Harriet Walker: I've ended up living like a deposed Royal


Related Topics

My life so far in a plaster cast reminds me of Sue Townsend's brilliant The Queen and I, a superb work of comic genius in which the Royal family are booted out of Buckingham Palace to live on a council estate by the newly elected Republican party.

I read it and re-read it thousands of times when I was about 12, delighting in these feudal fish out of water. Prince Philip does not adapt well to the change, while Charles and Anne muck in and get on with it; the Queen herself ponders the irony of posting coins with her own face on into an electric meter that her pension won't stretch to three times a day.

My immobility since I broke my leg is entirely foreign to me; it makes even the most mundane things seem terrifyingly difficult and full of endless exertion and potential peril. It's akin to the turmoil experienced by Townsend's Royals: they are angry, frustrated, disbelieving and then finally, righteously, improvingly and constructively pooped by the upheaval. Apart from Philip, who takes to his bed and shouts expletives once in a while.

I've felt like doing that myself from time to time. When I wake up in the morning, faced with the momentous effort of getting out of bed and going upstairs to the sitting-room (I am living in a topsy-turvy flat at the moment), it all feels a bit much. But having tested a few days of stagnating in bed, getting more and more hungry and feeling less and less human, I have decided that five minutes' panting and sweating to get up the 10-stair flight is worth it, simply for the feeling of having rejoined civilisation at the end of it.

At the summit, I bow to the raptures of an invisible audience on the edge of their seats throughout the wobbling, staggery progress. "Will she bash her broken leg on the skirting board two stairs from the top this time?" they wonder. "Will she start crying halfway up? Will her trousers fall down?" (You'd be surprised how often this has happened – it's the gravitational effect of hopping while wearing an elasticated waistband.) When my boyfriend is around, he hauls me up the final three steps like a child carrying home an enormous cuddly toy from the fair, but when I do it on my own, it's the biggest sense of achievement since the time I put together a flat-pack chest of drawers, made scones and cycled 15 miles in one day.

My situation is, I suppose, the opposite of a deposed Royal in some ways – I have had to get used to having most things done for me, rather than becoming accustomed to fending for myself. I'm an emigré of sorts, from the life I normally inhabit. No more rushing around, no more public transport, certainly no more bars or clubs or dancing in heels. No more skinny jeans, no more showers, no more shopping. And no more stairs.

If this all sounds a little overblown, perhaps it is. I will be able to put weight on my left leg again in a month's time; this injury is not permanent, nor is it particularly serious in the great scheme of things. But I haver between this rationale and simply thinking that this is the worst thing in the world that could have happened to me. I eat crisps and cupcakes on the sofa watching daytime TV with big wibbly tears plopping on to the remote, wondering whether I will ever be normal again and thinking of all the Christmas parties my friends are going to. I promised myself I'd finally finish Spenser's "The Faerie Queene", but I haven't quite got round to it.

The overwhelming feeling, though, is one of infinite possibility: it's only when something stops working that you realise its colossal capacity for doing things that you never bothered trying.

Perhaps I'll take up running or ballet or rock-climbing. Never again will I hurl myself down the stairs to the Tube without marvelling at the fact that I can do so, or carry a tray of slopping, full mugs of tea without doing a little tap dance to celebrate my inordinate powers of equilibrium. Never will I huff again at slowcoaches and amblers – actually, yes, I will, because I'll be even more aware of the fact they are not using their legs properly.

Anyway, I'm not going to complain any more. I should luxuriate in the fact that all my cooking and laundry is done for me, that someone else will put my trousers on for me – that there is, in fact, someone willing to cook and clean and dress me.

I spend my time thinking how best I can say thank you to all these helpers when I'm back on my feet again: by cleaning their houses from top to bottom, by laundering everything they hold dear, by trussing them together in an enormous pair of jogging bottoms and giving them a big, snotty hug. I'll probably just end up inviting them round to get squiffy with me at lightning speed on the cheap, given my newly reduced tolerance to alcohol.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pricing Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Data/ MI Analyst

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...

Project Manager with some Agile experience

£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: low pay, E and non-E online, and the pointlessness of chess

John Rentoul

i Editor's Letter: There's a crackle in the Brum air

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style