For a while now, I’ve been giving serious thought to writing more about my disability and experiences of it. It’s now coming up on 12 years since the minibus smash in Sri Lanka that pulverized the third, fourth and fifth vertebrae of my spinal cord and opened a very new and… challenging chapter.
For those unfamiliar with my backstory, I’ve aimed to summarize it as best I can here. has been one hell of a ride and I’m hoping this should be a good format to tackle it.
Over the last four years in particular, I’ve added – or sometimes reacquired – a number of new identities to my long-running life as a journalist for Reuters news agency. Each of those has added something very new and precious.
Almost exactly four years ago, a small group of us founded the Project for Study of the 21st Century , envisaged as a volunteer-run “pop-up” think tank to examine the biggest issues of the era. Building and running PS21 has, as I’d hoped, produced some fascinating discussions – but equally importantly, it’s also helped give me a whole new life of networks, friendships and opportunities.
Most unexpected – and in some ways precious – of those has been an unexpected return to military service as a part-time British Army reservist. That’s not something I’m necessarily going to discuss in detail here, for a variety of predictable reasons. But I’m hoping to reflect little on what it’s meant for me, the uniqueness of the experience and the unquestionable – if complex – way it has empowered me and boosted my self-esteem.
All those, of course, are very much part of my public persona. But I’m hoping to also reflect on aspects of my life and disability that feel much more edited out. Much of that, if I’m honest, has probably been self-censorship. But if you live a life this unique, I feel it’s really worth talking about it.
Even more importantly, though, many of the issues I’ve faced – the difficulties of living with 24 hour care, the challenges and pleasures of sex and romance, the logistics of travel and mere survival – are much wider. Some are widely discussed, many, much less so. Talking about them is a journey I’m really only starting, but one I have already found rawly and simply empowering.
My aim is to try and force myself to write at least once a week, sometimes more often. This won’t be a blow-by-blow account of my life – at least not always. If I get laid, rejected, hired, fired or otherwise, I will not necessarily provide a running commentary. But I do hope it will be useful, entertaining and the sort of thing I would have found valuable when I started this journey more than a decade ago.
Let’s see what happens…