On Tuesday I spent the day at the CUOTC (Cambridge University Officers’ Training Corps) to help out at the County Forum, the ACF (Army Cadet Force) host the event but at the premises of CUOTC. I have helped out there for the last 4 or 5 years but each year have been able to do less and less. This year, as always, I booked in the dignitaries, many of whom I know from previous years. This was the first time any of them had seen me since my amputation and I have to admit the reactions were varied. After coffee and biscuits it was time for the meeting to begin so the guests moved into the conference room. There were three other ACF staff with me, we collected all the crockery to wash up and reset it ready for after the meeting. When the caterers arrived with the buffet we set everything out ready for the dignitaries and then had time to chilled for a bit. When we got the nod the covers came off and we made sure that everyone had what they needed. I helped the adjutant clear the conference room which was a challenge in the wheelchair. I collected all the water bottles but as you can imagine I had trouble carrying them. The chairs were also a problem and I had to try and shuffle them a bit to get too, and around the table. I helped out as much as I could but it is a small room with big furniture and a lot of people so I stayed out of the way where I could.
As I mentioned earlier people’s reactions were quite varied but I have to say in the main people didn’t really talk to me very much. This was quite a surprise as there were some people there who normally make a point of chatting, I found the same thing at a Funeral I went to the other day too. I think it may be that some people just don’t know what to say to me so avoid eye contact or avoid talking to me. I can understand it though, if the shoe was on the other foot (not that it can me in my case with only one foot) would I know what to say to someone? That said I do always try and make a joke of it and try and put people at easy when I talk to them, to try and take any issues they may have away. There was one person at the forum though who blew me away. Quite a few months ago the Commandant of CUOTC, who is a Lieutenant Colonel, sent me a friend request on Facebook. I was unsure why but I followed their progress, posts and in particular their photos. I was hoping to speak to the Col. and offer my services of photography, as I’m not working at the moment, and as an amputee for Casualty Simulation if they needed one. As the Col. came down the stairs ready for the Forum he came striding over to me and said “Hi Helen how are you doing?” and shook my hand. I was totally taken back and probably looked like a stunned rabbit in the headlights. I had no idea that he would remember who I was, even more amazing was the fact he told me that he occasionally follows my progress on this blog. I thanked him very much for doing so and we chatted for short while before he had to go. He told me that his driver was an amputee which is probably just one reason why he was so comfortable talking to me, that and the fact that he is a genuinely nice person. I am sure that overtime people will just treat me normally again, I hope it’s not the chair that’s the barrier! Yet again I have seen that the people you least expect surprise you the most.