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A Tribute To Margaret Child

by J.

It was in July 1991 that Forum published the article OverGround provide a leg-up. It announced that '...those attracted to the limbless will be interested to know that they now have a self-help group.' At the time I was feeling very depressed because I could see no way to satisfy my yearning to share loving friendship with someone who shared my tastes and feelings, and who was an amputee. I thought the group might help me to come to terms with a desire that I had never admitted to anybody else, and saw no opportunity of ever satisfying. I needed OverGround and it appeared at just the right moment for me. It gave me an insight into the fact that my feelings were not unique. I was really annoyed when I found this out. I had imagined that at least I would not have many competitors in the forming of relationships with the women I most admired, and suddenly it seemed to me that you could hardly throw a stone at random without hitting a devotee.

I had been thinking about the implications of having these feelings and I had written a piece which turned into Incompatible Desires. I sent it off to Richard King (the editor of OverGround's newsletter), and I was amazed and delighted that he thought it worth publishing. Reading OverGround amazed me. For me the only problems of having feelings of devotion towards women who are amputees are: first, there are not very many of such people and it is almost impossible to meet them socially; and second, the problem of achieving an intimate friendship with someone of the opposite sex without being unfaithful to my wife. Serious enough problems in all conscience, but completely trivial compared with the paralysing feelings of guilt which seemed to me to accompany most people's feelings of devotion. So, despite my general unhappiness about my own situation I was aware that I was much better off than many members of the group. Since I was unable to resolve the conflicts that I was ensnared in I thought that I could harness my energy, and while I could not make people feel happier about the feelings that made them so guilty and unhappy, I could examine the desires from an intellectual point of view with the aim of proving that there is no reason to feel guilty or unhappy about having them, or more importantly, acting to satisfy them. I was concerned that people might feel that they ought not to act on their feelings when they had, or found, the opportunity to do so. I began to write regularly for OverGround and to correspond with Margaret Child about the matters that OverGround is concerned with.

I never really agreed with all of the claims to the moral high ground that OverGround had espoused, and this disagreement has been reflected in some of the material that I have written. I believe that being a devotee can be fun, and ought to be fun. Throughout our disagreements Margaret remained friendly, a little pained, I thought, sometimes, but always friendly and tolerant. I carried on writing, and was very disappointed that the magazine stopped coming out.

I met Margaret for what is probably the only time, last year. We met with Richard King, at her house, and a second time Margaret and I went out for lunch, beer and sandwiches, eaten in the garden of a pub. I was not surprised to find Margaret as kind and pleasant in the flesh as she was in correspondence, and on the telephone. I was happy to tell her and Richard about the benefits that I had obtained from becoming involved with OverGround, and I and how much I was looking forward to the publication of the second number of volume 2 of the magazine. It was a long time in coming, and when it came it contained the announcement of Margaret's engagement and her handing on of the organisation to Kevin Wright. I was disappointed that she hadn't taken up my longstanding offer to help with the production of the magazine; but I assumed that she wanted it to pass into the control of someone less volatile and more politically correct than I was.

In her editorial Margaret wrote of OverGround as a one-woman show. The evidence, especially telling since she withdrew, is that one person might have been the organiser, but that one person supplied the energy and commitment of a complete team, and started off something that has provided both support and entertainment, something much more than just a one-woman show. I am very grateful to her. I miss her contribution, and hope that after a stumbling start, those who have taken over will be able to tend the seed she has planted and bring the tree to fruition.

Thank you, Margaret, I hope that you have a long and happy life in New Zealand with your new husband.

Best wishes for the future.

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