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Cartoon shows Anne peeking out of a changing room, her wheelchair in the background, looking at an array of nice clothes.

Life wi the Broons: searching for fashionable clothes

Anne Brown

Last year I hud a decline in the walkin department. Anxious to stay on ma feet fur as long as a’ can, a’ contacted REACH (Forth Valley multi disciplinary team) for help. One o’ the folk that came tae help wis Sara the physio.

Efter I told her that ma passion wis ridin, she organised me a progamme o’ exercises tae keep me on ma feet an keep me in the saddle. She also organised an appointment wi John at orthotics. Noo that’s when the trouble started!

Years ago a’ got black carbon fibre splints tae get me roond the block wi Chloe the dug. They work but squeak, like I’ve got a wee moose in each shoe, gettin squashed wi every step. Later on a’ couldny manage roond the block withoot a scooter so they were put away.

Whit a’ did use for the wee bit I could walk, wis 'foot-ups' handy wee things that hook oan yer shoes so you can walk further an drive easier. Noo the foot-ups wurny workin so John tried plastic splints, nae use, they’re no comfy so it wis back tae squeakin wi the black yins. Splints dinny fit in ma shoes, and ur useless wi skinny jeans, so it wis off shoppin in a real shop!

Most o’ ma shoppin’s done online so a’ hud tae work up tae it. I’d huv tae take the wheelchair, but this meant huvin tae deal wi over helpful staff, offering tae dae everything bar wipe yer backside.

They’re well meanin but dinny gie you peace tae try oan stuff, an if you get oot the wheelchair tae test oot shoes, they nearly keel over wi shock that the magic shoes huv created a miracle: “SHE CAN WALK! HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE SHOES!” So a’decided tae take the weans tae run interference, an give me a chance tae check stuff oot.

Off we went, and needless to say, the shoes that fit the splint an wur comfy wur either awfy ugly or awfy dear. There’s nae point in gettin dear shoes, I’m no exactly gonny wear them oot any time soon, so cheap is fine, then you dinny feel so bad gettin new ones when fashion changes. The ugly ones wur easy: one o’ the daughters wud say in a very loud voice “Mother, step away from the ugly shoes!” causing both staff an customers tae look horrified at the way she’s speaking tae the poor disabled woman.

Once shoes wur picked, we hud tae face the 'cubicle o’ fear' - the changing room - tae find smart trousers that are fashionable an practical wi splints. We’re ushered tae the large 'disabled' changing room tae try on half dozen pairs o’ OK-ish trousers.

The assistant clicked on tae the brief an did a recce o’ the shop bringing back stuff that’s only 'practical', no smart, an again the girls shouted, “Mother, step away fae the crimplene or we’ll be putting you in a home!” I saw one pair that the assistant hud brought, identical tae ones that my Mother-in-law hus, an she’s 86!

We settled on a couple o’ pairs an escaped quickly, giggling at the faces o’ people we’ve shocked. Mission accomplished, I wonder why I’m supposed to dress in an old-fashioned ugly way because I canny walk the length o’ mysel? I wonder why I should settle for practical only? Noo I huv two sets o’ clothes an shoes. One set tae wear when I dinny huv tae walk far an one set when I want, or need, to walk somewhere. Noo we have to find a way tae stop the squeak.

Illustration by our wonderful volunteer, Elfreda Crehan.