Afternoon readers. My last post raised the act of soul refreshment! No this is not some Lord Bragg sponsored drink, but the simple act of travel and shopping, of course!
This is the story of one man’s weekend to do just that! Along with his beautiful, and yet somewhat mysterious wife, he takes on an adventure that will test the will of himself and, of course, the most vital of people in the next two days….yes, London taxi drivers!
And it’s Boom! Here we are in the Big Smoke, the greatest city in the World. London was a destination I used to frequent on an almost daily basis and lived within for 3 years. Today, like all trips now, our short break was planned like a military exercise.
“We will enter London HERE, turn right, NEVER make eye contact and then ATTACK”
Arriving at our hotel in the early afternoon we unloaded our possessions, including my scooter and rollator. The car was then valet parked. Driving into London with free London congestion charge for the disabled is yet another rather valuable perk of living with MND that I now value! Oddly the exemption is even applicable for the most polluting of cars in the new ultra low emission zone until 2025!
—- Note/Reminder to self, bring the steam roller next time and take it to see the Extinction Rebellion environmental protesters, if they are still there!
“Move, you better move. I can’t brake quickly. I said move, please move, I advise you to move, MOVE! Oooooops”.
Once settled into our room, it was time to venture out and eat! Taxi to restaurant, what could be easier? I sped down to the foyer on my travelscoot and we hailed a taxi. For those of you who haven’t seen a travelscoot, here’s mine.
It’s a great piece of kit made from aircraft grade aluminium and it is light. Somewhere in the world there is an aircraft with bits missing! But seriously, it’s a great piece of kit and ironically not as expensive as many traditional scooters.
London taxi drivers, although rather dubious with their in-vehicle stories, are a totally pleasant bunch to us mobility challenged folk. Getting in the cab can be really quite ardous for me. At this moment in time, it all depends on headroom, step, grab bars and the eventual landing pad for my bottom! I can safely say that Black London cabs still do the job. I lever myself towards door, grab upper left hand rail, move remaining leg on to road, grab right hand rail (if present) and haul myself up. It is then only the manoeuvre of a simple twist, flip and land on seat.
Jean then, somewhat slackly I add, loads my scooter, and wedges herself into the taxi and we are off. The driver keeps us enthralled whilst we are driven all round the houses and eventually arrive at our destination only 1.2 miles away!
Now to get out of the taxi! After what, if I say so myself, is a 6 on the artistic impression scale score on exiting, I scooter up the road to our chosen restaurant. From our extensive planning, by probing google maps, we knew we were to face steps!!! Steps to anyone of limited mobility are kind of like this famous Punch cartoon by Peter Birkett.
But it was only 2 small steps, so I knew I could (probably) grapple up them somehow. But hold on a second!! There were no handrails!!! Jeesh!!
A disability campaign, which I now feel like starting, is for the mandatory installation of handrails on all steps into buildings. Handrails are wholly unappreciated by society until you have a reason for using them. I remember once in a government building in the UK being “commanded” to use stair handrails throughout the building. Gone now are my old attitudes of “Health and safety nonsense” and enter my must haves!
I will need a name for the campaign! Ideas please. So far I only have…
“Hand rails – worth their weight in hand rails”
Just imagine folks, things could have been so different for the Daleks! In unashamed plagiarism from Peter Birkett (please forgive me).
I managed to creep up the steps, I guess by using my hands as suction pads on the wall! I nearly came to a major cropper with another big disabled hate, a large swinging heavy-weight door! However, I made it and we sat down and enjoyed a great meal.
It was then off shopping. This time a nice man placed a ramp, at a precarious 1 in 2 gradient, for my exit. We zoomed off towards Carnaby Street. For my American friends, it’s an old lane with modern shops that was the centre of fashion in the 1960s.
One thing I now do, which I appear to get totally away with, is hanging around ladies changing rooms whilst women discuss bra sizes with attendants. Trying not to raise a disbelieving, Roger Moore type, eyebrow when one lady requests a rather improbable size I welcome Jean back just before the police are called to question me!
We venture outside. Oh no! It’s raining, windy and cold! I ride my scooter like a rigid mannequin. Such conditions just lock me up. I speed, accurately, although totally stiff, into Liberty’s. For my American friends Liberty’s is one of our stores made just for tourists! Entirely unrepresentative of English life but hugely profitable! They do have, however, the finest disabled toilets! We remain in the tourist trap until the rain subsides and then the world was back again. I continue scootering in the re-emerging warmer weather.
I ride to our next location, the theatre.
“Come on, Jean. Keep up its only another mile, and we can walk across the Queen’s front lawn as a short cut!”
After enjoying a great play, we returned to the hotel, catching another taxi on the way. This time our driver delighted in telling us he had been married 3 times and his latest wife was 27 years younger than him! We bash the good old London/East End banter back and forth in an apparently approving manner, but more to ensure our survival!
Despite his dubious predilections, he was a darn fine taxi driver and a wholly acceptable price too!
We decided to frequent the hotel bar. You know the sort of thing, lots of couches, lights, music, food etc. People watching and just chatting for hours. The joys of life. This very night there were only a couple of couch spaces left. As any polite human would do, we asked the couple opposite if they minded if we sat down. But they were fine. In fact they looked like they might be good entertainment as the ‘Lady’ was sitting on his lap! I am not a prude but it’s a bit much, isn’t it really? Anyway, we had a great time, and I even enjoyed a plate full of spicy chicken legs in scrummy sauce! Mind you, as the couple got wholly inappropriately amorous, I did look like I was settling down to watch a porn movie. I only had one small napkin for the chicken leg mess! We finally scared them off, and could enjoy a proper, respectful, civilised night.
The next day we planned some more shopping and eating. My scooter takes me to most places. However, in the shops that Jean wants to quickly dart around, generally those with steps, I am placed, nay abandoned, in a safe place! Today it was the Apple store in Covent Garden. For those who haven’t been there it is, I think, it’s their flagship store in the UK. A rather odd place, with all the actual items that actually could be sold being displayable in only 1 square metre, but spread out over 3 huge floors! At first, I darted around the ground floor, gaping up with envious eye at the upper floors and assuming that there were only stair wells so I would be stranded on the ground floor. I spent 5 minutes going around and around, but I could just not justify buying something that I already have and the Internet-enabled drinking cup really didn’t cut it for me. I was then suddenly pleasantly surprised to find a lift! An enormous thing with a beautiful artistic enclosure.
I pressed the very stylish button on the post-modern steel pillar, receiving a sudden nice static shock due to my scooter on the obviously cheap carpet (note to Apple!)! I then asked “what’s upstairs?” to one of the mobile salespeople.
“The Genius Bar” he retorted.
For those who don’t know what the Genius Bar is, and why geniuses are actually working in a retail shop, it is a floor of high wooden tables occupied by people enjoying free WiFi and with canned headphones on. But there wasn’t a coffee machine in sight!
I did take a fancy to the huge high definition wall screen being used to show some “art” whilst I was asking one of the geniuses a question. She was very helpful!
I try to blend in! My scooter is considered rather cool, and I get a comment from one of headphoned Zombies.
“Cool device, man”
“What’s it to you, bitch?” – I retort in an ultra modern, trendy, but terrifyingly slurred voice.
Before I am able to cause any further scenes, I am collected by Jean and we go for brunch!
“Did you buy anything?”
”I put a deposit on a new screen. Our 55 inch TV is sooooooo 2016! We are going to need some building work done, however!”
Back soon readers, but only after another impending Mini Adventure!