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Liz Carr

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Liz is a crip activist and actor, now trying to gain experience as a stand-up comedian. Originally from the North West, she recently moved to London, lured by the bright lights and the promise of fame and fortune. She's still waiting.

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Best days of your life?

22nd June 2009

I have just received a letter inviting me to my secondary school reunion, and I can’t decide whether or not to go. If I went, I could meet up with others from the class of 1990, but is that important to me? I still keep in touch with the friends who are important to me, and thanks to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Friends Reunited, I am now in contact with people I thought (and a fair few I hoped) I would never hear from again.
A school crossing sign by the side of a road
I remember my school days with mixed emotions; I was so grateful to be given a mainstream education, and yet at times I felt incredibly segregated. The staff were welcoming, but the building wasn’t. I couldn’t study certain subjects because their classrooms were upstairs, and for most of the others I had to traipse all around the houses and go in the back way, by the bins.  Whilst all my friends took the bus to school, I had to be chauffeur driven by my mum. When the other girls had physical or practical classes like PE, drama or science, I would spend the lessons in the library, alone. And when everyone else went on a school trip, my options were either to stay at home and miss out altogether or go with my mother. I don’t know which was worse.
A typical school classroom, with rows of desks facing the blackboard
I was therefore mortified when both mum and dad had to join me on a school trip to the theme park, Alton Towers. Since mum refused to drive on motorways, dad took to the wheel, following the coach down the M6. To try and put a smile on their sulky teen's face, my parents attempted to recreate the atmosphere of the coach trip in the car by dressing in school uniform, hitting each other and swearing a lot. This only made me wish even more that I was on that coach. Thankfully, once we arrived, my friends came to the rescue and wheeled me to the rides while my parents went for some respite around the park gardens - still dressed in their uniforms.
Day trips were bad enough, but overnight stays were impossible. Practically, they would have been difficult enough, but street cred wise, can you imagine being with all your mates in the dorm of a youth hostel with mum in the top bunk? So when my history class went down to the Imperial War Museum in London for an overnight study trip, I had to stay at home. My friends were envious, thinking I was lucky to have two days off school, but I was jealous of them - while I was at the local shopping centre with my mum, my friends were being let loose on the bright lights of the big city. The mug they brought me back, decorated with the Second World War slogan ‘Careless Talk Costs Lives’, was little consolation.
Close-up of a teacher's hand writing on a blackboard
However, on the very rare occasions where I did get to go with my school and without various members of my family, I often wished I hadn’t bothered making the effort. On theatre trips, for instance, I almost always had to sit in a wheely space that was nowhere near the rest of my classmates. Who was I supposed to throw my unwanted Revels at? There was one particular show though where the seating arrangements really took the biscuit. It was a production of To Kill a Mockingbird which was performed on a floor level rectangular stage with raked seating rising up all around it. I remember every detail of that stage very well, because that was where I was sitting, in my wheelchair, for the entire duration of the show, visible to all and right in the middle of the action. They should have paid me an extras fee. I hated every moment of it.

Now, of course, I love being on the stage. Time really does change us. I mean, once upon a time back in my school days, I was a good girl who was shy, studious and interested in boys. Nineteen years later and now look at me ... the opposite on all counts.

Comments

    • 1. At 11:29am on 22 Jun 2009, crustycrip wrote:

      My schooldays were years ago. I went for a while to a forces boarding school. It was all buggery and torture. It wasn't all fun though, there was double maths on thursdays!

      pete

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    • 2. At 3:03pm on 22 Jun 2009, Lisy wrote:

      "On theatre trips, for instance, I almost always had to sit in a wheely space that was nowhere near the rest of my classmates."

      I had to suffer the same seating arrangement at my university graduation - and that was *after* the DDA came into force!

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    • 3. At 3:07pm on 22 Jun 2009, Spaz Girl wrote:

      I can tell you as a modern mainstream schooler that it's no better now...well, maybe a little, but they discriminate against you under the guise of accommodating you. It's horrible.

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    • 4. At 4:58pm on 22 Jun 2009, DogCrazyPurple wrote:

      i remember havin an assistant in primary school. i think it was good from a support point of few but the constant presence of the assistant made other children wary of me i think.

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    • 5. At 1:59pm on 23 Jun 2009, valbear wrote:

      I went to a not so special school, but at 14 we were thrown to the lions at the local comp. Many of my schoolmates didn't have a good time, but thanks to my wonderful English teacher my experience was great. I wish I'd made more of my school days. Careers advice like don't tell them you can't see until you've got the job didn't help. Out of twelve I'm the only one to have been in constant full time employment since leaving in 1984. Now I know the stats for blind people and work are not good, but they aren't that bad.

      I went back to a few reunions, but feel now that its time to move on. I'd blamed my not so special school for a lot of the things that have gone wrong in my life, but actually a lot of it was down to me. My old deputy head says I was a nightmare as I so lippy (nothings changed), but I made him laugh and he secretly admired my spirit.

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    • 6. At 9:46pm on 23 Jun 2009, SARS22 wrote:

      Brilliant article. I have to agree with DogCrazyPurple.

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