Friday, 30 March 2012

Disability Rights

There was a long queue at the post office today. My comfortable chair a definite advantage over the almost-certainly achy legs of those in front. There may possibly have been a hint of smugness in my smile as I wheeled up.

The lady at the front of the line gestured towards me saying "Join the queue infront of me" - I turned round, looking for someone behind me with obvious difficulty standing/walking. There was no-one there.

"Me?" I said in surprise. "But I've got my seat, so I'm totally fine." I didn't take her up on her offer. My seat gave me an advantage over everyone else there. 

She was trying to be nice, so I wasn't offended - just rather amused at her slightly odd perception that sitting in a customised chair in a queue was somehow intolerable when compared to standing.

As she left after being served, she said to me "More rights for the disabled."
Disability Rights. 

If Disability Rights mean 'the right to demand totally unneccesary priviliges at the expense of other peoples rights' or 'the right to have your disability pointed out unecesarily' then I want nothing to do with them.

Actually, then and there, the only right I wanted was to be a person amongst people in the post office queue. An indivdual amongst individuals sending parcels. Although if recognised as Hannah Ensor I'd have been happy to be 'That author who does the stickmen'.

Disability Rights.

The right to be me. The right to ask for a sensible, practical, alternate solution should the need arise, and the right for that request to be treated with respect, common sense and a total lack of sensationalism. But most of all, the right to be just another person, going about my business.

Those are the Rights I want more of.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Today's book signing.

I came, I signed, I conquered!

Okay, okay. Complete exaggeration. But this morning's signing did go well. (Photos will appear in due course).

Marvellous weather meant it was 'dead quiet' for a Saturday but I still made enough sales to gain managers approval and make it worth my while.

And I learnt some important things:

1. If, having read one book, a 3yr old is dancing on their toes demanding to be read the other, you've done something right.

2. "You know you've been pushing it when..." is popular with  8-14yr old boys. It seems the humour is...of a perfect maturity level. Which explains why my 19yr old cousin liked them so much.

3. Grandparents are amongst the best buyers when it comes to children's books.

4. When a customer is unsure which book to buy, with a suitably cheeky grin you can get away with saying "All of them." Sometimes it works.

5. After spending only a minute chatting, it is amazing how many people realise that, should they admit to being unsure which ones to buy, you will say "All of them".

6. Success is when a boy who saw me in a school assembly drags his mum over to buy him a signed copy of "You know you've been pushing it when...", who then informed me that he's been talking about that assembly for weeks and that meeting me was the purpose of their trip to town. He made my day.

7. Successful signings in several different WHSmiths stores may result in said company realising that my books are marvellous and stocking them routinely.

Yep - you've guessed what I'll be planning over the next year or so!!

At least, I will once I've regained coherent speech, reattached my wrist, de-spasmed my neck and generally slept off the effects of this one.


Thursday, 22 March 2012

Book Signing prep

I guess every author gets last minute nerves about a book signing. 

I'm double nervous. I've got to try and persuade my body to stay in one piece for an entire Saturday morning aswell - or at least remain passably cooperative.

So, under the necessities of 'Pacing' I'm already writing my lists of what to take, and my PA will be here shortly to start packing for my expedition into the great unknown of 'Famous' Authordom:

Business List:
Box of Welly Walks, Box of Biscuit Baking,
Name badge
Shelf strips
'autograph' pen

Medical List:
Spare body parts (wrists x2, neck, fingers)
sports tape
salty snacks
communication cards
medic alert tag
emergency contact details
cool vest

It might be annoying having to plan for bodily inconveniences, but at least it takes my mind off the nerves!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Day Off

Yesterday I took the day off.

It was marvellous and wonderful. 

Hang on a minute!! I only have 2 hours a week of structured work. The rest of the time I do stickman doodles, and tell people I'm a genius in the hope that they buy my products - with frequent sofa breaks, and try to 'pace' - which means try to keep as active as I can while respecting my body's limits and steering clear of Collapse Due to Existing Medical Conditions. Because Collapse is not fun.

So I often have several days a week at home, not doing anything. Resting so I can get through the next day, or lying down for a bit so I am 'with it' enough to have a conversation etc.

Surely this makes most days a holiday? How would you need a rest from that?? 

That is what I thought too.

Until yesterday.

At 3am I realised that if I didn't find a way to step back I would land in hospital again.

What more could I do to help myself? I keep having 'home' days and it isn't making a big difference. Plus I'm not sleeping.

A Holiday. 

From everything. A day of doing whatever I fancied, with one rule: it must be relaxing.

No stickmen, no book publicity, no preparing for medical appointments, no facebook, twitter or emails. No sorting domestic issues or planning finances. No laundry. No thinking about tomorrow. And unashamedly tipping all the days tasks onto the next day's list.

And then relishing the luxury of doing nothing much - not out of necessity, but because I decided too. The difference between a day off work because you have the flu, and a holiday.

The knowledge that no-one and nothing could stop this day being completely and entirely: Mine.

Bath, book, flowers. Allowing my brain to stop.

And today? I am still physically very tired, but underneath it I feel so much better. 

Every week from now I intend to have a 'Holiday' day. And I think it may just do the trick.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

International Wheelchair Day 2012

A day I've looked forward to for a long time.

Because 'they [wheels] must make things hard for you' is said to me so often and today gives me the chance, along with other wheelies across the world, to help erase this view.

Because I love my wheels. They have opened doors for me that I had thought were closed for ever. They gave me a new lease of life, the ability to be an active member of my community in a way which would be impossible without them.

My wheels dont make things hard, they make things marvellously possible. I can shop, give talks, teach, carry, cook, travel, do book signings, speed shrieking down a hill....and oh so many things.

Try doing the above on legs that forget where they are, knees that dislocate, disappearing coordination and a decreasing level of conciousness. THAT is hard.

I have a seat in the postoffice queue.
I am faster than the other commuters across the station platform.
I have my own personal rollercoaster.

Yes, there are practical issues in a environment designed for walkers - 

Based on page 23 of "You know you've been pushing it when..."
Based on page 15 of "You know you've been pushing it when..."

This doesn't make me hate my wheels. Without them I'd struggle to get to the stairs.

But it does make me want to help people understand the practicalities of life on wheels. So often the solutions are easy - a sign showing that the level access entrance is round the side, a doorbell on a heavy door, a little less stock on the shop floor. And suddenly my freedom expands. Like a champagne fountain. Unexpected, bubbly and leaving everything it touches with a trace of celebration.

So next time you see me wheeling down the street, don't pity the wheels but feel my joy at the freedom that they give.

And if, without fuss, you can make a little part of the world a little bit more accessible to a set of wheels, you will make my year.