A few years ago we were visiting Dublin en route to a wedding in Belfast. This was during a period when I didn’t wear a shoe on my prosthetic foot, instead opting for nothing except fake tattoos. I found it more comfortable for some reason, although it was much frowned on at the hospital. So we were in a shoe shop in Dublin, and I found the perfect colour, size and fit, but as I asked for the other one, I tongue in cheek mentioned I only needed one shoe really, could we do a deal. We all laughed, they thought what card this woman is! So off she went to the store cupboard but returned very quickly. ‘ The key, there’s no key, who has the key??’ Evidently the key had gone home with assistant Patrick the night before and nobody had access to get the other pointless shoe. So for half price I walked away with one shoe, and somewhere in Dublin there probably is still a left size 7 blue suede wedge looking for a home, and Patrick looking for another job. Only in Ireland could that happen. I have tried the same approach with trousers and only needing one leg, but so far it hasn’t worked.
I was once in my chair in a lift in Primark with an assistant who was pushing a trolley full of shop dummy legs. The narrative was hanging thick in the air with Mr Neo Walk desperate to crack a joke and the assistant wishing to be swallowed up by a big hole. He caved in first, have you got any lefts in there, she’s come out without hers…you know the jokes. Once people know I’m happy to laugh at myself they feel a lot more comfortable to laugh too. We once sat on the front row at a comedy club in New York, which usually means be prepared to be ripped apart by the compère and the comedians. There I was, bionic leg proudly out on shiny show (I love my leg) but not one of them went anywhere near it. Instead they homed in our Britishness and Brexit, which let’s face it is hilarious. But no legless jokes. I spoke to the compère after the show and out of curiosity asked why and he replied “I didn’t know if I was allowed”. Now I don’t know about all of you, but I’ve laughed at jokes about race, religion, age, sex, colour and beauty, so I felt a bit left out. To laugh at yourself means you’ve accepted yourself for who you are, and I don’t think disability should be kept off the comedy hit list. Look at outstanding comedian Francesca Martinez who is famous for her wobbly comedy. Alex Brooker , fellow prosthetic wearer, makes wicked inclusive fun of everybody and himself. If you’ve ever seen Zach Anner on You Tube with his insight into cerebral palsy, don’t be afraid to laugh. It’s not in bad taste if he can laugh at himself. Don’t let political correctness be the death of having a poke at disability. In fact leaving us out makes us feel invisible and like the elephant in the room. I don’t want to be an elephant.
I was once cutting the grass on my ride on tractor in France. Mum was visiting, she was chilling out in the house. Mr Neo Walk was painting a building outside as he so often did. So after refuelling I went out to the roadside at the front of the property, I was just on the verge and my machine conked out with a puff of black smoke. Having been responsible for several breakages in the past, I immediately rang for Mr to come and sort it out. There I was, one leg, 35 degrees, broken down on a quiet lane outside. Text Mr… Ring Mr… Text mum… Ring mum, Fifteen minutes later still no response, with my phone battery ever decreasing. Text Cherub Offspring…to laugh at the idiotic situation really, who came up with a genius idea! So squeezing the last juice from my phone, I used wifi and Spotify to play an appropriate song full blast over the outdoor speakers to attract their attention.
‘HELP, I NEED SOMEBODY, HELP, NOT JUST ANYBODY, HELP, YOU KNOW I NEED SOMEONE, HELLLLLLLLP” Over and over and over again.
Ten minutes later it worked and the cavalry arrived. At the time Mr Neo Walk had just thought what’s that bloody racket, its probably the Mother-in-Law trying to work the outdoor speakers and failing in a spectacular blaze of silver hair. At the time all mum thought was I didn’t know Lyndsay liked the Beatles that much. It took time but the message sunk in.
So the Beatles saved me from certain sunburn, dehydration and hallucinations of wine lakes and sun bronzed rescuers coming to save little legless me. Help.
At this point I should also say the reason the tractor conked out was because I put diesel in it’s petrol engine when I refuelled. Time to play the blonde card… Now I know a few jokes about them too…