Posted on 25 Comments

The Walk of Life

Perhaps I should have called this post “the invisible people”. I have a bit of a fascination with things and people that often go unnoticed. The unnoticed have now become the invisible. With the coming of the terrible coronavirus crisis, the sight of elderly people on the street is a thing of the past. They are now “self-isolating” for anything up to 12 weeks.

My confinement is more of a challenge than the “lock-down”. My broken leg has me confined to my bedroom and the bathroom. We have too many steep stairs for me to go anywhere else. I just look out the window and take satisfaction in the quietness in the street outside. As an artist, I am used to quite a high degree of isolation. Yet, I know that this level of isolation must be incredibly hard, especially for the elderly or vulnerable if they do not have the internet or can’t work messaging apps. Even if they can, it’s still hard. People need face-to-face interactions with other people, even if it’s only buying groceries at the local shops. I know my father is missing his shopping trips.

I hate how news reports of coronavirus deaths often like to report that a certain number are elderly or “had underlying conditions” as if that somehow means those people don’t matter so much. Every single one of them matters. They are all someone’s loved ones; nan, dad or sister, son.  My husband has “an underlying condition” as do my parents, my brother-in-law and many of my friends. They are sheltering indoors, relying on the fit and young to keep the hospitals and shops up and running.

So today’s gallery of my people paintings has an added significance for me. This is a reminder of all the vanished; the people you don’t see on the streets. They are still here, at home, maybe, watching TV or listening to the radio. I hope that they are chatting away on skype or messenger or maybe like me they are just peering out their windows.

Painting of Woman with Zimmer Frame_EmmaCownie
Walk of Life (Sold)

My “The Walk of Life” painting has added significance for me. When I painted it was struck by the old lady’s determination and how tiny she was in comparison with the younger people around her.  I thought the composition captured the variety of life on Swansea, Oxford Street on a summer’s afternoon.
I never thought that I would have my own zimmer frame, but I do. I have to keep the weight off my healing left leg for another 4 weeks so it is vital for getting from my bedroom to the bathroom. It’s a fantastic bit of kit. Light and simple yet sturdy and reliable. Like the lady in the painting, mine has two wheels at the front and I will sometimes carry an object like a book in a bag from one room to another. I have tried holding stuff in my mouth but it just doesn’t work.
I am delighted that the American collector who recently bought this painting is a nurse who works with elderly ladies like this one. He will understand just how liberating a zimmer frame is to the disabled and elderly. During my stay in the hospital, I watched very elderly ladies, who had fallen, broken their hips and had them replaced,  push past pain and discomfort slowly but steadily make their way up and down the ward with the help of a frame. Once they proved their mobility they could negotiate their return back home.  I have a set of crutches but I like the frame better. So although “The Walk of Life” always was a celebration of the human spirit and determination, but I now know that the old lady is just getting on with her life. She probably doesn’t want applause or pity but she certainly might want to have a good chat.

Painting Swansea people by Emma Cownie
Soldiering On


25 thoughts on “The Walk of Life

  1. What a good observation you have made Emma and so good translated to your writing. I know how hard it is to manouvre with a walking frame. I use one in my living room. But it is far easier to handle a walker than in a wheelchair. I have to use it in the kitchen and those turning front wheels make the cabinet-doors breaking finer. And the first months those.. frontwheels came in contact with my still very painfull ankle. But indeed the covid 19 virus is more bad for everyone. Docters, nurses, the people who twice a day to care for my leg, the brothers and sisters in the ambulances, postmen an package delivery, they are all heroes in my eyes. And so is Bill Gates, seriously.
    Love from me to you Emma

  2. Ah, yes, Bill Gates. “Cometh the Hour, cometh the man” – he is not only is giving away all his money he’s doing something really useful with it.

    However, I quite agree it is the people doing “ordinary” jobs who are quite heroic.

    I cant go far with the walker as it jams into things. That’s why I am mostly going from the bedroom to bathroom, because the way is clear.

  3. I jam into things with the walker a lot. Esp if I have to open a door that opens towards me and I have to drag the thing over a doorstep. The walker is an old one, does not have a footh-thingy to make the front wheels go up.

    1. My walker wheels dont go up either. I do get annoyed when the walker doesnt quite fit through a gap I think it should do!

      1. thumbs up 🙂

  4. What a very special post…accompanied by really poignant and. beautiful paintings.
    My concern is for the older people who either don’t have a computer or know how to use one. This is where an old fashioned phone comes into play. Thank you so much for reminding us all of the invisible members of our communities.

    Well done you for getting around on your zimmer….and may you be up and running very soon.

    Stay well, and continue to make beautiful art for us all to enjoy and appreciate.. Janet 🙂

    1. Thank you, Janet. Thankfully my parents can just about use a computer (my mother better than my father), but yes there is always the phone.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear about your accident! I just read your post from March 22. What an ordeal! Thank goodness that you are recuperating. Yes, I’ve also noticed the absence of the seniors in our area, very sad as most would ask me to get an item out of reach for them at a store. Hopefully this virus crisis will be done soon. – Neek

    1. Thank you. I think lock down will need to go on quite a bit longer, the number of deaths is still rising in the UK.

      1. Yes, here also. Good to hear from you. Stay safe – Neek

  6. This is a perfect post for the times. You capture people so well. I hope your leg is healing up nicely and when the world opens up again, you will be walking fine with the rest of us.

  7. Ah, learning new terminology again, thanks to you! “zimmer frame”–over here were just call it by the unglamorous “walker” designation. If I had to use one, I’d much prefer to tell people I was using a zimmer frame!

  8. I loved looking at these pictures Emma. I am one of those isolated due to age and vulnerability, and we have everything delivered, for which we are grateful. But as you say, we do miss going to the shops
    Twenty years ago, I ruptured my Achilles tendon, and had some months on elbow crutches. You are given a glimpse of what disability is like and then you are allowed to come back to the world of the able-bodied. I remember standing at the kerb and it felt like standing on a cliff edge. An experience you can do without
    I hope your break heals rapidly and you can return to normality as soon as possible

    1. Thank you, David. You make a good point about it being a glimsp into the world of the disabled. It was also a glimsp into the world of the elderly as I shared a ward with 80 and 90 year old ladies. It turns out that people are people, whether they are old, middle aged or young. Some are nice, most were, others maybe less so, but were are all under very difficult circumstances and battling the odds to get home. People want their indepedence whether they are 50 or 90. A reptured achilles tendon sounds very painful! We are also isolated (me with a broken leg and my husband with his asthma) and have really struggled to get food delivered (things are not as well set up here) but with help from our Local Area Community person we were given useful phone numbers to ring and have now got food delivered. Although my husband calls me “a good patient” he’s also called me a “slave driver” because I wanted him to fetch my watercolour stuff from the attic. It’s the only sort of painting I can cope with logistically, although I never done much of it and I am pretty much a beginner!

  9. I had crutches to get around and hopped a lot too!
    You very attuned to the human spirit.

    1. Well, there’s nothing “walking in someone else’s shoes” (or zimmer frame) for developing empathy! Thanks,Wayne!

  10. I really love the way you paint people, especially the elderly. You can feel their wisdom gained by years of living, and their relationships with their dogs.

  11. Beautiful & moving. You captured the essence of older people in society. I can feel that when I view your paintings. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this..

  12. This is a lovely post, Emma, and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get here. I’m afraid I have been a bit inclined to think that the people who will die from this would probably have been dying sooner rather than later. As I’m in the 70+ age bracket and a bit afraid of what lies ahead in degenerative terms, you might excuse me. I’m currently reading that people will be dying from lack of the right treatment as the whole of the NHS focuses on COVID-19 too. Death/ill health is inevitable as we age. What I find really frightening and hard to live with is the younger deaths. My daughter works within the NHS and knows many vulnerable people, many of the them good friends. Your paintings are wonderful, and I love that the zimmer frame has become your friend. I hope that you recover well, but I know you won’t be idle in the meantime. Take care! 🙂 🙂

    1. I am afraid that people of all ages are getting very sick and some sadly are dying. Yes, it’s a big worry for people with other serious conditions. They didnt give me a cast but an ankle brace instead so I didn’t have to go bcak to the hospital in 2 weeks time. It’s meant that I feel very vulnerable and don’t do much more than sleep and sit in my arm chair. To be honest the healings is so tiring I don’t think I can do much more. You are right a lot of people will dies and not necessarily from Covid 19. I really hope your daughter stays well!

      1. Thanks, Emma! Take it easy. There isn’t much else you can do, but the paintings are lovely.

    1. Ah, Yes Ilistened to a podcast about this but it’s interesting to see the fakes. Thank you for the link.

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