How stupid, says Adam Leigh, I haven't suffered at all. Well I have, says Isabel Berwick, and it's time people realised what it's like


THERE I was, leading what I thought was a relatively normal, reasonably content, middle-class existence, when my world was shaken to its foundations, my life revealed to be a farrago of delusion and self-deceit.

Forgive me. I'd always thought that being left-handed was a minor personal foible, on a par with having dodgy eyesight or liking Twiglets (both of which also apply to me), so imagine my surprise to learn that I am a member of a persecuted minority. Not only that, I am told, but as a second-class citizen I need all the help I can get.

What a load of cobblers. If left-handers are discriminated against, then I'm a Dutchman's uncle. (And that would really would put me in a minority, unless I were writing this in the Netherlands, of course.)

To compare the minimal inconveniences of living in a right-handers' world with the practical difficulties experienced in everyday life by those with physical disabilities, or the sort of discrimination meted out to racial minorities, is to take political correctness to the most absurd lengths imaginable.

The Left Lib movement would probably be stunned to learn that through years of intensive scholarship and training, I have mastered such challenging tasks as using a knife and fork, driving a car, brushing my teeth and using a telphone. Sometimes I amaze myself.

I'll happily concede that there has been the odd occasion when I have experienced problems climbing the stairs. But I suspect this was not unrelated to my consumption of alcohol, rather than a conspiracy of right-handed banister manufacturers.

Yes, there are undoubtedly ways in which the fixtures and fittings of modern buildings could be adapted to be friendlier to southpaws. But like tens of millions of fellow left-handers around the world, I have already adapted to the right-handers' versions and use them without a second thought. And besides, a revolving door is always a pain, regardless of which hand you use to push it.

Indeed, instead of whingeing about how not having my own pair of left- handed scissors led to severe childhood trauma, due to my inability to make a Blue Peter toast rack to Valerie Singleton's precise specifications, I have always preferred to celebrate my minority status.

Left-handers are said to be more accident-prone than right-handers, but I would venture that they're also more likely to be creative, eccentric and free-spirited people, whose slightly off-centre view of the world makes it a more interesting place. That's been my experience. Research tells us we're more likely to have a high IQ or to be musically gifted (Albert Einstein and Jimi Hendrix are left-handed icons) and it can be great way to flummox your tennis partner (just watch Martina Navratilova). So what if statistics tell us we die younger than the average right-hander? That means we leave a more beautiful corpse.

So please don't patronise me. I'm a Leftie - and proud of it.



IF A TEACHER shouted abuse at a child, and rapped her over the knuckles because she was dark-haired or short-sighted, there'd be a national outcry. But it was OK for teachers to call me "caggie-handed" and hit me with a ruler when I smudged my schoolwork. (My left hand followed my writing across the page, blurring everything in its path.) No one stuck up for my right to be different in a class of 25 "normal" kids, so I welcome any moves to protect those of us who happen to write with our left hands.

Being left-handed blighted my primary school years. And this wasn't the Fifties - I am 32. Maybe I sound bitter. But how would you feel to be eight years old and made to spend every break alone, practising knitting? The teacher demonstrated right-handed knitting only to the dexterous class and, amazingly, I didn't catch on. As I was also hopeless at reciting multiplication tables, Miss F decided to combine both problems with a knitting-cum-maths test. I felt sick every day.

The maths got better (I am now personal finance editor of this newspaper) but the knitting, handiwork (I couldn't cut a piece of paper in a straight line with the scissors they gave me) and handwriting got worse. And all of this even before we got on to Latin, where one of the first words we learned was of course "sinister" - which means "left side".

It was all a long time ago, but the effects last forever. After being hit and shouted at enough times, I learned to hook my hand round to avoid smudging my writing. I am now one of those unfortunates who writes "upside down".

"Oh darling, that's so unattractive," moaned my mother when I was about 15. "Can't you try to lose that habit before you go to university?" She was probably feeling guilty, having seen both her daughters turn into southpaws. (We have both grown up to have fulfilling lives, despite our appalling handwriting and lack of knitting skills. Thank God for computers and M&S.)

So before you dismiss the idea of legislating to protect lefties, stop and think about how many things are hard for left-handers: not just the obvious stuff like scissors, golf clubs and potato peelers, but rulers, using ink pens (the nib won't work upside down) and even eating - I've often had other people's elbows in my face, and mine in theirs. No one is forced to provide equipment for left-handed students - perhaps schools need to be forced to. And we'd all benefit if restaurants gave us a bit more room for manoeuvre.

Minority legislation is usually ridiculed, and then gradually it passes into the common consciousness. Highlighting the twilight world of the left-handed might just make people a bit more aware of those around them. Have you ever, for example, considered that moment when you dither about which way to pass someone coming towards you? Nine out of 10 "normal" people veer to their right - headlong into an oncoming leftie, the one- in-10 who is hard-wired to move according to more sinister forces. I bump into people a lot and I get a load of abuse and muttered comments about stupidity. Now do you feel bad?