high heels | hot mail | hip wheels

Inspirational Woman: Melanie Reid, Journalist

Melanie Reid, Journalist, The Times.

Melanie Reid, Journalist, The Times.

It’s been a while since I mentioned Melanie Reid, a journalist for The Times newspaper who writes Spinal Column on a weekly basis, every Saturday, in The Times Magazine.

Melanie Reid broke her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010 and began writing Spinal column shortly thereafter. Her column is one of the first I turn to every weekend – after Caitlin Moran, obviously – being a total fan of Melanie’s brusque no-nonsense approach to living life in a wheelchair.

I love her writing for it’s honesty, humour, wit and love and I relate to it like no other writing on wheelchair life that I’ve read. Maybe because I’m a similar age to her, maybe because, like her, my paralysis is so extensive and happened so quickly. Whatever, entirely unknown to her, we’ve shared a huge amount of similar life experiences and, for me, the relief and release of just not feeling quite so alone with it all – this huge and unwelcome life change – is something I feel ridiculously grateful to this woman I’ve never met, or spoken to, for.

She achieves, for me, everything I hoped to do for others when I created my own Stiletto Wheels blog way back in 1997. She just does it better, in the glare of the public, on a much bigger platform. You, go, girl. As Oprah – my long term lifestyle guru – might say.

Today, Saturday 5 May 2018, Melanie wrote Spinal Column: access all areas? If only.

I started laughing out loud at paragraph one:

One of the primary laws of survival in a wheelchair is distrust. In particular, distrust of people who assure you that their place is easily accessible. “Oh, you’ll get in here no bother,” they say. “Loads of room for a wheelchair,” they enthuse. Then there’s the blithe, “Just a couple of steps.” And the one that strikes fear in your heart: “No problem, we’ve got some ramps.”

The truth of this is both painful and hilarious. It happens so many times and ‘…fear in the heart.’ So true. Melanie continues:

Years on, I am still learning this. The hard way. The thing is, a fit person’s concept of accessibility is always wildly optimistic. It doesn’t matter if they’re a member of your family or the head of a company: their assessment will be based on good intentions but a genuine lack of awareness of how unwieldy and precarious a wheelchair can be.

Cue: last week at the Boffi showroom in Knightsbridge, a huge step (about 20cm) and our Roll-A-Ramp full out with me, looking dubious. D said, “You’ll be fine.”

We then had a parallel experience to that described by Melanie in her closing paragraph:

… I went for a first appointment at a dentist’s surgery. Ground floor and wheelchair accessible, they said …  which, translated, meant ramps for the steep steps at the front door. When put in place, these resembled the crevasse ladders on the Khumbu Icefall. I am no Sherpa. My power chair agreed: the front reared up, but the rear wheels simply couldn’t get traction. There followed a sad little scene, played out in full view of the busy road. Dave tried to push. A dentist in his scrubs tried to push. Several passers-by stopped and offered to push as well: I was surrounded by a gaggle of kindness and goodwill. But all I could think, as my wheels spun in the too tight angle where the ramp met the concrete, was how on earth, even if I did get up, would I get safely down again.

Thanking everyone, and apologising, as one does in these situations, I made an exit as quickly as possible, Dave muttering profanely behind me. If swearing were banned, I don’t know how he’d cope.

Okay, I was trying to see some Michael Anastassiades lights at Boffi which isn’t quite the same as going to the dentist; we were in Knightsbridge so no help offered as people simply scurried by, staring; and my D isn’t a Dave but the profanity from me and my D … Hilarious.

And, I didn’t get to see the lights.

Melanie Reid. Love her writing. Click across and read, though you will need a subscription sadly. I’d love to share her for free.

Melanie Reid, Journalist, The Times.

Melanie Reid, Journalist, The Times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: