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.

Away in a Wheelchair: A Christmas Story.

Mary sat in the waiting room scrolling through social media, trying to avoid the news as it was nearly always miserable. An old man was coughing loudly in the corner, and on the other side of the room a mother comforted a snivelling child. The receptionist could be heard tapping away at her computer, interrupted only by the phone ringing.

There was a beeping noise and Mary’s name appeared on the large screen mounted on the wall above reception. She clicked off her brakes and manoeuvred her way towards the doctor’s office, knocking on the door in the vain hope that they would open it, but simply hearing a woman’s voice brusquely say “come in” from the other side instead. Mary pushed the door open with her feet while propelling her wheelchair into the room, and positioned herself opposite the doctor.

“What can I do for you today?” the doctor sounded bored.

“Well, it’s just these new pills you’ve put me on,” Mary began, “they’re very effective but they also have side effects.”

“And what would those side effects be?” the doctor pressed.

“Very vivid hallucinations,” Mary tried to sound as self-assured as she could while at the same feeling highly embarrassed.

“How strange, that’s never happened before,” the doctor said as she scanned the prescription on her computer for the list of side effects.

“Yeah, it was…weird,” Mary offered.

“So what did you hallucinate?” the doctor looked back at Mary.

“Well…err…and I promise you it all seemed very real at the time…err…I…um…I met an angel.”

“What?” the doctor said, flummoxed.

“I met an angel,” Mary repeated self-consciously, “and the angel told me that I would soon become pregnant with the child of…oh, this is ridiculous,…of God.”

The doctor barely contained her amusement, a small snicker escaping before she continued.

“Ridiculous indeed, to have children you’d need to be able to have sex,” the doctor quipped.

“Really?” Mary raised an eyebrow, “how did you pass medical school if you don’t think disabled people can have sex?”

The doctor opened her mouth but Mary interrupted, “Don’t even ask how, OK? I lie down. Sheesh.”

The doctor closed her mouth again looking thoughtful.

“There is one way we could settle this matter if it would put your mind at ease,” the doctor recovered her professional demeanour, “You could take a pregnancy test. I have some in my desk, and the disabled toilet is just around the corner.”

“Fine,” Mary took the pregnancy test from the doctor and left the room, returning 5 minutes later.

“May I have another please, I think I did this one wrong?” Mary looked somewhat sheepish.

“Sure,” the doctor handed her another and spent the next 5 minutes filing paperwork while she waited.

Mary returned looking even more sheepish than before, carrying both pregnancy tests on her lap.

“Well?” the doctor inquired.

There was a short pause before Mary replied, “I’m pregnant.”

***

Lounging back on the sofa Mary rested her mug of tea on her swollen belly, trying not to fall asleep. When she heard Joe’s keys turning in the lock she slowly sat herself upright, and waited for the rustling of hats, scarves, and coats being removed before the door into the lounge opened.

“Evening,” Mary said, noticing Joe looked somewhat distressed, “Are you alright?”

“Have you seen the news?” he said.

“You know I never watch the news,” Mary replied.

Joe sighed, “A huge hurricane has been spotted crossing the Atlantic and it’s heading straight for us. It’s due to hit in 24 hours; they’re evacuating the city tonight.”

“Is this what you call a joke?”

“No, Mary, I’m serious. We need to pack our bags and go. Now.”

“But the baby-“

“I know the baby’s due any day now but we’ve got no choice. It’s not safe,” Joe swiftly left the room, and Mary could hearing him dragging the suitcases out of the wardrobe. Awkwardly she shifted from the sofa to the wheelchair, the seatbelt of which had long since given up hope of keeping her safe, and rolled through to the bedroom. Someone would need to direct the packing or they’d end up with enough underpants to sink a ship but no nappies for the baby.

***

The train station was the busiest it had ever been, with all the ticket barriers left open as people streamed in droves towards the trains. As they approached the platform of the nearest train an official walked over to them.

“Have you booked a ramp?” he asked Joe.

“No,” Mary responded coldly.

“You need to book a ramp 24 hours in advance if you want to board the train,” the official continued speaking to Joe.

“Oh I’m sorry,” a tired, grumpy, and very pregnant Mary said, “I’ll just call the Met Office and ask them to delay the hurricane so we can give you a warning in advance that I can’t levitate. This is an emergency evacuation, surely your ableist policies don’t apply now.” Joe placed his hand on Mary’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. She fixed him with a glare colder than Medusa’s own.

“I’m sorry, but we need the notice so that we can ensure that a member of staff with the right insurance is available,” the official wouldn’t budge.

“We’ll find another option,” Joe looked down at Mary before turning and directing her out of the station.

“Now what?” Mary said once outside, the wind already picking up.

Across the road a bus pulled up.

“Bus then, I guess,” Mary started to move towards it.

As she approached the driver opened the doors, and shouted to her, “No room for a wheelchair, love, we’ve got a pram.”

“Then tell the mother to move, it’s a wheelchair space, not a pram space,” Mary stuck her foot in the doorway to prevent the automatic doors from closing.

“Not my job,” the bus driver muttered, even though it legally was.

“I’ll move,” the mother shouted down the bus, clearly more aware of the law than the driver was.

After much fussing with luggage and prams and the uncooperative bus driver, Mary could finally settle in the wheelchair space as they made their way out of the city.

“Where we headed?” she asked Joe.

“Heathrow airport,” a stranger interjected.

“They gonna try and fly in this?” Mary replied incredulously.

“Nah, but they can shelter enough of us in the airport itself, there’s hotels and all that. It’s still gonna get battered by this storm, but the worst of it is meant to be up in Scotland so we’ll cope.”

“Thanks,” Mary said, turning to Joe, “Can you ring round the hotels and make sure they have an accessible room ready for us? I really ought to get a hotel room in this state.”

“Sure,” Joe nodded, looking at the empty bars on his phone, “but there’s no signal. I’ll go to the top deck.” With that Joe shuffled away through the crowd in the vain hope of getting a signal. Mary was suddenly overcome by a wave of exhaustion, and within minutes was fast asleep.

Several hours had passed when Mary woke up suddenly, feeling a small but intense cramp across her abdomen and back. It disappeared almost as soon as it had arrived and Mary thought nothing of it until, as she was drifting back to sleep, it returned.

“Joe,” Mary hissed, “Joseph.” She shook him gently, as having given up on obtaining a phone signal, he had settled on the seat beside her and fallen asleep.

“Hmmm what?” a very drowsy Joe opened his eyes.

“I think I’m in labour,” Mary whispered.

“Huh?”

“I’m giving birth,” Mary hissed.

“Oh, OK,” there was a pause as Joe came to his senses, then, “What? Now? You’re in labour right now?”

“Yes I’m in labour right now,” Mary returned sharply, much louder than she intended.

“We’re only a couple of hours from Heathrow, love,” the bus driver shouted back, “it’d be sooner but this damn traffic is holding us up.”

“I’ll try and hold it then,” she quipped back.

The next two hours were the longest of Mary’s life. The light of dawn illuminated a grey and gloomy sky hanging above a seemingly endless convoy of cars, trucks, and buses. Each pain became a little more intense and were already becoming more frequent. Mary tried not to wake the other passengers up, but wasn’t succeeding. Eventually Heathrow could be seen in the distance, and another half an hour later the bus arrived at its destination.

The driver ensured that Mary was the first off the bus, followed closely by Joe who carried all their luggage while his wife clutched her belly. They pushed through the crowd, quite literally treading on toes and disrupting queues, but no one seemed to mind thanks to the magic of a wheelchair.

“Which hotel did you book?” Mary asked.

“Signals down, I couldn’t get a hold of any of them,” he replied.

“Wonderful,” Mary said.

“Look, I’m sure they’ll be understanding of our situation,” Joe answered, heading towards the nearest one. They pushed past the queue at the reception desk, Joe interrupting another customer mid-speech.

“My wife needs an accessible room and she needs one now, she’s in labour,” the words fell out in a rush.

“All our accessible rooms are already full sir, but we do have some other rooms available,” the receptionist replied calmly.

“Will it fit a wheelchair?” he asked.

“No, I said all our accessible rooms are already full, sir-“

“Then you’re no help to us,” Joe hastily turned on his heel and headed to the next hotel, followed by Mary.

He repeated the process only to get the same response, and went from hotel to hotel to hotel, all of them informing him that accessible rooms were apparently rarer than an endangered species. Even seeing Mary’s increasing distress as labour progressed didn’t help. Utterly exhausted, afraid, and in pain, Mary broke down in tears in the midst of the airport.

“I don’t want to have my baby with everyone looking at me,” she stuttered between tears. Joe also began to cry, frustrated by the unwillingness to help others in need displayed by everyone they had come across.

“I know, I know, but I don’t know how to fix this,” he replied.

A woman wearing an air hostess uniform approached them, her heels audibly clicking on the tiles despite the noise in the airport.

“There is somewhere private you can go,” she said, “if you need it.”

“Yes, yes, please, anything,” Mary wiped the tears mingled with sweat from her face.

“This way, and I will fetch a doctor once you’re settled,” the air hostess guided them through what seemed like miles of crowded airport, stopping every few minutes as a contraction took hold of Mary. Finally, the air hostess opened the door of the room she had in mind. It was a disabled toilet, although in fairness there was an adult-sized changing table attached to one wall, which the air hostess was already pulling down.

“I know it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing,” she said.

“What’s your name?” Joe asked, receiving a steely glare from Mary.

“Star,” she replied, before dashing off to find a doctor.

Slowly and carefully, Joe helped Mary climb on the table, putting a bag beneath her head as a pillow. A few minutes later there was a tap on the door and a doctor appeared, followed by a nurse, both in bloodied scrubs having clearly been put to work at least once already. Mary couldn’t have cared less, simply being relieved to have a private place to give birth, albeit a humble bathroom. Another contraction detonated through her body, causing Mary to grit her teeth in an effort not to scream.

***

Two hours later an exhausted and sweat-covered Mary was handed her little boy, who’s first cry could be heard from outside of the room. Mary’s head flopped back onto her pillow as she held her little boy, tears of relief now adorning her cheeks as Joe kissed her forehead gently. Time passed at an unknown pace until a knock was heard on the door. Mary cast Joe a puzzled glance as he crossed the room. He answered to find three boys stood outside, one holding a pile of clean, fluffy towels, one holding some bottles of water, and the other holding a tiny baby-gro.

“We thought these might help,” the boy holding the towels offered, “these are spares in the staff laundry room.”

“And these were from the pharmacy,” the boy with the water added.

“And this was my first baby-gro which my mum kept as a memento, but she said you can have it now,” the third added.

“Wow, boys, this is wonderful. Your mothers must be very proud of you,” Joe accepted each of the gifts and added them to the pile of luggage in the corner of the room, except for the baby-gro. Instead he gently lifted the baby from Mary’s arms where the nurse had left him after his first bath. He stirred slightly in his sleep as Joe gently unravelled the many towels from the baby, before dressing him even more carefully in the baby-gro, which fit perfectly.

“Can we see the baby?” One of the boys said expectantly, as they were waiting by the door.

“Of course,” Joe said.

Mary watched, smiling, as Joe carefully set the baby down in her wheelchair before going back to open the door properly. The boys stumbled in excitedly and rushed to the side of the wheelchair, where they spoke only in loud whispers.

“What’s his name?” one of the boys asked.

From the changing table where she still lay, tired but content to watch the world go by, Mary replied.

“Joshua,” she said.

THE END.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s Christmas special which was inspired by some ideas put forward by fans of Diary of a Disabled Person. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and I will be back next week with the New Year special.

Until then, Merry Christmas!

Diary of a Disabled Person Needs YOU.

It’s that time of year again; the run-up to Christmas and New Year is picking up the pace. As such, it’s time for me to plan and write Christmas and New Year Specials, and while I’ve already got a plan for the New Year Special, I’m struggling to differentiate this year’s Christmas edition from last years. That is where YOU come in.

I want to know what Christmas-themed topics you want to read about. All suggestions are welcome provided they relate to the festive season and in some way relate to disability. Short story ideas are equally welcome. It doesn’t matter how vague or tenuous the suggestion is; all ideas will be considered! If your idea serves as the inspiration for the Christmas post, I will give you a shout-out both on here and on social media if you would like that.

Let me know what you think in the comments section, or alternatively you can send me an email via the contact tab on the main menu.  Monetary bribes are 100% accepted on the donate tab, also on the main menu.

I’m genuinely interested to see what you all come up with!

51. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT’S CHRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Being the over-grown child in an over-sized pram that I am, it should come as no surprise that I particularly enjoy Christmas. I always have done so and I’m not going to let disability stop me now.

When I was a small child one of my favourite things to do in December was to go and see the Christmas lights displayed around Bradford city centre. The colours and patterns caught my attention, especially the series depicting the “12 days of Christmas” down the steep hill between all the shops. This is no different in Leeds, where the city centre is on my door step (figuratively speaking). I rather enjoy bundling up against the cold and drifting slowly around the streets looking at the lights, and then returning home to a warm drink and a hot water bottle.

Once I had begun to use my wheelchair on a regular basis I decked it in tinsel of varying colours each year, and still do. Wherever I go it seems to make people smile, especially children, so the small hassle of sticking the tinsel on the chair is worth it. Combined with my Santa hat, Christmas-themed earrings, and Rudolph-scrunchie in my hair, I look faintly ridiculous, but no one is going to start bullying some disabled in public so I get away with it.

The majority of my Christmas shopping is done on the German Christmas Market which takes over Millenium Square in the city centre for the entirety of advent every single year. Most of the stalls are accessible, with only one or two having small steps up to them, and the wide open spaces between stalls is relatively easy to navigate. The aura of festivity in the lights, sounds, and smells is infectious, particularly in a light snow shower. One of my favourite photographs was taken at the German market in 2016, complete with my beloved polar bear hat perched on my head. I had to borrow my mum’s scooter because my wheelchair had a flat tire.

Image description: I'm sat on my mum's scooter as my wheelchair was broken at the time. I have my skull and crossbones blanket, my leather jacket, & am holding a cup of hot honey mead in my gloved hands. I'm wearing my beloved polar bear hat and smiling at the camera. It's one of my favourite photos of myself.

Some of the stalls sell traditional German food, including some of the best Frankfurters I have ever tasted, washed down with a warm cup of mulled wine or mead. I have been told that the beer tent is rather nice, but as I’m not a fan of beer I tend to ignore that one. Several stalls are purely dedicated to various forms of confectionary, my favourite being the one with fruit skewers dipped in chocolate. The strawberries coated in dark chocolate are something akin to heaven on a stick. There is even one stall entirely dedicated to fudge in a range of flavours so wide it would bankrupt me to try them all.

Aside from the food there is still plenty to see. Some stalls sell trinkets, candles, and ornaments. Some sell jewellery, bags, hats, and scarves. Others sell hand-made traditional Christmas decorations. There are also two stalls of toys, one with teddy bears in every animal imaginable including a bat, and the other selling wooden toys like jigsaws and building blocks. It’s exceptionally easy to find a Christmas present for everyone on a market so diverse.

As for Christmas day itself, I would usually spend the day in my parents’ house on holiday from school and university. Church is often too much hassle due to accessibility issues so we tend to stay indoors opening presents, listening to music, watching TV, and sharing good food and drink. This year will be different; I will be hosting Christmas in the flat I share with my fiancé. This also means I will be cooking Christmas dinner for the first time, so let’s just say it will be experimental. All the same, it will be great for my parents not to have to cook, and they can still be home in time to watch the Christmas edition of Call the Midwife.

I truly hope you all have a wonderful Christmas.