Mark Goffeney

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When, aged eight, Mark Goffeney strolled into a guitar shop to enrol for lessons, the owner thought he was being kidded. Mark had no arms, the result of an unexplained birth defect. He didn't even have prosthetic limbs, because he had found they were more trouble than they were worth. It's a measure of Mark's persuasiveness, even then, that the shop proprietor took him on as a pupil. He taught him to tune and play the guitar with his feet, laying it in front of him on the floor. He's been a highly respected rock musician for more than twenty years, running his own bands, and touring the world.

This was only the start of Mark's career of choices which apparently would make life as difficult for him as possible. In No Triumph, No Tragedy, he talks with humour, warmth, and practical common sense, about the philosophy that there's usually a solution, if you think hard enough about it. Only Mark, for instance, could choose tiling roofs as an early occupation. When asked how he got the tiles up there, he seemed faintly surprised. It involved, logically enough, getting down on the ground, manoeuvring them with his feet into a container that had a strap or a rope, and then a lot of wriggling till he got it on his back. Simple enough!

He used similar techniques bringing up his three children. He'd always done his share, but when the marriage broke up, amicably but irrevocably, his former wife asked him if he would take custody of the children while she put herself through college! They preferred to live with him, she said. He did it without a second thought, devising ways of lifting, carrying and feeding them. The only problem, he says, was fighting off the older women who wanted to rescue them from his tender mercies. His life as a touring musician was a bigger handicap to childcare than his so-called "handicap". "It's hard to check kids are doing their homework in the wings, when you're onstage doing a gig," he explained.

Recently, Mark has become something of an online sensation, with his act receiving hundreds of thousands of "hits" on YouTube. Is there a danger that people are more concerned with how he plays than what he plays? He says he doesn't care, as long as they end up hearing the music. He drives, as he does most things, with his feet. It works fine, but it's also led to the biggest scare of his life. Late one night he was stopped by a cop. He then heard the dreaded words: "put your hands out of the window; then get out of the car". He tried explaining that he had no hands. The cop said he'd shoot him if he didn't put his hands out of the window. It was only the word "disabled", which Mark doesn't use very often, which finally persuaded the officer to check. "So how was I supposed to know," he said grumpily. Listening to Mark Goffeney on No Triumph, No Tragedy should avoid such mistakes in the future.

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30 minutes

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Tue 30 Apr 2013 23:30