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Living in a Left-Handed World
by Gilly Fraser

I’m beginning to wonder just what my left hand has been doing all its life. All these years it’s gone its own way, swinging blithely along at the end of my arm, quite content to let my right hand do the bulk of the work. Whether through sheer laziness, or if it was being shoved into the shadows by the more dominant personality of right, I might never have known - might never even have noticed there was a discrepancy, had it not been for right hand getting itself smashed up along with several other parts of my anatomy when flung unceremoniously from a horse into a stone wall. Now it’s encased in a heavy white plaster cast, and left is having to do a full day’s work.

Its first task in a public place - to sign my name as permission for the surgeon to do what he liked to right hand while the rest of me was under general anaesthetic sent left hand into a blue funk. Gripping the pen was bad enough, but when it was actually asked to create joined-up letters on the page, it crumpled under the strain. A hen which had first walked through dirt and then taken a stroll across the document would have managed a more accurate imitation of my normal signature.

The whole experience has made me totally reassess my relationship with my two hands. I now see that I’ve taken Right for granted, just assuming it would get on with any and all of the myriad tasks set before it in the course of any one day. That could take in everything from writing, to opening a jar, to brushing my hair, to operating a computer mouse. Left hand is fine for the sturdier and less imaginative tasks, like changing gear in the car, or lifting the kettle to pour water into a cup. But give it anything requiring the least degree of subtlety, and it turns into a bumbling idiot.

Who could believe the complications and the need for concentration involved in a simple procedure like brushing your teeth? If you’ve never tried, let me ask you just one thing - have you ever had toothpaste up your nose? However, we can all learn, and my left hand is no exception. After just a few days in the job, it’s beginning to get the hang of things. This morning only two dollops of butter were left on the breakfast bar, my clothes went on in more or less the proper order and facing the correct direction, and I managed to get right hand settled into its sling without throttling myself, so there is hope.