Disability Aids I Currently Use

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the disability aids I use and how they help me lead a fairly normal life, two years on from my life-changing accident. I have seen a few videos on YouTube on this topic and found them interesting. I’m sharing mine to hopefully help others, and provide information about these aids. I knew nothing about these aids before, and it’s all been a steep learning curve.

  1. Double handrails on the stairs: my husband put this extra rail up for me while I was still in rehab. I would really struggle with the stairs without it. Unfortunately, needing to hold on with both hands means I can’t carry things downstairs, except in my pockets. It cost about £200 to put in. The white rail is a newel rail, needed because of the style of our 1930s stairs, which my OT got for me.
  2. Grab rails: I have grab rails in the shower, and at the front and back door. These really help me manage the steps. I also have some in the downstairs toilet, but I tend not to need them much.
  3. Three wheeled walker: Got this for £10 second hand in a local charity shop. The good tyres help me get round our large garden, and I can carry my stick and some tools in the pouch.
  4. Four wheeled walker: I was using this outdoors for 14 months, but now I have got a better one for dealing with paths, wonky pavements and tricky thresholds. It also has a seat, which enables me to increase the distance I can walk, by letting me take a quick rest when I am in pain. There is a pouch under the seat, the brakes are not great, so if I am sitting on it, I have to back up against something to feel safe. I realise my original walker is really meant for indoors! My new walker, an Evo Suspension, has a much bigger bag attached at the front, and when it is folded, it stays folded! I bought the original one because it was the type I had used with my physio. My new one is much better, but of course, dearer! It’s important to try walkers out and find the best one for you. Walkers basically allow you to walk naturally but without the risk of falls.
  5. Helper trolley aka kitchen trolley. Another second hand buy (£20). My OT recommended it. I didn’t really like pushing it because I felt I was tripping over the wheels. It’s not the prettiest aid either. But it does help me transport stuff, however, these days I find I am using it as an extra work surface in my study. The two shelves are handy, but it’s one I might repurpose long term.
  6. Zimmer Frame: given to me by the NHS. I only use it at night and when fetching clothes from my wardrobe, because I can hang things across the top of it. It gives me stability for night-time bathroom visits where there is a danger of falling. I am almost past needing it, and it lives upstairs.
  7. Metal stick: another piece of NHS equipment. This is a very simple aid, and I mostly use it in the house or on paved areas of the garden close to the house. I have one upstairs and one downstairs. It’s great. The only downside is finding somewhere to put it when I am not using it but need it nearby. It can easily fall down.
  8. Wheeled table: I loved these in hospital and rehab so when I knew I was coming home, I ordered one. They cost around £32 new but can often be picked up second hand. The wheels make it easy to reposition. I have my laptop on it and use it as a work table.
  9. Outdoor handrails on steps: I already had one handrail before my accident, but the NHS provided two more, one at the front and one at the back. Steps used to really scare me so these handrails enabled me to get out of the house without fear, at three different exits. We have recently finished a balcony area at the back, which is only a tiny step down and is a really safe way for me to get fresh air when I am on my own in the house and don’t want to take risks. It has a glass barrier so I can still see my garden.
  10. My OT got me a ‘bathing bubble’ so I can have a bath. These are quite expensive to buy so I am grateful for its long term loan. It has 4 suckers which fix it to the bottom of the bath, and it is inflated using a pump. I sit on it and it is then deflated and lets me sit on the floor of the bath. Re-inflated, it allows me to get out of the bath safely.

A few other simple things help: A simple plastic but sturdy chair in the bathroom, so I can sit at the sink; food prepping at the kitchen table, a footstool to put my legs up in the evening, and having arms on chairs and sofas to help me up.



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I Will Not Fold These Maps

I Will Not Fold These Maps was published on 11th May 2023 by The Poetry Translation Centre, in their World Poet Series. The poet, Mona Kareem, is stateless. Kareem has been writing poetry for over 20 years and this book includes new work as well as poems from her previous three collections. It is translated from the Arabic by Sara Elkamel, but the original language is included on the left hand pages. This writing is not only very beautiful in appearance, but it also allows the reader to see the original shape of each poem, line lengths and so on. The book itself is delightfully small, easy to slip into a pocket. The cost is £9 and it has 66 pages, including an essay by Andre Naffis-Sahley at the back. The translator has written an introduction to help put the work into context.

I was interested to see these poems because I firmly believe it is wrong for anyone to be stateless. Kareem’s family belongs to an Arab minority denied citizenship when Kuwait became independent. Her family is classed as illegal, and therefore denied employment, education, and welfare. Despite this, her father is an erudite man. In her early twenties, Kareem went to America to study. She was not allowed back into Kuwait, so she was forced to take asylum in the USA, where she eventually gained citizenship. The suffering her family have endured is appalling. Out of this suffering, she writes. However, these poems are life-affirming, and perhaps a way for her to be present in Kuwait with her family, if only in her imagination.

Her poems are strongly visual and metaphorical. Everything is precarious and temporary. In ‘Perdition’, a series of images conjures up different losses. These images often yoke together beauty and pain: ‘the night is strangled / by a choker of stars’ is one example. The images are often surreal: Roses jump to their death/ from the rails of my bed/ as my mother/ tries to tuck me into the desert of life’. This poem is a strong opening to the book.

‘Cosmic Haemorrhage’, with its short punchy stanzas, reminds me of William Blake’s aphorisms in ‘The Marriage of Heaven and Hell’. Its 46 stanzas each encapsulates a truth about life as she experiences it. For example ‘A river drowns in itself /Does it weep like I do?’ and another ‘The flute is the eye of the earth’. These quick images are like fleeting visions or a series of gasps, short intakes of breath. The images are beautiful but disturbing.

The impermanence of life as an exile is expressed in ‘My Body; My Vehicle’, where she imagines her body is an old car she drives around, acquiring further injuries, unable to settle anywhere. There is wit here, when she compares herself to ‘a Canadian on Mondays’ having to dig the vehicle of her herself out of the snow. If your body is a car, you cannot be free of it, you can’t just leave it anywhere, it must keep travelling. There are places a car cannot go. This extended metaphor helps the reader understand what being stateless must feel like, in a way we can all relate to.

Kareem’s poems can take surprising turns, which delight the reader. ‘Genetics’ appears to be a poem about fruit and vegetables and personal preferences, but it turns into, by a series of turns, into a poem about how mothers try everything to save their children, in this case, her mother juicing carrots to help her daughter’s eyesight, before realising you can’t compete with genetics. The family’s dining habits before and after getting a dining table are contrasted: ‘there was nowhere for our fingers to dive /and dig’. Family dynamics are recalled with love. A prose poem, ‘Lot’s Wife’ updates the Bible story and transforms it into modern day parable.

These poems are not what I expected when I agreed to review the book. I’d imagined they might be distressing to read, considering stateless people like Shamima Begum, who I believe has been treated unfairly. Kareem’s family are not alone in their statelessness; there are many such families not allowed any rights in the country where they were born. They had no choice in this. Citizenship should not be withheld; the planet belongs to all of us. It is vital that Kareem’s voice is heard. The maps must remain spread out.

Angela Topping

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My First Experience Teaching Poetry to a year 11 Group

I’ve thought hard about sharing this, but it is all a long time ago and the colleagues I was working with have long since moved on, so here goes. It was the early 1990s.

Having taught A level English Literature in an FE college, and done some GCSE experience as well, I got a full time teaching post at a large comprehensive school. I was already used to starting with a syllabus, as I had been left to my own devices in FE, so felt confident in my own ability to interpret exam board documents. I was given a year 11 class whose teacher had left at the end of their year 11. They had done some coursework, but had yet to do their poetry assignment.

For their Literature set text, I had chosen a play about a paraplegic who was suing the hospital for permission to let him die. It was an interesting moral dilemma that I thought would engage them. As the exam board gave completely free choice on which poems we could study, so long as they were published, I decided to put together a selection of poems about hospitals, in a booklet. We would read and study all of them, then they would choose three or four to write about for their coursework assignment. I picked poems that I thought would appeal to them; that were diverse experiences of hospitals; that were in a range of styles. My selection included Sylvia Plath, U A Fanthorpe, Craig Raine, Philip Larkin, Jon Silkin, and others I can’t recall.

I stepped into class with this booklet, to start the unit. The pupils looked dismayed. Then one told me: ‘We are too thick to understand poetry, Miss, you will have to translate it to us line by line.’ I had never heard anything like this before, and couldn’t help being shocked. But I didn’t show it. I took a deep breath and said: ‘Oh I can’t do that, and of course you are able to understand it if I help you.’ They weren’t the easiest group and this wasn’t the most propitious of starts, so I planned each lesson very carefully.

For example, the lesson we started to look at the Plath poems, I told them that when this poet was 30, she killed herself. This grabbed their interest right away. They asked me why, and I said I didn’t know. I’m pretty sure they were not used to teachers admitting they didn’t know things. I read them the poem ‘The Surgeon at 2 am’, thinking it might be gory enough to pique their interest. They listened, since I was walking round the room while I said it they didn’t have a choice, then I asked them what they thought about it. Blank looks. I explained it was a surgeon going round the ward at night looking at his patients. I would answer any questions they had, words they didn’t understand etc. One boy said, that phrase, ‘a pathological salami’, what did that mean? I replied with another question: had he ever seen a slice of salami? Indeed he had. So when I said Plath is saying that slices of cut off flesh looked line salami, the response was that that was disgusting and made them fee sick. This led nicely to a class discussion of why Plath wanted to shock us, and the effect of imagery. It was magical seeing them grow in confidence with their own ideas.

I had of course provided them with a photocopy of a table I had made, giving the name of a literary device, an explanation, an example, and the effect it had in the given example. This was a useful aide memoir for them to use as they independently analysed the poems, guided by me, but never dictated by me. I can’t recall every lesson now, and the plans were all handwritten, so long gone, but I used a range of pairs work, small group work then feeding back to the whole class. It was a journey of exploration, and seeing their confidence grow was wonderful.

Time came to write their essays. The school tended to use that ghastly ‘prediction’ introduction, ‘in this essay I will be writing’ etc. I forbade that. I told them to start by saying which poems they had chosen, in a statement, saying what the poems had in common, which aspects of the theme they represented. I gave them a suggested structure, but they didn’t have to follow it. I was strict about them backing up their ideas with short quotations, and including some language analysis. They just did one draft, on A4 lined paper, some in class with me walking around checking, and helping if needed, and praising, and they also did a fixed time on it at home (in their books, as these essays were not to leave school – I didn’t want them getting lost), until the essay was finished. It took around a week. I will stress this was NOT a top set class, but C/D borderline, and boys were in a majority.

When the essays were all handed in, I was marking them in the staff room, annotating them as the board required, and giving an overall grade, with closing comments. I was absolutely thrilled with the essays, and quite a few were gaining A and B grades, according to the exam board’s criteria. The head of department saw me marking them, and asked me what poems I had done with them, presumably out of professional curiosity. I passed him a copy of the booklet. He glanced through it and said something which astonished me. ‘These are A level poets, that GCSE group can’t study these, they won’t understand them’. This was an alien concept to me. I’m certain Plath didn’t write thinking ‘oh these poems can only be studied at A level’. Poems are for everyone, and just because the names had appeared on an A level syllabus didn’t mean there was a law of the land saying no GCSE student could look at them. Out loud I said: ‘but they DO understand them. Would you like to read their essays?’ I gave him a couple of As, a B and a C. There was nothing below that. He took them to his desk to read them. He couldn’t dispute my marking and was fairly astonished this class had done so well. But on noticing that Craig Raine’s poem about a body in a mortuary included the word ‘nipple’, he said, no wonder, if the poems are using words like that!

This was my first experience of such limiting thinking in schools. It wasn’t my last. Incidentally, my candidates’ folders were singled out in the coursework moderators report for being just what they were looking for: challenging enough to stretch the students. It is a mistake to limit one’s pupils by having low expectations. Only doing easy, straightforward texts with them severely limits what points they can make, what heights they can rise to.

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Teaching Poetry in a Creative Way (Year 7)

Teaching a year 7 poetry unit, my aim was to set them up with the skills so they could understand literary devices and how to construct poems in a creative way, to allow them to independently analyse and appreciate poetry.

We looked at a range of appropriate poems, poems which did not leave children out. Poems were chosen which would give pleasure but also allow us to teach a range of techniques. For example we looked at poems using personification, such as’ ‘Meeting Midnight’ by Carol Ann Duffy, ‘Jack Frost in the Gardne’ by John P Smeeton, and ‘There Came a Day’ by Ted Hughes.

We read these and talked about the characters created in the poems, and how these characters had been created by the writer.

To prepare for writing their own poem, pupils chose a season, and for homework created a mood board, following my example from my powerpoint, included in this post. They could copy and paste from the internet, cut out from magazines, or draw. This was a fun homework, and the mood boards were shared in groups and then displayed on the wall.

Pupils wrote their own personification poem, helped by these questions I invented as a poet-in-schools, prior to going into teaching.

  • What mood is the season in?
    • What colours does your season wear?What is your season dressed in?What sounds does s/he make as s/he moves?How does s/he move?What are your season’s finest moments?
    • Who are its parents?

Other techniques were taught in the same manner, by using a model, and the pupils writing their own poem on a different topic, to ensure over-reliance on the model. These techniques included shape poems (great for display), onomatopoeia, imagery and any other techniques teachers wanted to teach them. The point was the pupils wrote their OWN poems having been shown how by good poems shared in class, through reading aloud, discussing in pairs, group work and presentation to the whole class.

Most importantly, after all this creative learning and sharing of poems, including their own, we came to the job of writing their assignment. I had kept one poem back for this, a stunning poem by Ted Hughes called ‘Snow on Snow’. I can’t reproduce it here because of copyright, but if you go and look it up, your effort will not be in vain.

This gorgeous poem was completely unseen to my year 7s. I didn’t give them a copy of it. I asked them to close their eyes, if they wanted they could put their heads down on the desks, and I simply read the poem to them, quietly, so they could take it in. Then I read it again, and a third time. For that third time I asked them to try to remember any lines they could as they heard it.

I went round each pupil in the class asking for a phrase or line they could recall, and wrote them all down on the board, for any the same, I wrote a tally next to the line. I asked them why they had remembered these snatches, and why they liked them. The things they had noticed was amazing, they used correct terminology where needed, but they were also very vocal about why they liked some of the phrases, for example ‘the chapel of her sparkle’ was very popular. They liked the consonance and assonance, but also told me it was very romantic, that the snow was like a bride in church, and the word sparkle showed her beauty. They were so perceptive, and saw things in the poem far beyond one person’s ideas.

They were then able to write their own individual assignments without any further help from me. They finished the unit with their love of poetry intact, and further developed, they were confident in their terminology (and could ask for help if needed), and I saw their deep learning happen before my very eyes. In the feedback to me afterwards – always asked for as part of the end of any unit, many of them commented that they didn’t used to like poetry much, but they love it now.

A good teacher doesn’t kill the texts they teach.

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The Power of Poetry

Poetry and Music have been documented as being helpful for elderly people, including those living with dementia, the after effects of a stroke, and even physical disability. Often it is the familiar poems learned by heart at school that has the most noticeable effect. I have read several times for Northwich Stroke Club, and seen these effects for myself: memories suddenly become vivid, audience reciting as I read, smiles and animation, or the closing of eyes and relaxation from lulling words.

This world poetry day (21 March), I was invited to read at a private care home, where the residents have a poetry club to share favourite poems. In a two hour slot (with a tea break in the middle), I read them some of my favourite poems, and they contributed a few of theirs. Only two people were brave enough to read, but both read beautifully. In the second half, I read them a few of my own poems, choosing ones that I felt might resonate with them but avoiding anything too sad. Not everyone stayed till the end, which was fine. It was a relaxed and chatty session, and we all sat round in a circle together, so it was very friendly.

I thought readers of my blog might be interested in which poems I chose to include, many of which I learned by heart as a child or more recently.

Robert Frost: Tree at my Window; Nothing Gold Can Stay, Stopping by Woods

Edward Thomas: Adlestrop; Words

Keats: To Autumn  

Clare: I love the fitful gust that shakes; My Early Home 

Thomas Hood: I remember, I remember

Milton: On His Blindness  

Robert Browning: Oh to be in England 

Yeats: When you are Old and Grey/ The lake Isle of Innisfree

Burns: My Heart’s in The Highlands

Robert Louis Stevenson: I will make you brooches

AE Housman: Loveliest of Trees /Into My Heart an Air that Kills

Thomas Hardy: The Self-Unseeing 

These poems are all ones which are important to me, and I thought they might recognise. The ones that got the most recognition were Stopping by Woods, To Autumn, I Remember, I Remember, Oh To Be in England, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and My Heart’s in the Highlands, though they really ‘got’ The Self-Unseeing, and my poem which echoes it ‘Hooam’ from Hearth. One of the poems shared by participants was Wordsworth’s ‘Intimations of Immortality’, which I thought highly appropriate.

I worry for today’s generation of school students, and the generation before them, that they will have no loved poems to take forward into their old age. The way poetry is taught in some schools these days, and secondary schools are the most guilty, takes the pleasure out of the poem. Schoolchildren are told that they can’t understand poetry, without the teacher ‘translating’ for them; that poetry is hard and full of secret meanings that need to be decoded. This is a dishonest and wrong approach. Rather than forcing pupils to make heavy dictated annotations, they should be encouraged to ‘feel’ the poem first, not simply label the parts as if it were an engine or a dissected animal. Colleagues were always amazed that my classes got such great results ‘despite’ my allowing them to interpret the poem for themselves, using the skill set I had given them. Poems belong to the reader, and don’t need mediation. Allowing the pupils to ‘own’ the poem helps them understand on a deeper level what that poem is doing and how it is doing it. This is how I taught poetry myself in my 16 years in secondary school, and stint in FE prior to that.

I will be sharing some of my teaching ideas on this blog, to enable teachers to break out of their teaching prisons with poetry. I don’t blame them, they are part of a cycle that has been going on for a long time, and they in their turn were badly taught. Many are afraid of poetry, and pass this fear on to their pupils. The people I was reading to yesterday have no such fear. They remember the pleasure these poems gave them and continue to give them, and seek out poems to share with their friends, because sharing poems is a good thing to do. It keeps their brains ticking and gives them something to talk about and relate to.


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Dandelions for Mother’s Day

‘Pee-the-Beds’ and ‘Mother-Die!

Pick it and your mam’ll die!

Faces like the sun, she said

plunged them in a jam-jar.

But they caught up with her: –

stained her skin yellow,

turned her hair to seed-clocks,

blew away her years.

This poem is quite an old one. In fact, it was the title poem of my debut collection, published in 1988 by Stride Books. I remember the incident behind it very clearly. I was brought up in post-war Widnes, where bombed out and demolished houses created areas of scrub land where only tough plants grew. This included rosebay willow herb, sometimes called fireweed, because it can shoot up fast even where there has been a fire; coltsfoot, those tough-leaved, tough-rooted little plants that are rarely seen these days, and sunny dandelions, with their tooth-shaped leaf edges. My mum loved flowers, and I never missed an opportunity to pick any I saw growing wild, to take home. I must have been around 5 when I picked these. Some children nearby sang that rhyme at me, but I paid little heed, as I’d been taught to reject such silly superstitions. I took them home and she was very pleased to put them in water, saying they had faces like the sun.

I later life, when she had a terminal liver disease, her hair, which was often fretted, and by then snowy white, looked exactly like the seed-clocks of the dandelions we used to blow to tell the time. Her skin was yellow from her failing liver. She had died by the time I wrote this poem. She was only 69. I approach this age myself and I still think of her every day.

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Review of Spare by Prince Harry

I was very interested to read Harry’s memoir, after noticing how differently the press treated Meghan, compared to the way Kate was written about. The press got hold of the book ahead of time and wrote articles spinning what might be considered the contentious parts, to whip up frenzy against the Prince, knowing what he was doing in writing the book was to give his version of some of the press stories, and to rob them of using any other material they had by pre-empting them. The press have been responsible for most of the vitriol about Diana’s second son, because they saw him as a meal ticket. King Charles and his heir ought to be above criticism, and the spare is expected to help by taking the flack from the press, though Charles had some of it during the past, and William is not immune, especially now Harry has stepped down. This is because the press feel they have the right to report on the Royals, because the tax payers pay for them. But I think this relationship has become toxic. Anyone who marries into the Royal Family faces attacks from the press, but it was worse in Meghan’s case because of the racist undertones.

The book is in three parts. The first part covers his childhood, starting with his father gently and kindly letting him know his mother has been killed in a car crash. For many years, both William and Harry (as they later discover) thought, on one level, that Diana had faked her death and gone into hiding. This is so sad, because it shows they knew how much Diana feared the paparazzi, and how much they hounded her, all for the chance of taking a photo they could sell for thousands. Both boys were damaged by their mother’s awful death. Harry has now had the chance of therapy and to open up about it. We will never know if William has had the same chance to come to terms with it. This section also covers his education at two boarding schools, and the death of his close friend Henners, in another awful car crash.

Part two covers his time after school, his gap year, in which he worked as a Jackaroo in Australia, and voluntary work in Africa, and his 10 years in the army. Some of the experiences described here are very harrowing. Captain Wales certainly didn’t have a cushy time: he was treated exactly like other soldiers, and served alongside them. This is what he wanted. He cared about his team. He later walked with injured soldiers as part of their recovery to both the North Pole and the South Pole, and inspired by the Warrior Games in USA, started the Invictus Games. He tells us about previous girlfriends who found it hard to cope with media interest, which amounted to stalking.

The third part continues his love of Africa, and friends he made there, Teej and Mike, on his gap year. He discusses how he met and fell in love with Meghan, what it felt like to be a husband and father, and his fears that the media onslaught was affecting his wife’s mental health. The media accuse him of whining, but that is never his tone in the book. I listened to his narration on Audible, and there is no whining, though he is earnest in wanting to communicate his story.

The book is part memoir of his mother, part bildungsroman, part adventure story. It’s a rattling good read. The ghost writer, Moehringer, has done a brilliant job assisting Harry with his book. The press narrative has always been that Harry was ‘dim’ because he didn’t do well at school, and didn’t attend University. This book makes it clear Harry is a very sensitive and intelligent man. Whether it is Harry, or the ghostwriter, the narrative is seasoned with many literary references. The young playful prince as grown up to be a man of many accomplishments, and he has found the perfect wife in Meghan. They are both humanitarians, and carry out a lot of charity work, while earning enough from creative efforts to be completely independent, taking no money from the taxpayer. That is a massive achievement.

It is obvious reading the book that Harry loves his family. His affection for the Queen is tangible. He loved and shared her sense of humour. His grandpa is mentioned as being a great cook, and his Gangan good company. He clearly loves his father, and presents him as an endearing, bookish man with a passion for Shakespeare and for saving the planet. A hard-worker, a loving father and a charming man: this is how he comes across in the book. He’s fond of William and Kate, and was always hoping to see more of them, but according to Harry, the boys were not as close as the press likes to make out. They were on different paths from the start, William with his future as King mapped out for him.

I am glad I have read the book, and this will most likely not be my last word on the subject.

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Fascinating World War 2 book

I am delighted to report that the Imperial War Museum has accepted our donation of a fascinating book for their library. The book is titled What America Thinks, and it includes cartoons and articles from US magazines about World War 2, from a very particular period of time before they joined in. It is signed by Stafford Cripps, and when we had the book appraised, the valuers felt the signature was a true one.

The book was large and heavy, and had been in our possession for many years, after it was given to me by the relative of someone who had died. Another relative was burning their papers, but the book was rescued and given to me because my love of books and history was well known. We both felt the book should be donated somewhere where it would be useful, and after some thought, I decided on the War Museum as a suitable place.

I then had to give them the information and photographs to decide whether the book was suitable for them, and unique enough to earn a place. A length correspondence ensued, and they decided they would like it, so it was duly posted off with the donation form. It is exciting to think this book is now available to historians and researchers on the period.

I thought I would share some photographs of the book we have been custodians of for so long.


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Things I do Differently Now

Since my accident, there are several things I have to do differently, and I thought it might be interesting to share them. My life is becoming more like it was before, but these changes may well be permanent:

  1. I need two handrails to manage the stairs, or one good handrail and my stick. I need handrails for outdoor steps.
  2. To get into bed, I first have to sit on it, then swing my legs on, because kneeling hurts too much.
  3. To get into a car, I turn round, sit on the seat, swivel my legs in. I CAN step in but I rarely do.
  4. Doing housework, I work by going from chair to chair, for example hoovering.
  5. I can’t carry much at a time, because I only have one free hand, so I use a helper trolley. I use this for housework, fetching things, and for bringing my baking things to the kitchen table.
  6. For gardening, I have my three-wheeled walker. I can carry tools and my stick in it. I work in a chair often, but I am strong enough to stand up and pull the chair further along.
  7. I can’t bend my knee as much as I could, which has affected my swimming. I am much slower but I still love to be in the pool, and it does me so much good when I can get to a swimming pool.
  8. I no longer want to risk standing on stools or climbing up onto things, so I am making sure there is nothing I can’t reach from the ground, if it is stuff I need to access often.
  9. I like having busy hands, but am now more intentional about having things I am working on separated into project bags and boxes, placed near me.
  10. I still love doing poetry readings, but have to sit down for longer slots. Leaning on a lectern helps too, whereas before I would prefer to stand, and often stood to the side of a lectern.

These little tricks and adaptations have made it possible for me to resume many things that add to the quality of my life. Some I was taught, others I have worked out for myself.

Every trip out has to be carefully planned for accessibility, unless we have been there before. We try to get out a few times a week, and this strategy helps me improve. in 2023, I want to reach more challenging places, like National Trust properties, the local green areas like Marshall’s Arm and Marbury Park, and visit more towns and cities I love. I want to become stronger and able to walk for longer distances. Maintaining a positive attitude is essential.


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Cosy Button Warehouse

Well I made it! I did my first reading post Covid, post tibia plateau fracture. It was at a lovely venue in Macclesfield, a very cool and cosy bar, which I was easily able to get into at the rear entrance, because there was a good handrail up the five steps. Once in, the floor was level and there was space to move around between the tables. There was one loo, which was accessible.

The Poems and Pints night is run by Joy Winkler, a very talented Macclesfield-based writer. She was not able to be there last night, so had asked John Lindley to step in, He did an excellent job. There was a lovely appreciative audience in, including (and this is always lovely to see) a group of friends who were not poets, but had come to listen and enjoy an evening out. There were also some poet friends of mine there so it was great to have a catch up.

It felt so good to be sharing with a live audience again. I really love reading, and lap up the nice comments that come my way. I even sold a few books – perhaps because I’d decided to do a sale price to celebrate my first time back guesting at a live event. I had to read sitting down, but people didn’t seem to mind.

Because the event was held at a building connected to the history of buttons, I read two of my poems inspired by buttons. This is one of the two that were published in Hearth:

The Button Tin

Finding the right button to replace

the lost was her task for me,

when she sat with a lap of mending.

Sorting through them, I learned

the lexis of shank and buttonhole,

their histories, how few were alike.

Real pearl ones threaded together,

prized like jewels; some of grandma’s

ornate metal ones were nested

in a rusty pastille tin, baby’s eyes,

glittering, too special to use,

peeping from their cotton beds.

My fingers stirred the buttons,

They clattered and sang to me,

kept me happy while she sewed. 

She darned our garments, replaced

lost buttons, sucked the thread

to stiffen it for her darting needle.

When I was five, she let me into

the womanly secrets of wrapping

cotton three times round the stitch.

Buttons sewed this way stay put.

I earned her rebuke by covering

my school skirt with multi-coloured

discs from her button box. Swirling

as they clicked and sparkled, I

couldn’t see that I had ruined it.

Angela Topping


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