Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Walk on the Riled Side That Leads to Narrative Paralysis; Can Walk, Won't Walk?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Walk on the Riled Side That Leads to Narrative Paralysis; Can Walk, Won't Walk?

Article excerpt


BBC2 NO Christmas Crackers" read the sign I saw at an airline check-in desk the other day, followed by the conciliatory words (scrawled beneath) "it's for your own security." Despite the relaxation of the fluids ban, our airports still seem absurdly paranoid about what passengers might take on board a flight, and if you happen to look like a drugs dealer (as I do, even though I've never pushed anything harder than Lemsip), you get used to the indignity of regularly having the soles of your shoes examined for explosives.

A few months ago, security staff at Amsterdam's Schipol airport could barely contain their delight when they found (and confiscated) the tiny bullet-shaped cigar cutter I used to keep on my key-ring. When I politely pointed out to them that they were nevertheless willing to let me on board with a glass bottle of duty-free wine (which I could easily smash, then use the jagged edge to hack off the heads of the entire crew), they countered with a line of argument so compelling that I was instantly converted to their way of thinking. If the backchat continued, they told me, they would embark on a full anal search for my safety and comfort, after which I wouldn't be able to walk normally again for a fortnight.

Ironically, Schipol airport is the place that many Brits currently fly to when they dowant to walk normally again. That's because Holland has recently become the new Lourdes, offering a "miraculous" stem-cell treatment that is banned in the UK, and last night's Can Walk, Won't Walk? followed two British women with severe spinal problems as they travelled to a Rotterdam clinic, hoping to regain use of their damaged legs.

But what was truly extraordinary about this 50-minute documentary was that it began as a programme about disabled musician Mik Scarlet's attempts to walk again, and only introduced us to Judy and Sue after he had suddenly announced that he was refusing all further treatment. At which point (to use a medical analogy), the spine of the storyline was broken beyond repair, and perhaps televisual euthanasia would have been the kindest thing, because thereafter the narrative never found its feet again.

To be fair to Mik and his "I've done pretty bloody well for a spaz" attitude, he didn't regard his wheelchair as a prison, and wanted us to see the person, not the disability. But to be fairer, the biggest disability I could see was his passive-aggressive personality, and his misplaced belief that he deserved to have a lengthy documentary made about him, even though he'd never done anything more noteworthy than front an unfamous rock band (no, I don't mean infamous, I mean unfamous) in the early Nineties.

Having caught the producer's interest by commencing treatment that might allow him to walk again, he called the operation off when the project was well into production, but expected filming to continue on the grounds that "a 'Mik won't walk' story is surely more important than the 'Mik will walk' story" that had originally been commissioned. …

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