I have led a charmed life.  Despite falling out of a tree and knocking out my front teeth, falling off the back of an army Land Rover and sliding down a rough road, falling off various bicycles and motor bikes, I have never broken a bone in my body (well, perhaps my nose but I didn’t even know it was broken).  I haven’t even been in hospital for anything other than a vasectomy reversal and a mysterious bout of vertigo that needed to be investigated but cleared up spontaneously.

I realise that writing the above paragraph is tempting fate, but I’ll take the risk.  If you never hear from me again you’ll know it was not a risk worth taking.

So, here I am on the brink of becoming 76 with no significant aches and pains and everything still in working order.  With the benefit of hindsight I’m glad I was never brilliant at sports (only ever in the seconds for rugby and cricket).  I meet so many contemporaries that have had knee and/or hip operations as a direct result of old sports injuries.  Only the other day I met a friend who used to be a fast bowler and had wrecked his right hip with the constant pounding on that leg.

If you read The Times you’ll know about Melanie Reid who three years ago, at the age of 52, fell from her horse and is largely paralysed.  Every week she writes movingly of her struggles, physical and mental.  As a psychologist I am especially interested in her mental anguish, some weeks buoyant after a small triumph and some weeks really low after a setback.  ‘Suffering roughens you inside, coarse sandpaper on the soul.’

She writes about the things that make her jealous; adverts where women luxuriously smooth cream across their faces with flat and subtle fingers, seeing lots of people walking round unthinkingly, on legs that obey, watching them spring to their feet, lean over, reach, balance, hop, run, jog, dance.  Amongst the things that make her really sad are fat people, ‘wasting their wonderful bodies, consuming their own ruin.  If you don’t want to live – I mean live, really live, appreciate every damn moment of being free and able – give me your body.’

Accidents such as Melanie Reid’s are dreadful things.  One minute she was fit, physically arrogant, sporty, a can-do person and the next minute a wreck.  An OK body one minute, a broken body the next.  All in a flash; nothing in between.  Melanie Reid describes her life-changing accident as identity theft.

I would like to meet Melanie but I know there is nothing I could say or do to help.  Indeed, since I am one of those people who can walk around unthinkingly, on legs that obey, putting in an appearance would risk adding to her anguish.

Did anyone say life should be fair?

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