The Leibster Award.

The Leibster award was created in 2011 in Germany, and is given to bloggers by other bloggers online. This award focuses on small blogs, recognising their potential to grow and acknowledging those with the kindest, welcoming, most-valued musings.

Image description: the logo for the Liebster Award is a aqua-blue circle with a pink ribbon across is saying "discover new blogs!".

To accept the award after being nominated the blogger is requested to accept the award on their blog, thank the blogger who nominated them with a link to their blog included, write ten random facts about themselves, answer ten questions from the blogger who gave the nomination, nominate a few other blogs, and give these nominations ten questions to answer.

Accepting the Award.

It would be an understatement to say that I was pleasantly surprised to receive a nomination for the Leibster award less than a year after establishing this blog. In all honesty I wasn’t familiar with the award prior to my nomination, but I was still over-joyed that my small corner of the internet was deemed noteworthy. Having just surpassed this blogs’ first birthday, I decided that this would be the perfect time to accept the award.

I was nominated by the author of Wheelescapades, another wheelchair user living in England. Her own blog has already been nominated for the Leibster award, which is well-deserved, and her blog can be accessed here: https://wheelescapades.com/

10 Random Facts About Me.

  1. I was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where I lived until I was 18. I moved to university in Leeds after studying Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics at A-level.
  2. I have no siblings.
  3. Throughout my life I have had five pets. Bramble, our black and white cat, had been adopted by my parents before my birth and was a constant companion until her death in 2008. Athens and Berry were my two goldfish. Syrup was my first Syrian hamster, who I owned as a teenager. Lastly we have my current pet, Tribble, also a Syrian hamster.           Hesitant.jpg
  4. I was a member of a street dance crew from age 8 to 10 years.
  5. When I was 11 years old I learnt to play the drums and over the next few years I played in two bands. Unfortunately my illness has prevented me from drumming on a regular basis, although I can still technically play.
  6. I also had singing lessons and was a member of the school choir for many years.
  7. Unsurprisingly I have always loved music. My preferred genre is rock and metal, with particular favourites including Green Day, The Killers, and Foo Fighters, but I also have a secret soft spot for Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
  8. I have a passion for both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises. I go and see almost every new release in the cinema across the road and own all of the good ones on DVD. I have at least 5 Star Wars t-shirts, some BB-8 earrings, and some Deadpool earrings as proof of my devotion!
  9. I also love video games. I still have my old PlayStation 2 with a plethora of Burnout games to play, and also play on the PlayStation 4. Currently I’m playing through the campaigns of Doom and Need for Speed: Payback, and plan to try Horizon Zero Dawn when I’ve finished these. You might also spot me on Fortnite Battle Royale, although I’m usually hiding in a hedge!
  10. I now live with my fiancé (and Tribble) in Leeds, West Yorkshire.Mike and me.jpg                                       10 Questions From Wheelescapades.
    1. Q: What made you decide to start a blog? A: The disabled don’t need someone to tell them how bad being disabled can be; they know. What is needed is someone to communicate this to the able-bodied, but without being so pessimistic as to simply be passed off as whiny wimps. I came to realise that blogs doing just this were few and far between, and I decided to fill the gap. I wanted to communicate for those who were unable to, and educate those who didn’t have experiences to learn from. Diary of a Disabled Person was born.
    2. Q: What are your hobbies other than blogging? A: I adore animals and will do just about anything that allows me to get up close and personal with them. I also love music, films, and video games, and cannot deny the joys of a good book. I do a little arts and crafts too, with what I shall call mixed results.
    3. Q: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be? A: As a nutritionist this is killing me inside, but if I really had to choose it would be cake, particularly chocolate cake.
    4. Q: When making tea would you pour the milk or water in first? A: Water, absolutely no question about it.
    5. Q: Mention 3 things for your bucket list? A: See Green Day live in concert, see a WWE show live, turn this blog into a book.
    6. Q: What would be your dream job? A: Being a professional writer full-time.
    7. Q: Where in the world would you most like to visit and why? A: I’d love to visit Holland. I know several people who have spent time in Holland, and they all rave about how beautiful Amsterdam is, how good the food is, and how polite the Dutch are.
    8. Q: Describe yourself in 3 words? A: Ambitious, funny, and stubborn.
    9. Q: What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble? A: I have a tendency to be extremely blunt. While people know they will get an honest answer from me should they ask me anything, if I have to give a negative answer I often forget to phrase it so that it doesn’t sound like I’m trying to destroy their entire self-esteem. I have hurt people’s feelings by accident on many occasions.
    10. Q: If you could give someone one piece of advice, what would it be? This relates to my school-age self, but could apply to anyone in a similar situation; stop trying to fit in with the cool kids and the bullies, and just do your own thing. When I started to show my true colours, was honest about the music and films I liked, and admitted that I was a nerd to the core, I got a lot more respect than when I was doing everything to be just like them.My Nominations.It’s recommended that you nominate between 5 and 10 other blogs for the Leibster award, but I have only 3 blogs that I know of with less than 200 followers who I feel deserve the award. One of them would actually be the blogger who nominated me, Wheelescapades!

      Without further ado, the other two are:

      The Disability Diaries (https://disabilitydiaries.com/) – This blogger provides insight into student life from a wheelchair user living in South Africa, and frequently tackles big issues surrounding disability head-on in a diplomatic but firm manner.

      Seeing M.E in Reality (https://seeingmeinreality.com/) – This blogger tackles the subject of life with the same condition that I suffer from, proving that we are not defined solely by our illness, but have many other aspects to our lives.

      10 Questions for my Nominees.

      1. Cats or dogs?
      2. What is your favourite time of year?
      3. What is your favourite genre of music?
      4. What is your favourite film that was adapted from a book?
      5. What was your favourite childhood toy?
      6. Tea or coffee?
      7. What is your worst habit?
      8. What is the kindest thing a stranger has ever done for you?
      9. Who are your role models?
      10. What is your biggest ambition?

      It fills me with great pride that I can finally say that Diary of a Disabled Person is an award-winning blog!

Diary of a Disabled Person: One Year On.

Tomorrow is Diary of a Disabled Person’s first birthday, and even in just one year, so much has changed.

When I first started the blog the majority of the readers came from family and members of an online Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) support group. It was wonderful to have the support of those around me, but I really wanted to reach out and educate people about CFS and disability who might not know much about these issues through lack of experience. For the first few months I struggled with this, until I had the idea to set up a Facebook page to support the blog, sharing whenever a new blog post was released, plus other bits and pieces picked up from around the internet in-between. Slowly this began to attract a few more followers, and my readership started to grow.

The biggest boost to my readership came in July, when my first article for Cracked.com was published. At the very end of the article a link to my blog and Facebook page were attached, and my readership went from approximately 30 views on the day each blog entry was released, to 5,000, with readers listed in almost 100 countries. I was flooded with messages from people all over the world, and surprisingly few of them were trolls. I was told stories of how I was helping people to come to terms with developing a disability, or inspiring others with disability to live a bit. I was also the recipient of many messages telling me that my attitude to disability was both refreshing and eye-opening; I had caught the attention of many able-bodied people who were suddenly made aware of some of the issues faced by the disabled, and actively wanted to help avoid those issues in the future. I even had correspondence from people with entirely different political views to mine saying that they liked my attitude to life and respected me, even if they didn’t always agree with me.

After a month or so the buzz had settled down but my regular fan base had more than doubled, and steadily increased thereafter. The release of another Cracked.com article seemed to have a similar effect. Now I have over 80 followers of my blog, almost 68,000 views in total, and more than 400 followers on my Facebook page, and have regular conversation with a few fans. It’s amazing how quickly things have developed. A little less than a month ago I was also nominated for the Leibster award, a German award given to bloggers by other bloggers celebrating wholesome, fulfilling blogs with the potential to expand even further. I will be accepting it next week!

I now have far more confidence in my abilities as a writer, and I consider it to be one of the most important things in my life, perhaps even having the potential to work as a career. I am happy that I can express myself so coherently and with such freedom.

With that, I want to thank all of you for taking the time out of each week to read my ramblings, to give me good feedback, and to show your support. I can only hope that Diary of a Disabled Person continues to flourish.

Another Successful Orbit Around the Sun.

2017 has been one of the most significant years of my entire life, and has also been one of the strangest. From exhilarating highs to devastating lows, I will find much of it difficult to forget.

The year opened on a low. My maternal grandfather had died just days before Christmas and less than two weeks later I started suffering from the symptoms of what turned out to be gall stones, meaning I couldn’t even attend the funeral. I spent pretty much the entirety of January struggling to eat properly, and felt permanently sick. Then, in early February, I had to have my gall bladder removed in an emergency operation as there was a risk of it bursting and making the gall stones everywhere stones. This was my first experience of surgery which was followed up quickly by a second when the symptoms continued, and one rogue gall stone was found wedged in my pancreatic duct. I was not amused.

I started to feel a little better as Easter approached, although with my dissertation deadline and final year exams steadily creeping closer, I couldn’t really rest as much as I would have liked. I also had another issue on my mind that was adding to my stress. I knew I was bisexual, but the fear of coming out to friends and family was over-whelming. Eventually, with Jarred’s support, I slowly told those around me about my sexuality and was pleasantly surprised to find that most people didn’t bat an eyelid. It appeared I had been making a mountain out of a molehill.

There was also the matter of finding an affordable and accessible flat to rent from the middle of June onward, which given the inaccessibility of all the letting agents proved more difficult than even I could have imagined. However, once we started viewing flats it didn’t take long to find the perfect one. I put the deposit down less than an hour after viewing the flat, and then started on the complicated business of obtaining tenancy references to prove that Jarred and I were suitable tenants.

My final exams came and went and a few days later, I turned 21. The day was particularly warm and sunny, with a refreshing summer breeze. We had a picnic in one of the local parks, and then went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at the cinema across the road. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, which was no surprise as I could happily have watched 2 hours of baby Groot dancing anyway, and then went to a gastro-pub for a good meal. Tired, Jarred and myself returned home, and crashed in front of the TV for a few hours. A couple of days later we went on a shopping spree with my parents to continue the celebration, and had a thoroughly good time.

Image description: Sat in my powered wheelchair in a student bar. I'm wearing a blue dress with large flowers printed on, with a purple cardigan. My hair is half-up, half-down. This was taken on my 21st birthday.

The week before Jarred and I were due to move into our new flat we attended a local wrestling show, where in the interval he proposed to me. After recovering from the great surprise that someone would actually want to spend time in my company having already spent many hours in my company, I said yes. My engagement ring was a ring given to me on my 18th birthday by my godmother, which had been picked out by my godfather before his death when I was 12. The ring is beautiful, and it’s sentimental value far out-weighs anything that could be purchased.

Moving into our new flat was, unsurprisingly, very stressful. My parents helped us move some of our luggage across town in their car, but the rest was carried over box by box to save the cost of a removal van. After some difficulty with the keys, or more precisely the fact that we were presented with keys that didn’t work so we couldn’t enter the apartment block, we took our luggage inside and unpacked. As we unpacked we found a few unwelcome surprises, such as one blind unable to be opened or closed properly, and another that simply suicide-dived off the wall at random intervals. The freezer door also fell off whenever it was opened, and half of the lights didn’t work. Over the next couple of months the problems were gradually fixed, and slowly the flat became home.

The day we moved house was also stressful because that afternoon, I had a job interview. So, once everything was in our new flat and the keys to our respective old flats had been handed in, I smartened up and went to the interview. Considering it was my first ever job interview I felt that I had performed rather well, which was confirmed a few days later when I received a phone call in the middle of the supermarket, letting me know that I had the job. This was a relief, as job hunting had been made particularly problematic by the fact that most of the jobs I applied for turned out not to have wheelchair access, making the already difficult task of finding a job seem impossible.

A month after this I got my first ever paid writing assignment, published by the American magazine Cracked.com. This did wonders for the viewership of this blog and my Facebook page, and very quickly a small but loyal fan base was developed. The day after this article was published I graduated from university with a first class honours degree. I was riding on one of the biggest highs of my life; I had a good degree, one proper job, one side-lines job, and a fiancé. All the stress and misery of the first few months of the year evaporated.

Image description: myself & my husband at my graduation. We're outside on a lawn by the student union as it was a hot day.

As the summer months passed I met Jarred’s grandmother, sister, mother, and little brother for the first time ever, and also had the opportunity to re-unite with Jarred’s other brother and his father and step-mother. I was welcomed into the family with open arms, and was relieved to find that most of them seemed to like me despite my callous Northern mannerisms. Jarred met my godmother and my maternal grandmother, both of whom enjoyed his company. At the end of August came my parent’s silver wedding anniversary, which they chose to spend with us much to our delight, sharing with them a favourite restaurant of ours. Then, as our own little addition to the family, we adopted a gorgeous black-and-white hamster who we called Tribble after the creatures from Star Trek.

Image description: Tribble, a short-haired black-and-white hamster, stood on her hind legs leaning against the wall of her cage. She's poking her nose out between the bars, which she liked to do when we weren't paying enough attention to her cuteness.

Once families had been met, it was time to organise the wedding. After one potential wedding venue ignored our requests for more information on their facilities, we turned to the Royal Armouries. This museum is set on the banks of the canal, in a modern building with great sweeping halls and glass walls. We both fell in love with the wedding hall and the reception venue, the latter of which had windows overlooking the houseboats on the canal, and booked our wedding for the end of 2018. We had a bridesmaid, best man, ring bearer, and ushers in place soon afterwards.

As the end of the year approached I became increasingly stressed as I hadn’t yet started my job. After what seemed like an endless stream of paperwork, I was finally given my contract. I would be working as a host and administrator in the NHS, a humble job, but one that would give me the experience to move onto better things if I so desired. I signed and returned the contract, and in November attended the compulsory training session. I started working in January of 2018.

Finally, as the year drew to a close and the festivities of bright Christmas lights and a special market were slowly dismantled, I could reflect on the year and all that it had brought. I had faced pain and illness like I had never known before, but also many great successes in a very short time period. Indeed, while the end of 2018 will be highly exciting, I did hope that for a few months at least, my life wouldn’t be quite so chaotic.

Happy New Year!

51. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT’S CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Being the over-grown child in an over-sized pram that I am, it should come as no surprise that I particularly enjoy Christmas. I always have done so and I’m not going to let disability stop me now.

When I was a small child one of my favourite things to do in December was to go and see the Christmas lights displayed around Bradford city centre. The colours and patterns caught my attention, especially the series depicting the “12 days of Christmas” down the steep hill between all the shops. This is no different in Leeds, where the city centre is on my door step (figuratively speaking). I rather enjoy bundling up against the cold and drifting slowly around the streets looking at the lights, and then returning home to a warm drink and a hot water bottle.

Once I had begun to use my wheelchair on a regular basis I decked it in tinsel of varying colours each year, and still do. Wherever I go it seems to make people smile, especially children, so the small hassle of sticking the tinsel on the chair is worth it. Combined with my Santa hat, Christmas-themed earrings, and Rudolph-scrunchie in my hair, I look faintly ridiculous, but no one is going to start bullying some disabled in public so I get away with it.

The majority of my Christmas shopping is done on the German Christmas Market which takes over Millenium Square in the city centre for the entirety of advent every single year. Most of the stalls are accessible, with only one or two having small steps up to them, and the wide open spaces between stalls is relatively easy to navigate. The aura of festivity in the lights, sounds, and smells is infectious, particularly in a light snow shower. One of my favourite photographs was taken at the German market in 2016, complete with my beloved polar bear hat perched on my head. I had to borrow my mum’s scooter because my wheelchair had a flat tire.

Image description: I'm sat on my mum's scooter as my wheelchair was broken at the time. I have my skull and crossbones blanket, my leather jacket, & am holding a cup of hot honey mead in my gloved hands. I'm wearing my beloved polar bear hat and smiling at the camera. It's one of my favourite photos of myself.

Some of the stalls sell traditional German food, including some of the best Frankfurters I have ever tasted, washed down with a warm cup of mulled wine or mead. I have been told that the beer tent is rather nice, but as I’m not a fan of beer I tend to ignore that one. Several stalls are purely dedicated to various forms of confectionary, my favourite being the one with fruit skewers dipped in chocolate. The strawberries coated in dark chocolate are something akin to heaven on a stick. There is even one stall entirely dedicated to fudge in a range of flavours so wide it would bankrupt me to try them all.

Aside from the food there is still plenty to see. Some stalls sell trinkets, candles, and ornaments. Some sell jewellery, bags, hats, and scarves. Others sell hand-made traditional Christmas decorations. There are also two stalls of toys, one with teddy bears in every animal imaginable including a bat, and the other selling wooden toys like jigsaws and building blocks. It’s exceptionally easy to find a Christmas present for everyone on a market so diverse.

As for Christmas day itself, I would usually spend the day in my parents’ house on holiday from school and university. Church is often too much hassle due to accessibility issues so we tend to stay indoors opening presents, listening to music, watching TV, and sharing good food and drink. This year will be different; I will be hosting Christmas in the flat I share with my fiancé. This also means I will be cooking Christmas dinner for the first time, so let’s just say it will be experimental. All the same, it will be great for my parents not to have to cook, and they can still be home in time to watch the Christmas edition of Call the Midwife.

I truly hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.

Truly Grand.

The telephone in my grandparents’ house started to ring at 7 am on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend in 1996, and grandad had the responsibility of the answering the call. Once he’d established that it was his son-in-law on the other end of the line, he said;

“You had a baby girl last night, and called her Emma Jane, right?”

Apparently he’d had a dream overnight in which I was dragged into the world from my comfortable abode, and almost immediately mum had given me a name, which is apparently pretty much what happened. I still don’t think that dad has forgiven my mum for that one; he didn’t get so much as a look-in.

Almost 17 years later grandad was taken into hospital, where it was established that he had a rare and particularly brutal form of cancer, which had remained undetected for many years. Because of this the cancer had already reached the final stage of its development, spreading throughout the body. No medicine could help to reverse the growth of the tumours, instead merely slowing the growth of the cancer and reducing the symptoms. It was a death sentence.

A couple of years passed and grandad remained in relatively good health considering the severity of the cancer. I visited him and grandma with my parents whenever I could, and we spent many happy hours sat watching TV game shows, shouting out the answers, and laughing at each other when we got them wrong. We would eat tea together, listen to music, and one particularly memorable time we dug out lots of old photographs of my mum and my aunt as children, complete with questionable 80’s fashion choices.

Eventually the cancer began to take a visible toll on him. He ended up in a hospice for a couple of months one winter, and after another few months at home where he was visibly weaker, he was taken into hospital. Eventually he was moved into a care home where he had 24 hour access to nurses and carers as he was almost completely bed-bound, and needed help with most basic daily tasks.

The care home was not as detached and miserable as many people might assume; the decor was warm and homely, and the staff were very friendly. There were plenty of activities for him to participate in should he so desire, including a beautiful German shepherd trained as a pets as therapy dog that he absolutely adored. From his room he could even see the wind turbines that stand on top of the Pennines in the distance.

The illness clearly caused issues for him; he was in almost constant pain and struggled to eat and drink. Regardless, whenever I went to see him he would always ask how I was doing. He was proud of my achievements in education and encouraged me to continue with my work in spite of my own illness. He somehow kept a friendly and positive attitude, and managed to genuinely care about others in a situation where many people simply retreat into themselves and lose interest in those around them. It may sound clichéd, but his attitude to life in the face of adversity has helped me to shape my own actions.

The last time I saw him he was so weak that he could barely hold his eyes open, and his speech was a quiet, almost incomprehensible murmur. I could see he was tired as he had already had a lot of visitors that day, but he still made the effort to inquire about my life. Before I left I squeezed his hand, which had been hanging limply off the side of the bed.

Over 20 years after that initial phone call, on the 20th December 2016, I had a dream that grandad had gone in the night. When the phone rang mere minutes after I woke up, much like grandad so many years before, I didn’t need to be told the news.

Image description: my grandfather on his golden wedding anniversary, sat on the sofa in his living room. He's holding a plate of food from the buffet and smiling at the camera.

The Writing Days.

After completing my degree at the end of May, I’ve had more time on my hands than someone wearing 15 watches at once. Instead of being the supposedly stereotypical Millennial who doesn’t lift a finger for three whole months, I’ve put a lot of my time into watching movies, which requires lifting a finger to press buttons on the remote. I’ve also been doing some writing on the side.

Contrary to popular opinion, writers are not always lazy slobs. To prove this I decided to write about what writing for a blog, an international magazine, and also working on other (top secret) projects is actually like on a day-to-day basis.

Given that I have no set time when I am required to start work it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I choose to wake up naturally, which usually occurs between 9 and 10 am depending on my alcohol consumption the evening before. Jarred usually wakes up far earlier than this and by the time I wander sleepily through from the bedroom to the lounge, he’s often been playing either Skyrim or Fallout 4 for over an hour. The kettle goes on, and while I wait for it to boil I’ll take my medicine and grab some cereal. I’m nice, so I make Jarred a coffee as well as myself.

While I eat breakfast, we’ll switch to my profile on the games console, and Jarred will control my character while I boss him around. Once we’ve completed whatever mission we were doing, I get washed and changed into something comfy, and then drift back through to the lounge and allow Facebook to bombard me with notifications. At this point, I also like to browse through the latest articles on my favourite magazines, which I prefer to call “research” rather than “procrastination”.

Lunch is usually a sandwich and some fruit, along with sparkling water and some unladylike belching. Immediately after lunch I’ll pack my laptop bag, hop into my wheelchair, and take the 5 minute journey to my favourite coffee shop that I can actually get my wheelchair into. I roll up to the counter where they see the top of my head only, and the barista greets me by name.  They then ask if I want a regular Americano with milk bringing to my table. Perhaps I ought to take this as a hint that I spend too much time in this particular café, but I’m a creature of habit.

Fuelled by the sudden caffeine rush I begin to type. Half the time I don’t think I’m even aware of the words appearing on the screen in front of me; they just materialise. An hour or so later I’ll come out of my trance, and return to the counter for re-caffeinating purposes. Then it’s back to work.

As 5 o’clock approaches I bring my writing to a close, bring my laptop to a close, and head home. I start to prepare dinner, which is usually something simple like a stir fry. Then I leave the dish washer (a.k.a. Jarred) to do my literal dirty work while I browse YouTube.

Once all the pots are clean and away, the evening relaxation after a hard afternoons’ work begins. This might entail a hot bath including bath salts and a rubber duck, watching films, or playing board games. While I nearly always lose chess and Risk, being a writer gives me a distinct advantage at Scrabble. By 10 o’clock I’m usually capable of 4-letter words only and my Scrabble prowess begins to decline. Then it’s a case of taking medicines, scrubbing my teeth, and crawling back into bed for another 11 hours. Repeat.

The Final Student Day.

On the 17th July 2017 I woke to sunlight streaming between the slats of the Venetian blinds, and was about to turn over and go back to sleep when the alarm started. I wondered why I had put an alarm on for a Monday morning when I wasn’t working, and it took me longer than I would care to admit to realise that it was graduation day. Mornings were never a strong point.

Jarred and me made it onto the university campus by 10 am, and immediately went into the union to collect tickets for myself, my parents, and an additional one I had got for Jarred as he was my “carer” for the day.

Then we wandered through to the back of the union to collect my graduation robe and hood. A porter was directing people to the correct rooms depending on whether they were taking or returning robes, or  were going to watch the graduation ceremony live via a live-stream. Without asking first, the porter directed me towards the room for watching graduation ceremonies. Surely someone in a wheelchair couldn’t possibly have obtained a degree?!?

“I’ve just been awarded a first class degree with honours,” I said in a matter-of-fact tone, “and am here to graduate.”

The look of surprise on his face was akin to the expression people wear when I tell them that my disability originated from meningitis; somewhere between Taylor Swift and brain-dead.

“Oh…” he eventually stammered, “then you need to go into this room please.” He ushered me into the robing room.

Putting on the robe was something of a calamity. Long, flowing material has a tendency to become entwined around the motors and wheels of my wheelchair, and I had to be careful not to get it tangled in the seat belt (most wheelchairs have them, I’m not just a really bad driver). As I came out of the robing room the porter looked so sheepish that I was surprised not to see a yellow anti-sheep-theft tag dangling from his ear.

After greeting a few of my friends and course mates, Jarred and I went to meet my parents. Another period of awkward small talk in the midst of a crowd ensued, and then we were being shown into the Great Hall.

The front of the stage in the Great Hall was weighed down with ivy more plastic-looking than Nicki Minaj’s rear end, and the flowers weren’t much more organic either. I was given a seat on the front row, allowing me quick access for the lift onto the stage when it was needed.

Once everyone was in the hall and seated in the correct places, the next half an hour was spent clapping almost incessantly. I felt akin to a seal trying to earn an extra fish off its trainer. When I wasn’t clapping, I was high-fiving my course mates as they went past upon returning to their seats. Soon, my hands were red and tingling, and given the warmth of the day whilst smothered in black robes, they were sweaty too.

My surname means that I am always towards the end of any such procession, so it was quite some time before another porter was helping me into the lift, ready to ascend to the stage. For the most part the clapping hid the droning noise as the lift hauled me up onto stage, but one awkward silence between clapping while a name was read out was broken by the noise of the lift. Fortunately it had solid sides, so I don’t think anyone noticed my face-palm.

The porter opened the lift door at the top and my name was called. I drove across, positioned myself for the obligatory photo, collected my certificate, and returned to what I presume was the loudest lift in the entire world.

Image description: accepting my degree certificate. My green hood is draped over the back of my wheelchair chair.

After the ceremony came the free lunch, which was the reason why so many family members had attended, and photos of the whole year group were taken. Then I was driving around, finding as many of my friends and lecturers as I could, posing for photographs, giving well-wishes, and saying goodbye to those I wouldn’t see again.

Once I had done all I needed to I returned the robe to the sheep-porter (still looking sheepish), and meandered back home through the city centre. In the blink of an eye it was over, I had a degree, a huge student loan to pay off, was no longer a student, and was now expected to act like a proper adult. For all the happiness of achieving what I had, there was also a little sadness that it had come to an end.

Mike and me.jpg

Mum’s left foot is doing the disabled equivalent of a photobomb…