One More Time.

It’s been quite a year.

Stood in front of the armoured War Elephant in the Royal Armouries in Leeds at our wedding.

In the middle of January, mere weeks after getting married, my husband & I began the search for a new home. Our current apartment was falling into disrepair at an alarming rate thanks to a disinterested landlord & unhelpful letting agent. It was almost impossible to keep warm, & we were both heartily sick of sticking our hands down the back of the toilet to reset the cistern after every flush. Almost immediately on our search we found a block of smart-looking apartments on the edge of the city centre, nestled behind the shops & arena. We booked to view an apartment which was cancelled at the last second, so booked to view another similar apartment, & despite making an appointment to pay the deposit were told that someone had snapped that one up at the last second too. Although it didn’t feel like it at the time, this was a good thing.

I viewed the third apartment alone as I had more lenient annual leave arrangements than Jarred. The letting agent surprised me with the higher rent, but once inside the apartment it was clear why. It was more spacious, easily able to accommodate the wheelchair in all rooms, & had large windows overlooking the little garden outside. Of course, the office of the letting agent was inaccessible, so much to their displeasure we were forced to do the paperwork in the apartment block’s reception. The agent bumped up the rent even more much to my displeasure, & repeatedly reminded me how much easier it would be if this could be done in the office. There were queries over their guarantor policy & my ID, & the agent added an extra month’s rent to the tenancy agreement, but eventually after a stressful couple of days, it was all finalised.

Now that we knew we would have a home once our current tenancy arrangement ended, we could move onto more pleasant things; arranging the honeymoon. We planned a week in London around a wrestling show, of all things; after all, Jarred did propose at such a show. At the start of March we hopped on a coach down to London, staying in a hotel near King’s Cross in the north of the city, & enjoying a range of activities including the London Eye & a matinee show of Phantom of the Opera (Part 1 & Part 2).

All too soon we were travelling North again, & a couple of days & several loads of washing later, I returned to work. I was approaching six months in my job by this point, & my probationary period was up for review. I was disheartened to learn that my probation would be extended for a further three months, although my line manager was as kind & supportive as ever. However, it did seem that my difficulties in the job mainly stemmed from the fact that it was a step above entry-level, & I essentially had to learn everything the entry-level role should have taught me, & then learn my actual role on top of that.

After the Easter break came a succession of birthdays; a close friend, my dad, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, & then me. A couple of those birthdays were milestone one’s, although I think if I disclosed which milestones I would be disowned, & so my brother-in-law came up on a bank holiday weekend to stay with us. I had booked the rest of the week off work, & I spent most of that playing my birthday present; the much-underrated Rage 2.

In amongst all of the birthdays was a trip to the gynaecology department at the local hospital (yay?). I wrote about that saga rather recently (Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3) so won’t go into the details here, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well that appointment went. It was after that appointment that my journey towards getting an answer about my gynaecological issues truly began.

June was a stressful month as we prepared to move house, & I also undertook a trip across the Pennines to Manchester, for an ironically inaccessible conference on disability. The end result was essentially having to pack the entire apartment on my own in a weekend, which also turned out to be one of the hottest weekends of the summer. To make matters more awkward, our landlord was not too happy that I had disclosed the extremely long list of broken things to the letting agents they were working with, & kept trying to charge us for things that had been in a sorry state long before we moved in two years before, but after obtaining some legal advice they were forced to back down. Still, July 1st, the day we got the keys for our new apartment, could not come fast enough.

The day we moved was bright & sunny, filling the apartment with natural light as we unpacked the essentials. Both of us had booked the week off work, & with the help of my bridesmaid & her partner, we were settled within that week. We were all pleasantly surprised at just how smoothly everything had gone!

Looking up at our new home; a red-brick building styled to look like a large house, nestled behind some trees.

The day we moved house was also the day I passed my probation at work, earning my place working alongside a characterful team of like-minded individuals. I’m not sure I had ever felt so positive & confident before; I had a gorgeous home I could be proud of, a brilliant job I could be proud of, & a gorgeous husband I could be proud of (for the most part, anyway). For about six weeks I was rolling on cloud number nine, even going so far as getting a new tattoo, & then I had to return to the hospital.

The black & white skull & rose, with 5 red ladybirds crawling over it, on my right shoulder.

This appointment was harder. The temporary treatment I had been on had already worn off, & I had to work hard to convince the doctor that the best way forward for me at this point was diagnostic surgery. Fortunately, the man saw reason once I had explained the situation, & I was told to expect a letter in the post. Sure enough, a few days later I had confirmation; on 24th September I would undergo a diagnostic laparoscopy.

I’m lucky to have an understanding & considerate employer, who allowed me to take the necessary time off work for the surgery & recovery without needing to use any of my annual leave. As the date got closer I got increasingly more nervous, not necessarily because of what they would find, but what they wouldn’t. Above all else I needed the validation that my symptoms were not all in my head, as had been suggested countless times before.

Sat up in my hospital bed post-surgery, with a disconnected drip still stuck in my hand.

Unsurprisingly the surgery did find something, that something being the endometriosis I had been telling doctors I had for years. The next two weeks post-operation were miserable. I was predominantly alone & housebound, in a lot of pain & still without treatment despite now having a diagnosis. My stitches, which as it transpired had been applied incorrectly, became infected. Then my GP was less than helpful, but fortunately I had managed to wrangle a telephone appointment with the gynaecologist for the end of November.

In mid-October I returned to work, now having been employed there for over a year. Given the large pile of paperwork waiting for me, & the even larger bouquet of flowers, it would appear I had been missed. It took a couple of weeks, but by the start of November, the majority of the backlog of work had been cleared. My line manager also had a new daughter.

A large bouquet of pink, white & purple flowers, of many varieties.

As our first wedding anniversary approached, Jarred & I decided to book a mini-break in York for late November. York is always spectacular as Christmas approaches, & considering the nature of the historical buildings littered throughout the city centre, is surprisingly accessible. You can read about my trip here: Part 1 & Part 2.

Upon my return to Leeds I had my telephone appointment with the gynaecologist. Fortunately, he was significantly more supportive than my GP, & proposed that I go back on the only treatment that had proved effective without miserable side effects in the past. Unfortunately, that did involve being injected in the stomach every few months, but it meant relief for the foreseeable future.

Now we have Christmas in our new apartment to look forward to, although of course when this is published, both Christmas & our first wedding anniversary will have passed us by.

As for the coming year, we know we have a home for well into 2021, so can relax on that front. My career in medical research could take several paths, & I look forward to finding where I end up. I don’t tend to plan as something will always come along to scupper plans; plans cannot be scuppered if they do not exist. I know I say this almost every year, but to have a less eventful year would be a pleasant relief; we will just have to wait & see.

Jingle Wheels: Another Christmas Story.

It was Christmas eve, & Santa’s workshop was a flurry of activity. The last of the presents were being wrapped in shiny paper with glittering ribbons, & loaded onto the sleigh like a festive game of Tetris. In the corner the reindeer were being fed & groomed, & Rudolph was standing still patiently as an elf helped him into his high-vis vest, which was only marginally brighter than his nose. On the back of the vest were emblazoned the words;

Service Reindeer. Do Not Pet.

In the bedroom Mrs Claus was helping her husband into his boots.

“Have you got everything?” she asked him as she stood up.

“Yes dear,” her husband replied.

“Snow tires?”

“Yes dear.”

“Ramp?”

“Yes dear.”

“Wheelchair bag?”

“Yes dear.”

“Wheelchair charger?”

“Yes dear.”

“Plastic straws? You won’t be able to drink all that milk with those horrible paper ones, they just dissolve.”

“Yes dear.”

“And don’t forget you have an appearance at the children’s hospital.”

“Yes dear.”

“Does this pinafore make me look funny?”

“Ye – no dear,” Santa quickly corrected himself before landing himself in hot water.

Mrs Claus bent over & kissed her husband on the forehead, smoothed down his infamous red hat, & opened the door. Santa wheeled forwards into the chaos of the workshop, & Rudolph trotted to his side instantly. Together they crossed the floor towards the sleigh, Rudolph ensuring the path was clear of obstacles & elves. They came to a halt as the final present was loaded onto the sleigh.

Rudolph didn’t need prompting; he trotted forwards & nudged a button on the back of the sleigh. With an electric whine the back of the sleigh slowly folded outwards into a ramp. Santa drove forwards in his powered chair, which was decorated with shimmering lights, tinsel, & sleigh-bells, & locked the restraints onto the tethering points on his chassis. Rudolph nudged the button again, & the ramp folded upright into the back of the sleigh, making the sign requesting at least 2 metres be left clear behind the sleigh visible.

Rudolph trotted to the front of the pack of reindeer to act as their navigator, but wasn’t harnessed to the sleigh like the rest as he would be accompanying Santa on the ground. The elves rushed to open to workshop door, & a gust of cold, arctic air ruffled Santa’s beard.

In a loud, clear voice Santa called to the rest of the reindeer;

“Now Roller, Now Whirler, Now Wheeler & Turner!

On Sitter, On Glider, On Access & Sloper!”

Mrs Claus & the elves watched as the sleigh moved forwards, accelerating & rising into the air as dusk fell over Lapland.

***

After a matter of minutes they reached their first stop, Toronto in Canada. They came to a rest on the top level of a multi-story car park in the North of the city; roofs were no longer an option as Santa had a tendency to tip his wheelchair to the side if he wasn’t careful. Rudolph deployed the ramp & joined Santa as they crossed to the lift by the staircase. To their dismay, a sign that looked as if it had been up for months said “Out of Order.” Both reindeer & man rolled their eyes simultaneously & returned to the sleigh, where to their dismay they saw a van parked inches from the back of the sleigh.

“Excuse me, sir?” Santa called to the driver who had his window half rolled down, with a cigarette dangling from his hand.

“Yeah?” the driver said lazily.

“The sign on the back of my sleigh says not to park so close!”

“I’ll only be here a minute,” the driver shrugged.

“But you could have parked anywhere else!”

“I’ll be here longer if you argue,” the driver made the effort to look down briefly at Santa.

“I really don’t have a minute to spare,” Santa said.

“Oh what? Like you’re the real Santa? In a wheelchair?” the driver had a mocking tone.

“Fine,” Santa sighed. Rudolph gave the driver a contemptuous snort before trotting to the front of the sleigh & guiding the rest of the reindeer forwards. The ramp was deployed & Santa seated on his sled as the van driver watched with something approaching interest. They left & headed to another car park, where fortunately the lift was still working.

Santa’s wheelchair bag was bulging with gifts & Rudolph carried the temporary ramp as they traversed the city, going from house to house. It was hard to be stealthy when everywhere you went, you were accompanied by an electronic whine, but Santa managed to avoid any awkward interactions with confused children, unlike the year before. Several hours of hard work later, & now with an empty bag, Santa returned to the sleigh.

Off they went, up into the night sky, as Santa mused that Einstein’s theory of relativity did somewhat take the magic out of his ability to fly around the world in a single night, even if the rest of humanity hadn’t cracked the time travel part yet.

***

Next Santa flew all across America, making stops at Philadelphia, New York City, Dallas, Washington DC, San Antonio, San Francisco, Miami, Phoenix, Los Angeles & more, before skipping Las Vegas as no one there had managed to avoid his Naughty List.

Then came the South America’s. Rio de Janeiro was one of Santa’s favourite spots, even if the steep hills did cause him some difficulty.

After touring the entirety of the vast continent, Santa hopped across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, & steadily made his way up to Europe, stopping in Cairo for a short rest along the way.

Europe was always a quicker continent to do, as many of the nations had the custom of opening their Christmas presents earlier in the month. One of his longest stops was actually one of the smallest nations, the somewhat ironically named United Kingdom.

Santa started on the south coast. Portsmouth was surprisingly accessible despite being a location of historical significance, mainly because it was all flat as a pancake. After traversing the island & then Southsea, Santa began to travel north.

Finding somewhere to park the sleigh in London was always a problem, especially as Santa didn’t have a blue badge meaning disabled parking spaces were off-limits to him, not that that seemed to stop other drivers. Still, the Oxford Street displays were always quite the spectacle.

Next came Birmingham. The Aston Interchange, colloquially known as Spaghetti Junction, always confused the reindeer so Santa avoided passing too close to it. Then they were on to Nottingham, then Leicester, & eventually they crossed the border into the north of the country; Sheffield. It was here he would be making an appearance at the children’s hospital.

Santa was greeted at the doors to the children’s unit by a tired-looking nurse.

“Ah, Santa, you’re here! The children are ever so excited!” she said, trying to muster up enthusiasm, before spotting Rudolph.

“Oh, animals aren’t allowed on the ward,” she added.

“He’s a service animal, ma’am,” Santa replied matter-of-factly.

“It’s a hygiene risk, you understand,” the nurse responded.

Before Santa could reply the doors of the ward opened, & out came a woman carrying a rabbit & two guinea-pigs in “Pets as Therapy” vests.

“Err…” Santa, who had been about to reply that he would make an exception given the nature of the medical conditions the children faced, gave the nurse a questioning look.

“OK, fine, but no messes,” she said, holding open the doors.

“He’s a trained service animal, he knows the rules,” Santa reassured her, rolling through the doors. He reached up for the anti-microbial hand gel, only to find the dispenser was so far up the wall as to be out of his reach. Fortunately, Rudolph was able to press the button for him, & the cold gel slopped down into Santa’s palm.

There were gasps of joy & excitement as Santa entered the ward. He handed a gift to each child, stopping by each bed to wish them a Merry Christmas individually.

At the very end of the ward were the individual rooms, for children so ill they couldn’t share a space with the rest. Rudolph helped Santa don the necessary gowns for hygiene before he entered a room where a little girl was propped up in pillows on the bed. To one side of the bed was a powered wheelchair, which was half obscured by the myriad of tubes she was hooked up to.

As he entered the room the girl’s eyes lit up. Santa gently placed a present on the bed, making sure it was within her reach, & wished her a Merry Christmas.

“You’re like me!” the girl exclaimed, nodding to her wheelchair by the bedside.

“Yes,” Santa replied, “I am.”

“I don’t see many people like me,” the girl said.

“I suppose we’re not very common,” returned Santa.

“They said people like me can’t do anything,” the girl added, “but you’re Santa. You go all over the world!”

“Well, having my own personal sleigh is a little easier than trying to get a wheelchair on an aeroplane,” Santa said jovially.

“When I grow up, I want to be like you,” she said.

“I hope you get to be like me too,” Santa was trying not to blush.

A few minutes later, as he was leaving the ward, the nurse who had greeted him piped up;

“She’s not going to get to grow up, you know.”

“I know,” Santa replied, “but she’s still a child. She’s going to dream.”

As he made his way back to the sleigh, he had to wipe away several tears.

***

Santa travelled all over the north of the UK, making stops in Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, York, Hull, Ripon, Bolton, Manchester, Liverpool, Carlisle, Newcastle, & then heading up into Scotland. Once complete he flew back across Europe, heading into Asia via Turkey. Santa progressed further east across Asia, trying not to get disheartened at the war-torn middle East, but finding it hard not to be affected by the inhumanity. Even his reindeer were visibly distressed, although like him they cheered up a little as they made it to China, where the staff at KFC were already preparing for the Christmas day rush.

Eventually Santa was headed to Australia. He changed into lighter-weight clothes to cope with the Summer heat, took the snow-chains off his wheels, & charged up his wheelchair on the way. They landed in Canberra, & after working their way around the city headed on to Sydney. They settled on the top of another multi-story car park, & Rudolph trotted around to lower the ramp. About half-way down there was a disconcerting juddering before it stopped dead, still a couple of inches from the floor.

“Drat,” Santa muttered. Rudolph seemed to agree, & pressed the button a few more times to no avail. Santa pulled his phone from his pocket & called his head engineer, an elf who as it happened, had just gone to bed at home in Lapland.

“Hello,” a groggy voice greeted Santa.

“I thought you said you’d fixed my ramp,” Santa said.

“Oh, err…I though I had,” the engineer said.

“Then why has it got stuck again?” Santa asked.

“Quite hard to tell when you’re half-way across the globe,” the elf replied sarcastically.

Santa didn’t grace the comment with a reply.

“Have you tried kicking it?” the elf asked.

“Really?” Santa asked in an equally sarcastic tone.

“Have you tried getting Rudolph to kick it?” the elf corrected himself.

“Not yet,” Santa replied before turning to his companion, “Give it a good whack for me, chuck.”

Rudolph tapped it gently with his hoof. Nothing happened.

“You might need to give it a bit more welly than that,” Santa said.

Rudolph reared up on his hind legs, & with as much force as he could muster slammed both of his front legs down on the ramp. It juddered back into life.

“Well, that seemed to do the trick,” Santa said down the phone, “but you might need to un-dent it when I get back. Have a good night.”

“Alright, I’ll have a look when you get back, night,” the elf replied tiredly before hanging up.

By the time Santa had made it around Sydney & then the rest of the vast continent, he was beginning to get tired, but he knew he still had to traverse New Zealand before the long ride home. Admittedly he could travel even faster now that the majority of the presents had been delivered, but the mountainous landscape & remote towns that were scattered across both islands made matters complicated, which took a surprisingly long time in comparison to the bigger cities.

Finally, the last present was delivered, & Santa made it back to the sleigh for the final journey home. As the sun began to rise, casting a soft golden light across the land, Santa noticed that something was missing.

“Rudolph,” Santa called, “Where is my ramp?” Rudolph went wide-eyed & seemed to blush under his thick fur.

“You left it at the last house, didn’t you?” Santa asked.

“Well, we can’t go back for it now. The children will see me. I guess you’ll just have to get me one as my Christmas present.”

Rudolph looked down & pawed at the ground.

“Come on, let’s go home, we’re all tired,” Santa said.

***

When Santa landed, the workshop door was already open in preparation for their arrival, & the chief engineer held a spanner in his hand as he leant casually against the wall. Upon deployment the ramp got stuck again, but this was rectified with a quick stomp from the engineer.

“You can leave fixing that for another day,” Santa told the engineer, “it is Christmas, after all.”

The engineer thanked Santa before heading off to spend the day with his own family in Lapland city centre.

Mrs Claus came out to greet a tired Santa, who almost immediately went to bed, as was by now Christmas tradition. The reindeers were brushed & fed, going to their own beds shortly afterwards. Rather ironically, the quietest household on Christmas morning was, as always, the Claus household.

***

At around the time that Santa was going to bed, a family in Alexandra, New Zealand opened their front door to see a metal ramp laid out on their doorstep. The woman who opened the door let out a cry of surprise.

“I can’t see a label on it so I don’t know who it’s from,” the woman turned to her wife, “but we won’t ever need to lift Amelia’s wheelchair down the step again!”

An electric whirring grew louder down the corridor, & a little girl appeared in morning light.

“Merry Christmas, Amy,” the woman said, stepping to one side to show her daughter the best Christmas gift they could have received.

How To Train Your Wheelchair: Part 2.

We entered the restaurant by wandering down a narrow alleyway, the ceiling of which was completely covered in fairy-lights. We settled in with some cocktails as we waited for our evening meal, soaking up the warmth & atmosphere of the place. Eventually we were able to face the cold again, & on our way back to the hotel we stopped at a stack of shipping containers that had been gentrified into a bar with street food.

We were surprised to find that this stack of shipping containers was accessible, including the top floor, albeit via a somewhat rickety lift. We enjoyed some red wine with an old floor tom-tom (drum) for a table, & listened to the live music. As the live session ended, so did our wine, & we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We would have been there much sooner had the lift not got stuck. The poor staff were almost as mortified as I was as they got out the manual crank, reset the system, & were able to get it working again.

Eventually we were safely back in the hotel in time to catch Live at The Apollo.

After a comfortable night’s sleep I woke up at around the same time, & the morning routine was repeated. We made our way back to the Shambles, which marks the start of the York Cat Trail. Since the 19th century cat sculptures have appeared on buildings all around the city centre, which have been turned into a spot-them-all trail. We wove our way between buildings, past shops, over cobbles, & onto bridges, managing to find the majority of the sculptures. Having been outside for quite some time we were very cold, so stopped at a nearby coffee shop before heading to the Christmas Market.

The Christmas Market was fairly busy even mid-week, but that didn’t stop us exploring the many stalls that lined the street. Once again we were outside for quite some time, & by lunchtime we were ready for some warmth again, so headed to a traditional Tudor pub that I could actually get into. What followed was one of the nicest meals I have ever had.

Full to the brim with delicious food, we decided to spend the afternoon exploring local museums. The Dig, an archaeological museum, was lacking in content but not school-children, so we didn’t stay there long before heading to the York Army Museum.

The lift required a member of staff to operate, but to my relief they were prompt, friendly, & capable. We were down into the museum within seconds, & wandered slowly around the exhibits. I’m currently playing a Role-Playing Game set in World War 1, & Jarred being something of a history nerd was able to identify which of the rifles on display had been assigned to my character. I was a little unsettled to see real Nazi artefacts from the second world war on display, but then a letter in another cabinet caught my eye. This letter was written by none other then Florence Nightingale, who almost single-handedly revolutionised modern medicine, & in her later years is suspected to have suffered from the same illness that ails me. Safe to say she’s something of a hero to me. She also had the handwriting of a medic – completely illegible, although fortunately there was a typed version next to it.

The final display case focused on modern warfare (not the video games), including stealth gear which you could try on. Obviously, I had to try it on, albeit with Jarred’s assistance. I present to you a gliding hedge;

Sat in the York Army Museum in my wheelchair, covered in various military stealth clothes. I look ridiculous.

When we had made our way around the museum, Jarred had to go upstairs & let the receptionist know that we were ready to leave, but again I was fortunate in that he was prompt in his response. Once we were outside in the cold again, we decided to make our way back to the hotel room. We played another round of The Viking Game, then headed back out to the stack of shipping containers.

It took me a while to choose what I wanted from all the street food on offer, but eventually I settled on some properly-done fried chicken with barbecue sauce. We didn’t venture upstairs this time as I was still wary of the lift.

After our meal we headed towards the nearest accessible pub, which unsurprisingly turned out to be a Wetherspoon’s. A couple of pints of Strongbow Dark Fruits (what? I like it!) & a Christmas dessert later, we were ready to head back to the hotel again where we watched another episode of Live at The Apollo before turning in for the night.

The next morning was the day to go home, & we begrudgingly packed our bags (including Kontroller Kitty), & checked out. We were allowed to store our bags in a safe-room however, as we wanted to get brunch before heading home. We returned to the restaurant from the first night of our little holiday, having enjoyed it very much at the time. All too soon it was time to collect our bags & head to the bus stop. By late afternoon we were back home, Kontroller Kitty had returned to her usual position on the shelf by the PlayStation, & everything was unpacked. We were tired but relaxed, knowing that we both still had a few days before returning to work. We had conserved a little energy though, as the following day we planned to put up the Christmas decorations!

How to Train Your Wheelchair: Part 1.

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.

Equal Pay For Disability.

Bold, white capital letters reading Equal Pay For Disability on a purple square. A black & white I.age of several empty wheelchairs surrounds the box in the background.

A Tory candidate has stated that disabled people should be paid less than our able-bodied counterparts, because our work is about happiness.
Because we don’t have bills to pay.
Because someone else will look after us.
Because we don’t pay more for transport, accessible accommodation, equipment, or medication.
Because able-bodied employers are giving us opportunities we should be grateful to receive.
My work saves lives.
It could save the NHS that they destroyed.
It takes skill, hard work, & dedication.
But because I use a wheelchair I should be paid less for it.
This story has already fallen off of the news websites. It’s already being covered up & forgotten. We cannot let that happen so close to a general election.
So if you support disability rights, even if you’re not in the UK, tell people about this. Tell them the truth.
That a vote for the Tories is a vote for blatant illegal ableism.
https://www.bbc.com/news/election-2019-50684582

The Fearless Snowflake Award.

As a blogger I’ve been lucky enough to be the recipient of multiple awards, & I think it’s high time that I gave something back to the community. More than anything else I wanted to create something slightly different, something that recognised the content & quality of a blog, but that also recognised someone’s dedication to their chosen topic.

There are certain topics that, on the international stage of the internet, will attract scathing criticism as well as support & praise. Particularly, political matters & social justice can leave creators open to insults such as “Social Justice Warrior”, or “Snowflake”. Now I, for one, have never had a problem with being called either. Who on Earth thought being described as a warrior for justice would be an insult must be a very…special…individual. Similarly, snowflakes are uniquely beautiful on their own, but together can transform the world (&, as someone pointed out to me on Twitter, can bring an entire city to a halt). Why either term has become an insult is beyond me, but here we are nevertheless.

There is a small trend of certain words, traditionally used as insults, being taken up by victims as a way of fighting back against oppression. Punk was once used an insult instead of being one of the greatest musical genres on the planet. The LGBTQIA+ community is more than happy to use the word “queer”, & some disabled people have described themselves as “cripples”. Perhaps most famously, people of colour are using the N-word. It makes a mockery of those dealing out the insults, & leaves them scrabbling to find more.

I think it’s time to take back snowflake, & instead of it being used as a derogatory term to describe someone with a conscience & empathy, it should be used to celebrate individuals who advocate for equality both on their blog, & in real life. “The Snowflake Award” sounded rather sarcastic, more akin to a Golden Raspberry rather than an Oscar, so this is what I came up with:

A teal circle on a white background, with a white snowflake in the centre. The Fearless Snowflake Award is written in deep blue text accross it.

If nominated, to accept the award there will be a few rules:

  1. Thank whoever nominated you, & link back to their blog.
  2. Link back to this blog post, & name Diary of a Disabled Person as the creator.
  3. Display the logo.
  4. Nominate 1 – 3 individuals, & make sure to let them know!
  5. Write a couple of paragraphs describing why each of your nominees deserves The Fearless Snowflake Award.
  6. Get in touch with me so that can pass on my personal congratulations.

To get the ball rolling, I’m going to nominate 3 people for The Fearless Snowflake Award.

The first is Crutches & Spice author, Imani Barbarin. Imani runs an excellent website full of interesting content, & is also extremely active on social media. A quick explore of CrutchesandSpice.com will make it obvious why she is eligible for this award; she doesn’t just write about equality for disabled people, but takes action too. She is constantly giving talks & presentations, & has absolutely no qualms about being a loud & clear advocate for social equality. Her efforts are admirable & deserve recognition.

Next up is Gem Turner, author of Gemturner.com. Gem has a sense of humour on a parallel with most comedians, & again is active on Twitter. She writes well about her passion for social equality, & again has experience as a public speaker to back her up. She will also speak up for herself in the moment, speaks the truth without hiding behind fancy language, & demonstrates that disabled people have more to them than their conditions.

Finally, we come to someone I consider to be a friend, & who I had in mind for this award from the very beginning. Her name is Dr Amy Kavanaugh & she is the author of Cane Adventures, the creator of #JustAskDontGrab, & has appeared on television on multiple occasions advocating for the rights of visually impaired & queer women.  She frequently shares her experience of day-to-day life in London, often using public transport (including the tube) at peak times & recording her experience to demonstrate her message. She shares both the good & the bad, & works incredibly hard to spread her message.

To all three of these women I pass my congratulations, & I look forward to seeing what you think of this award.