There will be the mother of all To-Do Lists at Martine Wright’s house somewhere. Not on the fridge, groaning under the weight of family photos. Not on the noticeboard, either. More photos. Probably in her laptop where the catalogue of head-spinning activities include: pick up Oscar from school, sitting volleyball training, speech in the Lake District, go to Rio for Paralympics, meet the PM at 10 Downing Street, coffee with Mum … and now there must be a further entry:
“Buck Palace. MBE.”
If ever anyone resisted being defined by the worst day of their life, that person is Martine Wright. She is awarded an MBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours List, officially for services to sport, but perhaps also for surviving, humour, will and spirit intact, in the face of the most appalling atrocity. A survivor of the 7/7 London bombings, she lost both legs above the knee and very nearly her life. The last to be rescued from the Circle Line carriage under Aldgate, she had lost almost six pints of blood before the fire brigade could cut her free. Her life was saved by an off-duty policewoman who found a belt to use as a tourniquet.
She can remember thinking at the time: “This is like John Wayne in one of those old Westerns when’s he’s been shot in the leg.”
That gives you the gist. And by the time she represented her country at the London 2012 Paralympics in the GB sitting volleyball team, her whole family in the crowd and her little boy sitting on his dad’s shoulders holding up a sign that said “Go Mummy Go!”, there was no question of looking back in anger.
She once said: “People ask me if I would turn the clock back. Part of me says, ‘Yeah, it would be nice to have my legs back’. But my life now is amazing. I’ve had the opportunity to do so much, meet so many people. I don’t think I would turn the clock back if I had the chance.
“I can’t say getting on that train was the ‘best’ thing that ever happened to me. But it was the most life-changing thing that has had profound and positive effects.”
Oscar and his schoolmates are impressed by her bionic legs and he calls the Union Jack ‘Mummy’s flag’. Before she goes to report on the Paralympics in September she may have to explain that a few other people are allowed to borrow it for special events.
She has flown a plane, sky-dived (mercifully not at the same time) and achieved the ambition she harboured throughout her long recovery by walking down the aisle at her wedding without the aid of a stick. Staying upright during the dancing at the reception proved a step too far, but she only laughed as various guests hauled her up again. More than once.
Now she has carved out a new career as a speaker. Basically talking. “I’m paid to talk which isn’t too bad for someone they called ‘Mighty Mouth’ at school.”
That the role is perfect for her was exemplified in 2012 when she won the BBC’s Helen Rollason Award at the Sports Personality of the Year Show. A proud Londoner, born within the sound of Bow Bells, her speech was a rip-roaring tribute to sport, family, fellow athletes and the capital city itself that had hosted the Games so captivatingly. There wasn’t a ghost of recrimination for the tragedy seven years previously which had killed 52 people in the most devastating terrorist incident in the UK since the bombing of a plane over Lockerbie in 1988.
Since then she’s ‘played’ the O2 like Led Zeppelin and followed actress Jennifer Hudson on stage at Wembley Arena. A huge crowd swayed in front on her. Most mortals would quail at the sight. To her it was merely inspiration. Taking a deep breath, she let out one mighty yell: “Hallo, WEMBLEEEEEY!” in the manner of Freddie Mercury on one of more extrovert nights. The audience loved it.
Shy she is not. “More front than Sainsbury’s,” says her husband, Nick, affectionately.
There will now be keen discussions in the family about who accompanies Martine to Buckingham Palace when she receives her MBE: mother Maureen is probably in pole position, alongside Nick and Oscar. There will be a knees-up afterwards, more than likely. Probably not in the Blind Beggar pub, the old haunt of the Kray Twins, used by the Wright family when they camped out at the Royal London Hospital as Martine went through her string of life-saving operations.
Somewhere handier, more than likely. The Ritz has been warned. It should be quite a celebration.
“I’ve had my days of saying, ‘Why me?’ But with the help of my incredible family and friends, I’ve dealt with it. I’ve got new legs. Not no legs. Anything is possible.”
Martine Wright’s autobiography will be published next spring by Simon and Schuster.
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