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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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Plan M - mum

31st March 2011

Last week I had a crisis. My personal assistant who helps me with all the bits and pieces I can’t do for myself, called in sick. As soon as she’d uttered the words "a temperature of one hundred and four", I’d stopped listening to her and had instead begun to formulate my contingency plan. As a disabled person, the worst thing about having people assist you ... is not having people to assist you. I had six hours to find a replacement.
Liz Carr and her mum
I contacted my other PA. But no, she was out of the country. I tried my ex-staff but they were either not available or not speaking to me. I asked my crip mates if they had any spare helpers hanging around, and my walking talking mates if they could step in and assist me in my hour of need. Nothing. Even my partner couldn’t give me a hand on this occasion.

Plans A, B, C and D had all failed. I had no choice but to head straight for plan M - mum.

I called her to see if she was free for the next couple of days. "Monday is the over 50’s tai chi," she told me, "there's bingo as usual on Tuesday, then senior’s salsa, and it’s bin day on Thursday." But I knew that if I really needed her, she would drop everything. And, true to form, she did. Three hours later my mum was on the train from Liverpool to London. Immediate crisis averted.

That evening we chatted, had dinner and watched TV, enjoying time together as mother and daughter. Then mum helped me get ready for bed. As the person who did everything for me until I left home at eighteen, she knows how I like to be assisted better than anyone else. I was almost pleased my PA was ill.

It wasn't until the next morning that the reality of my situation hit home. I had to go to work. It was my second day in a new team. This was my dream job and I was keen to impress. Instead, I was an almost forty year old disabled woman being accompanied to the office by her almost seventy year old mother.

I love my mum, I do, but when she came with me to work that day, I felt just like a little girl being dropped off at the school gate.
Liz Carr's mother attends to her every need
Maybe no one else would have noticed the older woman at my side, wearing a pink cagoule, carrying a copy of Prima magazine and bearing a striking resemblance to me, but I wasn’t taking any chances.

As soon as we arrived at work, I ushered her unseen into the accessible toilets where she removed my coat, passed me my papers and then disappeared. Alone, I wheeled to my desk, greeted my colleagues confidently, and then realised that there was a rather pressing problem - I couldn’t reach to switch on the computer.

Scuppered, I was forced to pick up the phone and get my mum back. I would have quietly texted her but she doesn’t know how to read or answer them; when mum writes an email, she lays it out like a letter with the address in the top right and as soon as she’s sent it, she expects a reply. It’s an understatement to say that she is not very technical.

Getting mum to switch on my computer was challenging for both of us, made even worse by the fact that she’d forgotten her reading glasses. After five minutes of pressing every part of the hard drive except the power button, everyone in the team had noticed her presence.

When the screen eventually illuminated and the cursor came into view, I decided I might as well introduce her. But I did what I usually do when nervous or embarrassed. I made a joke out of the situation. "This is bring your mother to work week isn’t it?"
Liz Carr and her mother at the end of a long day at the office
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was instantly unhappy with how I’d behaved. My mum had travelled all the way down from Liverpool to help me out at the last minute and, instead of being grateful, I was embarrassed, which brought memories of having the exact same feelings as a teenager flooding back.

I didn’t have PAs or an electric wheelchair back then, so my parents would take me to all the places the other kids used to go. My mum came with me to clubs, pubs and parties. I’m sure she didn’t want to, but she did it so that I could have the same opportunities as my friends.

Instead of appreciating what my mother had done for me, I'd felt constantly humiliated. Twenty years later, it seems little had changed.

By the time my PA's temperature had returned to normal, however, mum had well and truly established her presence in the office. She sat in the kitchen doing Sudoku, made hot drinks for the team and brought in cakes for afternoon tea. Everyone loved her and I realized that the only person who’d ever had a problem with mum assisting me at work ... was me.

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