TedX Revisited: Why do friends drift away in hard times? | Mark Webb | TEDxKingstonUponThames

Combining humor with heartfelt reflection, Mark’s narrative offers a compelling testament to the triumph of the human spirit in navigating life’s challenges.


For those of you who are visually impaired, um, I’m a white, middle-aged bloke. Um, I have a purple three-piece suit on, specially made for me, kind of matching purple hair, and, uh, the least interesting thing about me is my wheelchair. Um, now, as, oh, and purple is the symbol of disability, by the way. I’m not purple-reinish normally. Um. Eighty-three percent of disabled people develop their disability, arrive at disability, after they’ve been born, sometime later in life, and I’m one of those 83%. Now, thanks to, I think, I don’t know if it was nature or nurture, but a very positive attitude to life, but principally because of the amazing support of colleagues and friends and my family through life, I’ve had an amazing time, and I hope that I’ve got many more years of having bonkers adventures and brilliant times.

So, I could now easily give you a speech, a standard disabled speech, seize the day, you never know what’s around the corner, don’t pity me, all that malarkey, but actually what I’m going to do because I want you to have a takeaway, not pizza but a takeaway, um, from this speech is, um, I’m going to talk about the friends and colleagues who have helped me through life have just a wonderful time. So, that’s going to be, they haven’t drifted away and I’ve talked about, I’m talking about not being a stranger, you find when you’re disabled, and I’ll come on to it, people drift away. So, please don’t drift away. That’s going to be the message.

So, my story starts in 1992. I was living in, uh, ES, a little village east of Paris, and I was walking down the High Street, and I had just passed, uh, the mini-market on the left, and all of a sudden, I was totally overwhelmed by pins and needles right down my left-hand side, so intense that actually, in later life, I called them nails and needles, and they didn’t go away for three whole days. But given I was 23 and therefore immortal and a bloke, I totally ignored it, and as I said, it went away and I got on with life.

Now, I know it was 1992 and it’s kind of been given away in my little preempt, um, because history tells us that a theme park east of Paris also opened in 1992. Now, that’s me at the front there holding Michael, holding Mickey Mouse’s hand, the boss, um, but behind me, yeah, yeah, um. So, I had the most amazing job. I was looking after A-list celebrities and major VIPs, and when you open a theme park, uh, a Disney theme park, you get A-list celebrities. Now, Michael Jackson was a step up further. Um, now, I know he was engulfed in scandal later, but in the ’90s, there were three questions I was guaranteed to be asked. One is, “Is Bubbles the chimpanzee with him?” No. Two, “Does he sleep in an oxygen tent?” No. Three, “Has he had plastic surgery?” Bloody hell, yes. Um, now, there’s not many people who can genuinely claim that they’ve had Michael Jackson singing “It’s a Small World” in the back of the car to him, but I can genuinely claim that. I haven’t got it on tape, but that happened. It was in my car for three days.

I looked after Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, bonkers, brilliant times. Fast forward two years, my second symptom popped up, bladder issues. This, um, I didn’t describe in my visual impairment description, but on my lap is where I, we, I, we, out of my tummy, into a bag. But, um, in 1994, um, I suddenly started developing bladder issues, which generally involved a rush to the L, sometimes I didn’t make it, um, and this being France in the ’90s, they had a very strange relationship with urinating in public, and basically, I could wee anywhere. So, I visited many a lamppost, a tree, a bush, a gate, a doorway, just anywhere. And, again, I ignored it and I assumed that I was in some kind of secret sect of men who occasionally had accidents and didn’t talk about it, and I got on with life.

Two years later, still at Disney, and my third symptom, erectile dysfunction, floppy Willie. Um, now, love God that I was or Floy, at least that I was. Funnily enough, I did finally go to the GP, the doctor, and he sent me to a specialist in Paris who promptly injected directly into my Willie and induced a massive erection, so big that, uh, I confused it with my gear stick in my car and drove home sort of 1 hour east of Paris, and it stayed there, and it became agonizing, and I had to race back into Paris, careful which gear stick I was touching, and have a cannula placed into my Willie to take down the erection.

And, so, the specialist said, “Mark, this is not a problem. You can see you can have an erection. Uh, it’s just in your head, so just take these blue pills and you will be all right.” And, um, so, I got on with life, just, um, needing a blue pill when I wanted to, you know, whatever. Um, so, I didn’t put anything together. I assumed that every so often, somebody wet themselves and I had to take the blue pill when I was feeling randy.

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