MASTERING HIS BODY
Christopher Nolan has cerebral palsy, yet by the age of
21 he had written two books - one of poems and the other the story
of his life, Under the Eye of the Clock, from which these
extracts are taken. He calls himself Joseph Meehan.
He had been at a special primary school, but he realised his
dream by being accepted by the local comprehensive school. The following
passage describes some of his life at school. Two boys were assigned
by the headmaster to look after him.
The boys and their new classmate set off down the corridor. Joseph
was schooling his body to stay calm, whilst the boys were negotiating
how they'd manage to curtail his arms. "We are bringing you
to the music room for singing," confided Peter... Eddie eased
the wheelchair into the room and class began. Seeming curious, cheeky-faced
Joseph moved his gaze from one student to the next, while they,
anxious not to seem afraid, quickly swerved away when his eye fell
on them. He smelt their utter fear but was anxious not to add to
their worry by getting tense and grimacing wildly as facial muscles
twisted askew in spasm.
Joseph was happier now than he could convey ... his pals talked
to him and he communicated with them. They had discovered the secret
by which to chat with their silent friend...It became completely
natural for them to relate to his eyes...his lifeline with their
world... they learnt that youthful adventures interested him just
as much as able-bodied them. So did misdemeanours beckon him as
he realized he could now bank on pals to help him make his getaway
Masking Joseph's cries of excitement and chortles of laughter by
placing their hands severely over his mouth, they helped him to
suppress his nervous reaction. By silencing him thus, they enabled
him to join them as they hid from teachers, fellow students or even
Writing was his way of expressing
his feelings. He was able to type with a rod attached to his
head and with which he hit the keys. This enabled him to do
his school work. However, this was not always easy.
As the deadline of night drew near, so his crippled body
drew out its deadliest snares... a headlocked stance over
his machine.. His mother would wheel him back into the kitchen
while his student sister Yvonne would try to ease his plight
by brewing a cup of coffee for him. But the relaxation would
be short-lived. The moment he crossed the threshold of his
study, back would come his body rigidity. However...as dawn
crept in the windows the Meehans crept up the stairs to bed
- he had mastered his body and finished his essay.
From Under the Eye of the Clock by
Christopher Nolan (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).