What a joke.
Tonight just about capped it in my London transport journey diary.
I bought tickets back in July to see a girl called Nina Nesbitt in Camden. Camden is about 10 miles from where I live. That’s a fair distance across London on a wet and cold night in December. I always have the option of just going by road in my chair plus Triride, but hey how nice is it to go by vehicle and stay dry at least.
So…as it was raining, I thought we’d try getting a tube from Hounslow East, using the Piccadilly line all the way to Kings Cross. To get to Hounslow East we’d get a bus for 2 miles from Brentford. Then, at Kings Cross, Wendy could stay on one stop and I could get out and Tri the last mile by road, meeting in Camden.
This trip was ‘ getting further away at first, geographically ‘ , but then it’d be dead easy in terms of route planning.
Best laid plans…
There’s a bus driver that has a personal vendetta against me. Several times I’ve encountered him and each time he has done everything he can to stop my journey. Oh to be able to stand up and confront him properly.
As the 235 bus came in, Wendy pressed the wheelchair button to get the ramp down. Well lo and behold, if the Bane of my Life didn’t actually go out of his way to cycle up to the bus driver on the 235 ( yes, he was just cycling past and couldn’t resist f’ing me up ) and tell the driver ( who was about to let me on ) not to allow me on ( ‘as my wheelchair was not a wheelchair at all, but a scooter’ ). At this point I produced what I was told was the ultimate passport to disabled travel, the Mobility Aid passport, containing my name, my picture, and most of all a picture of me in my wheelchair with Triride attached. Once I flashed this, I was told, drivers would wilt and become as obliging as fat girl offered a KitKat.
But hey, this is the first and only time I have resorted to this card… and guess what? Yep, the driver COMPLETELY IGNORED IT. He wasn’t in the slightest bit interested in the fact that it was issued by TfL, ultimately his bosses, and for no good reason other than his choice of passengers being something he could control. Despite polite and eventually not so polite protestations by Wendy and I he refused for a good 5 minutes to let us on, preferring to stop his bus and the 20 odd passengers already on it, to just letting us get on. The mystery to me is why no passengers get involved at all. It’s quite obvious what the rules are, yet no one can be arsed to stand up and assist.
Pissed bloke with can of Special Brew to the rescue then. He steps up and tells the driver not to be such a tosser, and to just let me on. The psychology here is amazing. Disabled and articulate bloke gets ignored completely – in the hierarchy he is bottom; disabled bloke’s girlfriend is dismissed as irrelevant as she is an appendage of the disability, yet SpecialBrewGuy is taken notice of ?
He lets us on and we get to Hounslow East. Shocker over then? Phew … ! Wendy got the whole fiasco on film so that’s already gone to TfL. I wonder what they’ll do? I’m not expecting a lot. …
But no, it’s just started. Next destination Kings Cross. Should be 40 minutes at worst, arriving in Camden with 90 minutes to spare at least …
I ask the guard to help me onto the Tube, telling her my destination station. She is supposed to radio ahead and tell them I’m coming, and on which train. So after about 10 stops the train slows, and slows. And slows.
Then the announcement comes. The train will terminate due to signalling failure at Russell Square.
Jesus Christ. That’s 3 stops time and none of the stations coming up is wheelchair accessible. How the fuck am I supposed to get out? There is no option for me to change Tube lines at any of the stations. The system does not account for the poor bugger on the train in the wheelchair that can’t walk and climb stairs. This is a major omission. The guard notified the system of my presence on the train, yet no account is taken of my plight when there is a signal failure. Well what the f*** am I supposed to do?
Obviously I do know what to do. I employ the common sense of my immense girlfriend and the goodwill of loads of blokes and together about 10 of them ( no joke ) carry me aloft up 20 steps to the lift level. Guess what ? EVERY SINGLE VOLUNTEER IS NOT BRITISH, ALL ARE EAST EUROPEAN.
Whilst held high I utter that I feel like Cleopatra. No one laughs? Well either they aren’t too smart, or they don’t speak English. No matter, they do the job and I thank them all sincerely.
After that it’s yet another bus, as it’s raining hard now.
We get to Camden. It’s 3 hours and 15 minutes since we set out. It’s 10 miles. In that time in my Tri, if I had the battery, I could have gone 120 miles…
We got to the gig, late, but she was brilliant. Nina Nesbitt ought be a big star. She’s 24 but has a maturity about her. She writes great lyrics too, catchy but intelligent ( not that usual, that ).
To get back I’d had enough of public bloody transport. I Tri- rode the 10 miles. Guess how long it took? London streets and loads of traffic lights and junctions… 41 bloody minutes. One quarter of the time it took to get there.
The Mad Max is just as it’s labelled Well the Mad bit is anyway.
I’ve realised that I’m not thinking straight. What I do is let my caring side get in the way. I worry about Wendy, and what’s best for her. I want to make sure she’s ok on the bus or train etc so I go with her, when it’s far slower for me. The thing is that by having me with her, it’s then often slower for her too, so it’s all counterproductive. Had I not opted to go with her this evening to keep her company, we’d have both avoided the calamity that it was. We’d both have gone a different way to the one that we did go, and avoided a shit load of hassle.
Caring then is sharing the shit, when it comes to disabled travelling in London. The Triride is King. As long as I’m waterproofed I’m ok.
It was all compounded yesterday by the fact that yet another Loopwheel ( the ones I have that have built in suspension- loops not spokes ) broke on me. The rim cracked right through so that the wheel is only held together by the tyre. It would seem that these special wheelchair wheels just aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to a fair bit of mileage. At £400 per wheel, that’s a bit rubbish. Yes I’ve fed it back to the manufacturers, and even suggested they actually use me as their official tester. We’ll see what happens. Will they replace this wheel under warranty? They bloody should. I’ve only had it for a year, possibly less. So yesterday morning was all about wheel swapping and then brake adjustments ( as the wheel i had to put on was slightly bigger by about a cm than the one I took off ). And it’s hard to do this stuff by myself. I have to ‘ direct’ my help to do what needs doing. I’ve never had a Carer ( not even a male one ) that confidently knows one end of a screwdriver from the other, or the fact that clockwise rotation tightens nuts up. Occasionally they know Righty Tighty but when the nut is upside down and in an awkward place, it’s a step too far for a lot of spanner illiterates ( bless em ). So these jobs take forever.
So if you think YOU had a bad day… well you may have, but perhaps yours wasn’t actually so bad after all ?
PS lovely to see my Aunty Mary the other day. She is a superstar lady. Also great to have seen Sigrid again (9/10 ) in concert on Wednesday, and then White Lies ( 6/10 because I’m just not really a fan of their stuff. The crowd tho were almost fanatical about them ) in Brixton on Friday.
And thanks to Mikey and T for inviting us to theirs on Saturday to have dinner plus watch the Joshua / Ruiz ‘ fight ‘. Rubbish fight, but lovely night otherwise.
Ref gigs, the venue can make all the difference. Last night was a really small place in Camden with a brilliant atmosphere. The worst mid sized venue is Hammersmith Apollo. It’s just soulless for me, so whatever the band, they start in deficit. Maybe it’s just me, but even as a walky about person I found Hammersmith shite. I should stop going there really, but it’s ironic as it’s the most convenient location. Decisions decisions then…