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.

Honeymoon.

Next week I’ll be heading to London for my honeymoon, so for the first time in Diary of a Disabled Person history, I’ll be taking a week off from blogging.

Diary of a Disabled Person will return on Sunday 10th March with brand new content!

In the meantime, you can keep up with everything I get up to on Facebook & Instagram (@diaryofadisabledperson), & Twitter (@WheelsofSteer).

Don’t miss me too much!

Mission Impossible 5: Time for a Holiday.

Everyone needs to take a break every now and then, and I’m sure it comes as no surprise when I say that even going on holiday is problematic for those of us with a disability. If it does come as a surprise, you might want to crawl out from underneath that rock you’ve been living under.

The first hypothetical hurdle comes when choosing where to go. Holiday parks like Disneyland are probably a relatively safe bet when it comes to accessibility, but not everyone enjoys eating pure glucose while being harassed by princesses and having to dodge around marriage proposals on every corner. City breaks provide a solution to most of these problems if you can cope with the heavy levels of traffic as everyone not lucky enough to be on holiday travels to work. These also rely on venues being accessible, something which is not always guaranteed. For those who aren’t especially fond of other human beings there are many beautiful historical and geographical marvels around the UK, particularly around North Yorkshire and the Lake District, but mountains and castle ruins aren’t the most wheelchair-friendly terrain.

The next thing to consider is accommodation. I was never one for camping as the idea of sleeping on lumpy grass while rain batters the tent mere inches from my face, and having to check food for insects before eating it does not appeal to me. While there probably is a wheelchair friendly tent hidden in the annals of the internet, I imagine it would cost a pretty penny, so camping is immediately ruled out. Youth hostels are often affordable and have accessible rooms, provided you can cope with sharing a space with delinquent adolescents. Independent hotels are never guaranteed to have accessible facilities, so the easiest route is to hope that a chain hotel in the area has an accessible room free for when you want it.

Most difficult of all is the consideration of transport. There are countless instances of air services losing wheelchairs, literally leaving the wheelchair user stranded in a different country while the staff try to figure out what all the fuss is about. Trains are also horrendous. Booking assistance to get on the train is like disability roulette as many a time it simply doesn’t materialise. Wheelchair spaces are often two narrow to accommodate a wheelchair, as are the bathrooms, and on occasions trains insist that wheelchairs are stored in luggage carriages (at an extra cost) at which point they get lost. Coaches can only accommodate manual wheelchairs that fold up and fit in the luggage component, although the drivers are usually trained in how to handle disabled passengers so are significantly better than trains and planes. Travelling any distance in buses or taxis soon accumulates great cost, and it is common for a disabled taxi to turn up very late, or the wheelchair space on a bus to already be in use.

All in all, the stress of organising everything and dealing with the inevitable accessibility issues often makes going on holiday feel like hard work. I know many people who choose to have a “staycation” instead, where they stay at home and only visit places in the local area for relaxation. Non-disabled people might find this concept ridiculous, but when going back to work feels like the holiday you were supposed to have, what’s the point in going at all?