Christine Tongue: Christmas with sticks and wheels

Christine Tongue

I hope you had a good Christmas.  I had a lovely time.  Seven people squashed into our tiny house including two small boys and a septuagenarian with a taste for comfort having to make do with our ageing settee. But we all got on. No one refused food or got poisoned with my experimental stuffing. The family row was very high level  – about spirituality and capitalism. I didn’t join in.

I came down on Boxing Day to find one person reading Chomsky, the eight year-old writing his journal, the youngest counting everything (he’s five and only gets to 100), and coffee being made without me having to beg.

The little one shares hip joint problems with me.  He’s had five operations in his short life so beats me by three! He’s had miniature versions of the same equipment I have and been plastered, unable to walk, for half his life. But he, like many children, is amazingly resilient and cheerful. We have a lot to discuss.

He’s very pleased he can use his legs again. But months of physio lie ahead and the pins have to be removed from his reshaped hips – yet another operation. But he copes better than me.

“Why are you still using sticks, Christine, I’m not?” Well I’d like to know that too. Truth is, he is on an  upward journey and I’m on very flat plateau. The sticks are mine for life probably.

The kids love my sticks – my spare ones (fortunately one each) turn into guns, telescopes and jumping aids. They love my scooter too. I’m on their eyelevel for conversation and if they’re lucky they get to sound my horn.  I don’t get sympathy from them – I get pride! As in: “has your granny got wheels AND sticks? No, I thought not….”

But creating Xmas on sticks is not easy.

My kitchen is tiny. So, no space for seating and I have limited capacity for standing, all cooking prep has to be paced and planned well in advance. Shopping was mostly online. Great turkey crown from Waitrose. Stollen from Sainsburys was not available so they sent substitutes – cake and mince pies  – which we already had a mountain of, so we had to have a pre-xmas sugar binge with neighbours. Poor us….

I can’t carry heavy food, or anything really, with sticks in both hands so, like most disabled people, I have to do a lot of logistical planning. And I depend on others helping a lot.

Me and the kids invent things that could help – sticks that are multi-tools and adapt with one click in the handle into – litter pickers, trowels, secateurs, blender blades. (The kids wanted samurai swords as well!) None of it has been invented yet.

But why hasn’t it? How can we send robots to walk on the moon when no one is even producing mobility scooters with waterproof controls or solar batteries?

If I had, for example, a kitchen seat that turned into something to carry food, or a way of getting heavy pots from my oven, or tins from top shelves, my life would be easier. Just sticks that stood up by themselves when you sat down would be wonderful.

In the seventies there was a movement to use the expertise of arms producers, like Lucas Aerospace, to make socially useful products instead of things to kill people. They made improved wheelchairs and more efficient kidney dialysis machines. Why can’t that happen now?

Our local neighbourhood arms company, Instro Precision, might help. I could send two little boys who would explain it all.

Do you think they’d listen?

Christine is a founder member of disability campaign group Access Thanet


  1. Solar batteries simply wouldn’t work. The amount of power needed in real time to power a mobility scooter would mean you would need a vast solar panel to power it.

    This is also why we would never have solar powered cars or trucks.

  2. Sticks that stand up whilst you’re sitting down??
    Surely that’s the zimmerframe in the picture!!

    How on earth this drivel constantly gets published is beyond me.

    Everyone else seems to get censored except for the few!.

  3. Ah! Art, I wondered when we got round to that subject.The sound of axes being ground here is affecting my tinnitus, so can we find something more uplifting in this period of winter gloom.
    Why not say you disagree and leave it at that, or better still don’t read articles you know are going to make you dyspeptic.
    Christine is not technically minded that’s obvious but she does make a point.
    As a society we are becoming elderly.Japan has already reached that stage and China and the rest of Europe are also on trend.The USA is having an election between two elderly and choleric gentleman with an elderly angry electorate. A recent news report announced a sharp rise in centenarians, yet society it’s services act as if we are all in the 20 to 30 age group.
    Adult social care is in crisis because of a lack of planning in caring for the elderly.We have these silly culture wars where generations are pitched against each other.
    I think what Christine might be saying is that it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to invent devices that will keep people in their own homes for longer,allow them to socialise and remain in good health or at least active health, almost to the end, like Annie Nightingale,who I had no idea was in her eighties.

    • I was saying just the other day how genuinely sad it is that the art shop is closing in Broadstairs. Fact is, I LOVE some art – but I’m against talentless scroungers getting funding, and pretentious articles that actually believe the hype about Margate being regenerated and revived.

  4. Couldn’t agree more,Ms Pink.There is proper,talented art and artists,as opposed to talentless,overhyped nobodies..the Emperor’s New Clothes.

  5. For the majority of us,fortunate to be free of any physical and/or mental disability issues,an ageing society is not necessarily and excuse for a crisis in social care.
    The majority of people ,both old and young,are too lazy to control their diet and do any physical exercise,to maintain a healthy and strong body.Age is no excuse for keeping healthy and active,beyond the 50s age groups.Indeed,it is a big issue for some, in their teens and twenties,let alone post pension age groups.
    Again,I stress,I am talking about those who are physically able,but just lacking any self discipline in maintaining good health.
    The answer is to not throw even more money at those who are too feckless to maintain their physical health,but spend it promoting a healthy body.

    • If most of us are “free of any physical or mental disability”, how can “the majority of people” also be “too lazy… to maintain a healthy and strong body”?

      • Also, how does Doris know – as opposed to assume-that most of us aren’t disabled in any way and that most people “are too lazy to control their diet and do any physical exercise to maintain a healthy and strong body”? What statistics has she been looking at?

        • Are you suggesting that the majority of people are disabled,then,Marva?Most of the people shopping at WWX are disabled,are you suggesting?I can see ,with my eyes,that the majority are not disabled.Govetnment statistics state that the majority are not disabled.However,a growing name are developing health issues through lack of exercise and poor diet.Evidrntly,you disagree with this well published phenomenon.

      • Are you saying,if you are free of any physical disabilities,how can you be too lazy to look after yourself?If you are,that is a strange comment,to say the least.
        Hospitals are increasingly used by physically able people who are obese or have contracted ailments/diseases through their. lifestyles.Look at the need for ever increasing sized beds,to hold these people.Their lifestyle has led them to a term in hospital,not just the ailment they went in for.Thr lifestyle has often caused the ailment.
        Mobility issues afflict an increasing number of the physically able,because of their increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

  6. I and my children are fortunate enough not to have to use crutches or have operations to be able to walk.
    Technology is behind for these quite simple things that make a great difference people’s lives.
    Let’s see how many winge away when they are so affected – it comes to us all in the end .

  7. So art is only art, if you agree with the politics of the person presenting the art work,or their ethics accord with your own.Well,it is going to be short commons for you, because some of the most obnoxious gits that ever hoved too on our shores were brilliant artists, writers and film makers.Eric Gill was a paedophile who did the most appalling things to his children and seemed to run around like a randy goat for much of his life, but his art work was sublime.What do you do? Never look at his art or some others, like Picasso, whose morality in terms of personal relationships was based solely on self interest.
    I read a lot of history books and I disagree quite profoundly with some authors conclusions, but I would not suggest that those books are not bought or read.
    What about Banksy. Its graffiti, shall we ignore it or is it praised because it is now valuable? What you think is pretentious, may not be seen as such by others,you are not being objective, but instead are subjective and polemic, with those you disagree with.
    This was an article about how relatively little technology and innovation has been put into improving the lot of the aged, and now it is turned into a rant about fecklessness and ‘healthy bodies’. Well, I have to say none of us are saints, and the food industry promotes highly processed food, which is sold relatively cheaply. The poorest are attracted to highly processed food because it is cheap. If we want to turn things around we need to make healthy foods cheaper and even tastier and highly processed foods more expensive, but any govt doing that would not get re-elected so it is unlikely to happen.
    If we talking about who should get healthcare and who does not, I would not drive a car or ride a bike.I would not have a job which is likely to involve injury, because Doris and the health police would say it was all my fault and the tax payer should not fund it.
    Yes, we should leave the car at home, walk or cycle more, eat healthy foods and not drink alcohol much or at all.Unfortunately, whatever we do, we will not live for ever, and in our short existence, the temptation to err is normal.It is called being human.

    • Where did I mention artist’s politics or morals? I’m actually in agreement with you, those things don’t determine how good or bad someone’s art is. If it were, we wouldn’t listen to Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and just about anyone else of any musical worth from the past six decades.

  8. The article rightly asks why technology and design innovators haven’t achieved more in the development of equipment that would help those of us who need it. Seems to me to have all round benefits to society for all of us to be comfortable and independent in our own homes. Not sure why anyone would think otherwise. There’s no contradiction with also thinking we should take care of ourselves and be healthy.

  9. In answer to your question,Martha,about 24% of the population,(16 million people)has a physical disability.According to my understanding of statistics,this is a minority;76% being a majority.
    Many physically disabled people are physically active, more so than many able bodied people.

  10. My name is not Martha.

    I asked for statistics – and their provenance, which would indicate if they were trustworthy or not. I am not suggesting anything.

  11. From the Department of work and pensions. An estimated 16.0 million people in the UK had a disability in 2021/22. This represents 24% of the total population. The prevalence of disability rises with age: around 11% of children were disabled, compared with 23% of working age adults and 45% of adults over State Pension age.23 Aug 2023

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