I lost my balance recently. Few of us care to admit having problems with mobility until it becomes obvious. I started falling over a lot. Luckily I’m expert at falling without hurting myself (I used to do ‘pratfalls’ as my ‘party piece’ having learnt how to fall safely whilst acting at university). I soon realized that so many falls were not normal and I sought medical advice. I discovered I have a neurological disorder for which there is no treatment. So now I walk with a stick – or two. And try not to trip.

I also keep smiling – no point in being grumpy.  The other day, at a smart lunch, I caught my foot on the carpet and lunched in panic for support, taking out the easel with the table plan, which crashed to the ground entangled with me.  Peals of laughter from me concealed my confusion and embarrassment – and my bruised hip!

Friends have become understanding when I stagger like a drunkard as I walk, or wobble when trying to stand still. If tired, I totter like I used to in stiletto heels – though I can only cope with flat shoes these days. It’s a pity that it gives rise to misconceptions with strangers  – “Has she had a few too many?” or “Has she lost her marbles?”  It’s sad that people often think that because someone has a physical handicap, that there’s a mental one too!  To retaliate, I warn those I meet – “I’m very unbalanced,” I say rolling my eyes and looking daft. Some of them take a step backwards, until I laugh and they have to join in – awkwardly!

The other morning, I switched on the hanging light in the laundry area of our kitchen and heard a ping as the light bulb failed.  Later that day I asked my MLH (much loved husband) to help me change the bulb.  At his age he no longer stands on chairs, and I would be unwise to do so on my own. Because the ceiling was too tall to reach up, the solution was for me to stand on a chair, and for my husband to hold me so I didn’t fall off. This worked brilliantly, though at one point I wobbled and had to ask my MLH to hold me tighter. He duly obliged. The bulb was changed – and there was light and laughter.

A couple of weeks later, having lunch with friends, we had a discussion about the delightful way the younger generation spontaneously hug each other.  No one seems to shake hands any more or plant a modest kiss upon the cheek. The older generation often seem more polite but less effusive in their welcomes, and although young people are constantly embracing in public, this is something that older people rarely do. We are still enthusiastic about seeing friends but more reserved in our greetings. “Are we missing out?” we wondered. Do we still hug each other as much as we used to?

That evening, my MLH was thoughtful. We talked about what we were going to do the next day and with a sly smile, he turned to me and asked: “Are there any more light bulbs to change?”