Some legacy

An article I wrote for the Times in September last year… my cafe dream hasn’t quite taken off but neither I am afraid  has much else…

Remember they can’t all be Paralympians

I have always loved the Olympics. I watched through the night as a child and believed one day I too could run like the wind. So when they came to my home town, I cried when Mo Farah took gold and despaired when Mark Cavendish missed his medal. I vowed it wasn’t too late to put on my running shoes, dust off my bike, swim open water in the ponds — but resolutions don’t make champions. The Paralympics were something else. I had excited texts from friends, exalting in the atmosphere and soaking up the positivity. Many left the stadium talking of the impact of the Paralympics, saying it had changed their perception of disabled people and that there must be a long-lasting legacy in our society. Sadly, my family could not join them at the Games, since wheelchair users could only have one person with them and my daughter — who has profound and multiple disabilities — needs two on such expeditions. But I desperately hope these optimists are proved right. I want the world to change from a place where my daughter lives in the shadows of society, relying on me to fight for her most basic human rights. I want that positive energy harnessed and used to make things better not just for my daughter but for all the ordinary people who happen to be in wheelchairs but will never be superhuman, in the way that I will never be an Olympian. Read More…


Just An Ordinary Day

The light breeze caught the pale linen curtains, the dawn chorus reached  its peak, the sound of giggling came through the painted floor boards from the room below. My gorgeous daughter awoke at 5.30 and started her day with some energetic bouncing, small white limbs rhythmically pulsing, head bobbing and abs contracting.

It took a few more hours till I crawled down stairs, hair rumpled, face creased and dressing gown drawn. Two cups of strong coffee and an incomplete crossword later the screaming started, the seizure began. 20mg of diazepam and 30 minutes later it came to a stop. My daughter lay spent in her little bed. Cath Kidston duvet covering and dolly cuddled, she slept. Read More…


A life changer

Often in the last 2 years I have stood in rooms full of people and talked about how my daughters personal health budget has not just changed her life but changed mine too.

I was brought up in a Scottish village close to nowhere, with a view over a flat top island, silver sands, and stunning sunsets when the sky turns bronze and burnished red. A place to roam free with bikes and dens and burns, sunburned noses and freckles in the summer, wellies and woolly hats in the winter. There was one school, two churches, three pubs, endless skies, soaring seagulls and salty storms. Lobsters crawled from pots across kitchen floors, errant dogs chased sheep, and bog myrtle, sea pinks and rowan berries marked the seasons. Read More…


The road to nowhere

At Naidex last week, in a flourescent-lit aircraft hanger of a room where the air didn’t move and the colours were bright, a strangely populated world of men in suits, hi-tech wheelchairs, bolshie youth, endearing smiles and earnest faces mingled.

I was only there for the day helping out at the Peoplehub stall, a community interest company set up by people with or interested in personal health budgets. With the help of a few notepads and some Crackerjack-style pens the conversations flowed. Read More…


So how is your daughter?

Why is it 19 years after my daughter first started having seizures that I am at a loss to be honest when people ask the simple question,’ So how is your daughter?’

I run through my range of responses: the downright dishonest, ’ yes, good thanks’ or the ambiguous, ‘just the same as usual’ or the deflection,‘not too bad but I heard you have had terrible flu’ or the little bit more honest, ‘ oh yes, she’s had an awful seizure,’ followed up with the reassuring, ‘but she’s just gone out to yoga tonight’ or the downright disingenuous, ‘ a little bit peaky’.  Read More…


A whimper not a bang

April has started with a whimper not a bang, strangled by greyness, crippled by cold and compounded by welfare, death and orphanages. That’s what the view from the hill looked like this week.

Maybe I should stop following the news, switch off twitter and bury my head in fiction and films. Maybe I should stop running and try slow walking, take a long bath rather than a quick shower and fill my days crocheting, gardening or baking. After all it might do as much good as looking at the world and watching things get worse. Read More…


We can’t hear the parents

 

All of my daughter’s life I have fought hard to make her life the best it can be. This has taken me from being a laid back individual to the verge of a nervous breakdown and back. I have in my time been labelled neurotic, challenging, difficult, over-protective, pushy, demanding and unrealistic. At times, I may have been some of these things. I do not apologise. And I know, despite the fact we are now quite settled and work well with the professionals around her, I would not be afraid to fight for her should the need arise again. Yesterday we heard that parents of young people in Winterbourne View were amongst the most disenfranchised parents in the country. How did that happen? Read More…


A Light Touch

For the last 18 months I have been delivering a short talk on the transformative power of personal health budgets. In the same way that has happened in social care it is now possible to have a personal health budget instead of more traditional services like residential or agency care.

The reception has generally been warm. But within every room are the hardline doubters. You can usually spot them at the beginning: arms folded, huddled together, frowning faces.

After the talk come the questions. With recurring inevitability the first question will be regarding financial accountability. Read More…


Spinning a yarn

My daughter takes me to places I would otherwise never go. Last Friday, on a sadly predictable grey and miserable afternoon in North London we arrived, somewhat circuitously, at what looked like an outpost of London zoo, a concrete bunker replete with iron railings, a steep ramp and with a pile of crinkly leaves carpeting the entrance.

Somewhat tentatively we made our way inside. ‘Hi Iona, so you have brought your mother with you today?’. Without a hint of embarrassment Iona grinned widely caring less about her mother, and more about the hour or so ahead. Read More…


Communication without words

Yesterday my daughter made me laugh. I asked her if she would like to help me with the garden this summer. She sighed very deeply and made her feelings very clear. When a good friend asked her if she would like a job handing out leaflets for H&SA at a Learning Disability Conference, again she sighed deeply, looked way and dropped the leaflets. We have video footage of her turning her head away as a music teacher bounces and bangs a big orange ball in front of her. It is abundantly clear what she thinks! Read More…


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