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Let it snow

by Liz Carr

20th December 2010

When this years cold spell hit the UK, all I wanted to do was hibernate with my leopard skin slippers, my blanket and my plastic beaker full of tea. But with the aid of a partner, a PA and some enforced time off work, the snow and I eventually became firm friends.
Liz Carr smiling next to her toothy snowman
Being thin and therefore without much insulation, I’m always cold. I take a hot water bottle to bed pretty much 365 days a year and even when the sun is shining, I’ll be the one in a scarf and mittens.

So when the snow began to fall this month, I felt lucky to be watching from the warmth of my centrally heated home. With a light dusting of the white stuff, my small concrete garden was transformed into a magical wintry world.

As a wheelchair user, I’ve always seen the snow as my enemy; with just a few inches, my wheels stop turning, my PAs can’t get to work and for the duration, my life has to be put on ice.

But as I looked outside at the Christmassy scene before me, all this was forgotten. Instead, I couldn’t imagine how snow could ever be anything other than my friend. I had been well and truly seduced by it’s beauty.

How could snow be bad when it enabled me to have a number of guilt free days off work? Sleeping until noon, watching daytime TV and eating lots of carbohydrates (i.e. cakes) to keep warm. But after 3 days of Loose Women and cookery programmes, I was getting cabin fever.
Liz wheeling her way through the snow
For the second time that week, when I looked out at the garden, all I could see was a thick white blanket of inaccessibility. My home was surrounded by an impenetrable moat of snow. I was going nowhere. My brief love affair with the white stuff was over.

And that’s when it dawned on me. My aversion to snow wasn’t just because it was imprisoning me at home. I realized that it also bothered me because I wasn’t able to enjoy it like I had as a non-disabled child. I wanted to leave my wheel tracks in the perfectly pristine sheet of white, to have a snowball fight and lie down amongst the powdery flakes and make a snow angel.

The time had come to turn the television off and head for the garden. It took around two hours to kit me out in a muddy pink pair of wellies that had last seen the light of day at Glastonbury and layers upon layers of chunky jumpers and oversized waterproofs. Once I’d doubled my body weight with clothes, I was ready to brave the elements. I had my PA, my partner and a garden full of the white stuff. What more did I need?

Edging forward into the snow, my chair began to complain. It didn’t want to proceed but I did. I ploughed on, leaving narrow trenches in my wake. I felt like an intrepid explorer in an unfamiliar land. I came to a halt. I was stuck. I was only half a metre from the door.

Undeterred, it was time to make a snow person. Unable to reach the ground, the snow was brought to me. My trusty assistants covered the patio table with enough for a body and a head with eyes, nose and mouth. There were no arms or legs. It was a perfectly imperfect disabled snow person. I loved it.
Liz lying in the snow
Before I could say ‘Jack Frost nipping at my nose’, my partner had grabbed me out of my wheelchair, carried me over to an extra deep pile of snow and laid me down on the coldest but most comfortable of beds. At last, the chance had arrived to move my arms and legs out to the side to make a snow angel. Nice idea in theory. In practice however, lying down, I’m like a turtle on my back. The only thing I can do in this position is blink. So as I lay on the ground, in my garden, looking directly ahead at the flats above, I created my very first snow cripple.

It was cold and I was ready to head inside to thaw out. But there was something I needed to do first – to have a snowball fight. On reflection, perhaps ‘fight’ was a little ambitious. The person I was meant to be hitting had to first pass me some snow and then help form it into a ball. Snow in hand, I tried as hard as I could to throw it at her. Perhaps if she’d knelt down in front of me and was within my reach I’d have succeeded. Instead, I threw the snowball with all of my strength and it landed in my lap.

Since my PA is technically there to do the things I can’t, I wheeled back into the warmth and instructed her to finish the fight on my behalf. I shouted out instructions like “aim for the head!”, “use black ice!”, “show no mercy!” and she did exactly as I asked.

They reckon it’s going to be a white Christmas this year... For once, I can’t wait!

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