When it comes to mutually exclusive, ‘disability’ and ‘comedy’ are two words which you would normally expect to be in the taboo corner. So why do I find myself laughing at a “wobbly” lady’s failed attempts at cherry knocking?
Welcome to the hilarious and wonderful mind of Francesca Martinez. Born with cerebral palsy but waging a one-woman mission to have it renamed ‘wobbly’, Martinez sheds a brutally comedic look on her experiences growing up in an able-bodied world. Without blinking, she sweetly comments ‘funny how the girls who used to bully me now want to add me as a friend on Facebook. F**kers!’ before taking a long sip of water. It makes you wonder why anyone would pick a fight with Martinez. Not because she’s funny or a genuinely lovely person, but because under the smiles is a deeply vengeful personality.
Chatting with her in a in a stylish coffee shop in Swindon’s Old Town, without warning Martinez’s conversations divert from the trivial to the deeply philosophical. Two sips into my moderately priced Americano she states that the root cause of unhappiness is the consumer-based drive to always want better. ‘We want to look prettier, be thinner, have a better mobile phone, a better house. Our society is so aspirational we never stop and think about what we have. Once you stop and reassess those things you realise that life could be a lot worse,’ Martinez poignantly observes, before quickly adding ‘for example, I could have been a Rice Krispie…or Donald Trump.’ Cue another timely sip of water. ‘We’re all trapped in toxic bonds of our own making so when you think about it breaking yourself away is actually a form of civil disobedience.’
Having taken most of her life to discover and liberate herself from the evil clutches of self-loathing, Martinez is keen to spread a message of positivity. ‘I spent years thinking negative thoughts and my only regret is that I’ll never get that time back,’ she comments, ‘I do a lot of talks at schools nowadays where I ask students to put their hands up if they’re happy with their appearance. It’s really sad when no one raises their hand so I tell them “you’re in the prime of your lives. This is as good as it’s ever going to get!”’
Spending an hour in the company of Francesca Martinez is a delightful, if not insightful, experience. It is a testament to her abilities that in her presence you can see beyond the disability to the woman who lies beneath. Perhaps put more succinctly by the wobbly expert herself, ‘if I was retarded I’d have voted for UKIP’.