Apart from my face and the other scars dotted around my body I have no real physical reminders of my accident – at least none that impair me. Except for my left hand.
As those of you who have read previous blogs will know, my left hand was burned, to the extent that the fingers were crooked and the flesh between them webbed, giving the hand a strange appearance. I remember the special cutlery created for me because I could not hold a knife and fork. In fact, until I was 13 and my fingers were finally separated so that I could finally hold the fingers today in prayer-like fashion, I used to scoop food into my mouth.
There are several outstanding problems with my left hand. I have little sensation there, which means, for example, that if I hold the hand to a surface I can hardly feel anything. Very annoying. Also, it is not anywhere as strong as my right hand, meaning trying to grip everything from a hurley to a guitar feels exceedingly awkward. There’s no chance of me ever playing golf because if I swing the club my left hand gives way. A nuisance.
Trying to hold a cup of coffee can be tricky. At times the left hand can give an involuntary jerk, spilling the contents of that cup. And I can sometimes grab a door with my left hand, forgetting that it doesn’t always behave the way it’s supposed to, causing me to collide with the door!
Back in the days when teachers inflicted corporal punishment on pupils that left hand was my saviour. No, teachers didn’t take any pity on me – I was the victim just like most others in my secondary school. But whenever that leather strap came whooshing down on my hand for some misdemeanour I acted as if I was hurt, when in reality my left hand soaked up all the punishment. Sure, it looked as red as everyone else’s, but while they grimaced in pain I resumed my seat laughing silently, but pretending to be hurt.
And the teachers never copped on. Better still, I never told my classmates. At least not until I left school. Some things are best left unsaid.