25th August 2015
Aphasia, do you know what it is? Grace Maxwell, Bellshill born and bred knows. Only because she has witnessed it first hand, ‘ It’s an umbrella term for the loss of speech, word finding, language comprehension, reading and writing, as a result of brain injury, most commonly, through stroke.’
Ten years ago, on a February evening, Grace’s ‘charmed life’ changed. Her life partner whom she also manages suffered a stroke with double cerebral hemorrhaging.The ensuing weeks were critical followed by months coping. Eventually years assisting in re-learning the cruelest affliction a musician could suffer – how to compose not only his music but also himself. With nothing working on his right side, Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice fame was left unable to support himself with no method of communicating with Grace other than hand squeezing and face stroking. Sassy Grace is a joy to listen to, a bag of positive energy who takes no prisoners in her search for valid post stroke life for her family. Quickly sussing out the good, the bad and the exceptional in our ever strained NHS, she praises language therapists Trudy Jenkins and Sally Ghibaldan for , ‘ giving him back meaningful life. Simple as that.‘ Elaborating further – “ As a witness to this process, I have watched an unfathomably complex work of reconstruction. Order from chaos.”
Through a maelstrom of highs and lows, Edwyn Collins and Grace Maxwell have found a way to fall then laugh then live. They demonstrate this with Ian Rankin who gets the balance right teasing out fictitious character cockney Dave, Grace’s supposed personal assistant. This was in the early days of Maxwell’s managing career when she discovered Collins would answer her calls with, ‘Grace isn’t available, this is Dave, her assistant. Well, I’m not really orfarised to make those decisions. But I’ll pass it on to the organ grinder when she gets back.’ Grace talks of these crazy years laughing, explaining the difficulties of being mother, promoter, bus driver, manager – all organized from the living room floor. Their son Will toured with them when school authorities, ‘ were more relaxed and didn’t argue with my theories about adventure and learning..’
Barrington Stoke books suits Edwyn in his quest for literacy. His return to drawing has been therapeutic: he was (in pre pop stardom ) a graphic designer for Glasgow Parks!
Witnessing them play Never Met a Girl Like You Before together was a highlight of the Edinburgh Book Festival and it was no surprise that Edwyn and Grace, who were in comical banter with author Ian Rankin throughout a spellbinding hour, received a standing ovation from the audience. And rightly so.
Edwyn’s inability to strum his guitar is no deterrent for Grace who makes a wonderful extension of his body transforming herself into a surrogate strummer and right arm for his perfectly functioning left. This remarkable duo are composing their next chapter together and there is such a sense of joy and fun connecting them to their present and future in Helmsford, Sunderland where they have relocated. This eloquent book is an extraordinary victory shedding powerful light on the best of human spirit. Barriers can be broken if you fly in the face of statistics and refuse to be a victim, aways moving forward. Just like his song Quite Like Silver, Collins is true to his words :
And when I rise , I rise up steadily.
Reviewer : Clare Crines