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Thursday, 31 May 2012


Today, I was back in the pool. I was feeling relatively cocky: my Dead Leg, apart from the odd patellar dislocation, has been behaving himself. I was walking lengths, up and down the pool, wearing pink and yellow flippers, when an idea for the annual anniversary poem popped into my head (a good thing, too, because it was yesterday. Ooops). A problem: I began to pay less attention to the flippers than to words. I stopped to do my turn at the far end of the pool, and the Dead Leg decided to go buoyant, and out to the side he went. Physical activity has always provided the impetus for a lot of my creative output. I used to compose music, write lyrics, and work on poems in my head as I ran. I could run miles, and come home tired enough to focus, and get things down on paper. No more. If I lose focus on the leg, he runs off, seeking asylum or distractions. I was afraid I'd I lost track of the poem, but it is still there, rumbling around in the back of my head.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I feel rumpled inside, bunched and hunched and as if nothing fits quite right. Creatively speaking, I have started loads of new projects and poems, and added a few pages to a growing novel I am not supposed to be writing at all. I don't feel settled enough somehow to properly tend to any of them, to iron out the wrinkles.

Thursday, 24 May 2012


I had my second hydrotherapy session today. It feels wonderful to be in the (very) warm water, to feel pain and tension and the heavy burden that is the Dead Leg seep away for a little while. I feel very much at home in the water, and I have to resist the urge to drop down and scoot along the bottom of the pool. I used to tune out the world that way, stop being responsible and the oldest and worrying about where everyone else was. I have to pay attention at hydrotherapy, because I might miss something crucial, the one magical exercise that will mean I get to leave the Dead Leg floating here by himself forever.

When my session is over, I walk to the bottom of the stairs. As I climb up, I get heavier and heavier. I stagger under the weight of the Dead Leg. He is still here. I collect all of my pain,  too, as I walk up the steps, and the weight that comes from knowing this is as good as I'll get, this 45 minute stint in the pool before I have to collect being disabled as I collect my keys from the basket.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

On Job Interviews: anxiety about disability

I had an interview yesterday for a job I would really *love* to have. I didn't think it was my best interview ever: I used to feel confident that I gave good interview, but no longer do. I am always wondering if people notice my Dead Leg as much as I do. I feel as though it is the first thing everyone else sees, and I assume they fixate on it. Logically, I am aware that this might not be the case, but emotionally? I don't buy it.

My physio gave me an assignment; I had to visualise the Dead Leg, and take a really good look at it, comparing the internal picture I have of it to the one I have of my more normal but still arthritic Good Leg. I see a gigantic spongy bruised-looking lump for a knee, a pencil-slender stalk for the calf/shin, and my foot looks like a big, flapping rubber mat, hitting the ground with a SPLAP! as I limp around inside of my head. No wonder I don't trust the Dead Leg; no wonder it doesn't feel functional, and looms so large on my emotional landscape.

I hope that the Dead Leg didn't take over during the interview; it is almost as though I have another personality, a really intrusive, loud one, that elbows its way to the front of me. Maybe if I can learn to love the Dead Leg, it will simmer down and quit trying to take over. Easier said than done, but I'll start today, and the first thing I'll do is plug in my electric blanket so that DL is warm.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Battery Grannies

In my own sort of homage to the Spartacus Report getting so much press today, my first Open Link Night poem for the dVerse poets website: I'm a bit nervous. I've been a secretive groupie perusing the links on the site for a while.

Please feel free to read and comment. This one is still in process (what poems aren't?) and derives from my time as a Speech and Language Therapist caring for patients with dementia and their families. I think the way in which a society treats its  youngest and oldest members says everything we need to know about it. 


Battery Grannies
The tour starts here. This is the Activity Room.
I would ask that you don’t open any doors, or go anywhere without
a member of staff. Please stay on the green carpet.
We want the best for our residents.
We offer everything they need-- positive freedom, freedom:
from hunger and thirst; from discomfort; from pain; injury or disease; 
to express normal behaviour; from fear and distress.
Don’t feed them.
This isn’t a petting zoo. 
Some of them are still very slender, but
they come to us in terrible shape,
most of them, so we fatten them up.
No one ever wants a scrawny one, but we stock
all shapes, makes, and models.
We feed them regularly.
Food is supplied in place.
They quickly learn to eat 
they don’t recognize, if 
they get hungry enough,
though the weaker ones get pushed aside. Occasionally.
leads to other problems, which then require 
harsher remedies:
The de-beaking of chickens is deprecated, but it is recognized that it is 
a method of last resort, seen as better than allowing vicious fighting and ultimately cannibalism.
Their legs don't always work, unfortunately, but
this will not affect your statutory rights.
Because they cannot move easily, the chickens are not able to adjust their 
environment to avoid heat, cold or dirt as they would in natural conditions.
Some have strange hock burns; do-gooders accuse us of 
leaving occupants lying in their own shit,
but we just can't train them to stand. 
We feed them, but then
they cannot support their increased body weight. 
First too weak, then too fat. A conundrum.
All are functional, to some extent. They
learn to mimic natural behaviour.
We train them not to chirp
or squeak,
and never let them pray.
Research suggests that they benefit from participating
in meaningful activity:
we encourage bingo and crochet.
Physical restraints are used to control movement or actions regarded as undesirable.
The telly works for some of them.
they don't know what they're missing.
Reception's not an issue;
they're content with static and with hissing.
Piled here,
they take up very little space.
Confinement at high stocking density is one part a systematic effort to produce 
the highest output at the lowest cost. 
We do our best for the shareholders and customers.
There's a warehoused granny for everyone.

The Dead Leg turns 5

Five years ago, I sat at a table in Bar Roma with family and friends. We were ostensibly celebrating my 40th birthday. They were waiting impatiently for the pizzas to arrive. I was wondering what the hell was going on with my leg, which felt like a block of ice under the table. I couldn't do anything to warm it. I could barely stand to put socks on. I would have worn nothing if I could have gotten away with it, and I am NOT an exhibitionist, AND it was January. I knew then that I was disabled, that something had gone horribly wrong, that broken bones in foot shouldn't be causing all of the other weird things (shiny skin, diminishing leg hair, waking up in the night with my leg on fire up to the knee). 3 weeks post-fracture, I knew something that no doctor or anyone else would feel comfortable telling me for another two and a half years: my tree-climbing days were over. No more cartwheels. No more walking silently and swiftly through woods. I didn't tell anyone; I didn't want to be told that I was negative, that everything would be fine. The Dead Leg knew, though, without me saying anything, and our uneasy relationship began. Everyone enjoyed the pizza.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Because I'm a Woman: the Enjoli Generation

(Warning: fever-induced rambling. Just saying.)

The late 70s-into-the-80s was a time of real cultural schizophrenia: women could work, make the money, have it all, and still have the time/energy to dab perfume behind their ears while slipping, braless, into a little white satiny number before flinging open the door when their men came home. Want proof? Watch this: I was brought up on this stuff. It made no sense; no one could possibly do all of those things and still look happy and have her hair brushed. Or maybe I just suspected what I now know to be true: I didn't plan to have the energy or inclination to prance subserviently around a man after a day spent running the world. No thanks.

By the time I saw my first Enjoli commercial, I knew that pretty nearly everything I had ever been told about the way I looked and other people looked was a lie. There was a lot of this:

'Your insides matter more than your outsides.'
'Beautiful is as beautiful does.'
'How a woman treats other people is more important than how she looks.'
'A mother's first priority is taking care of her family, and if she can look nice too, that's fine.'

But it didn't quite ring true. What I saw, rather than heard, was that my mother would not leave the house without lipstick on, and that she spent at least an hour getting ready to go out before we went anywhere, and we were always running slightly late because she kept re-checking her hair, her makeup, her accessories. What I felt was that I was a resounding disappointment, reading as much as I did was weird, having a scientific/writerly disposition was even more horrifying, and what my mother had really wanted was a cheerleader with long ringlets. I loved her, and accepted that this was one of her blind spots, but it hurt like hell not to be seen as me, for me.

I had understood when I was much, much younger that feminism was about being equal, even though we didn't all look like Farrah Fawcett, and were not all married to the 6 Million Dollar Man (aka Lee Majors). I thought feminism was for all of us, that, as Julie Bindel says so eloquently in her piece in the New Statesman from 8/8/11, that "feminism has an ideology and a goal. It is not about personal liberty and freedom, but the emancipation from oppression and tyranny for ALL women, whatever our race or class." (See for the whole article, and follow her on Twitter: @bindelj).

 I find, despite being enlightened, that I am also a bit disappointed that I didn't ever look even a little bit like Farrah, and never will, and now have a Dead Leg (and he is SO UNATTRACTIVE AND COOPERATIVE THAT I AM ASHAMED TO KNOW HIM.). I will admit that I have my shallow side. I am not, and will not ever be, what Bindel terms a 'fun feminist,' however, and will always be horrified by today's version of the Enjoli myth, aka the Reality TV Show, and the pornification of women that goes along with this. We were just starting to get some traction, and now all we talk about are Michelle Obama's arms. This needs to change, and it needs to change now. I suspect Farrah wanted to be more than a poster or a pair of boobs, and wish that she had been able to be as smart or driven or whatever she was, as she was.