Things don’t always go to plan

Yesterday I found myself having to go somewhere that I had never been before.  I always get a bit nervous about doing this, especially if I’m on my own, for obvious reasons. I decided to take the train because, although I getting used to taking the bus without help, I still find the choo choo much easier to handle. I booked my assistance in advance (as advised) so I was optimistic that things would run smoothly from a public transport point of view at least.

Despite being nervous, with the help of station staff and taxi drivers, I got to my appointment on time with very little stress and without getting too cold or wet, which is always nice. I think the meeting went well too, so I was feeling fairly pleased and wondered why I’d been awake half the night worrying.

After my appointment, I knew I had a bit of time before my train back home again so I thought  I’d brave walking back to the station rather than getting another taxi. I wanted to get some exercise anyway.

That was around the time it started to rain. Not too much, but enough to make the idea that I might get lost on the way seem even less appealing than it would do normally, so I decided I’d make things easier for myself and just take a cab.

It arrived. My walking frame Martha fit into the boot, albeit with a bit of persuasion.

“Where to, Love” the cabbie asked.

“The train station, please” I replied, thinking it would all be plain sailing from here. Little did I know that the area I was in for my meetings had two nearby train stations so I didn’t bother to specify which one I meant, because I thought there was only one and it would be obvious where I wanted to go.

I just so happened to be closest to the one that I didn’t want to be at, but because I didn’t tell the driver I wanted to be at ‘Station X’, because I thought that he’d know where I wanted to be because the place where my appointment was at also had the place “X” as part of its name. However, station “Y”, where he took me, must have been closer to where I was, because that was where I found myself getting dropped off. Only silly me didn’t realise straight away, not being from the area and all.

Yes, I ended up in the wrong place. Away from where I had already booked my assistance, only because I didn’t know either of the stations I didn’t realise until he had already driven away.

At this point I really couldn’t be more grateful to all the staff who helped me that afternoon. Not  only was I somewhere else I’d never been before, but the station was also being operated by staff from a different rail company to the one I had booked my travel assistance with.

Once upon a time, this would have thrown me into complete meltdown, but I stayed calm and wondered over to the assistance desk where I relayed the story to the nice person behind booking office, even though I was still a little confused as to how the driver and I had managed to get so mixed up.

He was amazingly helpful and rang the other train company, explained the story and offered to put me on the next train that would get me to where I needed to be. They agreed to cancel the help I had arranged for the other place, and informed the staff at the station I was going to that I’d be coming in on another line, at an earlier time than expected.

That sorted, I was helped onto the train, and the people working at the station I was going to still managed to fit me into their schedule to help me get my connecting train home again. Now that I got through it all safely I find it quite funny.

I’ve learned a lot from this experience, and it was quite a confidence boost for me that I didn’t panic. I’m actually quite tempted to write to both companies involved to praise them for their customer service and thank the staff involved for going the extra mile, but I don’t know any names so it probably wouldn’t make any sense to whoever ended up reading it.

But thank you to all who helped me out yesterday to make sure I got home again in time for dinner. I couldn’t have done it without you.





Disabled Toilets

First of all, I’d just like to say that I’m sorry about the lack of updates lately. My life has been a maze of appointments and the like. Ali who writes My (dis)abled Life nominated my blog for another award which I will be passing on next week when I’ve finished compiling my list of nominees.

So, today I’m going to talk (and possibly rant) about a subject close to my heart: disabled toilets. As far as I understand it now though, I think the politically correct term is ‘accessible  toilet’ these days.  I’ll probably use both during this post. Although. that will have more to do with the fact that I don’t want to use the phrase ‘disabled toilet’ over and over than anything else.

Now, given that I use my walking frame or my wheelchair when I’m out in public, I end up seeing rather a lot of these so-called accessible loos. The thing that I tend to find is that they’re either brilliant with tonnes of space and the sink and the toilet roll holder at the perfect height, or there are a lot that are quite the opposite. Well, with regards to my personal mobility issues anyway.

Often I find that a lot of them aren’t quite big enough and my wheelchair or walking frame take up most of the space inside and don’t give me a lot of room to move around it easily. As I’m sure you can imagine, this isn’t good if you’re trying to go in a hurry and I have to try and step over things. I find this quite hard and sometimes I trip over which really isn’t a good thing on a full bladder, trust me. It was even worse when I had my surgery a few years back and my mother had to come in a help me (I won’t go into details) but there was even less space then which made us both really, really stressed.

If I’m out and about on my own and I don’t have the option to leave Martha outside and just ask someone to help me walk in, I tend to have some loos that I try to avoid using for these reasons and try and remember where the roomiest (and also cleanest) ones are. I know that you’re all probably thinking that I spend way too much time thinking about toilets, and you’re probably right, but given that I don’t personally find many of them user-friendly I don’t really have much of a choice.

Don’t get me wrong I have seen my fair share of clean, spacious ones ( I even saw one with a hoist once,  but I really have only seen this  once in somewhere other than a hospital). I don’t feel that enough of them are up to scratch. It is because of this that I very rarely feel comfortable using the term ‘accessible’ toilet, when, in my view, many simply aren’t easily accessible to me without help.

I beat the bus!

Well, I did it! I managed to get the bus by myself yesterday! FOUR buses to be exact. I’m even more proud of myself for doing it too because I’m really ill which makes moving around even harder.

For those of you who didn’t read my post about battling with buses I suggest you go and do that now before you finish this one or you might be a little confused.

Like I said, not only did I have to catch one bus, I had to catch a few to get to where I needed to be and back. I could have used the train for part of the journey if I had wanted, but as that would have meant extra walking that I really did not feel up to doing yesterday so I opted to stay on the bus route. I thought that even though I find the train so much better to deal with it might make things easier. It did. By the end of the day yesterday I had a new-found appreciation for the bus that I’ve never had before. I’m still not any less scared of doing it alone, but I was grateful that I managed to cut out a lot of the walking that I would have had to do had I chosen the easy option and got the train half of the way. Ironic, huh?

It turned out that using public transport yesterday was far better than I could have hoped for. Other passengers helped me to get Martha on and off at most points where I needed to and were very patient. Some even helped to guide her into the designated spaces on board. As you can probably guess I had to go outside my local area yesterday and the bus company I was using most of the way had a layout of bus that I had never seen before. There was an actual bay for people to put prams, or wheelchairs or walking frames in,  even with enough room for another person to stand in it with them. It didn’t have any seats in which meant that I didn’t have to feel guilty about blocking any up, but it was close  enough to some that I could keep hold of Martha in case she decided to roll away and I would have been able to chat to anyone travelling with me had I been in my wheelchair. I could also tuck Martha in quite nicely so that her wheels didn’t stick out and there was no risk of anyone tripping on her. One lady even told me how much she liked Martha.

As for finding my way to an unknown place, I don’t know why I worried so much. The lady at the travellers’ information desk told me in great detail where I needed get off and where I needed to walk after that. She even wrote it down for me so that I could show the bus driver if he didn’t understand where I meant. That took a weight off my mind.

My journey started just after 7am and I got home just before 7pm. I could tell it was going to be a long one before I even left the house because when I tried to sit up I couldn’t. My boyfriend had to pull me up and then hold me up as I staggered to the bathroom. My Cerebral Palsy always seems to affect me more when I’m ill. My muscles all seem to get tighter and it gets harder to walk, but I had no choice but to go yesterday. By the time I got back I was exhausted but it was definitely worth the hard work. I did it. I didn’t think I would, but I did.