Episodes

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Afterlives: Ruth And Lisette2022050620220602 (R4)Ruth and Lisette - two women consider the legacy of becoming disabled on the threshold of adulthood.

Ruth Fairclough was 17 when she sustained a paraplegic injury. After five weeks of bed-rest she found 'freedom' when she was given her wheelchair. However, her childhood dream of joining the army had to be abandoned and, over 20 years later, she looks back at the new path she deliberately forged for herself.

As a mathematician, she saw her future as a problem to be solved and set about ticking the boxes that she believed would make her life worthwhile. One thing that wasn't on Ruth's agenda pre-accident was children. Her two girls are now both older than she was when she had the accident – and seeing her older daughter now makes her weep, 'because that should have been me'.

Lisette Auton is a disabled writer, activist and spoken word artist. She describes the wasted years after she became ill when she was 21. Now, she has lived half her life with impairment and half without. Learning to accept her body more and regaining her creativity opened up the world for her again. She says that, until speaking to Ruth, she had never honestly asked herself the question of whether she would want her mobility back – but says that she is happy just the way she is.

The two women share their frustrations and how they've learned to appreciate a different kind of life - how they celebrate themselves, living without comparing themselves to others and recognising that ultimately none of us are perfect or do all the things we would like or have once planned.

The documentary features Ruth's return to playing the piano after nearly 30 years and the music that has helped Lisette navigate life after illness, in a programme with some tears and plenty of laughter.

Produced by Anna Scott-Brown

An Overtone production for BBC Radio 4

Two women, disabled on the brink of adulthood, examine their journeys since.

Two people come together to examine how their pasts have changed but not overwhelmed them.

Martin And Zeena2021113020211206 (R4)In this episode of Afterlives: Martin and Zeena, two people brought up by single dads, examine the legacy of being abandoned by their mothers.

Martin Andrews was one when his mother left after an extra-marital affair and he was brought up by his father and three sisters. He doesn’t blame his mother, who never wanted a fourth child and went on to have the career she hoped for. However, visiting at weekends was toxic and he hasn’t now seen his mother for the last 25 years: half his life.

Zeena Moolla was eight when her alcoholic mother left her father, an Indian Muslim from South Africa, to look after the three children. She says her childhood started at that moment, although the painful memories don’t go away.

At one level they both celebrate their non-conventional ‘family,’ and both of them express deep love and gratitude for their dads who were there for them. Both also speak of the need to forgive and to move on: demonstrating to the modern world that all sorts of families are healthy if they are loving.

They see their fathers as pioneers, battling in the '70s against social norms (which still persist to some degree) and identify their role to talk about the particular challenges - and surprising gifts - of being abandoned by a mother.

They discuss the disservice it does to women when they are seen as the primary nurturers, and argue strongly for equal responsibility between male and female carers.

This is a disarmingly honest and frank conversation between two people who in the end agree, that - compared to their mothers - they had ‘the good deal’: the happy memories with their dads, and a bank of experiences to help them parent their own children and negotiate their own family relationships.

Overtone Production

Produced by Anna Scott-Brown

Two people examine their journeys since their mothers left them as children, in Afterlives

Two people come together to examine how their pasts have changed but not overwhelmed them.

Martin Andrews was one when his mother left after an extra-marital affair and he was brought up by his father and three sisters. He doesnt blame his mother, who never wanted a fourth child and went on to have the career she hoped for. However, visiting at weekends was toxic and he hasnt now seen his mother for the last 25 years: half his life.

Zeena Moolla was eight when her alcoholic mother left her father, an Indian Muslim from South Africa, to look after the three children. She says her childhood started at that moment, although the painful memories dont go away.

At one level they both celebrate their non-conventional family, and both of them express deep love and gratitude for their dads who were there for them. Both also speak of the need to forgive and to move on: demonstrating to the modern world that all sorts of families are healthy if they are loving.

This is a disarmingly honest and frank conversation between two people who in the end agree, that - compared to their mothers - they had the good deal: the happy memories with their dads, and a bank of experiences to help them parent their own children and negotiate their own family relationships.