Posts Tagged ‘health’

When Rosemary Sutcliff contracted Still’s Disease —severe juvenile arthritis, which left her mobility severely affected all her life—in the 1920s, the terms  ‘disability’ & ‘handicap’ were used equally. Now 90% of the use is  ‘disability’.

Relative use of terms disability and handicap


When she was first ill, she was most likey to be said to be handicapped. By the time of her death she was more likely to be said to be disabled; and were she alive now, increasingly she would be said to have a disability.

Comparing being disabled, crippled and handicapped

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If any who read this blog share a concern from family experience about tackling bowel cancer, and are moved to make a donation, I note that my daughter Rowan Rosemary Lawton, named in honour of Rosemary Sutcliff, is running to raise funds for the UK Charity Beating Bowel Cancer. See here.

Screenshot 2014-09-02 16.01.17


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June 21st Tuesday. Another lovely day, but hot and sultry. Joan up to London for a day off and Ray doing tea for me. My leg back on Granuflex and getting better again.

Granuflex was a dressing for Rosemary’s leg, affected by her long spells in her wheelchair.

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June 13th Monday. Ray took Barny down for his second injection. Mr Skelton very pleased with him. He seems rather sleepy but quite at ease, and thoroughly enjoying his food again. Agnes, new chiropodist lady came to do my toes. Knows her job and seems a nice soul.

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June 11th Saturday. Leg very sore. Shall ring the surgery on Monday and get M to come and have a look at it, instead of waiting until Friday.

Regular readers of this 1988 diary of Rosemary Sutcliff will realise how often she was feeling unwell. This was true throughout her life. Here the problem is a recurrent one related to spending much time in a wheelchair.

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June 8th Wednesday. Leg still sore, & head feeling vile, swimmy and dopey

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June 6th Monday. Nothing interesting, and the back of my leg very sore, sorer than its been for ages.

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May 28th Saturday. Diane washed my hair for me this morning. Great relief. Head beastly – not of course improved by hair wash. Wish I didn’t feel so muzzy & vaguely unreal. Have hit all kinds of complications at the moment with Catraeth, too

I was unsure for a good while about the second last word. Was it the name of a character and thus part of a rare comment in Rosemary’s diary about her writing work? Was it ‘cathedral’ – she wrote some community play or plays at some point.

excerpt Rosemary Sutcliff diary 28/5/88

I have however, I think, worked it out. It is a point about her writing, but about an event not a character. At this time Rosemary Sutcliff was writing her award-winning book The Shining Company, her young adult and children’s novel which included the Battle of Catraeth (which is believed happened around or a little before 600AD). The battle is commemorated in Y Gododdina medieval Welsh poem. It is a collection of elegies to the men of the kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who died fighting Angles at Catraeth .

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April 7th, Thursday. Ray doing the lawn with combined weedkiller and fertiliser, so the dogs won’t be able to go out on it for two days, which will be hell for all of us. Geraldine looked in for tea. My head so muzzy I simply don’t know what to do with it.

© Anthony Lawton 2012

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Rosemary Sutcliff needed extensive treatment for juvenile arthritis and its consequences, long before there was an National Health Service in the UK. Making a living from writing – a rarity in her times – enabled her to secure the daily support and care she needed as someone severely physically disabled, long before social security benefits properly came to the aid of those in need through physical disabilities. I believe she  welcomed both NHS and disability benefits – for others as much as for herself – although she did not share the politics of those who introduced them. She certainly did not share the political perspective of Stuart Hall, a “God on the landscape of the left”, according to the ever excellent Zoe Williams in The Guardian today.

But he makes a rousing defence of the principle upon which the NHS was  and should be based – in a call to principle and to action that resonated powerfully here in a left-leaning but politically inactive household where, after four years of engagement with the NHS as a result of an advanced cancer, my wife is now thriving only because of the NHS and many dedicated, skilful staff. Other posts and comments on this blog attest to Rosemary’s persistent theme about the battle between the forces of light and darkness, and dark forces are indeed undermining our NHS. So it seems necessary  as well as appropriate to highlight Stuart Hall’s words here, where all else is about Rosemary’s writing and life. I hope followers will bear with me!

“How can millions of people have benefited from the NHS and not be on the streets to defend it? Come on. The NHS is one of the most humanitarian acts that has ever been undertaken in peace time. The principle that someone shouldn’t profit from someone else’s ill health has been lost. If someone says an American health company will run the NHS efficiently, nobody can think of the principle to refute that. The guiding principles have been lost.” There was a study recently investigating why America, which spends more per capita on health, has worse outcomes, and the answer was quite clear: when there is a profit motive, the rich are overinvestigated, and the poor are undertreated. People die needlessly.

So there’s quite a sound pragmatic argument against private involvement in health, but Hall’s is a blistering moral statement – who would profit from someone’s ill health? What sort of person would that be? Would you trust them with your budget, let alone your health, or the health of a loved one? The moral case is not being forcefully enough put; indeed, it is not being put at all.

Being human and all that, and 80, Hall has observed the NHS at close range recently; following a diagnosis of renal failure, he spent seven years on dialysis, but by that time, “it’s killing you and keeping you alive at the same time”. This was a very profound experience. “It gives you a different conception of yourself, a different conception of yourself in relation to others. Your wife becomes your carer. For God’s sake!”

But, of course, it has deepened his political identity as well. “I’ve always known in my head I’m not an island, but it really came across. It’s not just the kidneys – I could give you a litany of things that are wrong with me. I couldn’t go two days without someone coming in to help me. [Richard] Titmuss called it the gift relationship – you throw your bread on to the water, you don’t know who will pick it up, you don’t know if you’re going to need it later, you just give it because you have it. That’s the opposite of exchange value. It has no value.

“You recoup nothing. I’ve always thought the ego, Adam Smith’s selfish individual, was wrong. The outside world gets into our heads, there is a constant dialectic, it is ineradicable. So we have to forge consanguinity. I’ve always known that, but of course if you’re ill, it comes through much more. Have you any idea how much dialysis costs per session? Do I believe in a public health system? I sure do. With bells on.”

via The Saturday interview: Stuart Hall | From the Guardian 


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