The Times Magazine
[13.07.13]

Spinal Column

 
Melanie Reid broke her neck and back falling from a horse in April 2010. In February this year, she broke her leg, and while in hospital had a colostomy bag fitted.

Many wonderful and unexpected things have happened to me since my accident, but this has to be one of the most heartwarming. I am almost embarrassed to mention it, because it feels like boasting, but the singer-songwriter Emily Maguire, a regular on Radio 2, has written a song about me called Bird Inside A Cage. How awesome is that? My very own Candle In The Wind moment, only I'm alive to hear it.

Bird Inside A Cage is the title track of Emily's new album, her fourth, which was launched last night with a gig at Hoxton Hall in London and is released on Monday. It's an achingly beautiful song, written for me and my husband but, in a much wider sense, dedicated to anyone in an apparently hopeless situation who is rescued by the power of love.

"But it's love that saves us when all else has failed us/When you just can't take another day." The first time I heard it I wept uncontrollably; the second time wasn't much better. And I wish I could have taken up Emily's invitation to be at her gig, but it's really off-putting to see a middle-aged woman cry and the journey was daunting, so I decided to stay home.

Emily was inspired by an article I wrote in 2011, on the first anniversary of my accident. She told me: "I went to stay the weekend near Cambridge with my dad, who is an avid Times reader. On the cover of the Times Magazine that Saturday was an extraordinary picture of you, standing up in a kind of robotic contraption.

"The headline was 'One Year On', and the article you'd written was all about your first year in a wheelchair. I'd read your column before but that article just unwrapped my heart. In it, you mentioned having a conversation with your husband about whether he would stay or leave. When I got home I put the Magazine cover on my piano keyboard stand and started writing. It was one of those songs that fell out of my head and onto the page. And it became as much about your husband as it was about you - his voice sings the whole second half of it. I guess I felt it was a true love story."

Emily knows about cages: she had her own brush with neurological illness and immobility in her early twenties. this interrupted her career path as a professional cellist. While she was stuck at home she taught herself the guitar and started writing songs. A few years later, back on her feet, she forsook the concrete of London for a tin shack in the Australian outback, where she started recording. Back in Britain now, she and her albums have been widely critically acclaimed; she tours with people even I have heard of, such as Don McLean. Bird Inside A Cage is produced by Ngel Butler, who has worked with k.d.lang, Will Young and Robbie Williams, and is funded entirely by Emily's fans.

All in all, an uplifting story and I feel ridiculously proud and touched that my husband and I have inspired her. "So you can dry your tears/Cos you'll defy your fears/And love is always here."

Melanie Reid

(Extract from the full Times article)