Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Jane replies to Margaret's memories

Your memories really jogged mine, and here's what came out.

I do remember the radio – we used to listen to Children’s Hour and some of the radio requests programmes – maybe Workers’ Playtime? We’d shout at the radio to make it play the songs we wanted, and now and then the right one would come up – the most popular ones got repeated a lot! But we truly believed they could hear us at the other end, but either couldn’t or wouldn’t play “our” requests every time!

I was in a plaster bed too, and I remember we had to go and have new ones made every so often, because we were growing kids. They would slather on the plaster over bandages laid on my back – you're right, the slimy feel and the smell were awful. Then as the plaster dried and hardened, I remember how it shrank and you could feel it move. My TB was down towards the bottom of the spine, so I could at least move my head around, unlike you, Margaret. I often wondered how people like you managed to do everything in a mirror back to front.

It must have been fun learning to walk on the nurse’s feet – it’s something I’ve always done with small children, including my own, but I don’t remember a nurse doing it with me. Instead, I remember learning to walk between parallel bars, clinging on desperately while the physiotherapist called out “Heel, toe, heel, toe”, to stop me gingerly putting down a toe first. There was a full-length mirror to watch yourself, and I was shocked to see myself full length for the first time. What a disappointment! Once I’d learned to read, I identified with lots of different story characters – Snow White, Cinderella, kids at ballet schools, kids who rode horses – all beautiful and above all graceful - and I just imagined myself as them! In fact, like Margaret, I was a scrawny little 8-year-old, long and thin with knobbly knees like a foal’s – not a bit beautiful or graceful!

This all came back to me when I had a hip replacement in 1998 and learned to walk again for the third time in my life. Same story – a physiotherapist who knew how the walking ought to look, from the outside, but who was so fit and strong he couldn’t possibly have the first idea how it felt from inside! I’ve always been a bit self-conscious and analytical about the way I walked ever since.