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When did you marry your husband?

1972. 24th of April 1972 at ten-thirty precisely.

And how did you meet him?

I met him at a dance. There was a lot of us came over, we had a day out and we
went to a dance and I met him there.

Yeah? And how many children did you have?

Two.

What were they? I know you’ve got a daughter.

Yeah my daughter she’s 38 in October and my son’s 35 next month. Yeah, my son’s
six foot seven (laughs).

Really? (Laughs) And what was your partner’s attitude towards your disability?

He was alright, yeah, fine. Like he said, you could’ve, you could’ve married me, I
could’ve been perfectly normal, had a car accident and become disabled. And his
mum and dad were very nice to me, they treated me really nice.

Yeah. How do you think attitudes have changed towards people with a disability?

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Not a lot really. No, no, it depends, mine is ok because I was born with a disability
and not many people know I’ve got it unless I choose to tell them because everything
I do is how I grew up because that’s normal to me. But if you acquire a disability it is
a disability to you then because you’re awkward with it because you’ve always had a
normal body.

So it’s harder to acquire a disability and that’s when you get

discrimination because you, you, some people acquire a disability can be quite
pitiful. They want pity. If you want pity in this world then forget it. You’ve got to get
on with life. If you’re strong and you just, then people respect you more.

I was watching a documentary yesterday and it was “Disabled In An Instant” and
they were talking about, there was this man, he was in a car crash and he became
disabled and then he went around and he spoke to other people with disabilities and
he met this lady and she was disabled from birth and she said quite a similar thing to
you. So I think that’s quite interesting.

Yeah because it is, it’s true that. It’s never bothered me because I’ve never thought
of myself as disabled. Because I know no different. So to me everything I do is
perfectly normal. Well it better be! (Laughs).

How do you think changes to the government legislation has affected people with
disabilities?

It’s made it worse because of their discriminating against them, they’re sort of
making them frightened, because they’re bringing, I mean there are some who do

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fake it but the genuine ones are frightened because they’re having benefits cut.
They’re having lots and lots of horrible things happen to them when they actually do
need the support. The government don’t understand because the people who’re
doing it are not disabled. And unless you’re disabled in some categories you don’t
have a clue. And the government don’t have a clue basically. They should have a
person like me, a disabled person who’s acquired a disability to work with these
government officials to tell them what’s right because they don’t know. So they’re
making people’s lives hellish.

What other changes do you think need to happen to improve the circumstances of
disabled people?

I mean it has got better in the fact that, years ago, they were not put out in society,
they were put into homes and forgotten about. By their families, they were just put
into institutions. I worked with a lady, in erm the cooking I did for four and a half
years in Saxongate. And all her life she’d had mental illnesses but was it mental
illnesses? She’d got pregnant as a young girl and the family put her in an institution.
And she had shock treatment, she was wrapped up in these things that they,
straightjackets, she was beaten, she was punched. But by the time now she’s in her
sixties she know no different. She just sits there staring at the wall. You have to talk
to her, you have to stroke her hand and look at her.
treatment.

She’s had so much bad

But was she mentally ill to start with? All her sin was, was getting

pregnant. So we do some cruel things as the human race to people we don’t think
are like us. Everybody can’t be the same. We should never look at, judge a book by
its cover, we should look inside to see what’s inside. Because some people are

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lovely. Some people that you look at and think, oh they’re nice; they’re horrid! Never
never judge anybody until you walk in their shoes.

What do you think the future holds for you?

Lots really. I’m doing more now than I ever did in my life.

I realise now that

whatever’s left of my life I want to help other people. And boss them around (laughs).

Tell us about the volunteering that you do because you do a lot of that I know.

Well I’ve been a volunteer at Addenbrookes for 42 years. I work with, erm, amputees
and their families. I do counselling. A very very nice story- I met this gentleman
eighteen years ago. I was asked to help him. He had his own accountancy firm.
And he contracted meningitis very very severe, they’d amputated his legs and his
arms. His wife had left him, took the children, er, took all his money. He signed
things he didn’t know he was signing so he lost everything. And when I was asked to
meet him he was just laying in a bed. It was just like basically a torso, his arms, legs
had gone. And he wanted to die. And he was the most lovely person and I said to
him, “You’re not going to die because I won’t let you.” He said, “You don’t have
control, you’re not God.” I said, “I do have control. I know I’m not God,” I said, “But
I’m a pest.” I said, “And I’ll come in every single day and make you eat. And you will
eat. I said, “Because you will want to eat to get rid of me. (Laughs.) And guess what
he’s still here eighteen years later.

That’s amazing.

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And he’s, he’s got his own flat. I sent him up, we got something going, he designs
things for disabled people. And Peter Jones from the Dragon’s Den markets it all.
He’s a millionaire now five times over.

Really?

Yeah.

Oh he’s a lovely man.

He moans, he won’t let anybody else touch his

stumps, only me. So I go round with my magic ointments and I heal all sores on his
stumps and look after him.

That’s amazing.

He’s a lovely person, he is. Then I met another gentleman who though he could get
away. He lay in a bed, he thought, he was a diabetic through his own stupidity, he’d
made his self, he should be certain, he was 23, amputated his leg, he just lay there
feeling sorry for his self. I said to him I’m not having this, I don’t allow pity, I said I’ll
pack your bag now and we’ll take you home because obviously you want to die but I
don’t really want you dying in this hospital because you’re wasting national health
money. So I said I’ll take you home to your house and you can die in your own
house. I said because it’s not fair on these nurses. I said and I pay my dues and I’m
not having someone like you being pathetic. I said you’re sixty-five years old, you’ve
had a damn good life with two legs, you could have a good life now if you stopped
feeling sorry for yourself. Guess what he’s wonderful now. He’s eating normally,

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he’s got his diabetes under control, erm, he’s going out and about, I’ve managed to
get him a nice scooter – should be 900 quid and I got it for 300 pound for him.

Really?

Yeah it was brand new, the person had only used it a year. Someone I knew in
Kettering. He was my ex-boyfriend. So I rang him and I, because his wife’s disabled,
and he sold it to this gentleman. And he said how did you know Barbara? So he
said, because I was going to marry her, but the biggest mistake I made was letting
her go. He said well you can’t have her back because we’ve got her now. So, you
know, you can always turn things around, negatives can be positives, they can. We
all go in our house, Michelle, we shut the door and we get really fed up and angry
because we think life is horrible and it is because you always see other people
having a wonderful life but is it wonderful? You don’t know the truth do you? None of
us do. So never ever let anything get you, always get it, first. And that’s why I do
the, the volun- the counselling at Addenbrookes. Because I can make a difference.
I’m only one person but I can make a difference and we all can make a difference to
anybody’s life. We can all make a difference. Because if we don’t then the world’s
got no hope. It’s not about colour, orange, pink, green or black. We’re people, we’re
flesh and blood. And so we have to look at that aspect. And I counsel all colours.
Well not orange and green you know. But I do counselling. And I work for Papworth
Trust because I believe in what they’re trying to do. I work for Cambridgeshire
Alliance because I believe in what they’re trying to do.

They’re a smaller

organisation so they can have a bigger – I know this sounds mad, if you’re a smaller
organisation you can have a bigger input. The bigger you are you lose the plot.

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Because you’ve got too many cogs in the wheel and people don’t trust you as much.
If you’re smaller it’s that personal touch, it is. And then I work for Peterborough
museum.

And then I’m in the choir at Hertford Church, I sing at weddings, on

requests. Well I can’t at the moment. (Laughs)

I was going to ask you if you could sing for the…(laughs).

Oh no. No no no. I was asked tomorrow to sing at a friend’s wedding down there but
I can’t because, you know, it’ll go. It will go. Just like that. Because I believe in
spiritual healing. Because you can heal the body spiritually, without drugs and that.
So I go to a friend of mine who’s a spiritual healer. And I help her because she’s, her
husband’s got polio, she’s had a hip and a knee replacement and then she gives me
spiritual healing.

How did you, erm, how did you get into spiritualism?

I was, I became a spiritualist just when I was 18. And, erm, my stepfather was a
spiritualist and my step grandfather, he set up the church at Kettering, he was a
founder member, they started it off in a little house at 19 Laburnum Crescent in
Kettering, raised the funds and built the church. Fantastic church. Because healing
is blue, red brings the spirits through.

What do you mean by healing is blue?

If you wear blue it heals you.

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Really?

Yeah. And if you put purple, in your mind if you wrap yourself in a purple cloak it
protects you from evil, purple protects. So you look at people’s auras and you can
see their auras.

What attracted you towards spiritualism? What is it that you found there?

Well because I can, I understand what the dead is telling me. When I’ve been in
hospitals I, they, all the dead that have died in there tell me things and I can tell
somebody, I can give people a reading. I don’t remember what the spirit tell me but
obviously the people listening and they ring me up and they go that was all correct. I
say well I can’t remember what I told you because the spirit world will tell me, and
others, but I don’t charge. People that charge are charlatans. Because if you’ve got
a gift you should never charge because why would it be given to you.

No I agree with that.

It’s to help. And how you know you’ve got healing powers the centre of your hand is
warm. So when you put your hand on somebody the heat from the centre of your
hand heals the body. It does, you can heal and you can draw the pain out of people.
And that’s why I do the counselling, because I can watch people, and I study people.
And I can look at people and I know exactly what they’re thinking. So it’s quite
interesting really. But I do like spiritualism I do, it’s very interesting.

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If we go back a little bit, when we left the previous interview, you were living on
the RAF base working in the NAAFI.

Where did you go after that? What

happened after that?

Well I, erm, had my daughter. My daughter was born in, erm, ’77 you know I worked
up until then and, erm, she was born. I was married four and a half years before I
decided to have any children. Because why I decided I didn’t want any was in case
they were born deformed. So I went to two genetic councils, I went to RAF Ely,
independently, and I went to Addenbrookes, and the both told me the exact same
thing – that my deformity was, erm, due to my mother trying to abort me. But I never
told my mother ever, because I would never hurt her, she’s dead now, but I would
never hurt her. Because she did it because she was pregnant and the 1950s, she
was Jewish, my father was Irish, they were in Ireland, it was a sin. It was a criminal,
really serious, so erm, I, I realise, I know her reasons and, you know. I don’t hold any
malice against her. Absolutely. Because he who walks away lives to fight another
day. If you actually hold hate against people it destroys you. Never look back in
anger, look forward in hope. Because anger will only destroy you. The past is gone,
you can’t change it. But you can change the future because we’re in control of that.
As a person we’re in control. Well except for the cat: she’s in control of everything in
my house.

Justin was telling me that you used to be a beauty queen? Do you want to tell us
about that?

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Yeah I was carnival queen, well I wasn’t actually carnival queen straight away, I was
carnival queen’s attendant. That was in third place which I wasn’t really happy about
because they told me I couldn’t be carnival queen because of my disability.

Really.

Well there was no discriminations in the 70s, early 70s, so I rode in the carnival, I
waved to everybody, made sure Sir Geoffrey de Freitas the MP for Kettering knew
who I was. I had long red hair, and a yellow dress on and that and yellow flowers in
my hair, long. And I made sure that he knew, and everyone was getting on the float
to kiss me because where I worked they all knew me. And so when we got to the
carnival convention you had to have dinner with the mayor so I took my crown off
and I said, “I’m sorry I’m not going to do that. Here’s your crown back, find some
other fool to do it that’s not disabled.” I said, “Because there’s no way I will be treated
or spoken to like this. My disability’s mine, it’s none of your business.” So, erm, I
said, “It’s my beauty you want not my disability.” So erm they were not happy, my
mother was furious, my mother was furious because she said I was rude. So I made
an appointment to talk to carnival committee and the next year I was carnival queen.
So you should never let anybody ever put you down or discriminate against you
ever. You can tell them in a nice way but be firm and fair.

How did you learn to drive?

Got in a car (laughs.) No I always wanted to learn to drive and, erm, I passed my test
second time 34 years ago. I thought, I got the same examiner twice, I used to go with

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British School of Motoring, I saved up and, er, I thought well I want to learn to drive,
its one thing I really want to do. I was really frightened, you know, I went with British
School of Motoring because I could only drive an automatic but they were very good,
very good indeed. And the second time I took my test they changed the car the day
before. I was used to the Triumph Acclaim and this was a Mini Metro. But I thought
oh no different car and I had the same examiner and he had smelly feet (laughs) and
it was awful. Anyway he did the emergency stop, you can’t do a hill start in an
automatic as you know.

No I didn’t know that.

No you can’t do a hill start. And we were doing the three-point-turn in the road and
the cyclist fell off in front of me. In the road. I didn’t hit it, it fell off the bike. So I
turned the engine off and I took my keys with me and I went over to him to see if he
was alright and I picked him up and I looked and I thought Oh I’ve failed my test, I
bet I have. Anyway I got back in the car and drove back to the test centre and he
said you’ve passed. He said well done. So I was going to give him a kiss but his feet
smelt too bad. Yeah, so the trouble is there’s nothing you can’t do, you should
always have a go. I can dance, I can foxtrot, I can jive, I can jitterbug.

I know what a few of them are (laughs).

Except the only problem I have is I go to the masonic dos with my ex-boss and that,
you know, and I wear ball gowns, you know, and the trouble is he treads on my foot
and I nearly walk out of my leg. So I could be legless without having a drink (laughs).

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But it, it’s all about wanting to do something and going ahead and doing it. And
giving plenty of eye-contact, never look down when you’re talking to anybody
because it makes them, you, think that you’re frightened of them. Always look at
them straight and keep them in eye-contact. Because then they will listen to you. If
you look down they won’t listen to you. It’s hard though isn’t it?

What keeping eye contact?

No, keeping it with people with disabilities because they don’t have these people
skills because some of the parents don’t talk to…where I work as a volunteer in
Huntingdon a lot of them are in, erm, in the flats there. They can’t sew because they
haven’t got, they’ve got lame arms and that. So they bring all their sewing in and I
do all their sewing for them because I used to be a dressmaker. Qualified as a
dressmaker. I taught my sister to dressmake and knit and to crochet, and she
became better than me. How dare she. So because you've got your fingers missing
doesn’t mean you can’t do anything because u can sew, I can knit, I can crochet.

You can cook?

Yeah, yeah because I did four and a half years cooking in the evenings with people
in Saxongate with disabilities. We used to do the cooking with them. Because we
were allowed a budget for that, like 25 pounds, you could just buy the items for that
and they sort of had a meal and a pudding for that. And they used to cook and then
sit and eat it so they learnt people skills to talk to each other. And it took two years to
get them to integrate and talk to each other. But they did in the end and they were all

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helping each other and interacting. See if you put a group of people together to start
with its hard. Then I show people how to work the air-conditioning where I work.
They sit in the office sweating, they don’t know how to work it. But, if, whatever you
do, and you see somebody doing something and you think “Aw” you go and ask
them, “Excuse me can you show me how you do that please?” and that’s the way
you learn, you learn by just asking people how things work. And saying, look, can
you show me that, and once they show you you can do it and people think oh they’re
clever, but, I’m not clever I just learn from watching people. Like I do my own oil in
my car, my windscreen wash, I used to be able to change a tyre but I can’t get the
jack under there now, because I can’t bend down since I broke my ankle. 2008 was
the last tyre I changed.

I can’t put the air in my tyres, I just don’t understand.

Yeah just put it in and the pressure gauge tells you how much.

I don’t know, it just goes over my head.

There is always something. If you - never ever act the helpless damsel, always make
sure you’re in charge. And people respect you more for it, they do. Like the museum,
I know everything to do in that museum. I know how everything works, I order all the
toilet roll, the soaps, the hand towels. But when I went there it was only just a job
walking round. And I thought no I can’t do this. Next port of call I’m taking the world
over (laughs). It would be good though to have people in government that were

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disabled. Because that way the government would understand. I think they should
have MPs that have got disabilities, I do.

I completely agree with that.

Mental health issues, any disability. That should be in government. Just because
you’ve got a disability it doesn’t mean you’re stupid. A lot of people with disabilities
work a lot harder because they have to work harder to be approved. And to be
accepted in society. And as a society that’s what we’ve got to do, we have to work
together to make this possible. It’s too late for me. Because I’m too old and
knackered (laughs).

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