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We've been in lockdown for quite some time now, and here in Wales, things seem to be moving a bit slower than other parts of the United Kingdom. I must acknowledge, this unprecedented period has been pretty tough physically and emotionally, and more so for some people more than others. We all know that the more vulnerable and the disabled have been asked to 'Shield' for quite an extended period, and I get that this has been hard for many people, especially if you live on your own, which can be quite lonely at times.

I'm pretty lucky, as I still live with parents, so I've had a lot of company, and this has had its positives, but it has also had its negatives. The positives being I have had recently, and always had all my cooking and washing done for me all of my life (get in!). But on the flip side and the negative being, have I sacrificed living independently and learned how to become independent upon myself? Who knows, maybe I will eventually flee the nest sometime in the future?

The past few weeks have been relatively quiet, I haven't been able to physically interact with many of my friends, or with anyone in fact, and in one way this has resulted in me becoming pretty lazy! Why? Well, as you may already know, I have quite a bad speech impediment. Before lockdown, and when I was interacting with people regularly and speaking nearly all the time, I suppose that my brain worked twice as hard. Continuously sending messages down to my mouth, making sure I'd pronounce my words the best I can. Let's face it; my speech isn't going to be. It will never be perfect, but I've found the more I interact, the better I start to pronounce my words whilst talking to people! Just the other day though, my mother stopped me in my tracks and said 'Stop, slow down, I can't quite understand what you are saying as well as I usually can, take a breath, and start pronouncing your words like we all know you can do.' So I stopped, thought about it, concentrated on pronouncing my words, and they did come out clearer supposedly, well that's what my mother told me back then anyway. It's strange, because in my head, and when I speak, the words sound as if they are coming out the same and as clear as somebody without a speech impediment, but they are not? Going back to what my mother said, and this has got me thinking, your brain is partly made up of muscle, so the more you use these muscles, the stronger they get. Could this be why I sometimes become a little lazy with my speech when I'm not interacting with people for specific periods? The part of my brain that sends these messages to my mouth gets used less frequently, and the muscles become slightly weaker, hence worsening my speech? Interesting stuff?

So this has led me to want to do more research about my body, even though I have cerebral palsy, over the years I've rarely had to go to the hospital because of it. I haven't had too many consultations, and due to this all I know that is, I have cerebral palsy. Upon doing research, I've found out there are quite a few different types of cerebral palsy. Due to the severity of the cerebral palsy you have in your muscles, you are diagnosed with having one type, but which type I have who knows, my mother probably has it written down in my hospital notes somewhere, I'll have to get on the case and find out which type I have!

As I have had quite a lot of time on my hands over the past few weeks, I have been taking time to watch and listen to many disability videos and blogs. Some of which have been filmed and posted by some pretty well known disabled celebrities and disability activists, and to be honest, I thought that I'd never say this. Still, they've taught and shown me many things such as 'You are who you are', and it doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. Other things that they've enlightened me on is the only person who truly knows your own body is yourself. Now that I'm in my thirties (but I believe that I'm just like Peter Pan most of the time lol), there's nothing wrong with taking time out from everything and letting your body recharge itself; especially when you have cerebral palsy and a disability. People with disabilities are stubborn, I know because I can be myself. I want to be on the go all the time; I always want to co-write my next song, or start to write a new children's book. I still want to go on tour with the lads, but there has to be a point where I now need to think a little more and choose what's best for me and when, and again, watching these blogs have taught me how to put this into practice, but knowing myself, this with never happen, I'll probably be 100% for many years to come yet!

Carrying on with my stubbornness, as with people who know me the best, I'm usually the life and soul of the party, and whenever there's a night out or event arranged, I'm there! Most of the time, I do come across as very confident. Most of the time I am, I will not let someone get the better of me if I know I'm in the right and onto a winner. But, I'm now going to admit there have been times when my confidence has come crashing down. Again, this is where, coming back to my speech impediment, and I tend to hide behind my voice. Now and then, I tell myself that my speech is a barrier that I'll never be able to overcome, and this is the point where I become very frustrated. Then I get the thought in my head that I'm never going to get my point over to anyone, so I leave it where it is, even though I don't want to do so because I know that I have the capabilities to win that particular battle. This frustrates me and has done all of my life up to this point! Has it stopped me going further in life up until now? Yes, I think so, maybe in my career before becoming an author and songwriter, I could have progressed further? I could have. Also, most, has it stopped me from networking in the music and book industry? To a certain extent, it has communication and connecting with other people in person, especially other songwriters, labels and publishers, as opposed to connecting with them just by email or on social media all of the time. Still, I'm seriously leaving all that stuff and negativity in the past now. And that's where it's going to stay because I've had time to reflect, think and find who I am again, and also really re-discover my confidence during this lockdown. I've also learnt to trust in my abilities and let my writing capabilities speak for themself.

To conclude, admittedly, the lockdown has been very tough for many people, and I respect that, my thoughts are with everybody who has been affected during this horrible time. But, for me, it's been a silver lining. It's helped me to be able to fall in love myself again in regards to coming to terms with the way I look and talk, and looking towards the future. It can only be a good thing. I'm going to make a promise to myself right now; not to let my disability or speech impediment become any more of a barrier in life than it already is. I'll always have a severe speech impediment. But inside, I'm just an ambitious, cheeky, fun-loving person who will live life in the fast lane more than ever when we get back to some normality! Oh, and please, if at any point whilst in a conversation with me, you can't quite understand what I'm saying, tell me to slow down and take time out to reconfigure my brain. I have realised, getting my point across, whilst in a conversation with another person has to work both ways. And if they are unable to understand me, slow down, or even write it down for them, (it usually becomes much clearer and easier after I've had a few beers anyway). Cheers!

If you've been affected or inspired by these issues I've covered in this latest blog, and wish to talk, get in touch with me. Don't forget to LIKE and SHARE, and invite all of your friends to like this page.

Thank you for reading!

Best Wishes,

Gavin Clifton

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