I remember one night, while I was still on the spinal unit, going to dinner at Buckingham Palace with my husband, Norman. I was sitting opposite some rather stuffy European dignitaries and had a salad put in front of me. Salad is still one of the most difficult things for me to eat and I must have looked worried.

Then such a kind chap on my right, who I later discovered was the Master of the Queen’s Household, spotted my embarrassment. He nudged me and said, “Come on, let’s just do it!” Together we ate our lettuce with our fingers. The dignified ladies sitting opposite looked shocked, but I honestly don’t think that the Queen would have minded. The boys on the ward roared with laughter when I came back that night and told them.

We ate our lettuce with our fingers

There was such camaraderie on the ward. I was about 50 years old then and there were lots of young boys there with me who were huge fun and very kind. I remember one trying to teach me chess. My son told him, “Don’t bother, I’ve been trying to teach her for years.”

The doctors wouldn’t let me refer to the IRA bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton in 1984 that left me paralysed from just below my shoulder as an accident. They told me I had to call it a terrorist bomb which, of course, it was.

Margaret and her Husband

In hospital, and when I first came home, friends and family kept me going. It is a problem that I can’t move my hands much and reading isn’t easy as I can’t turn the pages, but I love ‘my’ Classic FM and we sometimes go to the opera and live theatre. Perhaps one day they will make an electric book reader I can manage.

This year, I hope to have a new canine partner; he’s a labradoodle and, since I’m unable to open doors, he will be trained to do that and very much more. Certainly, on the rare occasions that I am left on my own in the house, he will help me get about, but I will still need my two carers too. I love the garden and whether I’m outside or, if wet, inside looking out, I like to take an interest and see what’s happening.

I have been fortunate enough throughout my life to meet some wonderful people. On one occasion, Nelson Mandela waved everyone away and said, “This is the girl I’ve come to meet.”