November 2008 Archives

Tail spin

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I am often amazed at the little things that can break down my defences. Yesterday, for example, I had a frustrating day in the studio, trying to paint for the first time in four years. It turns out that I can't just pick up where I left off. As with all creative processes, you have to work that particular muscle. After four years, I have to content myself with starting slow. And the canvas is further away. Well actually I'm further away, on account of my knees. Or drip-catchers as I now call them.

Anyway, having had such a frustrating day was not the real problem. I was just down. Fed up with everything. It's certainly not the first time I have felt generally rotten, and when I do it makes all the defensive glass half filling exercises seem like completely pointless delusion.

So, I decided to write the day off, and I headed for bed. I entered the bedroom to see my shoes lying where I had thrown them earlier in the evening. They had landed thus:

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As if I had just stepped out of them. OK, maybe it was just me, but this is my point. It's sometimes these little things that can make an average bad day into a painful re-examination of all the bad things about spinal cord injury.

With the somewhat better view from the other side of a good night's sleep, I can clearly see that the shoes are in the position I may have adopted after a long and very bumpy bicycle ride. But that's the great thing about all of this. Should it choose to, my mind can always find a way of draining that half-full glass...

Reading matters

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Just finished an interesting book. It came up in conversation two weeks ago, and I hadn't heard of it...

It's called The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield. The book tells the story of a mother of three who is a desperately unhappy housewife. She spends her time obsessively cleaning and intimidating the children while her husband works as an accountant who has no hope of promotion and spends the day thinking about poetry.

Anyhow, he falls off neighbour's roof and breaks his back leaving him paraplegic. She goes out to work, he stays at home and looks after the kids, etc. OK, so I've rather brutally filleted the story, there is a bit more to it than that. But what makes it really stand out is that The Homemaker was written in 1924. In that context, there is as much emphasis on the shock of the married mother going out to work as there is on the shock of the father's accident.

It also made an interesting read as R started nursery last week. Oh, they grow up so fast/where has the time gone/seems like only yesterday etc.

One thing that children do provide is more of a sense of time passing. Having lost count (a little) of time passed since I broke my back, the fact that R was born four months later rather means that I can see how far I've come. These moments of reflection usually start with me thinking of her and end up being all about me. Isn't it always?

But time passing since my accident needs to be acknowledged every so often. How far I've come. How accomplished my wheelchair skills are. How I still stubbornly refuse help and end up upside down in people's hallways (sorry Gabby!). How much fitter I am. The hills I can now push up. And, inevitably, how much pain has become a part of everyday life.

That last one is depressing most of the time, although there is a slight upside, which is that on a good day I can congratulate myself on dealing with it so well. On a bad day I berate myself for being so spineless (ho ho) and not just going under the knife to get that sucka sliced and diced once and for all (See previous entry, if you're at all puzzled).

Still, how did we get on to that again? Never mind.

I am also throwing the odd brush at canvas again for the first time in 5 years. I'm not sure where I'm headed, but it's good to be taking that particular journey again. We are planning another open studio at the end of the month.  So I'd better get a move on. I can't sit here all day and night writing this rubbish, so be off with yer. Go on, shoo!


Moments of forgetful rapture.

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Forgive the cheesy description, but there is some truth in there. This afternoon saw me in my usual space at the Emirates stadium to watch my beloved, exasperating Arsenal against Manchester United, a game I fully expected us to lose on the form we have shown this season. Instead, we were treated to a real ding-dong, rip roaring match full of excitement and incident. Real end to end stuff indeed.

We were of course triumphant in the end, and I sang my heart out. Well, it's infectious when there are some sixty thousand around you doing the same.

Anyway, my point... Well, the point is when we scored, when they nearly did, when we shouted for a penalty, all these moments, I was totally gripped. To the exclusion of anything else. Even my paralysis. OK, I didn't leap to my feet when we scored, sadly. But thankfully, we have scored enough goals since my injury that I knew that, and I've got used to it. The rush, the leap is all there, but different. And when it comes I am able to enjoy the moment unconditionally.

There are other things that I can enjoy unconditionally: Tennis, tickling our daughter, good food, watching The Wire... But in watching football, I tap into a long standing passion and a ritual that I took part in before my accident. In fact, were it not for my accident and the reduced price of my season ticket, I would not be there at all. Obviously, I am not advocating spinal cord injury as a way of securing a cheap ticket, but it does feel good to have this connection to my 'old life'.
Especially when we win.

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...my own trumpet.

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I'm sure you'll forgive me, but my special powers don't extend to telepathy. With this in mind, I thought I should direct you to my latest column on OUCH!

If, on the other hand, you have arrived here from the link on OUCH, then please don't think this is some kind of hilarious circular link jest. Please feel free to browse the rest of the witty, insightful inane drivel that makes up my blog.

Germ warfare

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OK, a tad melodramatic perhaps. But when people talk about nippers being like little germ factories, I didn't poo-poo. No, I could see the theory. Their rapidly developing systems chew up and spit out viruses at a rate of knots, the emphasis being on spit...

Still, I was ill-prepared for the full significance of this special power. This is all a very long way of saying that I have another cold. My fourth in three months. Sheeeeeeeit. As Clay Davis would say.

P was in France for a couple of nights at the end of last week, so R and I spent two days at home with Wallace and Gromit on DVD, sneezing and snotting over each other. On the plus side, all these colds seem to have improved my powers of recovery, and after a weekend of moping around the house, I am feeling much better. Thank you for asking.

We spent yesterday afternoon down on the South Bank wandering around, happy to be out of the house, watching merry-go-rounds and jugglers. There were also some people doing balloon modelling for children. When a very nice lady festooned with balloon animals and glittery make-up said hello to R from a distance of some ten yards, it was like watching an animal being struck with a tranquiliser dart. R's shyness began with her trying top bury her head in my lap, but soon moved on to total meltdown, as her legs bucled, and she ended up in a silent heap on the ground. I was almost convinced that she had developed sudden narcolepsy.

Once we had saved our precious from 'Scary Balloon Lady' (and she had ridden the merry-go-round), she recovered fully and we listened to the Croydon Male Voice Choir in the foyer of the RFH, before stuffing ourselves with cakes and juice/coffee. I wonder what she will make of it all when she looks back a few years down the line. I hope she won't have globophobia (fear of balloons). Or whatever the word is for 'fear of the Croydon Male Voice Choir. Imagine that coming up on day-time telly...

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