Not wanting to blow my own trumpet but I’ve always considered myself fairly proficient at walking. I never really had a problem with it apart from the odd gin-induced mishap … or in fact last week when I fell flat on my face on The Avenue in Spinningfields having taken a cheeky detour to the Ted Baker sale (karma perhaps).
Anyway I never thought that walking was an issue until I started going to the MS clinic at Hope Hospital.
On the first occasion in May 2011 I was called from the waiting room into a private side room by a lady, I think she was a nurse. She was holding a clipboard in one hand and had a stop watch hanging from around her neck. “I’m just going to do the walking test” she said. The walking test?! I had just walked into the side room with her. Presumably she had seen me. Was that not enough? How did she think I’d got to the clinic through the hospital warren, or from the car to the hospital for that matter?
It then emerged that the walking test is a timed walk of 25 metres, along the length of the clinic waiting room, whilst everyone sits there, watching, waiting for their appointments.
“But why?!” I hear you cry. Well quite frankly I don’t know. But in usual barrister style, I saw anything that involved the word ‘test’ as having a competitive element and thus being a challenge.
On the first occasion I had gone to the clinic before court. I was wearing a suit and my usual killer heels. Suddenly my competitive streak reared it’s head. If I had known I’d be doing a walking test I’d have worn more appropriate footwear, my running trainers or at least flats. I’d have warmed up or at least done some pre-walk stretches discretely in the waiting area. But as it was I was completely unprepared. And as anyone who does my job knows, this is bad news.
I asked if I could at least remove my shoes but my request was denied on the grounds of ‘health and safety’ although I was more likely to have suffered a health and safely mishap speed walking in my stilettos than I would have in my stockings alone. Either way it would have made for an interesting entry in the Accident Book.
I had to stand at one end of the waiting area, poised on the starting block, until the lady said ….. ‘go!”. I then walked as fast as one can in killer heels on a polished vinyl hospital floor whilst the lady scurried behind me, gripping the stop watch.
13.85 seconds. I asked whether I could be given a handicap allowance given my footwear. “No” I was told.
In October 2011 I went to the clinic again. It never occurred to me that they do the bloody walking test every time. After all I had proved I could walk last time and had managed it without incident in the intervening five months. I kicked myself, literally, with my stupid stiletto. Why hadn’t I worn different shoes.
14.66 seconds. An increase of almost a second. This just wouldn’t do.
So, by the third occasion in December 2011 I was ready. I attended the clinic in good time to perform some warm-up lunges in the corner. I was wearing my flat knee high boots. In the interests of retaining some glamour and dignity I had drawn the line at my running shoes given the dress I was also wearing.
I stood poised at the starting line taking deep slow breaths. Anyone would have thought I was in the starting blocks for the Olympic 100 metre sprint final. “Go….” the lady with the stop watch said …. and I was off down the waiting area as the other patients looked on…….
13.53 seconds. The quickest yet. A personal best. Get in!!!!
The sad thing about the walking test is that whilst everyone gets to see me doing it, I get to see them doing it too. I watched the lady, of around 40, who shuffled along the route, one of her legs clearly not behaving in the way she wanted it to. I watched the man, older perhaps in his 50’s, take what seemed like an eternity to get from on side to the other using his stick as I willed him to finish, partly to save his own blushes and partly to save mine as tears welled up in my eyes at the thought of me there in years to come, still in stilettos, still trying to speed walk, but with a stick and my personal best being measured in minutes instead of seconds ….