When I first realised I needed a walking stick, I cried. I was 19, a gifted pianist and working in a Dublin Internet cafe to help fund a degree in Fine Art and a hectic social life. A year previously, I had hitch-hiked to Ireland with £20 and a rucksack, knowing nobody. Bold, irreverant and fiercely independent, I'd always moved with a purposeful stride. It was a shock to now find myself shuffling and limping and I've never been very good with pain.
My arthritis quickly worsened and some days I arrived very late into work, barely able to walk.
On one such occasion my co-workers looked helpless and concerned as I edged my way behind the till and switched on the coffee-machine, clearly hurting all over. There was an awkward silence full of pity and helplessness and fear. In that moment I decided to make an important change in my approach.
'Hi boys,' I grinned broadly. 'Sorry I'm late. I was taking an important call from Milan.'
'Yes,' I continued, feeling a great surge of amusement as I warmed to my theme. 'The designers are all wanting to teach their supermodels how to walk like me. All that elegant striding in high heels? ...SO last year. I mean, who wants to strut around when you can move like me?!'
My co-workers began to laugh.
'Right now they are jetting over here to learn the amazing Felix limp. Apparently I am SO perfect for this season! And guess what? When the money rolls in I'm going to blow it all on a new walking-stick with a huge emerald on the top of it. I'll go round town swinging my stick and whistling and everyone will wish they were as cool as me.'
My co-workers laughed more and I got a coffee, took additional painkillers and got on with my job for the next eight hours.
Soon my fingers flared up so much I couldn't use them for anything, let alone playing the piano. So I made a point of buying the most 'ridiculous, big shiny bling' I could find for them, to remind myself to love my fingers all the more and to draw attention to my wonderfully unique hand shape.
I maintain that my fingers are a feature, not a deformity, and I won't be splinting them to straighten them anytime soon.
When I first realised I needed a walking stick, I was devastated. Six years later when I finally went to buy one, I made an occasion of it and wore a good dress to the Mobility Aid store.
Having eventually come to terms with having a disability, at the age of 27 I finally got an effective medical treatment and am now playing the piano again and running around Oxford. I am using my regained energy to try and understand more about the social construct of 'disability.' I want this investigation to be a public dialogue which other people can contribute to; hence, The Missability Radio Show. Missability is my own, creative approach to circumstances.
I have been deeply influenced in my life by John Diamond's book, Snake Oil and Other Preoccupations, by the life and work of Frida Kahlo,
That is all you need to know about me. Milan is still watching.