Why Miriam Margolyes was wrong to judge a book by it’s cover

Miriam Margolyes is the wonderfully outspoken actress from Harry Potter and star of recent TV show The Real Life Marigold Hotel.  She spoke out this week about an incident at Waverley Train Station in Edinburgh, when a young man refused to give up his seat for her.

Miriam told the Daily Mail that she has arthritis and was carrying a backpack when she looked for a seat on the station platform, when a man refused to give up his seat and pointed to one further down the platform, she emptied a water bottle over his head.

‘I was really p****d off. It’s really hard being old — it’s horrible. I was in pain. I was really hurting,’ she says today. ‘So I just thought, ‘F*** you!’ and I took my bottle of water out, took off the lid and poured it over his head.’

Now, as much as I do like Miriam, and I think that if you are able, you should give up your seat to those who may need it more than you.  Older people, people with mobility issues, pregnant women, all those who may need a bit of assistance, but you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

sam cleasby tut disabled toilets more than meets the eye

Last week I was at the coast, it was only 4 or 5 weeks after surgery and it was a scary feat to be away from home.  I was away with art group Responsible Fishing UK for a project with Coastival, I wrote a story that was transformed into an art installation, my words were carved into tubes and became floating lights in a story trail.  I am really proud to be part of this and though I wasn’t able to be part of the installation, I wanted to be there to see the finished product.

responsible fishing uk a light to guide

Anyway, we stayed in a big holiday home with our friends who looked after me and were just brilliant, one afternoon my friend had to nip to a shopping centre and I wanted to get out of the house.  It was good to just be outside for a short while, after 10-15 minutes though, I was struggling.  My stomach was sore and my back aching, so I went to sit on a bench whilst my pal finished her shopping.

As I sat, an old man came and sat next to me, then another.  Then I saw an old lady shuffling towards the bench and thought ‘oh crap’.  I knew it would be expected of me to stand and give up my seat and as she approached, I was panicking wondering how to deal with this.  I knew that though inside I was in pain and I was starting to worry about a bag leak, on the outside I looked like a young, healthy, able bodied person.

She got closer and the two men looked to me, I hesitated, embarrassed and then one man stood up to give his seat.  I could feel the judgement and so I bit the bullet and spoke up.

‘I’m ever so sorry for not giving my seat, only I’m recently out of surgery and I really need to sit right now’

All three were polite and kind and told me not to worry about it and to rest my legs and I have to say I was relieved, yet I was a bit embarrassed that I had to explain my personal medical issues.

more than meets the eye sam cleasby sheffield so bad ass

So when I read this story, I couldn’t help but relate my own experience to it.  The Daily Mail describe Miriam as “a 4ft 11in, 74-year-old — her bosom alone is the size of small hay bale — with a knapsack on her back, a wheelie case in one hand and hobbling in pain from an arthritic knee (she’s having a knee operation in May).” and only says the man was young and on his phone.

It is easy to assume the worst, but the reality is that we have no idea of his circumstances, perhaps he had his own, less visible, health issues.  Perhaps he’d had surgery, perhaps he had back issues, perhaps he had one leg! Maybe he had anxiety problems or autism.  We just don’t know and as the More Than Meets The Eye campaign shouts about, there are so many invisible or hard to see medical issues that millions of people deal with every day.

Does Miriam have the right to be pissed off that she doesn’t get a seat? Yes, if that’s how she feels.  But does she have the right to judge all those around her who aren’t 4’11 arthritic pensioners, does she fuck…