And gigs have resumed!
I went with my lovely friend Sarah to a gig last night. Who’d have thunk?
It was in Kentish Town, and was a double header or Sleeper and The Bluetones. Both were great. To be honest, even if they hadn’t been, I’d have thought they were, just down to the sheer novelty factor!
Getting there wasn’t so bad. I got to Kew Gardens and expected to catch a train.
The train was cancelled…. 🤦♂️
I got the District Line and then gambled on changing at Earls Court onto the Piccadilly Line, because they now have lifts at Earls Court. That was pretty complicated though because the lifts aren’t clearly labelled… so it took a while.
I usually avoid the Piccadilly because those trains are smaller with an 18 inch difference between the trains and the platforms, either up or down.
This time I followed the Tube map and trusted it. Usually it’s with a pinch of salt, because it’s so often inaccurate.
Anyway I got to North London eventually without too much stress, and then wheeled the last 1.5 miles to the venue.
The gig went on til 11. Thé tubes stop at about 12.30. That gave me enough time to catch trains all the way home, in theory, rather than just Triride the 11 miles back in the dark. I have normally wheeled back…. but I’d kinda forgotten why, since there is available public transport.
I got to Cal Road and looked at the Tube Map. I can go all the way home on one train. I have a choice of Hounslow East and also West. They are both accessible stations. East is ‘ step free from platform to street ‘ and West is ‘ step free from TRAIN to street. A translation of that is that East is flat, but you can’t get out of the train unless someone helps you. … but who that someone is is a total gamble. Usually I have to ask other passengers, because the TfL staff don’t turn up.
So I get to Hounslow East. The train stops and it’s probably about a foot down to the platform. I consider asking people to help, but I don’t, I think I’ll just go on 2 stops ( further away from my home ). It’s now midnight. If i can’t get out at Hounslow West then my next option to get out is Heathrow Airport, and I really don’t want to end up there.
So I wheel off at Hounslow West and follow the lift sign. I get to the end of the platform. Well if there was a lift at some point in the past… there sure as hell isn’t now. Why are the signs there? Why do the Tube maps say it’s accessible? Why aren’t there automated announcements on the train? There are all sorts of other automated announcements about every other bloody thing…
Christ, it’s late now and I’m feeling nervous about being stuck. I see there’s another train so I cross the platform and go back in the other direction on the next train. It stops at Hounslow East. Going east there actually isn’t a drop down or step up from the train to the platform. Great, it’s going to be ok ! I get off and wheel along the platform to the proper lift.
I look above the lift.
‘ LIFT OUT OF SERVICE’
No announcements/ no automated messages, nothing. It’s 12.40 and there are no more trains. I’m in a deserted station, and there are 40 odd steps down to street level. I’ve run out of options. At every turn there is an obstacle, yet none of it is publicised. There are not 4 fellas to carry me down the stairs.
I’m about to call 999 when a TFL staff guy wanders up. I said I’m stuck. He actually said ‘ well why did you get off here?’
Errrr because I should, because this station is level access, and there is no indication AT ALL that there will be an issue.
He mumbles something and wanders off. Well where does that bloody leave me? He then says ‘ do you think you could walk down the stairs?’
Jesus… if I could do that… why would I be in this wheelchair?
About 15 minutes later someone else arrives. It’s an engineer. He says he can switch the lift mechanism on… If it works… why is it switched off without it being publicised that the station is now NOT accessible? There would seem to be the notion that everyone in wheelchairs can actually manage the stairs if asked nicely. Well no, they can’t.
I get home at 1.20 because it’s about another 2 miles by Triride.
It’s taken me 2 and a half hours to get back. That’s 10 miles in 2 and a half hours. You could walk 10 miles in that time ( if you could walk ).
I remembered why I didn’t catch trains late at night. They are a disaster. When stuff goes wrong I’m at the mercy of TfL. Yes, I could book wheelchair taxis, but so often they let me down in the past that I stopped using them.
That’s why I use my Triride. It’s dangerous at night, for sure, but notwithstanding the risk of death on the roads, it’s on balance a far more guaranteed means of transportation.
But yeah, most people in my situation would just stay in.