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 clich√©, 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.)