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Bishop’s Stortford Independent Parkinality columnist Julie Walker on being her own boss of Swirl Accessories

Parkinality columnist Julie Walker, from Bishop’s Stortford, writes not about parking, but about living with Parkinson’s disease in her 50s

I have finally found a part-time job and a boss who has a working knowledge of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

So who is this boss? The boss is me. Well, I would like to think it is me. In all honesty it is usually PD.

I am locked into an unpredictable power battle as I constantly attempt to beat PD at its own game. When my brain wants to write a receipt, PD might (but might not) decide to affect my dexterity, turning my writing into a doctor’s scrawl. When I want to chat to a customer, my voice might (but might not) turn into a weak whisper.

Whatever I do, PD is constantly taunting me (unless it isn’t). Even when I am briefly tip top(ish), I worry what it will do next.

As for time off, it would be pointless completing a holiday sheet. I have to learn to accept that any attempt to give PD the slip is futile as it will follow me from my front door to the pool bar in Timbuktu.

I design and sell accessories under the name Swirl Accessories. Swirl Accessories is one of the few things I do which has nothing to do with PD. I am my own boss which means I should be able to fit work around PD. If I have a really bad day then I only have myself to ask whether I can have time off.

PD makes me incredibly unreliable and unpredictable. For example, my legs often stop moving with no warning. If I am heading out to a local chicken establishment for a team meeting with a dozen people this might inconvenience several people.

However, when the only person I have to meet is me I am sometimes understanding. I say sometimes because I have a tendency to be a tad impatient. Rather than being sensible and waiting until my medication kicks in and I can walk again, I will drag myself to my table for one, reciting a repertoire of expletives.

A lot of behind-the-scenes preparation is required when I need to do something different. For example, get up early, set up and run a market stall. I have to plan this for a few days before the event.

Parkinality columnist Julie Walker sells her Swirl Accessories range at farmers’ markets and via Facebook
Parkinality columnist Julie Walker sells her Swirl Accessories range at farmers’ markets and via Facebook

I, along with advice from my neurologist, must try to anticipate how I might need to change the timings of my medication and/or the settings on my DBS (deep brain stimulation) machine so that I am as good as possible for the duration of the market.

I am not trying to hide PD, that would be impossible, but I would love to be “normal”. To be able to fold a scarf without injuring myself would be great.

I try to run a market stall at the monthly Bishop’s Stortford Farmers’ Market on the first Saturday of the month from 9.30am to 1.30pm in North Street. I also try to have a stall at Little Hadham school on the last Saturday of the month from 9am to 11.30am. Everyone is really friendly and helpful and are quick to offer help if I look like I am struggling.

A note from the Bishop’s Stortford market organisers: “Calling all locals and visitors alike! Discover the vibrant Bishop’s Stortford Farmers’ and Crafts Market, a delightful gathering held on the first Saturday of every month. Join us for a day filled with the finest local produce, handmade crafts and community spirit.

“Are you a talented artisan or passionate producer? We’re always on the lookout for new traders to showcase their goods! Don’t miss your chance to be a part of this bustling market scene. Contact us today to reserve your spot and let your creations shine! Email market@bishopsstortfordtc.gov.uk.”

And a note from the Little Hadham Farmers’ Market: “A thriving (dog-friendly) monthly market which takes place at Little Hadham school with a large selection of artisan stalls, both inside and out.

“You will find the butcher, baker and, yes, you guessed it, a cheese stall. You can also pick up a hand-made gift or two. They also serve a great breakfast.”

If you see me sitting unmoving behind my stall with a blank expression on my face, please don’t judge this book by its cover. Come by and say hi. I need a tabard with a programmable scrolling LED notice with a selection of phrases, such as “I’m not hungover” (unless I am) and “I’m smiling on the inside” (unless I’m not).

Swirl Accessories can also be found at www.facebook.com/Swirlaccessories.

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