Monthly Archives: June 2012

Want to hear something weird?

This Olympics I’m interviewing athletes, on television, in magazines, in London.

Last Olympics I hadn’t left my room for two years.

This Olympics I’m working 12 hour days surrounded by crowds of thousands of people in the capital.

Last Olympics I couldn’t lift my own head off my chest.

This Olympics I’m being sponsored by clothing companies during particular publicity events

Last Olympics I relied on my Mother to dress me.

There are always going to be points I reach that weird me out a little, when the world I live in now bears such a stark contrast to the place I used to inhabit that it gives me pause for thought. The Olympics have pushed this into overdrive. I’m interviewing people I was watching on a screen 4 years ago. When I lived a reality that was a total polar opposite to the people who were in peak physical condition. When you don’t really remember how it felt to work your own body properly, and you’re watching someone perform miraculous feats with theirs, it makes you feel like one of you has to be an alien. Because truly how can two people who have all the same equipment have such different experiences in their own bodies?

I did expect to get better. I always expected to get better. I didn’t expect to get so much better that I’d be well for a living. Clearly I’m never going to compete in the Olympics. This is the closest I’ll get. It’s pretty bloody close. It’s a lot bloody closer than it was 4 years ago. So my point is, if I can get this much better, to the point where I’m working these insane hours and interviewing the fittest people in the country. then you can expect to do that because it’s already been done. So whilst I’m having my little freak out about how weird this all is for me. You can go beyond that. You can know it’s perfectly doable and aim for bigger. Because for me this is the biggest  thing. I just wanted to get better, and then in some abstract way be able to show people that it could be done. I just wanted a platform so you’d have someone to go home and google when doctors told you to aim lower and be more realistic. So we’ve done that now. It’s normal. Now its your turn to be weirded out next Olympics by the absolutely incredible feats you’ve reached in your own recovery. Because you can and you will. And I know this and you know this. But thanks to the people that keep giving me a platform to do this we can have yet more evidence of it…and then you’ll go and do the same picking up where I leave off…and then the person who reads about your progress or sees you on your platform will continue on from you… after all who says you have to be an Athlete to have a relay race…?



For Claudia

For Claudia…

We met ten years ago at Drama School where Claudia sported a full set of the longest acrylics known to man-before nail bars were ever a common sight even in Central London. She always smiled, and I have never to this day heard her say a bad word about anyone. She could also do a version of Hammertime that would put MC Hammer himself to shame-not bad going for an Essex bird…

Whilst some people dipped their toe in the water of life, Claudia would take a running jump off the highest point she could find and dive-bombed into it. She studied full-time, had a job, sang in a band, did a two-hour commute to school everyday, and still found time to go out with us most nights, life was a total adventure with her around. Even when we left Drama School and found ourselves on the inevitable rounds of thankless auditions and living on next to nothing, Claudia managed to buy her second property and make it all look incredibly easy. It was a no-brainer who most of us wanted to be when we grew up (it also didn’t hurt she was the spitting double of Daryl Hannah, you know, if Daryl was from Essex…)

We somehow blinked and found we were in our mid-twenties. Still working as jobbing actresses a lot of us would spend our summers doing various plays and musicals in Edinburgh (a reasonable excuse to drink in another city for a few weeks if ever there was one). Claudia would also be there-except she’d have written, directed and cast the production she was part of. Obviously. The last night out I had with her I had a Mohawk and a green painted face but she looked ridiculously good as always and we said we’d see each other back in London very soon. But it seemed fate had other plans for both of us. A few months later I got sick and spent the rest of my twenties housebound then in a wheelchair being cared for by my parents full-time back in Newcastle. And Claudia met a lovely boy.

Claudia’s boy was very lovely indeed. I used to look at photos of them on Facebook, (a lifeline when I was housebound but not something that I can bring myself to use now without feeling like I’m back there again) and marvel at how happy she seemed, even by her usual standards of joy. Then one day her lovely boyfriend went sailing for the day. And never got to come back. Your boyfriend isn’t supposed to die when you are in your twenties. Accidents like that are supposed to happen in films. They are headlines belonging to people you’ve never met. Your life isn’t supposed to shift irrevocably in a matter of hours. But Claudia’s did. It did and it wasn’t fair. Suffering like that is not something most people can comprehend, never mind see their way out of and through to the other side.

Claudia did.

She mourned and she suffered and she got through the hours and days and weeks. But then she did something extraordinary. She made a new plan. She moved from London to NYC and attended Drama School there. She uprooted her entire life, left all her friends, (and trust me she has a lot of those) and went alone to start her Life After. It will come as no surprise to hear that they all fell in love with her on that side of the pond too. She created an amazing network of friends, had a wonderful social life and worked very hard. She also fell in love with an equally incredible man and yesterday they got married in a beautiful ceremony in New York State.

So many things about Claudia have always impressed me, her energy, her humour, her individuality. But what truly astounds me is her willingness to love and to trust. Whist most of us can relate to have our hearts broken and finding it hard to trust again, very few of us have experienced the level of shock and loss that Claudia has, and at such a young age. But she never wallowed in it, never felt sorry for herself, she put all of her energy into believing that she could create a life after this horrible thing that happened to her. And she did, she fell in love and loves her husband fearlessly, he in turn worships the ground she walks on, you can tell just by looking at him that he feels like the luckiest man on the world. That’s what happens when you take a risk and decide to give your heart to someone else fully, they  recognise and care for it like the precious gift that it is.

Whenever I feel like I’m too scared to trust my heart to another, or leave myself open for whatever hurt or rejection could come my way, I think of Claudia, and I remember how with a willingness to let love into your life regardless of where it may take you, we can create something truly extraordinary. And then I know i’m going to do just fine.


What Faith is?

I tend to run head first into everything these days without any real consideration of potential outcomes. I used to think it was due to a combination of always feeling the lost years I had removed from the world, and the need to make up for them now and just not giving a feck what the consequences were to any actions, having seemingly already lived through the worst life was ever going to throw at me. But I’ve just realised that it’s neither, and it’s changed the course of my world a little. And it’s made things make more sense a lot.

Every day I rely on brain exercises to keep my body working properly. If I don’t do them properly them I’ll end up back in the chair. If I don’t do them at all then it’s back to my parents spare room for me. If they stop working of their own accord then it could be either really.

Brain exercises, not a pill I can pop, or medicine I can swallow. Not something I can see or smell or taste. Just feel. I have to believe in something I cannot see. I have to have faith in that which is beyond my logical understanding. And it turns out that belief has filtered out into every other aspect of my life. That’s why I love fearlessly and believe in the goodness and kindness of all people. That’s why I’ll be an incurable optimist for the rest of my life. I can’t see love but I know it exists. I can’t see goodness in people, but I can feel both of those things. To me that’s what faith is.

So if you’re waiting for your own cure to come in the form of incontrovertible physical Evidence, maybe it’s time to have a little re-think. Perhaps it’s worth looking at the people around you and noticing where there faith lies-because all of us believe in at least one thing we cannot see. It could be Love or God or reading your horoscope in the paper, but we all have our own way of practising faith. Maybe finding yours will lead to you very own life after. It’s certainly continuing to shape mine.

C x