This month I’m celebrating – no, it’s not my birthday, but the first time I have seen my partner in the flesh – so to speak – since March. I’m pleased to report that he is alive and well, and still able to make a perfect cup of tea.
I’m also able to say that I am finally able to tie my hair back with one hand. Admittedly, it is very messy, but I don’t care – I’ve done it!
Since I moved out of my parents’ house, I’ve sported a pixie cut being unable to look after longer hair by myself. After I moved in with my partner, I decided to grow my hair, determined to learn how to style it. And I have succeeded.
This is just one of the many things I have achieved over my lifetime. Since I was a small child, teachers, doctors and other health professionals have questioned my ability to do many of the activities that I have accomplished. These included crawling, walking, swimming, cycling and skipping – though it’s not always perfect. I do walk with a toe strike on my left foot and am inclined to swim diagonally!
Of course, I am generalising here. There were always those who were more encouraging. My Year Nine PE teacher was one of the best; she was convinced that I could participate in all the sports she taught…and I could! Though sceptical and somewhat reluctant at the time, I did join in with basketball and the track and field events – no doubt there were more, but those are the ones that remember most clearly. (Miss Vann, if you ever read this blog, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart).
Sport is one of those areas in life that many disabled people find difficult. But disabled sport has received so much attention and funding that many disabled people have found that they are able to participate fully in sporting events – the Paralympics, for example.
Sadly, music does not receive the same attention and is an area in which the disabled are frequently left out. As a result, the possibilities of disabled music-making are over-looked and under-funded. Whether this is because adapted instruments are too expensive or are considered too difficult to make and impossible to learn, I don’t know. But what I do know is that there are those out there who have fought in order to make music.
James Rose is the founding conductor of BSO Resound, part of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the world’s first disabled-led ensemble. This six-person group is made up entirely of disabled musicians and they’re pretty good – they have performed at the Proms!
James has cerebral palsy, specifically quadriplegia meaning all four limbs are affected and so is unable to hold a traditional conductor’s baton. Instead, he uses his head via a baton attached to the side of his glasses.
As might be expected his technique has “rais[ed] a few eyebrows” ( he says), but it doesn’t matter. He is making music! He said to me:
“Proving my ability is something I always do…it’s that challenge of proving people wrong and to ‘overcome barriers’ which motivates me to press on.”
His success and upbeat attitude remind me that physical difficulties do not have to be a barrier to one’s goals but can be a positive force. So, I shall end this month’s post by saying “Whatever my next challenge, just you watch me?”
I am the daughter of Stephen Hetherington, founder of the OHMI Trust, and suffer from left hemiplegia (cerebral palsy affecting the left side of the body). I am a professional journalist but have also worked as an archaeologist. In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing and walking the dog.