Blog Post

On International Women’s Day 8th March 2022. A Thank You to the women who shown their support during my two year battle with Covid 19 – #BreakTheBias

In memory of Sue, may you rest in peace. 

Acknowledgment –  Blogging is an occupation I enjoy engaging in, as an effort to appease and make sense of my thoughts. It’s a personal opinion piece based on my own experiences and observations. Any criticism within this blog is not to be taken personally, it is more a criticism of the systems the individuals sometimes have to work within.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Regular readers of my blog will know I’m keen on a dictionary definition as a starting point to help, focus my thoughts.  The idea for this blog came about at the weekend whilst I attended a hendo in the lake district with a group of amazing women, who reminded me, that women are remarkable creatures that truly need to be celebrated, what better day to do that than the 8th March International women’s day. 

Finding a definition of ‘woman’ (plural women) however has its difficulties as in recent years, dictionary definitions have been challenged, as out dated and sexist.  The current definition in the Cambridge dictionary: an adult female human being.  This blog is not a debate on what defines womanhood, for me a woman is anyone who identifies as one.   

International Women’s Day IWD (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. IWD is not country, group or organisation specific. This years campaign theme is  #BreakTheBias We are being asked to  ‘Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.’

On international women’s day I want to reflect on the strong, supportive, focused, driven, compassionate woman I have met during my long recovery from Covid 19, and the impact they have had on my well-being and journey.  

There are so many women to thank, and I hope I have remembered them all.  

I guess the place to start is at the beginning, with the two female paramedics that collected me from home and took me to A+E, it was at the very beginning of the pandemic no one really knew what they were doing, they came in wearing face masks, listened, were gentle, I felt I was safe with them, they understood it was scary having to leave my partner behind due to the pandemic rules, and stayed with me, until I was seen by someone in A+E. 

The next few months are very hazy,  but I have memories of kindness, compassion and sheer brilliantness from woman working across both hospitals I spent over a year of my life in. These are a few that stood out for me. I will use first names when appropriate and where I remember them.  

To Rachel and the Physio therapy team at the Freeman – I remember a feeling of dread, at the things you were asking me to do, I was scared, in pain and  overwhelmed, but you did it with gentle encouragement, set goals and celebrated the little wins with me. I felt your determination to get me well again. 

To Ann and her Occupational Therapy team at the Freeman – I remember lots of laughing, lots of crying, lots of hand holding. Skills of problem solving evident in every intervention, ill-equipped environments and occupations like having a warm shower were made possible with your knowledge, kindness and determination. I felt respected 

To the two speech and language therapists who, worked on my swallowing, I remember you coming back week after week to try again, your words of encouragement when I could not swallow, and those facials that were beyond your work remit but very much appreciated. I felt cared about.

To the countless nurses, nursing assistants, ward managers and domestic staff in intensive care, and on ward 6 at the Freeman.  I remember you taking the time to plait my hair, and help manage it when it started to fall out.  Accompanying me to scans, wiping my tears, holding the phone when I had no strength, so I could speak to family, taking me off the ward in my hospital bed, to see the outside and feel the fresh air on my face, writing in my ITU diary so when was well enough I could read and understand a little of what happened to me. For sharing stories, and news from the outside world, appropriately sharing parts of your lives, for the Netflix recommendations.  I felt valued 

To the psychologist who visited regularly to help me, managed dark and low thoughts at a time I wanted to give up. I felt heard.

To my consultants secretary Hannah, who always followed up on requests for information from my mum when I was to unwell to remember, for your emails and phone calls since my discharge to arrange appointments and further surgery – I felt a personal touch that is often lost within large organisations.

To Dame Jackie Daniel Chief Executive, and the other women on the broad of Directors for Newcastle hospitals NHS trust, for doing an outstanding job on leading an outstanding NHS Trust as certified by the CQC, and by my 9 month stay in the care of your trust.   I agree whole heartedly with the CQC report, some how a culture of true compassion resides throughout your staff groups, this comes from compassionate leadership that values its staff. 

My experience of James Cook University Hospital was a little different, and I have to be honest in my experiences, the culture is very different.  I remember being moved wards a lot, poor communication with family, and restrictive practices that often felt like you were not seen as an individual, just a bed occupant.  However there were many exceptions to this and thank-yous to be made.

To the Dr who ordered me a curry because she could just see I needed a pick me up. 

To the ward manager and staff nurse who took the time to listen to my concerns, and tried to resolved them. 

To the ward staff that took the time to chat, pushed me down to the chapel and came back for me later so I could get some peace from the busyness of the ward.

To the women who worked in the shop, and help move things, but also let me learn how to manoeuvre in tight spaces as I learnt to use my electric chair, and recognised the improvement over time.

To the trainee Chaplin who visited at a time I was in isolation, and shared her remarkable story, and listen and sat with me. 

To the women on the patient liaison services, who responded to my many emails and tried to resolved my concerns around restrictive practises. 

To the Occupational therapist who understood, I didn’t need dressing practise or to attend breakfast club, but a quiet space to focus on writing my blog and the presentation I gave to a conference from my hospital bed.

To the woman from liaison psychiatry who I had weekly phone calls with to make sense of traumatic thoughts and memories of my time in intensive care. 

To Jane and Fiona my union reps who worked on my behalf to ensure my rights as a worker in the NHS effected by covid 19 were recognised, and catered for.

Thank you for shining a light and demonstrating that despite a culture that for me is not patient focused, you listened, you were kind, you noticed, you cared. 

To the incredible women I shared a six bedded bay with for 3 months of my life, you amaze me with your strength, understanding, and camaraderie.  Hearing a persons story is inspiring, witnessing its development is a privilege, thank you for sharing.  We had each others back, were able to sense when space was needed. I will always treasure this very odd time in my life and use it as a tool to remember even in a woman’s most darkest, weakest moments she is strong and holds a willingness to push back and find herself again.  As I think back to this time I am reminded of a favourite quote of mine. 

“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied.”

Millicent Fawcett

Once home requiring full time care, there are many women to thank. 

To the carers that visited three times a day, of which at times I had issues with, feeling a burden, not heard and rushed.  Again there were exceptions to this. Carers that truly cared, took their time despite the absurd working conditions these women work under, showing compassion and joy in their work.  

Most carers that work in peoples homes are managed by care agencies that are privately own. Care-workers and the work they do are not valued by society, it is classed as unskilled,  but believe me, there is so much skilled involved, to do it right.  Most carers are only paid for the time they are scheduled to be in a persons home, not their entire shift and travel like those that work in a hospital or care home.  I can’t help but wonder if caring was a  male dominated profession would these work conditions be tolerated?   

To Vicky, Rosie and all the staff at Tees Nero physiotherapy, for taking me on, when others had given up, for your belief and determination that I would walk again, for the banter, belly laughs.  I would not be here upstairs in my house writing this without you all, I will forever be grateful.

To Sarah her mum and the other ladies I’ve meant during physio and hydro, for your knowing smiles, and words of encouragement. 

Finally to the amazing women I am so privileged to have in my life. 

The incredible online occupational therapy community who, sent my mum and partner messages of support when I was very ill, and when I was well enough to engage, sent me and those I shared a hospital bay with letters of encouragement and care packages. 

To Jennifer, my mother in law Colleen, Auntie Sue, Godmother Pam, Friend Jo  Who regularly called my mum when I was in intensive care, giving her the strength to carry on in which must have been the most difficult time, particularly during a world pandemic. 

To my sister in law Amy, and step mum Linda, for mucking in, and becoming part-time carers, giving my husband and mother well deserved breaks. 

To Kirstie, Kelly, Nichola, Rachael Jo and Janine for always being there for me and Anthony. For your Face-Times at a drop of a hat, just to listen to a rant.  For random gifts in the post that put a smile on my face. For the timely visits to ease the chaos , and the free Indian head massages.  But most of all for your friendship.

To the OTalk and AbleOTUK team members for your inspirational work and commitment to the profession and for the opportunitites being part of these groups of women has given me. I am beyond privileged to know and work with.

To my amazing niece Lyra, for your energy, you’re pure sassiness, and humour that motivates me to keep on going. 

To the women most of which I had never met before at what was the most enjoyable hendo weekend away, and the first time I have been anywhere without my husband or mum over night since being discharged.  What you didn’t know was the struggle it took for me to get there.  I had heard on the Monday that Sue, a lady I shared a bay with at James Cook had passed away and it shook me to the core. I didn’t want to go, I didn’t think I had the strength to be on my own, without Anthony, I didn’t want to feel a burden, that compromises had to be made for me to be there.  What I found which I should have know with it being Beccis hendo, was a group of women, that were accepting that didn’t see me and the wheelchair as an issue or a barrier, that included me in everything.  I heard stories of hard working women, holding things together during the last two years, juggling family life and work, some who had made life changing decisions.  We laughed a lot, drank a bit too much, and got covered in glitter,  Thank-you for reminding me how incredibly resourceful women are, and for your kindness, at a time I really needed it. 

To the reader- thank you for taking the time out of your day to read this, please share your thoughts and share this years theme #BreakTheBias, take a picture of yourself with your arms crossed and post it on social media.

And most finally to my Mum the woman that has always been there, always fought for me, always supported my choices, my ambitions, my dreams.  You are one incredible lady who chooses in her retirement to continue to offer her knowledge, skills and expertise to anyone who needs it.  Thank-you for teaching me how to be a woman with strength, integrity, for showing me that caring, and helping other women to succeeded is the best type of woman to be.


Blog Post

How a random survey phone call, helped me un-muddle my thoughts and conclude. – Health and Social Care Services are not patient focused and occupational therapy is compliant with this. 

Acknowledgement this blog is a personal opinion piece based on my own experiences of a life living with a Disability, from birth. My personal thoughts about the profession I work in and the almost 2 year journey I have been through in recovering from COVID-19 and the devastating affects it has had on both my body and my thinking. This is no way to criticism of any individuals who have helped me along the way it is an overall observation of the system.  I recognise that the themes and experiences talked about here do not necessary represent the thoughts and experiences of others. 

Thursday 2nd February 2022, around 10.15am, I was still in bed, working on my laptop, uploading some clothes I was selling on eBay.  My mum had not long arrived to help me get to Hydro, she was in the living room when the phone rang. 

I answered my phone, to hear a polite female voice, she began explaining the reasons for the call, a survey about television and radio – what access I had and how important it is to me.  I’m finding that I am craving conversation, maybe because I rely on others to help me leave the house, so any social interaction, feels exciting. Something I need to reflect a-little more on I think.  

So of course I said yes I’ll answer your questions, they were fairly straight forward with an emphasis on how reliant I was and how meaningful television and radio is to me and how I accessed it.  Of course I referred to watching television as a meaningful occupation. (Eyes roll she’s such a geek) 

As the survey came to an end there was a few questions about my education level, area of work and so on.   When I said I was an occupational therapist, the lady  enthusiastically said ‘oh I love occupational therapists’.  I used to work within rehabilitation and worked with lots of OT’s they are amazing.  

We chatted some more and I disclosed my journey of recovery and that I’m beginning to think about going back to work as a wheelchair user.  We finished the last few questions and as we were ending the conversation she said,  I don’t normally do this but I wonder if you have heard of my husband?  

She told me is name, it was not a name I was familiar with,  she explained he was a wheelchair-user after an accident,  but went on to become a Professor and was responsible for developing ‘The social model of disability’.  ‘Oh well of course I know the social model’ I said.  We chatted a little more and ended the conversations with pleasantry’s.

My mind was blown. A quick google later and yes it was confirmed Mike Oliver, who passed away in 2019 was married twice.  First in 1972 to Judith Hunt, (desperately trying to remember did she say Judith yes I think it was Judith)  This guardian obituary gives you an over view of Mikes life and his impact on the disability movement.

I began to wonder why don’t I know his name, the model I know well, but not the history behind it. This started a few hours of going down the internet rabbit hole,  clicking on links I found, reading and learning more.  Better than my usual internet rabbit holes, which normally consist of looking at videos of cats or ear-wax being removed. 

Mike was an activist and one we really should know about. He was very critical of the Disability discrimination act, and of many disability charities, as this article on the UK Disability History Month website explains . 

He referred to the phrase parasite people”, once used by the disabled activist Paul Hunt to describe those who furthered their own careers on the backs of the struggles of disabled people to lead ordinary lives”.

This struck me, in regards to lots of things I have been contemplating recently.   

My interaction with health and care professionals, and they’re hopes, aspirations and expectations of my recovery. 

All the thoughts about returning to work as a wheelchair user, and what that might look like. 

My reflection on the difference life before covid 19, and the limitations to an extent my hidden disabilities had on my quality of life, compared to having a very visual disability now with a compelling story of covid 19 and a long hospital admission that grabs peoples attention and in turn often their sympathy.  

Thinking about the things I hid before, the things I felt before, and a desperate feeling of wanting to be free, now and then but for very different reasons.  

My dismay and disappointment in criteria, diagnostic lead services and systems that does not see me as a whole person but as individual health issues/conditions that needed to be fixed.  That are often assessed, reviewed, treated separately.

Still this idea that I need to be cured. Rather that being asked what I want and what I’m comfortable with, with some questions about what was I like before, but not feeling like anyone actually listened. No-one taking the time to have an overview. 

Thoughts about being approached to talk about my experiences at events. Its really nice and has help give me a focus. I want people to hear this story in the hope they will learn something.  Yet when I think about going back to a profession I have invested most of my life to, I keep on being reminded of all those barriers that impacted on the delivery of an occupation focused occupational therapy service, that I wanted to, finding instead I had to please others, and ensure we were seen to be doing thing with people, rather than delivering the interventions they needed. 

Barriers very well documented,  including the miss understanding of what it is we do, a profession that claims to be patient focused, but continues to work within systems that are not, and the professions compliance with this. 

My reading about wheelchair provision legislation is a good example. As a profession we should be looking at what are the occupations our clients, wants, needs and are required to do?  but the criteria within this legislation does not take that in to account, instead it focuses on what your needs are within the environment of your own home, and this alone. Because of my existing disabilities and to save my energy I needed an electric chair.  to really have freedom outside of the house, Thankfully I’m in a privilege position to have family members who could both advise and afford to purchase one privately.   

As occupational therapists, and because of the social model of disability we know it’s the environment we are in, that as the biggest impact on individuals  managing their own needs and wants. It impacts on how we feel, and the choices we make.  Your home environment is a space you spend a lot of time in. You become skilled at managing that environment and change it to meet your needs. But it’s when you’re outside of that environment, when things are out of your control that we become dis able to do the things we want, need and are required to do.  I am including not just the physical environments here, the sensory environments we are in equally impacts, but the solution to manage this is often to create separate spaces.   

How do we firstly honour Mike and his work?

There are those that argue the social model is an outdated ideology,  this paper concludes 

‘the British social model has been an excellent basis for a political movement, but is now an inadequate grounding for a social theory. This social model was a modernist project, built on Marxist foundations. The world, and social theory, has passed it by, and we need to learn from other social movements, and from new theoretical perspectives, particularly those of post-structuralism and post- modernism. We believe that the claim that everyone is impaired, not just disabled people, is a far-reaching and important insight into human experience, with major implications for medical and social intervention in the twenty-first century.’ 

The social model of disability: an outdated ideology? The Journal Research in Social Science and DisabilityVolume 2, pp. 9-28 (2002). Authors Tom Shakespeare, Department of Sociology, University of Newcastle.Nicholas Watson, Department of Nursing Studies, University of Edinburgh. Accessed 6th February 2022. 

For me the social model has done so much and it was very right for its time, and still holds clear ideas and theory I truly believe in.  Public spaces now by law need to comply to legislation around access, which would not be the case without it, however I do acknowledge that there is still some way to go. 

The Idea that perhaps we all have strengths and barriers, made up by a number of factors.  By understanding and acknowledging our own and those around us and by promoting understanding and tolerance (if that’s the right word) of each others.  May lead to a better experience for us all . This has been explored within leadership programs I have engaged in.  Acknowledging  psychological therapies about personality traits .  Further thinking about the environment, technologies and terms we use, that may have an impact on our thoughts, and experiences.

It’s attitudes that are the next challenge.  Attitudes within society as a whole, but also within health and social care professions and settings.  Having to do something to accommodate someone else, sounds simple but in reality it is challenging for everyone.

Take simply being asked to wearing a mask in public. 

I struggle a-lot with guilt, and how my activism may come across, I often apologise for myself,  the idea of “parasite people”, sits uncomfortably with me. In away has my lived experiences and the platform I have a privilege? 

Am I furthering my own career on the backs of the struggles of disabled people? I need to make a living, I’m accustom  to a wage that enables me to live comfortably.  At times I feel I am letting too much of me be public –  I’m not sure I want to share all aspects of my life.  

Stories are what history remembers.  History shows that those who stood up, fought against something when those in power were opposed or didn’t seem to care.   We admire them, write about them, make statues of them. Yet still we continue to only listen when the fight gets real, people lose their lives, their jobs, they’re freedom. 

Has health and social care loss its focus?  The profession of nursing, became an aspirational career after Florence Nightingale understood and showed the world that cleanliness save lives, and that nursing was about keeping things clean, keeping people fed, washed, but that is now not seem as a valuable role. Instead cleaning is thought to be a low waged job, and nurses, do paper work, answer the phone, administer medication.  Are left holding the fort when all others go home.

What has happened to my own profession. It is watered down, with stereotypes of expectations.  Within mental health setting the notion that boredom needs to be tackled with entertainment, and that this the role of the Occupational Therapist.   This is not the case in a physical hospital, through-out my 13 months despite not being able to leave my own bed, no body worried about how bored I might be, I had to find ways to entertain myself,  and often at my own expense.

The profession needs to wise up, get back to its roots, review the social model and begin to implement it, whist having an understanding of its critics. 

I recently wrote a blog after the Royal College of Occupational Therapist released their new brand this included new ethics, ethics that I was intrigued by and felt held the values that I hold.  What also changed was the logo and the loss of a symbol, that again in todays modern understanding of disability rights could be argued as no longer representative. Yet the removal caused so much passion people questioned why the symbol had gone, unable to move on.

If only we were that passionate about ensuring that the profession of occupational therapy is both understood and practiced without compromise,  if only we were that passionate about fighting and talking and campaigning to our leaders. Of the power of true occupational therapy and if we could break through the constraints of still a dominative medical model we could really start to make change, Really start to see services that met the needs of the people rather than the needs of the professionals that work in it.  Of course this can not be done alone. We must make a noise, take the time to understand and engage meaningfully with those who have the power to make real changes.

Where I’m I to go next? The future is unclear, I’m open to new opportunities challenges, how that fits with managing this within the new reality, is yet to be discovered. 

Rachel Booth-Gardiner 

Blog Post

Accessible Statements Confusion? Are We Still Missing the Point?

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is an opinion piece formed from personal experience, and reading on the subject over a number of years. Its aim is to stimulate thought and respectful debate. Throughout this blog I use the term disabled/ disability, by this I mean but not exclusive too – Anyone with lived experiences of disability, learning needs/disability, mental ill health and chronic illness, whist also acknowledging that for some this term does not reflect their experiences.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

By law (Disability Discrimination Act) 1995 businesses and organisations need to make their facilities accessible, and following the 2018 Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations Accessibility regulations mean public sector organisations have a legal duty to make sure their websites and mobile applications meet accessibility requirements.  Public sector websites and mobile apps must now also be accessible and have an accessibility statement published.  

Its in business owners (however small) own interest to ensure their buildings are accessible, not just by installing an access ramp but also ensuring they comply with all the stipulations that have been drawn up under law. 

The confusion I found with the introduction of accessible statements,  was that they only apply to making the website/app space accessible. Missing the element I was looking for when visiting these sites. Information about how accessible physical spaces are with clear information available, on websites/apps.  

Often I would look up a place I wanted to visit, to see how accessible it was, to find the accessible statement only refers to the webpage, which is really important.  However the information I wanted was lacking.  I might come across ‘accessible toilet ‘available or contact us with your access needs.  By law I know what the minimum standards are but what does ‘accessible’ really mean?  

What is accessible to one person may not be to another.  Meaning the information provided is key to individuals making an informed decision about how accessible that facility is to them.

Before being a wheelchair user, the information I wanted to know was, what the furniture was like, it might sound odd to you, but comfort is important. How high are the seats and tables, could I stand independently from them without drawing attention to myself? Is there good back support? What’s the parking like? How far will I need to walk? Is there an accessible toilet because other toilets are often low and accessible ones are higher and have rails I can use to help stand up, if there is stairs how deep are they? Is there a rail on both sides to hold? Now I am using a wheelchair, an ‘accessible toilet’ meant nothing to me, I had questions,  How is it accessible?  Will it meet my needs?  Often having to email or ring for further information.  Imagine every time you wanted to leave the house having to think about every element of your day.  Will there be steps, will I be able to use the toilet,  reach what I need, have space to get round? 

There are many great apps and websites out there trying to provide and improve information about how accessible a place is, but this relies on you knowing about these apps and websites.  For me I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of information on websites and social media accounts of individual businesses and organisations, I wanted to visit.   Why should the person with the access needs do all the research? Wouldn’t it be great to lookup the information you need quickly, and without the fuss or having to make a phone call/email for more information? 

Not everywhere is going to be accessible for everyone, but by not providing clear and detailed information, you are potentially missing out on business and not being inclusive, in 2022 we all want to be inclusive right?  

I began to challenge businesses and public places about the access information that was available. Asking for pictures of their ‘Accessible toilets’, descriptions of other areas and photo’s. Challenging the lack of detail in the information I found. Also challenging some of the ableist way things were described. In March I am going away for the first time without my husband since being a wheelchair users with friends for a hen do, the place looked great, its set up for groups and has rooms with multiple beds, ideal for hen dos. The website had some access information but it wasn’t clear, a few emails later and I felt ok I can do this and I know my friends will also help if I need it.

But one statement in the email correspondence struck me right in the face. They explained that the ground floor was fully accessible to a wheelchairs user and clarified my questions about rugs and positioning of furniture. When describing the accessible bedroom which also had multiple beds, but enough turning space. It was explained there was a fully accessible bathroom and provided a picture, then went on to say it also had an other shower room which was not accessible for a carer. In all the other rooms people are expected to share the bathroom but in the accessible space there are separate bathrooms for the able and disabled?

Just think for a moment what that statement might suggest to a person with a disablilty?

I realise this is a complex topic and often there is need for spaces that are separate to meet peoples individual needs, but there is something to be said for segregation being acceptable even seen as progress when it comes to the accommodation of disability in modern times.

Please see this blog sites Accessible statement here

Blog Post

The Royal College Occupational Therapy (RCOT) – New Brand Reflection – I like it and the Phoenix needed to go.

Acknowledgment –  This blog post is a personal opinion piece of initial thoughts of observations of comments on twitter, with only google research done in effort to appease my thoughts from swimming around my head.  This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.

Earlier in the year I set myself a challenge to challenge all my initial thoughts the following hopefully demonstrates my thought process.

Twitter observations – a good buzz about new strategies, vision and brand, well done RCOT your have listen to feedback and made changes, some concern that the images are grainy when viewed on smart phone,  most see themselves represented,  apart from perhaps those from a LGBTQIA+ community, with acknowledgment that is can be hard to represent, adding useful advice around including symbols associated with the community to some of the images. There was in someway understandably a lot of disappoint in the lost of the Phoenix in logo change. 

Challenge to the Feedback.

RCOT and new CEO asked us what we wanted –  we said change.  

Having volunteered within various roles throughout my 18 years as a member, my frustration was always hitting barriers and a reluctance to modernism.  My feedback was I want you to be more open, more engaging with members looking after their needs and embracing their ideas.  I want you to be a voice to fight for rights of those we deliver a service for, and for those that work in this field.  I want to feel heard, feel involved and part of something and I want others to feel that too – this for me is most reflected in the new values with; 

‘We Elevate
We lift up and support others to be and do their best.
We are accessible and collaborative.
We are united and move forward together, even if we sometimes disagree.’ our-values

‘Even if we sometimes disagree’  or in the words of Jo Cox MP “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”

Thoughts Everyone wants change but our expectations will be based first on our experiences and our values, the skill is to put those to one side at some point during the process. A skill perhaps well practise within the occupational therapy profession?

Criticism is second nature, because nothing will be exactly how you as an individual envisioned it, that perhaps is the point of collaboration?  Change is scary, even when we want it.  The task of an organisation is to take on board what people have said, and find a balance, but at some point listening needs to turn to action, or we would always be listening and not doing.  As OT’s are we not fans of ‘doing’?

When seeing the logo ‘but I love the phoenix, it’s part of our history, it represents raising from the ashes’. 

Feelings I am upset I never said get ride of the phoenix, that’s part of my identity!    

Thoughts – Why is part of my identity what are the facts?

Action – Looked up definitions of Phoenix in a dictionary in this case Collins English Dictionary on line Collins English Dictionary. Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers  Link here

New Logo – rights to download and use as a member

In summery – with highlight words to consider.


  •  A phoenix is an imaginary bird which, according to ancient stories, burns itself to ashes every five hundred years and is then born again.
  • If you describe someone or something as a phoenix, you mean that they return again after seeming to disappear or be destroyed. [literary] Out of the ashes of the economic shambles, a phoenix of recovery can arise.
  • A legendary Arabian bird said to set fire to itself and rise anew from the ashes every 500 years
  • A person or thing of surpassing beauty or quality
  • A city in central Arizona, capital city of the state, on the Salt River
  • Egyptian Mythology a beautiful, lone bird which lives in the Arabian desert for 500 or 600 years and then sets itself on fire, rising renewed from the ashes to start another long life: a symbol of immortality
  • Word forms: Latin genitive Phoenicis a mythical bird of , and to rise from its ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or home.
  •  a person or thing of peerless beauty or excellence; paragon
  • a person or thing that has become renewed or restored after suffering calamity or apparent annihilation

Thought – I wonder is there is an ism of Phoenix? 

Action – found definition – Phoenixism in British English NOUN business

‘The process of making a business insolvent in order to evade paying debts and then setting the business up again under a new name’ Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers

Thought  – ‘But lots of health professions use the phoenix’, 

Action  Googled ‘Health symbols and Phoenix’ (see below image)

Observed – Links to websites with words like Rebirth, Beauty, Gives Health, Holistic.  

Thought  –  Is the idea of using something that is reborn for ashes a good symbol to represent health professions?  Or is this another example of the healthy/able not understanding the complexities of being ill/disabled?  

Thought – Is this Ablism?  ‘discrimination in favour of able-bodied people’  

Action – reviewing the words used in definitions of a phoenix and its association with health care, and how they could be interrupted.  

  • The Phoenix sets itself on fire – Blame? 
  • Described as imaginary – Not being believed? 
  • Returning after being destroyed, missing – disability is destroying, there are not positives. (context is important here)
  • Beauty and Quality – Valuing being perfect and getting back to before rather that content and fulfilled with what is reality now. 
  • Lone bird –  Alone
  • Renewed life, that is fresh, Restored – All words challenged in modern recovery literature. 
  • Insolvent, Evade paying debts, Setting up again under a new name – deception?

Thought Occupational Therapy for me is about working with the person to find, their beauty, their strength, their values, living their life their way, despite the complexities of ill health and disabilities.   

Conclusion the notion of the ‘phoenix’ despite my love for it, formed from a simple understanding rather that the complexities of real life –  it’s time to let go. 

However if the green had gone that would be another story!!!  


Since writing this blog it has had a lot of comments, mainly on twitter, some questioning why RCOT made the decision to move away from the Phoenix in its brand, having looked further into it I found some information on the RCOT history page

The Phoenix

Embodying the principle of regeneration, the Phoenix has been used as a badge for occupational therapists since the 1930s.

However, research showed that while the Phoenix was a symbol of pride for some RCOT members, it wasn’t fully understood or recognised by all members or external audiences. We realised that our brand needed to focus on what matters most – the positive outcomes we achieve for the people we work with.

Our brand retains this spirit of regeneration, but it’s now rooted in the challenges we help people overcome. Most importantly, it’s more accessible to people from all backgrounds and walks of life.


Feminist Themed

Let’s celebrate every women today.

The 8th of March marks international women’s day. A day that’s celebration can be traced back, 1908.

A day I have celebrated in some way for many years, often by posting on social media, meeting up with friends, and family and attending events. Last year we spent the day at Beamish with my family, we joined in a suffragette march, got questions by the police and had just the most amazing time.

This year, I’m spending it in hospital, surrounded by Women. Women that have been through it, but show the strength and determination of a thousand soldiers. Nursing staff that have worked throughout this pandemic and proved women’s worth, Physios, OTs, doctors, domestics and so many others, that work so hard to care for support, give reassurance and hope to many.

Tonight I hope to join a virtual celebration.

As I have lots of time on my hands I thought I could spend today, writing something about the women in my life that have shaped me.

Let’s start with family, of course my mother Mary, who would do anything to support her children, and their friends. Over the years she has fought for me to have a mainstream education, as people would see hemiplegia, and make so many assumptions. She became a governor at my school, and fought for so many other children to get the support they needed to succeed. She took some of my friends under her wing, that needed support, a roof over their head and guidance. She has always protected me, but also let me free to make mistakes and learn lessons.

Now she is a grandmother, she spends so much time teaching my niece, how to count, read, play, sing and be proud of who she is.

My grandmother Joyce died a few years ago now, but from her I learnt to look for the funny side, and how to care for cats.

Mine and my brothers auntie and godmothers, Sue, Carman and Pam, I learnt about my southern roots, faith and other cultures.

From my mums friends growing up, I learnt, that women can be whatever they want to be, they are intelligent, independent, free thinking women.

From my teachers I learnt so much, including the history of women’s movements that has fascinated me ever since. In particular I remember a history teacher, that liked to be addressed as Ms rather that miss or mrs. This is because unlike men, hearing your title immediately, tells you the marital status of a woman. I chose to use Ms.

The many identifying female friends I have had over the years tough me, although I was different, struggled physically and educational, I still had worth. There were some girls growing up that choice to bully and excluded me, but from them I also learn that sometimes it’s easier to disregard what you don’t understand, but it takes strength, love and support, to begin to see things differently. I’m sure many of those girls now have daughters or niece and regret how they treated others, they may have experience discrimination or loss. All I hope is they have learnt it might be harder to love, forgive and understand, but it sure feels better.

Other influences include musicians, activists, authors, politicians, actors, storytellers, new readers, historical figures.

In later years, networks of women both locally, and on social media have brought me comfort, inspiration, and validation.

The women’s suffrage movement, has always interested me, that they fought to been seen and treat as equals, that they asked for the right to vote, to own there own property, to have a career, even if they are mothers or wives.

The fact that there are still women in this world that still do not have these rights is beyond me. The fact that women in 1st world countries have to still fight to be treated and equals saddens me. The fact that some women take their education and lifestyle for granted, unaware of those that made that possible, disappoints me.

Please consider, others today and everyday. If a women hurts you, asks yourself why, don’t hate them back, ensure they understand the hurt they have coursed, forgive them and move on.

Let’s celebrate every women today!!

I hope I can have the strength to show, love, support, consideration and anything else the women in my life need.


Will we ever get to skip to the end*?

Its Wednesday 10th February 2021, I have just finished my 14 days of isolation due to a false positive Covid swob and subsequently being exposed.

It’s not been all that bad, I have done a lot of colouring in, watched all episodes of Hustle and I’m half way though Dexter. So when I get out I’m either going to con people or murder them, only people that deserve it of course, you have to follow the code or it all goes a bit wrong.

An example of one of my pictures , all can be viewed on my Instagram search @ot_rach

I’ve had daily FaceTimes with Lyra (niece) who currently loved Friends, her favourite character is Joey, and she loves to get Alexa to play the theme song and dance around in circles wiggling her bum.

Because I’m so close to home, I get regular deliveries of crisps, chocolate, drinks and even a few takeaways. Sunday Anthony brought me in a Sunday dinner from the Chairman and Bedford Street, it was delicious.

One of the nurses told me about a blog written by a Dr that works in critical care, I have spent some time reading these, they are informative and worth a read.

I also had a visit from one of the hospital, chaplains.  It was honestly one of the most interesting conversations I have had in a long while, when you met someone new for the first time you find lots to talk about.  She has lead a very interring life,  its her story to tell not mine, but the highlights include entering a nunnery at 19 and leaving as she fell in love with a priest, they married as soon as they left, he converted to church of England, she got a job as a hospital chaplain, and is in training to become a church of England priest.  We also talked about everything she missed whilst in the nunnery, basically most of the 90’s and 00’s, she didn’t know who the spice girls were.  I said mind you I doubt my mother could name them all, and when I texted her she could not.  

I was also sent a dairy that nursers kept whilst I was in ICU, which sparked the idea for this blog, It only has a few entry’s from 20th April – 2nd May.  Some from James Cook hospital and the rest at the Freeman.  It’s pretty mundane, a little upsetting but in a way comforting to.  Each day the nurse would write who they were, and what I had done that day, some days I was out of it, others, Physio’s visited  and I sat on the edge of the bed. In the last entry a nurse wrote ‘you are doing all the breathing yourself I can hear your beautiful voice’. Another nurse wrote about things that were happing in the news like the day Boris had a baby boy. I liked hearing about things I missed.  

Yesterday I went through my partners instagram,  it was nice to see him keeping well and engaging in some of he’s favourite occupations. Some of my #Otalk* friends sent him some lego to build, he appeared to do some cycling in the garage, and photos for daily exercise walks. I love his photos,  but that is he job after all. 

During my time is isolation physio and OT did come to see me, we mainly practised standing with the walking frame, sometimes this felt easy, somethings it felt like the hardest thing in the world.  Today in-order to transfer to the rehab ward so I can finely start my rehab, to learn how to walk again, get home and back to work. I was able to stand with a rota stand, so no more scrapes tiring me in to things instead I have to support myself as the stand aid in turn for me. It’s a great step forward,  I’m proud of myself.  

I’m now in a bay with 5 other women,  this a first for me,  well in the early days I was moved around wards a lot, and was in some bays then,  but I was very unwell and have little memory of this.  Other than one lady that spend the whole day on her phone,  she relay the same information over and over again ,  it was a little irritating to say the least.  All the ladies in this bay seem friendly,  two are a little confused but don’t mind that, I’m used to working with people like that,  and the lady next to me is over 100 years old.  

I’m egger to get started with some intense rehab,  so follow my twitter feed for regular updates o how’s it going.  

Hopefully by the time I write the next blog we will have skipped to the end and seen if it was all worth going through with. 

Thanks again for reading and do comment below, it nice to hear from people and have something new to look at.

*’Skip to the end’ is a song suggested by my sister in law as a title for these blog it is by my favourite band the Futureheads. 

**OTalk is a weekly twitter chat about everything occupational therapy related that myself and 6 other occupational therapist organise.


We still can’t skip to the end.

I thought it was about time I posted an update, in many ways a lot has happened since my last post in November, but in other ways nothing has happened at all. 

I can’t quite remember when but I think it was in December, I was feeling unwell, it turn out I had Kidney stones, so I had some further surgery. After a few days I felt normal again.

Christmas was difficult,  but I did get to spend it with Anthony, we opened gifts, did a zoom call with family, and went for a walk in the park over the road.  New Year’s Eve I wrote and hosted a 2020 quiz on zoom with friends and family, it was nice to see in the new year with people, even if it was virtual.  

I continued to have visits from, Anthony, mum, Dad, Linda and some times my niece Lyra,  we would meet in the chapel as we were often left alone.  I also had a visit from some good friends and their two kids, one of which I had not had the pleasure of meeting yet,  he looked so much like his dad, and was climbing up everything.  

Once the new year came in some new hope glimmered, conversations, assessments and decisions were still being made about rehab options, we had to  get NHS England and my local MP involved.  At one point there was hope I might get a placement at a private place with a swimming pool but the funding never came.  I was literally talking with Anthony about setting up a Gofund me page for this place, when the news came of a bed at a rehab ward back at James Cook University Hospital.  

Meanwhile I had been working with the physio’s, on standing and even walking with the aid of an Arjo. The video I posted of me making 50 steps went just a little bit viral on twitter.  It was hard, painful but felt good. I just wanted to do more, but the wait for someone to say yes to a rehab bed was disheartening.   

So I was on the move or was I?  A transport Ambulance  was booked for the Wednesday 27th January,  that gave me time to write out the thank-you cards, and organising getting a small token of my appreciation for all the teams involved.   It was a little emotional saying good bye to all these people that had invested in me.  

As the ambulance arrived, I was waved off with nursing staff clapping as I was  push down the ever familiar ward corridor. Coming down in the lift I reflected on all that this journey had tested me with.  Wondering what the new wards challenges would be. As we approached the ambulance I knew my wheelchair would be too wide for the ramp,  and guess what it was, so it was back to ward six whilst they came up with plan B.  I spend sometime in the dayroom until Ambulance number two arrived. This time I was put on a stretcher, it was uncomfortable, but thankfully the road trip back to Boro didn’t take to long.  I enjoyed seeing the industrial sites again. 

Middlesbrough gets a bad rep,  but it’s a good town, with great people, however I know the towns shopping centres will be struggling even more because of the current pandemic.   Note to self try more to support local business that are doing everything to try and make it though this climate. 

We arrived at the place this whole sager started, 10 months later.  One of the down falls of the transfer here is that they are not allowing visitors at all,  unlike the freeman.  However I was hoping to be busy with rehab during the day, meaning I didn’t miss those pressures visits as much.  Once on the ward I was sleeted in my bed and was introduced to the three other ladies in my bay.  I had the obligatory Covid swob, some food then settled down to watch television on my laptop, hooking up to the Wifi was easy however the only website that would play anything was ITV hub.  This was going to be challenging. 

I’m not sure what time I finally got to sleep,  but about 4.30am I was woken by Ursula my nurse, the swob had tested positive, so I had to be moved to another ward.  To say my heart sank would be an understatement.  This meant even longer in hospital, possibly going back to square one, feeling unwell and ending up in intensive care yet again.  I cried.  

The new ward had four elderly ladies in the bay,  one of which screamed anytime a person touched her,  it safe to say I got little sleep.  But I was feeling well, no symptoms what so ever.  A further swob was done.  They are fairly unpleasant, but a necessary task.  

This test came back negative, so I was moved yet again in to a side room, not back to the rehab ward has I had now been exposed to covid. The new room was small but comfortable,  however it was right next to the nursing station so at shift change it could get pretty noisy.    So thats it I’m here in isolation, waiting to go back to Rehab.  I’m board, have little to do, little options of what to watch, and can’t even get off the ward with a visitor.  2021 is shaping up to be pretty much the same as last year.  

Thanks for reading and please, pray for me or wish me luck, I’ll take anything at this point. 

PS my hair is growing back nicely.


If I could cheat, I would skip to the end, And decide if it’s worth going through with’ (skip to the end – the Futureheads*)

I’m going to attempt to reflect and explain this year most of which I am spending in hospital. I started the new year with Anthony in the Lake District as we stayed over night in a pub in Coniston. Coniston is a place I spend many childhood holidays, it was nice to be able to share this place with him.

Once we got home it was time to start my secondment within Secure services, as their lead OT, I was looking forward to the new challenge and to help imbed a new model of occupational therapy. The first three months were spent getting to grips with the many meetings that appeared in my diary, catch up with the OT staff in supervision, amalgamate the two occupational therapy teams, as well as beginning to refresh staffs understanding of how we were going to deliver OT with this setting moving forward.

Outside of work me and Anthony were busy with sending out our wedding invitations, doing table planning and all the other this you do in preparation for your wedding. We also managed a family holiday to Centre Parks, and celebrated International women’s day at Beamish.**

Then as March came to an end the nation wide pandemic Covid 19 became real, my focus was taken away from the new rehab model and more on how to support the service the patients and my staff to deliver care and hopefully some occupational therapy in a new world of lockdowns, social distancing and PPE. It was stressful to say the lest, Anthony was put on furlough so at least I had him at home full time for support.

Then on Friday 3rd of April whist at work I experienced awful heartburn, that just would not go away. After a few hours I chose to go home and Anthony picked me up as I was in too much pain to drive. The pain continued so after a while we rang 111 but could not get through so we rang an ambulance. As the paramedics, got me on board and I waved bye to Anthony little did I know that would be last time I saw him for months. A and E quickly determined I had Acute pancreatitis, they also swabbed me for Covid and it came back positive.

The next few months are a bit of a blur, I spend some time in the ICU, but was moved wards to my memory 4 times. ( Mum says it was 7 times across 4 wards). It was decided that I needed to move to a specialist hospital an hour away for treatment. I think this happened in May. I remember the Ambulance ride with a male and female paramedic there were nice and reassuring but the journey felt like forever.

One we arrived I went back in to ICU, again I have some memories of this, but its get muddled with dreams and hallucinations from the medication. When I have talked to family and staff about this time more recently. I apparently was on a ventilator on and off the longest of which was four days. I do remember feeling very weak and unable to hold my phone, I was nil by month by this point and had a feeding tube , urinary and Rectal catheters in place. 

I could hardly move, my voice was strained and difficult hear due to having tubes down my throat when unconscious. My dreams felt real and even when conscious I still believed that things like being kidnap,  and having a swimming pool on the roof of the hospital were true.  

During this time I saw the physio daily and had in put from a dietician and speech and language therapist. It was all hard work, I felt looked after but dearly missed my family and friends, I tried video and phone calling a few times but I was so weak and my voice so quite the effort was exhausting. I had countless get well cards arrive, which were pinned to my wall along with pictures of family and friends I felt very blessed and loved.

Eventually I was allowed to have my mum visit, I was very low in mood and mainly remember crying a lot and feeling helpless and even at times wished I did not wake from sleep. At this time I started to see a psychologist weekly. Shortly after Anthony and my dad were able to visit, only one visitor per day.

Once stable I was moved to another ward to await surgery for my pancreatitis. That first night on the new ward was terrifying I was in my own room right at the bottom of the ward, I wasn’t used to being alone, as I’d always had a staff member with me in ICU. I remember crying out most of the night. From here my health deteriorated and I when back and forth from the ward to ICU, the second time I also had the operation on my pancreatitis. Which left a hole and bag attached to the right side of my stomach , to catch the really smelly substance coming out.

I had countless trips for CT scans, and X-rays, taken down on my hospital bed I got to know a few of the porters well. CT scans were a little scary especially as I need pink dye injected in to me so they could have a clear view in the scan, this could only be done by a Dr and I often had a junior, who was inexperienced in this procedure, and was often more nervous then me, which did not help with my nerves, but by this point I was beyond caring and often had to tolerate long sessions as staff trying to get blood from me or to insert a line. The pain became bearable.

At some point during all of this I met and began to engage with Occupational Therapy (OT) staff. Some times joint working with the physio’s. Firstly it was lots of simple exercises to get my muscles moving again, then some sitting on the edge of the bed and out in a chair which I needed hosting for. The OT’s focused on some self care, getting me to attempt tobrush my own teeth and hair as well as wash my face.

Oh my hair, over time I was losing hair mainly at the sides, unfortunately my long hair got all knotted and staff were unable to brush it out, so it was cut off and I was practically bald.

I continued to work with the speech and language therapist (SALT), we made attempts to swallow, tea spoons of water, but I was unable to do this successfully for a long time, once a week the SALT would treat me to a facial and mask, I very much looked forward to these times. My swallow continued to be a problem, and I was unable to drink anything for months, I dreamt of drinking lemonade. I need to have an X-ray of my swallow live, however I needed to be able to tolerate sitting upright in a wheelchair for this.

Here’s where a great AHP collaboration took places, the SALT planned the time a place for the X-ray, the physio’s concentrated on building up my core strength. The OT’s located a suitable wheelchair that would fit in the X-ray machine and be wide enough for me to be comfortable, we also practiced hosting in to this chair.

Then the day finally came, my whole AHP team accompanied me down for the X-ray. As I attempted to swallow a small bit of stale cake, the SALT held back her tears, I had a perfect swallow, one of the best in Newcastle I was told. All the staff were emotional they had invested a lot of time and effort in me.

 I was able to eat and drink again the first time in over 5 months. This suddenly become terrifying, as all I could recall was the reasons why I was nil by month for so long, the fear of chocking became my constant fear. I remember crying a lots as I couldn’t face eating, I felt like I was letting people down. But slowly with help from AHPs and ward staff I became to eat small amounts and increase my confidence to eat alone.

I had a terrible time with all the tubes attached to me. The feeding tube would often come out of my nose and getting in pushed back in was horrible, then one day I suddenly had a bad taste in the back of my throat and I was unable to catch my breath, pressing my nursing bell hoping they would come quick, which they did they pull the tube out much to my relief. After some navigation with the dietician and medical staff it was agreed that I could take protein drinks and not have the tube reinserted. This was music to my ears. The rectal Cather had been removed at some point before this, and the unpleasant but necessary routine of nursing staff cleaning me began. My urinal Cather was always playing up and I needed in replacing often, one day I was in so much pain I was screaming out the Cather was removed and I leant to control my bladder again, mainly using a bed pan as waiting to be hoisted on to a commode took to long.

So let’s talk about these Physio therapists often given the nickname physio terrorists, They work you hard and it often hurts,

 Some of the equipment can also look like  torture implements, however I think they are more in to bondage. They are always strapping me in or on things. I started to use the turn table which when it first arrived looks like an electric chair. It lays you flat and your strapped in, it’s then tilled slowly to an upright position, it’s aim is for your body to get use to weight-bearing. The pain in my legs was difficult to manage I was often in tears even before being strapped in. But the physio were great at keeping me calm and we often listen to music during the

As the months went by so did some mile stones my hendo that didn’t happen, my birthday in July, again I was inundated with cards and best wishes. Then September 12th which should have been our wedding. We had made the decision to postpone a few months back but as we got closed to the date I found myself getting lower in mood, felling like I just wanted to be left alone.  Anthony made the day special he came to visit dress in a suit, brought me plastic flowers (your not allowed real ones ). For my birthday friends and family contributed to a video of well wishes, my niece stole the show at the end by singing happy birthday and telling me she loved me. Anthony’s sister had arranged a video of messages for us both to watch. They were lovely and made us laugh and cry. I will treasure these videos forever. 

I missed countless friends and family’s birthdays and feel guilty I didn’t even send a card. My niece turned 3 in October, although once I was able we FaceTimed several times a week, she had grown up so much and I missed her dearly. As I was now able to tolerate sitting in the wheelchair we organised an out door visit, with Lyra my brother and sister in law as I came down in the lift and was push towards them. Lyra beamed running towards me. She complemented my hair and said she like the shiny wheelchair. She spent the visit running up and down a little path that was filled with benches she counted them as she when. Visits always lift my sprites but this one was extra special.

The occupational therapy continued we had aims about dress in night wear and then my own clothes, to work on my fatigue, and most recently have attempted showering, with Hilarious results. It was lovely to feel really clean, something a bed bath doesn’t quite reach, both the OT’s who assisted me got almost as wet as I did. Other sessions included working on fine and gross motor skills by playing games. We also would venture off the ward in my chair to the hospital cafe. I have really enjoyed working with the OT’s there has been banter, collaboration and mutual respect. Not forgetting the dancing and singing. I was a refreshing change for the OT I received in the past.

As I post this at the beginning of November we have just gone in to the countries second lockdown, which will for me impact on visitors. However this time as least I have the strength to phone and FaceTime. I’m beginning to connect with friends and family a lot more using technology and social media, I have joined in quizzes with my friends, and joined in an OTalk***session.

I got some news this week the rehab centre that assessed me on Monday do not think I am currently suitable. So I will remind to focus on rehab here. I have build up good relationships with the nursing staff, they help me daily with a wash, getting dressed and toileting ( when I’m more independent I will miss having company whilst I use the loo). They pop in when they have time for a chat, but mainly I think they want to stroke the fake but breathing cat my mum brought in, or to try and win the marble solitaire I have.

I still have a way to go, before I get home and them back to work and normality, whatever that is these days.

Thank you for reading.

*’Skip to the end’ is a song suggested by my sister in law as a title for this blog it is by my favourite band the Futureheads. 

Beamish.** is a world famous open air museum, telling the story of life in North East England during the 1820s, 1900s, 1940s and 1950s.

***OTalk is a weekly twitter chat about everything occupational therapy related that myself and 6 other occupational therapist organise.

Feminist Themed

Our Feminist Catholic Wedding – We are doing it our way. – Save the Date Blog

Today (12th September 2019) is a year until, we take our wedding vows, and also a year since we made rings and officially became engaged. Today we have chosen to send out our “save the dates” that included a link to this blog.


Planning our wedding so far has been more challenging than we expected and if we are honest we worry about others expectations and visions for our day, one thing we have in common is worrying about letting people down, and what others think, the last thing we want to do is make anyone feel left out, or unwelcome.

From our own experiences and from our research planning a wedding can be a stressful time, it’s easy to get caught up and believe you need all the extras, that the wedding fair’s push on you, but that’s not what makes a wedding for us. In the early planning stages the advice we got was – ‘it’s your wedding do it your way,’ and that’s what we intend to do, it might not be the most traditional, but it will certainly represent who we are as individuals and a couple.

Rachel is an intersectional feminist and Anthony a practising Catholic, so our day aims to combine these both.

How do you have a Catholic feminist wedding you might ask?  Well, this blog aims to answer that question, and in turn hopefully help you understand some of our thinking and decision making.

As a feminist, it was important to understand where traditions of marriage come from, and to ensure we did not carry out a tradition that upholds the idea of oppression or ownership, but also ensuring we respect the Catholic faith.

For those unfamiliar with the Catholic faith marriage is thought of as an equal partnership,  the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and nurturing of offspring; the second purpose is the mutual help of spouses, and the third is the remedy for concupiscence.

The Venue Choice

We have chosen to marry in Anthonys family’s parish Church in Blackhill, something very important to him, as many generations of his family have married there, followed by a celebration in Middlesbrough later that day.

The Marriage Course

To marry in a catholic church, you are required to complete a marriage course, although we joked about it in the lead up, we both found the day enjoyable and informative, it mainly focused on communication.  Marriage for both of us is a life time commitment. We know at times it’s not going to be easy,  however this course gave us some advice and techniques we plan to use throughout our life together.

The Hen and Stag Parties

In researching its history , we found that the stag party can be traced back to as early as the 5th century BC.  It is believed that the ancient Spartans would hold a dinner in the groom’s honour and make toasts on his behalf to celebrate his last night as a single man.

In Ancient Greece the Hen Party can be traced to a party referred to as the Proaulia, held during the last days before the wedding. The bride and her family would make an offering to the gods and later celebrate with a feast.

The modern pre wedding party has developed in to a whole celebration often taking up a weekend,  we are encouraged to dress up and make fools of ourselves often with reference made to what some might consider lewd behaviour,  that in turn might be seen as objectification.

At first, we talked about having a joint weekend away, but the more we have talked and planned this idea has lost momentum.

Rachel is planning on a weekend away with friends. I’m not into big nights out, and the thought of dressing up, and watching a stripper fills me with dread. I would much prefer, a nice cottage or hotel with spa, a comedy show, visiting historic sites or an art gallery to see Grayson Perry’s latest exhibition.

Anthony is planing a weekend away that will involve a group activity followed by a night out.

The Rings

Getting married was a decision we made together and to celebrate this we booked a ring making workshop and made each other silver engagement rings.  It was important that we both wore engagement rings as modern symbol of love and our plans to marry, as the history of the engagement ring is surrounded in ownership of woman.

The first ring was made from grass twisted into a circle, however due to the temporary nature over time what was used evolved from other plants to rope, leather and finally metal.

In the 2nd century BC the ancient Romans gave betrothal rings instead of high-priced gifts and dowries. This was a physical representation that a woman was taken and was meant to show ownership.

We also looked in to wedding rings having a religious meaning, and found that although the exchange of rings for marriage is not mentioned within the bible, other Bible passages show jewellery being used to symbolise a special bond between people.

We plan to embrace the symbolism of a bond between us rather than a symbol of ownership and plan to attended a further workshop to make our wedding rings together.

The outfits

The white wedding dress, is a common tradition in the western world, it originated with Anne of Brittany on her marriage to Louis XII of France in 1499, But it wasn’t until 1840, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, that the white dress was made popular.

Up until the nineteen-hundreds, brides hardly ever bought a special wedding dress, opting for their best outfit instead, of any colour, both Rachels Mother and Grandmother did not wear white for their weddings.

We are at the stage of looking for wedding outfits, this is something we are going to do together, for me the colour of dress is not important, it’s more about what flatters my shape, so watch this space.

Shoes are also a concern for Rachel her disability means she has always had an issue finding shoes that support her.  Growing up wearing callipers, splints, and now specially made orthopaedic boots I have never and could never were a shoe with a heel.

I’m hoping that at the time of our wedding current treatment will have reduced the swelling in my right foot so I can wear a pair of Dr Martins the boots I lived in as a teenager,  although I want everyone to feel comfortable in what they are wearing if you own a pair of Dr Martins or have a comfortable pair of shoes we would love you to wear then in solidarity with Rachel.

The Bouquets

Interestingly this tradition of the bride carrying a bouquet was first introduced to mask the bride’s odour, Rumour has it, the scents of fragrant flowers were used to ward off evil spirits.  Traditionally, the bride also throws her bouquet. Rachel is opting for a non-flower-based bouquet, and she’s not going to throw it.  We have commissioned a bouquet made of paper and feathers, something we can keep and treasure.  Rachel promises to shower, and use deodorant and perfume on the day so hopefully won’t smell that bad.

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue.

Meant to bring a bride good luck, this poem originated from England during the Victorian Era. This wedding tradition, is full of well-wishes and embraces the past, present and future success of the newly married couple.

The old signifies the bride’s past, her heritage and how she got to this point. The New is an optimistic look at the couple’s future ahead. The borrowed symbolises the ongoing support from family and friends. It is a blessing for marital bliss and a pledge that you will have support when needed. The blue has been around since ancient Roman times, blue was worn to symbolise loyalty, fidelity, purity and love.

The more we have learnt, about this tradition the more we like it, but we have agreed that it’s not just the bride, and plan to uphold this tradition between us.

Not seeing each other before the wedding.

This tradition dates back to the days of arranged marriages, when marriage was more of a business arrangement than something done for love.  This is not a tradition we want to honour. We are planning a relaxing spa day the day before our wedding at will be stay in a hotel together in Durham the night before.

The Bridal Party

In the book of genesis (29:24, 46:18) Jacob, and his two wives Leah and Rachel, literally came with their own maids, a possible origin of bridesmaids. These women were handmaidens (servants or slaves) instead of social peers.

Some sources state that, in ancient times, originally the bride and all the bridesmaids wore exactly the same dress and veiled their faces heavily, for the purpose of confusing jealous suitors and evil spirits.

The tradition of the “best man” is thought to have originated with the Germanic Goths of the 16th century. He was the “best man” for, specifically, the job of stealing the bride from her family, and he was probably the best swordsman. 

Given some of this history which again is drowning in women not being seen as an equal to men.

Anthony has chosen to have his sister Hailey as his best person, although we are unsure of her swordsman skills.

Rachel has chosen not to have bridesmaids, we would however like to invite our friends children to get involved and if any would like to be flower people / aisle escorts they are more than welcome, to walk down the aisle, wearing anything they feel comfortable in. 

We also plan to have somethings to entertain children at the back of the church so please feel free to use this during the service, children should be children and noise is fine with us.

Being given away

While it is considered normal for the bride to be given away by the father, Catholics believe that the bride and groom give themselves to each other as equal partners. This means that the bride and groom should walk in together or be escorted by both their parents. While you hardly ever see this, it is what is recommended according to the Sacrament of Marriage teachings.

The tradition which dates back to the days when marriage was more of a business arrangement. Brides would quite literally be handed over to “a new owner, usually in exchange for money or dowry.

Rachel does not want to follow this tradition  it’s so important (just as her Mum did) that she walks down the aisle as the independent woman she is, and that no mention of being given away is referred to.  Anthony wants to wait at the foot of the alter to meet her as he wants the surprise of seeing her coming down the aisle. Be prepared for waterworks from either of us (especially Anthony). 

The Ceremony and Vows 

For us the most important part of the day, the part where we make a commitment to each other, in front of God our friends and family, and ask you to help and support us in our married life.

Perhaps a common misconception, the word obey does not appear in Catholic wedding vows. The word was introduced by the Church of England in 1549 when it released its first Book of Common Prayer.

We are still planning the hymns and readings, but there will be connections to our family’s history here, any suggestions would be warmly welcomed 

Confetti and being environmentally aware 

Where possible we are trying to be environmentally friendly, we would encourage people to share lifts or use the bus service we will be providing.  We ask that you do please consider the environment, and the church we are marrying in does not aloud confetti, due to the remembrance garden being located at the door of the church. Traditionally, rice was thrown at the newly married couple to encourage fertility, but it was the Victorians who first used shredded paper. Although we happy for people to bring and thrown confetti, when we arrived at the reception,  you might want to explore ideas on creating environmentally friendly versions,  like making biodegradable confetti with a hole punch and leaves. 

The Theme

We have had lots of ideas of themes, from Ghostbusters to the 1920s but the more we plan the more we go off the idea of having a single theme, but there will be elements of these themes plus others and things that represent us.

The Occupational Therapist in Rachel wants to have activities for you to engage in during the day, there will be things to entertain you on your tables and we ask that you share any photos of the day or things you are doing in the lead up to the day using our hashtag. #BoothGardinerWedding

The Cake

Most wedding rituals are to encourage fertility, and so it is with the wedding cake. The tradition began in the Roman Empire with the Romans breaking small cakes of wheat and barley over the bride’s head, the tradition was a symbol of his dominance in the marriage and over her.  

During the reign of Charles II, the three-tier cake with white icing we use today was introduced. The cake takes its shape from the spire of Saint Bride’s Church in London. The couple cuts the first piece together as a gesture of their shared future, whatever it might bring.

We have commissioned song bird bakery in Middlesbrough to make our three teared cake that Anthony has designed. 

The Party

Often the mostly costly part, we have made some compromises here, as there are some many people, we want to share the day with, we have chosen a venue for it size, convenience to places to stay and reasonable priced food.

The party will be held in Teesside Uni’s student Union, this is the University Rachel went too and holds many memories for her. (Transport will be provided for those that need it, please let us know your requirements on our wedding website which will be on your official invitation)

We are planning a Hog Roast Buffet meal with half being a traditional Hog roast & half being Parmo, to bring a bit of Middlesbrough to the event.

The Parmo is a traditional Middlesbrough dish, it consists of chicken or pork topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese topping.

(If you are not a meat eater you will be catered for again please let us know your requirements on the wedding website.) 

The speeches’

Always Rachel’s favourite part of the wedding, tradition states that the groom, father of the bride and best man give a speech.  We will both certainly be giving speeches, but as we are not having a traditional bridal party, It’s important to us that you feel part of our day, so if you would like to say something at this point just get in touch and we will fit you in.

The Name Change

Rachel could write forever on this subject but we feel this blog is already to long,  however this article perfectly explains her thinking when it comes to changing her surname.

The choice to take your husband’s name or keep your maiden should be a choice made without judgement.

As explained in this article the history of changing surnames for women is again surrounded in the ideas of ownership, and by the end of the article the writer states ‘To abandon my surname and take that of my partner would mean abandoning me, along with all her luggage — the errors, achievements and resonances created over the years. I would become, first and foremost, my husband’s wife. And that’s not the whole of me. So when it comes to my own wedding day I will be “ambitious,” “pert” and “forward”. I will keep the name, and its luggage. And as I sign my unchanged name, I’ll think of all the women who made it possible for me to do so.’

Although I love her words in my own research of those within the suffragette movement, I found that many like Middlesbroughs first female Labour councillor Alice Schofield Coates and her sister in law Marion Coates Hansen, chose to double barrel their names upon marriage.

The idea of keeping Rachel Booth with all her errors, achievements and resonances created over 37 years is a must, but to also to acknowledge that we are making a life choice to tie ourselves together until death us do part, doing as those pioneering women did by double barrel feels right.

We have discussed this a lot, and feel we want to have the same surname so once we are married will both become Booth-Gardiner’s.   Ms and Mr Booth-Gardiner in-fact (keeping the Ms which I switch to using a few years ago)

We hope this has helped explain our thinking and we would love you to get involved, join in the spirit of the event and share any ideas this blog might have sparked. Most of all we just want everyone to feel comfortable and have fun.

Love Rachel and Anthony.

Feminist Themed, Occupational Therapy

Protest as occupation, following in the footsteps of women before me.

If you google ‘protest as an occupation,’  you will get lots of hits for protests that occupied buildings. As Occupational therapists occupation refers to everything you need to, want to or have to do, from waking up to going back to sleep again.  At this year’s Royal College of occupational therapists conference one of my favourite presentations was an occupation station about the occupation as protest.  

Having attended a protest today,  following Boris Johnson’s move to shut down Parliament, and after engaging in a conversation with a friend, it sparked and idea for this blog. 

Why do we protest? 

After a little online research,  (I know not always the best resource) I read a few interesting articles and blogs. One article about Art Markman, a Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, particularly interested me.

Art wrote, ’ I’ve been really interested over the years in motivation and trying to understand the factors that motivate people,” “Those motivations affect both people’s performance in tasks, as well as the evaluation of that performance.”

His interest in motivation led him to write several articles on the topic, drawing on other people’s research and trying to bring more psychology into the discussion.

He found that people who have an issue with something that is important to them rarely start with violent protests first. “What they normally do is work through other channels to try to resolve the issue that they’re having,” says Markman.

When this doesn’t provide a satisfactory outcome, they will next try protesting in a public, but inoffensive way. “You’ll see people holding signs or writing articles or doing things that are outside of, say, the legal system, but still within the general bounds of what we consider to be civil discourse,”

If this does not work, the next step is getting people’s attention by offending them. Markman says the psychological mechanism for offending others is to transgress their so-called “protected values.”

As I read this, it screamed occupational therapy to me, understanding what motivates people to be able to engage in the occupations they need to or want to do.  


Within the Royal College conference’s occupation as protest presentation we were asked to think about protest in its widest terms. 

The act of engaging in a protest like I did today, But also why our service users may protest against injustice, these may include the treatment services are trying to engage them in.   


Is challenging behaviour the result of motivation, to protest against something someone is not happy with?  

As occupational therapists do we explore the reasons why people do not engage,  or show behaviours that could be interpreted as protesting?  

I find a lot of meaning in the occupation of attending a protest,  it allows me to express my thoughts and feelings,  and makes me feel like I’m part of something.  All important aspects to a persons well-being.  

However the act of protesting is difficult due to my disability,  i’ve been on one rally in London, ‘ I loved every moment of it, the feeling of solidarity,  it happened to also be the day that Jeremy Corbyn was first elected as leader of the Labour Party,  so the atmosphere was electric. But moving in the crowd was difficult,  and walking the long distance was painful,  I don’t think I can do that again.  Today’s protest was more standing and listening and it was only for an hour,  Although I have had to rest for the rest of the day.  It was worth it. 

When I looked around at today’s protest I saw meny in wheelchairs, scooters or using walking sticks,  so that says something about the motivation to protest, overcoming difficulties  in order to engage in this occupation that was important for those who attended today. 

Feeling part of something,  feeling like you’re making a difference,  feeling like you’re telling the world about injustices,  it’s a very important occupation.  But how can we make the act of protest more accessible for others? 

In the 21st-century social media has become a big part in both organising,  and allowing people to engage in online discussion and protest.  But for me it doesn’t have the same feeling as being there in a crowd with others.  

What other occupations could be seen as an act of protest? We could create art,  boycott organisations that serve themselves over the needs of others.  Be more conscious, in the ethical values of the services and products we use. 

Does Protesting alone make any difference? 

It’s a place to start, a place to form ideas and learn from others. The suffragettes had the slogan,  deeds not words,  but the suffragists let by Millicent Fawcett followed her words ‘courage calls to courage everywhere and its voice cannot be denied.’

I often debate with myself whether I would’ve been a suffragist or a suffragette.   I admire all women that fought for us to have the vote,  and I’m sure they would be a shame to see what is happened to democracy today.  But I think I would’ve followed in Millicent’s footsteps.  She lead rallies and marches, always peacefully but also lobbied MPs, and policymakers.   Yet it’s the suffragettes,  their violent acts, and hunger strikes that we remember.  

Perhaps there is a place for both.  

Does protesting change minds?  

I’m unsure if I’m honest within a work context I think we still have a long way to go in understanding the act of protest, in a wider context history shows us that protests can play a part in change.  

I love reading good night stories to rebel girls to my niece Lyra who accompanied me on todays protest, one story from history that springs to mind is Rosa Parks refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus. Following her defiant act, a boycott of the bus services spread until, The US Supreme Court  a year later made segregation on public buses unconstitutional.

“People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” — Rosa Parks

With her words in my mind,  I’m given the motivation to carry on with the occupation of protesting.   



 Good night stories for rebel girls.