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Meet a Resident of The Grove

Jim Harrald

Jim Harrald

I first became a resident of The Grove almost 11 years ago but firstly, let me tell you a little bit about myself.

My Mum and Dad were real East Enders and I was born, disabled, in 1942. The commonly known name of my disability is Cerebral Palsy but in those days, it was known as something quite different.

Mum and Dad took care of me but had lots of worries. I used to stare in the air as a young baby and at first, my parents thought I was blind; luckily I could see perfectly well – I just liked to look at the sky! I had a real mop of curly hair and could, at that point walk on tip toes. In those days, my Mum believed that the curls drained the strength away from my legs and thought that by cutting off my curls, they would be stronger and enable me to walk – of course it didn’t. Over the years, I had many visits to hospitals and often had my legs in callipers which didn’t really help me.

My childhood

I went to Heathway Special School three times a week – the other days were spent in hospital with my physiotherapists. At the age of 14, I was referred to a wonderful specialist whose job was to help me to walk – and it did! My Mum also discovered a swimming club and I learned to swim. It was a wonderful feeling, as, in the water, I was free and felt just like an able bodied person. The Chairman of the swimming club took a shine to me and asked me, over everybody else, to do a demonstration. I dived in, did one length of breast stroke and, when everybody thought I would stop – I continued to swim another length. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Growing Up

I continued to live with my parents as a young man and worked in Remployers which was a disabled factory where I made cardboard boxes. Mum sadly died in 1974 and only 18 months later, so did Dad. Everybody worried about how I would cope, but, I certainly did and, in 1982, I married my first sweetheart Yvonne. Yvonne had spina bifida and people tried to stop me from marrying her due to her limited life expectancy. I ignored them and enjoyed 9 precious years with her before she passed away.

Yvonne and I originally lived in a maisonette flat with some assistance but it was tricky coping with her wheelchair. We then moved to a special disabled flat and were very happy as a married couple until she died in 1990.

But, life goes on and I started to go to a Day Centre where they had a Disabled Club. It was there that I met Joyce, my second wife. When we first met, we got on really well and, when she gave me her telephone number, I thought that she was joking. But, Joyce certainly wasn’t and we started to date.

Joyce had her own place and one evening, she said that rather than the two of us spend the night alone, I should stay the night to keep her company. You can imagine what the neighbours thought!!

One time, after I had been in hospital very poorly, Joyce and I went away to a Warners Camp with the Handicapped Association. There was one particular thing that I had to do that coming evening, so I went to a florist and bought a bouquet of flowers. That evening, the compeer asked whether Joyce was in the audience – she was and then I was given the microphone. I proposed to Joyce in front of everybody and we are still married to this day.

Joyce and I lived in North Walsham until Joyce had a stroke. Due to our ill health, I had a few respite breaks at Leonard Cheshire, The Grove. I told Joyce that if I ever had to live alone, The Grove would be my first choice. I didn’t realise that it would be so soon.

Joyce moved to Lady Villa Lodge and I became a resident of The grove in 2001. I moved in to the Grove on March 12 at 10.30am and have never looked back! I remember the old service manager telling me that I could go out when I wanted to (which I do when I visit Joyce) and that I had 2 physiotherapists called Sue and Marie who helped to get me back onto my feet. I walked, with the aid of my frame, from one end of the home to the other and Lyndsey, a carer there simply couldn’t believe her eyes. She said that it was the first time she had ever seen somebody walk unassisted.

I started to fund raise for Leonard Cheshire and continue to do so. The premises here are beautiful and the staff are so wonderful. They treat me as their friend, talk to me and are helping me to write my book about my life. It really is a wonderful place to live.

I have met Prince Charles who opened a new wing to this building and am actively involved in lots of things, especially fund raising and the design of our new minibus. Ian Reeve took me to Warnerbus and allowed me to choose which bus we should have and he has promised to take me there for a day so that I can see how wheelchair accessible minibuses are built. Ian is definitely my number 1 driver and The Grove is my number one place to live. I give it a score of 10/10 and would never want to leave. It is my home and always will be.