March 2008 Archives

After the fall comes the landing...

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We have landed in the family section of The Guardian this morning. A good article, though it seems to suggest that my book is something of a 'bonkbuster'. I didn't think it was that, erm... salacious, but if it helps to shift a few copies... Over all, we're really pleased with the piece. 
Sally Williams has done a good job of conveying the ordinariness of what we were trying to achieve, and the desire to get back to normal life. 

This said, it is rather an odd experience being all over the papers, especially as we drove through Stoke Newington this morning only to see every pedestrian with a copy of the Guardian under their arm. The print version of the story (rather than online) carries some really nice pictures. A lovely family pic around the old 'Joanna' (Cor lumme Guv'nor.Fancy a sing song? Chim-chimerny, etc.), and a nice old one of me and R asleep when she was just a tiny wee thing.

The thing is, I think R and P should be all right to venture out without being too noticeable, but I may have a bit more difficulty in being incognito. Perhaps a voluminous Burqa-style garment to cover the chair too...

The response to our desire to get back to normality following the accident has been really positive, but I feel it's important to make it clear that I have nothing but admiration for those people who have suffered some kind of illness or disability, only to go on and achieve extraordinary things. It's just that this was never my intention, and I sometimes wonder if our interest and promotion of these stories reflects the way society perceives disability.

It's as if we promote the exceptional tales in order to feel a bit more comfortable with disability, as we do with old age, because the everyday reality of most people's experience is too uncomfortable for us to entertain. Society's obsession with youth and vigour means that have a tendency to refer to old people as if they are a different species sometimes. Everyone over a certain age (either in years or appearance) is treated as having lived through the Blitz/ two world wars, have false teeth, like zip up slippers, live in a care home, listen to Vera Lynn and bang on constantly about being able to leave doors unlocked, etc. 

The thing is, it seems to me that what we are doing here is to distance ourselves from old age, and by association mortality, because we find the subject too difficult to deal with. I sometimes wonder if our attitude to disability is the same as that towards ageing, hence why we jump so enthusiastically on stories of triumph over adversity, and show much less enthusiasm for issues like the shortage of adapted housing or the postcode lottery of wheelchair provision in the UK. We are more comfortable looking at successful disabled explorers who have climbed Everest using only their nose or asking centagenarians the secret of their longevity (which is usually something daft, like drinking turnip juice every full moon, or keeping a live badger in your pocket, or somesuch).

All of this probably underlines the double-whammy of my relatively recent disability and the fast approaching mid-life crisis of my fortieth birthday. I am transported back to the playground and the wounded riposte of "Well I didn't want to play your stupid game ANYWAY."

For those of you on the other side of the planet, I'll leave you with this cheery moment of radio from yesterday morning.

Today's papers...

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Arrived with me nursing something of a glass head after yesterday's pain and 'pain management'. It's a sad thing that the Hunter S approach seems the most effective, but the accelerated leap into oblivion is all that I need when things get that bad. Maybe I need to work on the hypnosis angle...

 I had a thought the other day that maybe in the club of the future, punters will come through the door and pay one of a team of hypnotists who will offer the requested dose of... "Look into my eyes...*snap* You will feel a euphoric sense of well being and hug anyone who comes within ten feet of you... Then after a few hours of dancing like a loon, you will start to feel normal again, retrieve your coat from the cloakroom and go home quietly."

The Mail have done an amazing job of editing the excerpts to give me a clipped, Wing Commander style. Broke back. Dashed bad luck. Went to hospital. Had child. Mustn't grumble.
Still, it's a good edit over all.

All in all, it's been a good meeja day.

The bleeding obvious.

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My specialist subject, obviously. Firstly, I should like to apologise if this gets at all disjointed but I am drinking whisky while I wait for a sleeper to kick in. All this would be great were it not for the bastard who insists on jamming a red-hot spike into my left leg every thirty seconds. He is actually called spike, and he is my old nemesis. His visits have been sufficiently infrequent of late, that he managed to sneak up and get me good for daring to even entertain the notion that he might have gone away, or at least mellowed. Now he's proper pissed off, and I am chasing oblivion by whatever means I can find.

That's not the reason for this missive. No. The reason I am writing this is the blinding realisation that I haven't up to this point mentioned that I have a book being published in a couple of weeks. It's called Looking Up, and is being published by Virgin Books on the 3rd April, priced £7.99. Shamefully, you can simply click on the cover image up on the tool bar to order a copy, and get me some extra bread on the side.

It's just that the thought occurred to me.. If you came to this blog from cold, then there is very little to draw the reader into the more in-depth explanation of who I am and with it, perhaps an insight into why these entries are as down-right weird as they are at times.
Here's tae ye! as the say in the bottle's origin.

Meeja Frenzy? Stellar!

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And so it begins... The title perhaps overstating things a tad, but The Daily Mail are printing excerpts from the book tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see what the response is like. The whole politics of who gets the interview is bewildering, if a) runs it then b) won't, but if c) decides to come in then it's probably just to run a spoiler etc. etc.  There may be interviews in The Express, the Guardian and of course SHE magazine. Or there may be nothing in any of them. You never can tell.

As we draw to the end of the advance print media stuff, we also draw to the end of P's patience with it all. She's been really positive so far but she was always a little reluctant for herself and R to be in the spotlight, so I'm inclined to say that from now on, unless it's something that particularly appeals to her, future press engagements will be a solo performance. Especially as her kicking me under the table has no effect... 

I shall see what happens when we get to the 'broadcast media' time. I heard someone mention This Morning the other day, as being the kind of programme to try and get on. To be honest, I'd feel a bit better if it was Good Afternoon, as the a.m. is not my best side.

With things moving so quickly and a sense that it will all be over in a flash, it would be very easy to get sucked into the whole circus. So to keep myself grounded and to offer a sense of perspective on things, I now pay a daily visit to NASA's astronomy picture of the day

...and somehow all of daily life's trials and tribulations seem a little less important.


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A tiresome cold has struck me down, with a fluctuating temperature that has required me to down paracetamol on top of all my usual medicaments. It is cold and wet and windy, Arsenal only managed a draw against Middlesboro', and I am feeling like rubbish. And I can't even have a cup of tea until I get my temperature under control. 

It has been a funny week all round. An interview for the Guardian that took over two and a half hours, filming for a DVD that the Spinal Injuries Association are putting together a DVD for newly injured people and their families, to help to paint a picture of life after spinal cord injury, something that can be very difficult to imagine, when all of your hopes and dreams seem to be lying in a shredded pile beside your hospital bed. Or in your locker, if someone's been tidying the ward.

The week turned decidedly more strange on Friday when I attended the 'IV Challenge' (now there's a reality show idea just waiting to happen) at the pain management clinic. This involves being shot full of different drugs to see if they have any effect on my levels of neuropathic pain. About a month ago, I was given intravenous lidocaine for an hour, the only effect being the triggering of a really bad pain episode that night. It could have been coincidence, but I won't be rushing back to try that one again.

This week, it was Ketamine. So, armed with the new Goldfrapp on my ipod, I took to the bed with enthusiasm. It was pretty spacey (both the Goldfrapp album and the drug-fuelled experience). During the infusion, I can say with certainty that I could not feel any pain. I could also not feel any inclination or understanding of how to do anything but lie with a stupid grin plastered between my ears. When asked to mark on a line indicating a scale from no pain to acute pain, I first put the mark half way along my arm which was holding the clipboard from the no pain side, before being told to have another go, although it seemed a bit like a surreal version of pin the tail on the donkey. This whole experiment proved only one thing. Intravenous ketamine is not a cure for the common cold. 

Possibly coincidentally again, I had really bad neuropathic pain again on Friday night, but it tends to be worse when I'm ill or when it is damp, so there were a few possible factors to accompany the old 'randomsonofabitch' element in all of this. 

Still, onwards and upwards, and other nonsensical platitudes. One more box of tissues and I'll have this cold cracked. By which time R will have it again, and we can start over. Winter, don'tcha just love it?

Everything happens for a reason.

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During an interview with the Express newspaper, I was asked the familiar question, "do you ever ask yourself, why me?" 

I think that spending any kind of time in a spinal unit makes it obvious that people can and do suffer spinal cord injuries in the most random ways, from death-defying stunts going wrong to slipping in the shower. The question "Why me?" might just as well be "Why not me?"

Another oft offered platitude is ,"Everything happens for a reason." Well, actually no. Everything happens because something causes it to happen. May sound like semantics, but it is an important distinction.
The cause might be a missed equipment fault, a misunderstanding, a mysterious set of coincidences, or just a simple mistake. But this is different to something happening  'for' a reason. For a reason suggests that there is some larger plan which we are not privy to. And there is not. Well, the extremely remote possibility that there might be is of no practical help whatsoever.

"There's always someone worse off than you."
How is this meant to help? And does this mean that if we were all ok, we'd have to inflict some awfulness on one person just so that the rest of us could feel better?

"Live each day like it's your last."
 Just what would that do to all your relationships with those around you? Surely you'd spend half your time blubbing and the other half running up a massive credit card bill.

"That which doesn't kill me only makes me stronger."
What if you're bulimic?

I could go on, but instead, I'll finish with a quote.

"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it. ." Groucho Marx.

Wheelchair Tennis

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Took to the court again today. It really is a promising sport for me. I used to play alot of tennis a few years ago, and if I can get to the ball, I can still hit it pretty well. The shots are slightly different from a seated position, but that's not the real problem. The real problem is no longer moving instinctively. The real problem is watching the ball heading for my nose and sitting motionless, caught in bewilderment and confusion until the last second, when I attempt to bend my elbow the wrong way, and lamely flap the racket at the ball. Immediately after this pathetic display the ball hits me on the nose. Curses.

The big attraction of wheelchair tennis is the opportunity to take to the court in our local park and actually be able to play against able bodied friends, the difference being that the wheelchair player gets an extra bounce to compensate for the extra time it takes to recover court position, and it works remarkably well as an inclusive sport, rather than playing basketball with seven other wheelchair users. Oh, I'm so fickle.

Below is a clip from YouTube of a man who seems to have got the hang of it...


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I know, I know, it's me again. But although I'm in it, that's not the point I was trying to make.
I've just been at the Aspire 25 year birthday bash, and it reminded me just how helpful it was for us at the time that I was injured and waiting for our house to be adapted, when Aspire were able to offer us a place in London (ish. Well Edgware, anyway) while we went though all the building work shenanigans. They have a good direct approach to identifying and solving some of the real challenges faced after spinal cord injury. 

...and I'm in the film. Unfortunately, so is the sound of someone clearing their throat down a didgereedoo, while accompanied by the music from the scary bits from 'Murder She Wrote', or somesuch.


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