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‘Parkinson’s disease robbed me of my sense of smell a while back, otherwise I might have smelt a rat’ – Parkinality columnist Julie Walker on her Person of Courage success at the Indies Community Awards 2023





I’d be exaggerating if I said I’d lost them all as I did manage the odd ‘crikey’ and ‘thank you’. However, even now, back home, I am still lost for words. So, what on earth happened to me in a marquee in January to incite this reaction?

Warning: I am about to do something very un-British and blow my own trumpet. Drum roll please... I won the Person of Courage award on Friday (January 26) at the Indies Community Awards 2023 held in the Hilton Marquee at Bishop’s Stortford rugby club.

To see it written down is a shock, but to rewatch it on the live Facebook stream is just surreal. Me courageous? I haven’t scaled the highest mountain or swam the deepest sea.

Julie Walker received her Person of Courage trophy from Michael Smith, manager of category sponsor Jackson Square shopping centre and her TK Maxx opening date informant
Julie Walker received her Person of Courage trophy from Michael Smith, manager of category sponsor Jackson Square shopping centre and her TK Maxx opening date informant

When the awards ceremony was announced, as in previous years, I sent a cheeky message to Indie editor Paul Winspear to ask if there was space for a random contributor to the newspaper (that’s me) to attend. He came back to say that yes, I could attend and I could bring a guest.

But I nearly didn’t attend. My plus one was going to be The Wise(ish) Man, but I had ‘kindly’ donated my streaming cold to him and he wasn’t well enough to join me. I had been to previous Indies awards ceremonies and knew it would be a good evening, so my daughter Catherine rushed back from London to be my plus one.

The elephant of the evening was, of course, my Parkinson’s disease (PD), which, as usual, was intent on disrupting my enjoyment.

Julie Walker with daughter Catherine and fellow Indie columnist Jono Forgham and his wife Wendy. Picture: Gerred Gilronan
Julie Walker with daughter Catherine and fellow Indie columnist Jono Forgham and his wife Wendy. Picture: Gerred Gilronan

Regular readers will know that PD raises its ugly head at random times during the day. Its first target was the journey to the venue, which was too short for a taxi but, as it turned out, too long for me.

I learnt a while ago that time is something that PD hates. That is, given enough time I can usually achieve most things. So I left over half an hour for what should have been a five-minute walk. I felt a small victory when we arrived at the venue on time.

On arrival, desperate for a familiar face, I spotted young friend Jane Peck in the crowd. Pleased to see her, I asked her in what capacity she was at the event. She explained that she had won a competition on the Indie’s Facebook page to attend. She seemed to be following me, as she was also sitting next to me at the meal table.

PD robbed me of my sense of smell a while back, otherwise I might have smelt a rat. I found out later that there was no competition and that she was there because she had nominated me.

We had a lovely evening, seated with those who run Jackson Square shopping centre, who, it turned out, sponsor the Person of Courage category at the Indies.

This is ironic as shopping is one of my dopamine-inducing activities. I was also able to ask my million dollar question: when should I start queueing for the new TK Maxx store being built in Jackson Square.

After a great meal, during which the catering company Chives seamlessly catered for my dairy and gluten intolerances, the awards ceremony began.

We watched many brilliant short films with many deserving winners. Then, when Paul Winspear announced the penultimate category, Person of Courage, everything went a bit odd.

I heard that someone named Julie Walker had won. It took me a second to realise that was me.

What was the first thing that happened when all eyes were on me? Parkinson’s decided to show off and pull my mouth about so I looked like an odd gurning person.

Paul gave a lovely speech, over some photos of me from the six years I’ve been writing for the Indie. I went up after the speech and accepted flowers and a lovely glass trophy which, for damage limitation, the Indie’s all-round David James carried. During the photographs I had another small victory, managing to overpower PD, forcing the odd gurn into a half-decent smile for the camera.

Thank you to Paul Winspear for his lovely words, Jane for the nomination, the management of Jackson Square for sponsoring the Person of Courage, Catherine for being super-sub, David for being Paul’s glamorous assistant and for the lamination.

Also, thank you to everyone at the Indie for their unwavering support in publishing my waffle every two or three weeks. It still amazes me that a middle-aged woman with no journalism experience is still let loose on a page of the local paper.



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