 16 July 2012

Day 72 update - breakthrough

So, after not posting for a week, I'm now going to post twice in one day!

I feel you should know that after resolving to get back on my metaphorical horse and walk, I did the best couple of laps I've done since I started on this pathway. It's like that classic game, 'Breakout' - you just have to chip away at each individual brick, but sometimes you get a bonus and blast through several layers. That's what happened tonight.


Day 72 - the wall

Wow - it seems I haven't blogged for a while. Not because exciting things aren't happening - believe me, they are - but because I've felt a little as though I'm living in a whirlwind this week. It was a week of therapies, as I saw my Feldenkrais teacher, my accupuncturist and my osteopath, as well as my physio. These were all very positive appointments, especially as I was brave enough to show my physio my hoist walking, and she was so impressed that she wants to organise a walking frame for me! (I won't go into details now, because I haven't tried anything out yet, but it is pretty huge!)

Why, then, have I been struggling? (It takes a lot to admit that I have been, particularly online, but I suppose you aren't expecting shiny-happy people all the time...) Maybe it's because mum's not feeling so hot and, in spite of how far I've come, any difficulty she has is a rather forceful reminder of how dependent I still am, and I feel guilty that I'm adding to her struggle. Part of me knows it's not true and that she doesn't view it that way at all, but the other part of me has an empathy so strong with her stress etc. that I tense up because I'm worried. Then I worry more, because I've tightened up - sensible!

I think I might have been experiencing what athletes call 'the wall'. If so, I need to find a way to move on and power through it, to somehow change my thinking. Equally, when one falls off a horse, one doesn't roll around in the mud - however much rain we've had recently. No, you get back up in the saddle and canter off into the sunset. I'm off to do just that - and walk again. I'll catch you folks later!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Day 65 - best seat in the house

I just made my mother cry. Oops. It wasn't deliberate, I promise, and they were happy tears - but here's why. We spent today at the wheelchair clinic in Kentish Town - and when I say 'today' I mean all day. From twelve 'til four I did nothing but get in and out of my chair, but it was more than worth it, because I now have a new seating system.

The one before was pretty standard, I guess, although to anyone not immersed in this world of ours it might not appear to be so. The seat consisted of gel pads which were built upon a firm base and then covered. This was all well and good - except that gel has a tendency to retain a certain shape so, if you're not sitting well you stay stuck in that bad position, which isn't helpful.

The new seat, on the other hand (and it is new, as it has only just been released onto the market), is based in memory foam. This means it bounces back (literally) into its original form every time I get out of it or move around. Plus point number one. Plus point number two: underneath the memory foam rest several bespoke wedges, fashioned out of another type of foam, to be positioned individually to provide the maximum possible support or correction in whichever area this is most needed. In my case, for instance, I have a huge amount of pelvic obliquity (which basically means my pelvis tilts in a funny way) so I got a wedge put under the right side of my bum to combat this.

What was amazing, though, is how little correction and adjustment was needed for me still to feel comfortable (and more so) whilst sitting in a much better position. This showed me something that I must admit I've known all along - that my bad posture is largely a habit - and it was heartwarming. You see, if I can sit well in spite of a supposedly fixed spinal curvature, that spinal curvature is...well, quite simply, it isn't so fixed. The same goes for my new backrest - because I can tolerate the new lateral supports and the straightening they're doing. I shouldn't be able to...but I can.

Which brings me to why I made my Mama cry. Thanks to this difference in support, my right foot is more grounded than it has been in years - because my pelvis is slowly derotatating - and so I'm even more relaxed. My right foot is ostensibly my better foot, too, so I need it to be well grounded if it is to support my slightly weaker left. This has made us notice a marked difference in my (already good) standing transfers, even in these few short hours - but what neither of us expected was the change it would provoke in my walking.

When I stood up this afternoon, my knees were properly in alignment - something we hadn't thought we'd see again - so it means my left hip must be back in place. Cue tears. Cue awesomeness.        

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Day 64 - from stepping up to sitting up

I could write a ubiquitous post about Wimbledon today, and spend approximately 300 words telling you how inspiring it was to witness (via television) two athletes competing quite literally at the top of their game. I could, but I won't, for the simple reason that I don't feel I have anything to add to the copious commentary already out there. Suffice to say that Federer and Murray treated us to some sublime tennis, which bordered on the ridiculous when they got to that 10th deuce point on one of Murray's service games, and that Federer's win was, in my opinion, wonderful and highly deserved. (Caveat: before my fellow Brits become incensed at my perceived lack of patriotism, remember that my maternal roots are in South Africa, as are Federer's.)

Instead, I'll share my own momentous news, however much it pales in comparison. Those of you who read this blog regularly will be aware that the bulk of my training consists in walking whilst I am supported by my hoist. You'll also know that I've changed my shoes back to Converse and that I've increased the number of lengths that I walk in one go - so that I'm now averaging six, and sometimes reaching ten. I have promised photographic evidence of the footwear, and this you shall duly receive, as soon as I've commandeered the camera for long enough to upload it.

In the meantime, though, I'll regale you with one of the newer additions to my regime. I ought, really, to spend a significant portion of my day lying on my back - as, at least in theory, it allows all my muscles to relax and everything to straighten out. I say 'ought' because, until fairly recently, I didn't do so regularly - for the simple reason that I actually got tighter when I tried. Now, however, my body is sufficiently relaxed that I feel a lot more comfortable on my back - and, thereby, relax even further. This means that I can use my time lying down for a functional purpose rather than just remaining immobile and inert. Huzzah, I hear you cry - and I say indeed so because I've started doing sit ups, to strengthen my core, which in turn will straighten my spine.

This is an extremely important form of exercise for me because, whilst it's all very well to be walking and working my leg muscles (specifically my quads and my hamstrings), it's also vital that I engage my abdomen. As I had my botox done under GA, Mr Pattison was able to inject a previously unreachable muscle, my psoas. This is the muscle that allows us to straighten up, so that we are not continually hunched over, but mine was too tight to do its job effectively. Not so now - and it can be retrained - if I work it. So, believe me, I plan to. Bring on those sit ups. Boom.     

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Day 60 - month two and a visit to Starlight HQ

It feels very apt that the second month of my mission draws to a close on Independence Day. For, whilst we aren't American (as my Canadian grandmother will be quick to assure you!), my family has a funny relationship with the fourth of July. Today is my parents' twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and, although they no longer live together and haven't since I was three, I always hear the story of how the guy who married them had fun (pun?) with the date. They were relinquishing their independence on Independence Day. It was the Women's Singles final at Wimbledon and here was a woman who would no longer be single, etc., etc.

Even without their anniversary, however, the date seems significant to me because this is the end of the second month of my quest for complete and utter independence - walking to collect my degree is just the first goal. What better way to mark this day, then, than with a visit to the offices of the charity I am aiming to help, as they have helped me? I hadn't been to Starlight HQ since shortly after my wish, when I went to say a personal thank you for the wonderful experience and the difference they had made, so it was lovely to see everyone again. Bianca, a fellow wish-child, now works there and Jo (from fundraising) and Jodie (my wish-granting fairy) have stayed on. I also (very shyly) met Neil, the CEO, who is great. We were planning on taking a photo of us all, to upload here, but we were clearly too busy catching up. So much has happened in two years! I definitely don't want to leave it that long again - but maybe, next time, I'll run up the stairs?

It certainly seems to be going that way. Yesterday I was so motivated by my results (thank you, Warwick!) that I walked eight lengths of my room in one go, and then planned to walk ten today, but my aunt Lucy told me I should treat it like a runner would and go back to six. So I did - six for day sixty and Starlight - and I'll double that tomorrow, methinks. twelve for 2012 - unless I'm not allowed to use that number, because of the olympics and copyright - in which case I'll just have to do thirteen.

Thanks for a lovely day, a lovely summer and a lovely life, universe - I'm plodding along... and making it count. Meet me at the clock. (Ten points if you know which film that's referencing.)

Monday, 2 July 2012

Day 58 - summer, shoes and a soundtrack

My last post informed you that I had finished my second year at university. Perhaps it should have read slightly differently. I had finished the work for my second year and, contrary to what the 29,000 words I wrote this term would have you believe, that isn't all there is to student life. Thankfully, although I must admit that it took a while for the geeky perfectionist in me to accept this fully, there's so much more - and I don't mean drinking. I mean the hairbrained idea of cobbling together a version of Puccini's La Boheme acceptable enough for an 'open rehearsal' performance in an untickected casual concert - in the space of a week. I was in the chorus so it was great fun and a fitting, fairly relaxed way to end what has been an academic year of ambition. My fellow chorus members have become very close friends over my time at Warwick (as have the whole cast, because we all come back together for each new opera) and it was particularly sad to bid farewell to Lara and Ingvild, who've both just finished Masters, and are heading off into the big wide world. Oli and Lizzie are off to Music College, too, so I'll have to hang on to the other second years (third now!) with all my might. You have been warned, Alice Ford and Charlotte Howes!

So I did that, and caught up with other awesome friends as well, because my social life had done a rather clever vanishing trick for most of term. Now I'm home for the summer - and it is summer. The only proof you ever need of the changing seasons can be found in my footwear - and I'm back to wearing (and walking in) trainers. This makes me incredibly happy because, whilst I'm grateful for the warmth and snuggles that my Uggs offer my poor circulation, I'm really more of a Converse or a DM kind of girl...and my feet need the sturdier soles for support, anyway. You shall have pictures tomorrow, as soon as they're uploaded, especially as today I've already walked six times. Woot. It's good to be home.

Also, I arrived to a very nice welcome - the EP of one of my new favourite singers, Natasha North, called Walking on Water. My Mama met her mum on holiday in Turkey a few weeks back (I don't think I've told her that, though we are tweeting...sorry, Tasha!) and I'm very glad they did, because otherwise I wouldn't have discovered her wonderful talent. Her songs deal with some heavy, but very pertinent issues, and it's nice to hear that someone, at least, isn't afraid to raise them...but I guess that's what folk-inspired music is for. That's why I write songs, at least. Her sister does the backing vocals, and I noticed her name is Jessica as well, which made me smile.

The EP comprises four tracks, which makes it the perfect length to accompany one of my walking sessions, and it's been my soundtrack since it arrived on Friday. I'm so happy I bought it, not only because Tasha has a brilliant voice and style, but because we need to give more support to independent musicians like her - and because I have yet more music to motivate me. Thanks so much.

Here's her youtube video of 'Sticks and Stones', which is heartbreakingly beautiful, as it deals with domestic violence:

Hope you like it, and that the resilience of the young woman whose story it tells motivates you as much as it has me. We all just have to keep plodding.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Day 52 - Elizabeth Barrett Browing, Einaudi and Eileen

Today really and truly marks the return of regular blogging - because I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! I've finished uni for the year, as I handed in my last essay today, and all those extra letters at the end of 'free' serve two purposes. Firstly, I hope they convey my excitement, and, secondly, there are three aspects to this post - all of which begin with 'e'.

The first is Elizabeth Barrett Browning, whose poetry was the subject of the essay I submitted today. I wrote on the narrative of disability implicit in her 1856 epic Aurora Leigh because, whilst most people think of her condition/illness only in relation to her elopement with Robert Browning, I discovered so many allusions to physical difference and disability (especially blindness - Romney's - and difficulty walking) that it had to have had more of an impact on her than is usually supposed. Also, it has been suggested by medical advances that she had a spinal curvature, so I feel a little as if she's lived my life...alas, Browning is yet to appear.

The second is Einaudi. Lizzie and I hammered out 2400 words on Sunday, so we had Ludovico Einaudi's pieces as background music to keep us going. I've always had a soft spot for his work, but there's another connection to my mission, too, because his Le Ondes is the music on the Starlight advert:

Thirdly, Eileen is home from Norway! Let the best summer ever begin!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Day 48 - Chariots of Fire

Okay - I lied. I didn't resume normal blogging. In fact I've singularly failed to do so for nearly a week. During those six days, however, I've written an exam, finished off an essay and begun another (my last piece for the year!) - all of which amount to about 6000 words, with another 3000 to go before the end of term. So, in spite of its paucity on the blogging front, it's actually been a rather productive (albeit scary) time and even I can't apologise for that. (This is incredibly difficult for me to grasp, as 'sorry' is my favourite word, and I should possess a jar dedicated to that instead of the more popular 'swear jar' - which I don't have.) I suppose, though, that I'm offering you compensation by virtue of the fact that this is a (comparatively) mammoth post - so I shouldn't feel too bad.

During my last visit home, to ensure my head didn't explode as a result of all the essays and revision I was doing, Mama booked tickets to see Mike Bartlett's new stage adaptation of the classic Chariots of Fire at Hampstead Theatre. I was reticent about the hyper-patriotism and the institutionalised racism, as well as the imperialist attitude that both of these aspects portrayed, especially because it confirmed for me that we've actually not come as far as a society as we would like to believe. It was also horrifyingly ironic to see, in the programme, Ed Hall wishing us 'a good race' and emphasising the importance of inspiring young people...when he, as Artistic Director at Hampstead, is responsible for the decision to close the youth company, Heat&Light. It's true that higher bodies are behind the cuts in funding, but it was up to him to determine which departments they would affect. The very definition of hypocrisy, no?

All of these reservations notwithstanding, however, I must admit that I was deeply inspired. The combination of the famous Vangelis music and the clever staging of the production made for a moving opening, as the runners were racing right around the audience. My wheelchair space was in the front row, so I could see each and every stretch of their muscles, and (just like when I watched As You Like It) all I could think was 'I'm going to do that too.' I may or may not have teared up.

The play also stresses the value of hard work, determination and - most importantly - knowing why you're striving towards your goal. I have three reasons - for the children whose wishes you are (with your overwhelming support) helping to grant; for all of the people who have walked beside me for all of these years; and because, like Aubrey Montague says in the play, 'there's only the race'. If we don't do the best we can to achieve our goals now, when are we going to do it?

So I'm going to walk to get my degree not, like Abrahams, to prove myself; nor, like Liddell, for God. (Although there will be an element of the former, proof, in there.) I'm going to walk for Starlight, for my family and friends, and because I want to make the most of my life while I can.

And, just maybe, my friends in the Chamber Choir might sing along with the theme tune that will be in my head, as I leave my 'chariot', and I head for 'fire'.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Day 42 - happy Youth Day, SA!

With total acknowledgement that I've committed the sin of all internet sins, and gone three whole days without blogging, I can only plead exams, revision, and two more essays. One of these is a Creative Project, and it's essentially involving an adaptation of a fifteen-minute-long play I wrote, aptly, at the age of fifteen. I won't go into too much detail here, as I don't want to have any potential effect on my mark/the credibility of the piece (even if, as far as I'm aware, anything I divulge on this blog wouldn't constitute plagiarism because it's written under my name and copyrighted) but it's about the Soweto student uprisings.

These were demonstrations by South African schoolchildren took place on this day in 1976. The students marched because they wanted to be taught lessons in their own language(s) - mostly Zulu, but Xhosa as well - instead of the Afrikaans of their oppressors. Fair enough, right? Apparently not - the police began firing on them, despite the fact that the students themselves were being completely peaceful, and a good few demonstrators died.

Now, on this day every year, South Africa remembers those young people who lost their lives for what they believed in. So, whatever misgivings I may have about the slightly romanticised and idealistic title, the memorial event that has become known as 'Youth Day' is, at its basis, a very important one - and it feels highly symbolic that I'm writing up this particular project at the moment!

Happy Youth Day, SA, and I'll return to normal blogging tomorrow - so prepare yourself for a mammoth post!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Day 38 - turning over a new...side?

Today I had osteopathy with the wonderful Ernest Keeling, who I've been seeing for some time now. I haven't many words to describe the magic of what happened, so here it is - I lay on my left side, comfortably, for the first time in years. Whilst that, to most, will seem entirely innocuous and not in the slightest newsworthy, it was a thing of such proportion that it appears to have swallowed up my vocabulary. So that's all, folks, and you may now return to your otherwise blessedly quiet evenings!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Day 37 - swimming, swimming, in the swimming pool...

Hello from London! I'm home until Thursday for some breathing space prior to exams. It's so lovely to have time (literally) to stretch my legs in between essay-writing stints. I walked in the hoist again last night and I appear to have learnt to shift my weight independently over a fortnight, somehow, despite not having practised much since I was last home. It felt (feels) amazing! 'Pics or it didn't happen' doesn't really fit in this case, because I know you want proof in motion, so a video shall be forthcoming as soon as I can teach Mama how to take video on her digital camera. (I know I'm dextrous but, odd as it may seem, I've got to put all my focus into the walking when I'm actually doing it...haha!)

Today's post, therefore, concerns another form of exercise - swimming. I go to a hydrotherapy pool in Hackney. The water needs to be warm, you see, because I go stiff in the cold; and that would rather defeat the point, which is to get as relaxed as possible. So in this pool the temperature is about that of a hot bath. It is blissful - so blissful, in fact, that today I was able to do all sorts of stretchy-related things with my legs without feeling the slightest bit uncomfortable. Win! More than that, though, I was able to move my hips (especially my left) with an ease that I haven't felt in years.

Which brings me to the conclusion of my post, and indeed the conclusion of the day - my left hip is back in place, or at least all signs point to it being so, because I couldn't do the things I did if it were. And hips don't lie. Ask Shakira.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Day 36 - congratulations on four years, Jane and Bingley!

From the anniversary of one friend's birth to that of the birth of another's relationship! Today my dear friends Jade and Tom celebrate four years together. Congratulations, you two - live long and prosper! (NB Jade calls me 'Lizzy' and I, her, 'Jane' - hence the Bingley!)

Anyway, geeky meld of Austen and Star Trek aside, it has got me thinking about my own feelings on relationships. Those of you who know me will be aware that I'm a staunch feminist - which means nothing more and nothing less than that I believe in equality and empowerment for both women and men. As such I take a lot of my inspiration from independently- and intellectually-minded women and it heartens me to see so many among my contemporaries at Warwick. We're all striving for something extraneous to the proverbial 2.4 kids and a white picket fence, and that excites me.

That's not to say I don't do relationships - I do. My ex-boyfriend and I met at twelve and were together for three years - no mean feat in an environment where everyone appeared to occilate between 'friend' and 'enemy' faster than you could say 'playground'. We had an awesome time, until he cheated on me. Yeah. It was awesome, though, beforehand.

Since I left my 'special' secondary school I've been quite circumspect and determined to make my own way in the world. In part this is a result of being confronted with the various stereotypes regarding people with disabilities and relationships. We're just not seen as sexual beings - even my PSHE teacher was adamant that we didn't have sex - and I'm writing my dissertation on the sexual and gender politics of disability in Irish and South African theatre.  

Yet I wonder if these stereotypes are being unwittingly perpetuated by the very people they affect. I know that I, especially, have a tendency to hide behind my desire to be self-sufficient. Having spent so many years (indeed all my life) almost totally dependent, in a physical sense, on others, I'm acutely conscious of my fierce need to protect whatever solitude I possess. Equally, my insecurites regarding the help that I need have given rise to a fear of intimacy. I haven't wanted to burden other people with my 'stuff' (which, of course, is a technical term).

Now that's becoming less of an issue although, whether it's due to a change in my attitude or a change in circumstances (or both), I don't know. I see that it would be possible for me to have my own space and independence within a loving and equal relationship.

So, you know, if Darcy comes knocking any time soon, send him this way - with the caveat that he'd better be more than ready to dance, preferably waltz. O, and Wickhams need not apply.

Happy anniversary, Janey-Jadey! 



Saturday, 9 June 2012

Day 35 - Run

I'll sing it one last time for you, and then we really have to go...

Today is my friend Lauren Scott's birthday. It's also my god-sister Alice's and Johnny Depp's, with whom I'm sure dear Lozzie would have been delighted to share her day. She would be twenty. I say 'would' because, like Tina and Erica, she's no longer here.

We were in the same class at my first secondary school and became close because we both liked reading, horses, music and playing The Sims. In many ways we were very similar but, in others, we were very different - especially in terms of physical ability. No-one's really sure what kind of disability Lauren, had but it was vaguely comparable to Muscular Dystrophy, if only in that it was degenerative. During reading time we'd sit next to each other so I could turn her pages and, if we had packed lunch I'd mash up some of my crisps, and sneak the tiniest bites into her mouth so she could at least have a taste. Being fed by a gastrostomy tube straight into your stomach doesn't leave you with much opportunity to savour your meals. She would return the favour by distracting me from my homesickness, having already boarded for quite some time.

She was fairly healthy for most of Year 7, and quite a proportion of Year 8, but life is full of changes and soon Mama and I would make a detour on our return-journey to school and stop off, first at Guy's and then the Royal Brompton (both hospitals in London) to see her there. She was always the same and would shoo her mum and mine away so that we could catch up on the school gossip in peace. Often she struggled to talk, as she had a tracheostomy and a ventilator attached; I'd keep up a steady flow of conversation.

Today, though, I want to share with you one of the times she could talk, and did, with all the fierceness of spirit that she possessed. I didn't know this at the time, but she was soon to make the decision not to have another operation on her heart, so maybe it was her way of letting me know she'd always be with me.

We both liked Snow Patrol - at least, she didn't so much, but she knew I did; and during one of our visits, in a very quiet voice, she sang me their song Run. Eventually, of course, she stopped - she was exhausted and I was in tears. (Surreptitious ones - it wouldn't have done for our mothers to see - but she got her message across.)

Lauren died on 7th April 2006. Whilst I miss her terribly, even after six years, I'll always remember something her dad, Andy, said quite soon afterwards - 'now she's breathing deep and running free'. So today, whenever I've been sad, I've had the reminder that she's more comfortable wherever she is and that I'm on this mission as much for her as for myself.

Happy birthday, pal, and thanks for being 'right beside me, dear'. I'll never forget you.