Disability Undressed: The Banbury Tales

7 June 2017

‘Ah, yes. That’s my book,’ Stephen Argyle tells us as I pick up a copy of his novel, The Fields of Destruction. ‘I dictated it to a friend. It’s the first in a trilogy.’

Stephen Argyle in the garden at Agnes Court

The 59-year-old, who lives at Agnes Court residential service in Banbury, is smiling as he recounts writing the novel.

‘I had the idea many years ago. I dictated it word for word. It took over three years to get the draft done. It took even longer to get the thing printed but we’re there now.

‘It’s about two disabled war veterans who uncover secrets which shake the US government. It’s got action, adventure, a bit of romance, and a bit of mystery and intrigue.’

Early years

Stephen has used Leonard Cheshire services since he was 19 years old. He has had severe mobility issues and a visual impairment since childhood, following an accident at the age of nine.

Stephen is part of a small group who started out at the original Oxfordshire Cheshire Home in the 1970s. Its modern replacement, Agnes Court, opened in 2008.

‘I first came to the old service on a respite holiday. I met a resident called Jane and liked her a lot. So I decided to come and live here!’

Prankster turned campaigner

‘I’ve got lots of happy memories from over the years. I loved the gardens.

‘I’m not sure it would be acceptable now when watering the plants to soak the female staff with a hose pipe.

‘I was a bit of a prankster when I was young. I met Sue Ryder, Leonard Cheshire’s wife, but she didn’t get the hosepipe treatment.’

More recently, Stephen took part in some of Leonard Cheshire Disability’s access campaigns. He fought for better access to his local cinema and campaigned for better facilities at Blenheim palace.

From Dambusters to Bogbuster

Stephen describes himself as an ‘aircraft nut’ and tells me all about the planes Leonard Cheshire would have used during his time as a second world war pilot in the RAF’s 617 Squadron, also known as the Dambusters. He pauses, grins and remembers something from his past.

‘There used to be a song about me which was sung to that famous tune, The Dambusters March.

‘When I joined a scout group for disabled kids, I accidentally kicked over a chemical toilet. So the song was called The Bogbusters March.’

Infectious enthusiasm

Stephen is rarely without a smile and a quip and retains an infectious enthusiasm for his hobbies. Boats are another great passion.

‘I love the water — whether that’s trips out by a canal or a weir, looking at boats, or swimming sessions in the hydropool.’

It was at a swimming session where Stephen met volunteer Sue Jeffreys, who took down every word of Stephen’s book and also supported him to write the sequel, Baptism of Fire. The pair have now been firm friends for 30 years.

Stephen is currently writing the third and final installment. He reveals one of the main characters in the series, ex-journalist and wheelchair user Andrew Campbell, is loosely based on himself. He cites bestselling authors Bernard Cornwell and Andy McNab among his influences.

‘I won’t sell as many books as them but writing has been really good for me.’

Stephen’s book, The Fields of Destruction, is available at lulu.

Disability Undressed is a series of stories featuring the people who use our services. To keep up to date with all our latest news, campaigns and events, sign up to our newsletters.

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