Friday, 28 May 2010

Where there's a will there's a way

Yesterday, we had a visit from the solicitor who talked to us earlier this month at the MNDA meeting. She came with her trainee. It's clearly important for us to have sorted out wills and lasting powers of attorney. We were glad of her advice as she really knew her stuff. We sent her away with work to do, and we have homework of our own too. Strangely it wasn't too bad talking about the practical issues surrounding dying. We didn't feel morbid; it's just one of those things that need doing. 

In the evening Jane went off to a church girlies' evening - a Pamper party - and came back with pink nails and soft hands. I watched Location x3 and Men Behaving Badly - appropriate in a way, I suppose.

I've just finished reading the copy of Where's the Winning Post? by Phil Shirley, which Tim kindly sent me. It's the biography of Mikie Heaton-Ellis, who had the familial form of Motor Neurone Disease. This morning I wrote a review for Amazon about it. It's long out of print, but still worth reading. Heaton-Ellis was a promising young jump jockey and eventer. In fact he was an incredibly gifted horseman. And then, at Huntingdon, he had a fall, a galloping horse trod on his spine, and he couldn't move. "To be a rising star in your field of sport and then to suffer an injury that leaves you paralysed and wheelchair-bound would be enough to make all but the toughest give up, but then to contract the terminal condition of Motor Neurone Disease a few years later would be the last straw for even the toughest. However Mikie Heaton-Ellis proved the exception, and, more than just hanging on, proved that with faith you don't have to quit and you can still fulfil ambitions and live a full life in the face of all the odds." 

He worked with three great racing stables, learning all the time, in order fulfil his ambition to become a racing trainer - as he eventually did on the Marlborough Downs setting up the Barbury Castle Stables. But on the way he came to a life-changing faith, which didn't dampen his ambition but gave it new purpose. He didn't become a saint overnight, but in spite of the double-whammy of getting MND on top of being disabled he still kept his eyes 'fixed on Jesus'. As I said on Amazon, "This is his story written in the year before his death. It's well researched and incidentally gives insights into the world of horse-racing, with all its glamour and its danger. Most of all it's inspiring as a story of courage. Having MND myself, it's encouraged me to keep going and to seize the day. Buy it while you can!" I believe his brother, David, also died of MND last year. There's now a Heaton-Ellis Trust which runs amazing events and raises a lot of money for MND research.

I was really struck by this quote about Jonjo O'Neill, the successful jockey who had cancer and who though he says he's not religious nevertheless admits to praying: 'Whatever power allocates the tough times in life should have learned by now that there is no point in trying to break Jonjo O’Neill. He’s not the cracking kind' (Hugh McIlvanney 11/3/1990 Observer). O'Neill is quoted as saying: 'You should have some strength to spare after coming through that lot. In my own life, I feel nobody ever had a better education in how cope with the disappointments and frustrations of a trainer’s existence. Bearing grudges or feeling sorry for yourself does no one any good. You’ve got to kick into the rest of your life.' I reflected that you can either give up and quit in the face of suffering and difficulties, but that 'does no one any good' either. I heard Dame Stephanie Shirley on Desert Island Discs who came to England in the 1930s on a 'kindertrain' from Vienna and built a software company to become one of the richest women in Britain. She suffered from depression, the black dog, until she was sixty and had a profoundly autistic son who died in adulthood from a fit. She too has channeled her energies and money into charities especially to do with autism. She remarked, 'Pain allows you to grow.'


  1. Nice one, Michael. You are right about Mikies's brother. Hi sister, I beleive, is now a priest in teh diocese of Salisbury

  2. I have a feeling Shakespeare had something to say about Wills? Carol did - she found an advert that appealed to her - "Of course I've sorted out my Funeral Plan: the family will have enough to do sorting out the garage."