How to Train Your Wheelchair: Part 1.

A wheelchair moving rapidly down a corridor.

Audio:

After a small but much-needed lie-in on a cold Monday morning, it was time to make a move. By which I mean, of course, that my husband provided breakfast in bed. Then it was time to pack. For a short-while the flat looked like it had been ransacked by a troop of toddlers, but soon enough the bags were packed & it was time to go. I went to sit in the warmth of the reception while Jarred locked up.  He seemed to take a while to do so, but I guessed he was just being thorough, checking everything was packed & that all the heaters & lamps were switched off.

We made our way through town towards the bus station, stopping for lunch along the way. The bus turned up perfectly on time & soon we were underway. Having only stopped at two stops along the entire journey, we were in York city centre within the hour. We made our way to the hotel, entering as the clock struck 3 pm, our earliest checking-in time. Without a fuss the staff checked us in, & we made our way up in the lift to our room.

I parked my new wheelchair in the perfectly-sized spot between the desk & a set of drawers, & began to unpack. Suddenly, behind me, I heard a high-pitched voice.

“Are we nearly there yet?”

I turned around & immediately doubled-over with laughter, which continued so long my husband began to think he might have actually killed me. There on the bed sat a cat-shaped Halloween basket we had picked up the year before, which we couldn’t bear to put away for a whole year so assigned it the role of storing our PlayStation controllers, nick-named Kontroller Kitty. Due to our rather ridiculous sense of humour, Kontroller Kitty has a voice & personality, & now it appears she sneaks into our luggage to come on holiday with us. At least I now understood why Jarred had taken so long locking up.

Kontroller Kitty in ger usual place atop a pine shelf at home, with controllers poking out. She's plain black, with tiny ears & paws.

I assigned Kontroller Kitty the temporary role of medicine dispensing kitty, & placed her on top of the chest of drawers by my wheelchair. It didn’t take particularly long to unpack to rest of our luggage, neither of us being the type to pack the kitchen sink (just Halloween decorations in November).

It was late afternoon, & as the sun began to set we decided to go for a wander along the banks of the River Ouse, which was almost full-to-bursting at this time of year. It was cold enough for a thin layer of ice to have formed in places, & the few geese that remained looked thoroughly fed up.

We ambled along until it had gone dark & then turned around & wandered back into the city, where we found a cosy little restaurant not far from our hotel. After a delightful meal we made our way back to the hotel, played a round of Set A Watch (a cooperative board game that I highly recommend if you enjoy role-playing games), before desperately searching for something entertaining on terrestrial TV. Not having a TV license & only really using Netflix & the WWE Network means we are used to watching what we want, when we want it, without adverts. We settled on an old episode of Live at The Apollo which I had seen before, but was entertaining none-the-less.

When that finished we went to bed, & were pleasantly surprised to discover that our bed was actually a double, & not two singles pushed together, as is the case in most accessible hotel rooms. God forbid disabled people have relationships and all that.

It was 8 am when I woke up, & as usual Jarred was awake before me. After coffee & some breakfast biscuits, we both showered (not together, you dirty-minded swine), got dressed, & went out into the city. On our way into town we found a Medieval Guild Hall, which looked as if it belonged in a Dungeons & Dragons game. Even more surprisingly, despite being built in 1357, both floors of the hall were fully accessible (take that, listed excuses). I don’t think I learned much from the exhibits as I was so taken aback to even get through the door, but it was an enjoyable experience none-the-less.

We made our way through the city centre towards York Minster, which it being graduation day was excessively busy. We browsed a few shops & found the street food market to one side of the Shambles. I sunk my teeth into a savoury Danish crepe & non-alcoholic mulled wine, while Jarred went for some African lamb sausages on top of a pile of brightly coloured vegetables & hummus.

Looking up at one of the towers of York Minster from street level, in the morning sun. The detail of the windows & architecture is clearly visible.

After lunch we browsed a few more shops before heading to our pre-booked slot at the Jorvic centre. The smell hit as soon as we entered the building, but wasn’t entirely as unpleasant as some would have you believe, & we made our way downstairs into the waiting hall. This had a glass floor, underneath which was a scaled-down replica of the dig-site which uncovered Viking settlements in the area several decades ago.

We were told to wait for the technical team by the very friendly greeter, but predictably by the time they showed up the one wheelchair-accessible cart had already gone past. We were told to wait another 10 – 15 minutes, & this time when someone showed up on time, they told us we needed to go to another entrance for wheelchair loading which the cart had already gone past. We made our way to the other entrance, where the technical team consoled us by telling us that the wait was so long because only 1 in 20 carts was accessible. Quite how I stopped myself from saying that the wait had far more to do with people not turning up & not keeping us informed, I don’t know.

Once we were on the ride the experience was much more enjoyable. The animatronics were perhaps a little shaky, but the set-piece itself was extremely detailed. One of the people was even disabled, an inclusion that took me by surprise. They had a variety of animals too including rats, cats, dogs, chickens, & birds of prey among the exhibits. For someone who knows next to nothing about history, it was actually really informative.

After the ride we explored the gallery, where I’m only marginally ashamed to report that I was drawn to the real human skeletons. One of the skeletons had a misaligned hip & other malformations, & had been the inspiration for the disabled animatronic on the ride. Nothing will ever quite top accurately diagnosing a skeleton with rickets long before getting close enough to read the sign, as I did a few years back, though.

In the gift shop we picked up a copy of The Viking Game, a game that is something like a combination of chess & draughts, being played by some of the animatronics on the ride. We went home, played a few rounds of our newly bought game, & then headed back out into the cold for our evening meal.

Part 2 is available here.

3 thoughts on “How to Train Your Wheelchair: Part 1.

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