Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Save me…

It started nearly a month ago, while I was on holiday in fact. I’ve been getting annoying comments on this here blog. Don’t worry; they’ve not been nasty although I have read some vile ‘feedback’ (not about me) on other pages. The messages are just peculiar. They’re about spell casters and are not personal because they say he or she. People obviously have discovered this blog and because it is about disability, feel the need to inform me of a witch doctor who can heal me. No, thanks. Just leave me alone.

Anyway, the comments can be ignored but it has brought me onto a wider issue that may shock you. Obviously, a cure to Friedreich’s Ataxia would be amazing but I don’t go out and seek help, whether that be spiritual healing or homeopathic medicine. Why? Believe it or not, I’m perfectly happy with the current life I have. I am faced with stresses and struggles due to my disability but overcoming obstacles is part of who I am. My character, which hopefully shines through in posts, might not be the same if I was able bodied.

I’m in no way saying scientists should stop searching for that illusive cure. Please continue with the hard work and one day, a breakthrough may happen. However, I’m just stating that I don’t lead my life forever hoping that I’ll be magically made better. I just get on with things and see how the story unfolds. I don’t agree with those who sit around feeling glum and wait for the world to pick them up. Apologies if I’m cold but I have no empathy whatsoever. It’s down to you to control outlook on life.

Nothing to do with God or anything (because I’m an atheist) but I sometimes think that I am a ‘Wheelchair Boy’ for a reason. Some people are ginger whereas others are blonde. Most can walk but I’m in the minority who can’t. It’s cliché but life would be dull and not worth living if all human beings were the same.

Bye for now! 

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Too good to be true…

The biggest concern (for my mum anyway) about going away on holiday was the plane journey. She absolutely hates flying and used the excuse that there always problems for disabled passengers. Although there have been nightmare stories of parts being damaged in the hold, I’ve spoken to many people in wheelchairs who fly frequently and have had no difficulties. Last time we flew anywhere was Cyprus (as you know) when I was still managing to walk, albeit like a drunk. So my mum took some convincing to accept that an aeroplane was equipped to take a ‘Wheelchair Boy’.

The next decision was whether to fly Ryanair or easyJet. The two powerhouses of budget airlines (I watched a documentary about their rivalry). Both flights cost about the same but in the end, it was an ‘easy’ choice when deciding what ‘Jet’ to fly with if you get my drift. Apparently they lost a lawsuit recently so the way they treat disabled passengers has changed but when I read they charged people for having a wheelchair, I was put off them forever. This is just an example of the way that Ryanair have discriminated against people in the past and it’s why I think that they’re a company that lack an ounce of class.

Getting in and out at both ends was simple, which lead to me questioning my mum as to why she had put it off for so long. The assistance staff were second to none and done everything they could to help, even if the Spanish ones did have B.O. At Luton, I went out on the tarmac, got a lift up to the plane door, and transferred into an ambulance chair before being assisted into the seat. The same happened at Alicante but they had one of them tunnels straight onto the plane so it was even quicker. The only thing I didn’t like was on the outgoing flight, I was the last person on so everyone was staring. I turned the corner and rows of people were just looking back at me. A bit embarrassing.

However, that wasn’t major. Just made me feel a tad image conscious. Apart from the turbulence, both flights went without a hitch and the service was perfect…well almost. We touched down in Luton at about 1AM. A man came on and asked if my wheelchair only had one footrest. When I said no, he said that it was missing but not to worry. I was slightly irritated and confused how they lost it. Hopefully, it wasn’t still in Spain. We went to the baggage collection desk and asked for help. She immediately rang through so the hold could be checked again.
I was getting more angry reading signs saying we are not responsible for lost straps, foot plates, equipment etc. Basically, easyJet don’t do responsibility. Should be their new tag line.

Just as my mum was about to say “I told you so”, the original man came round the corner saying that he found it on the conveyor belt. What? Are baggage handlers morons? Surely when assembling a wheelchair, you’d realise one footplate is missing and the piece of plastic you put in with the bags might be it. Common sense.

The message for disabled passengers flying is the people are very helpful but take off all the parts that could go missing and just leave the bare frame to go in the hold. That way, idiots won’t be able to lose things and it should go smoothly.

Bye for now!

Monday, 29 July 2013

The final day…

I’ve decided that seems as Monday (the day that everyone hates) is nearly over, I’d congratulate my loyal readers for working hard by sharing another humorous anecdote from our holiday. Also, a regular reader (you know who you are) has told me that my past few posts have been a bit serious. It’s good to write about a variety of subjects that affect me, and not everything that happens in the life of ‘Wheelchair Boy’ provides light-hearted stories so hence the changeable tone of what I write. Some days, I get incensed and feel the need to air my grievance with the world. Other times, I just have to sit back and laugh. Wednesday 10th July 2013 was just one of those days.

We had enjoyed 10 glorious days in sunny Spain (makes me want to sing Y Viva Espana) but the 11th wasn’t so great. The flight back to Luton wasn’t until 23.05 so we had a whole day to enjoy or as it panned out, waste in a rental car. Any other family would’ve spent the last few hours lapping up the sun and adding to our already impressive suntans (although they look mediocre now everyone in Britain has turned golden from the ‘mini’ heat wave) but not us. Fair enough, the villa owner wanted us out by 11.00 for the cleaners so we couldn’t stay in the pool all day. However, I don’t know why we didn’t go down to the harbour or something instead of doing the classic Spanish pastime of sitting in a Fiat for hours on end.

The decision to drive (when the temperature was at it’s peak) to Alicante airport and explore the surrounding area was a huge mistake. Anyone who has ever flown into this part of the Costa Blanca will be aware that the terminal is situated in the middle of nowhere. Now, I did mention a football stadium near-by but that was a bit of a disaster. The club (Elche) have recently been promoted to La Liga so they were in the middle of developing. It was a bit of a dump to be honest but at least the pitch looked nice on the Internet. After driving around the stadium, we headed to Alicante centre (15 minutes away) for late lunch.

None of the day was going smoothly, we couldn’t even find parking with a Blue badge. So, after 2 hours of driving through the town and passing the same Burger King about 5 times, we gave up and headed for the airport. By this time, it was dinner so we stopped off in El Altet to eat. Again, there was no parking so we parked the car in what felt a bit like the Sahara (not that I've been).  Hunger had taken over so we were not bothered about the safety of the car anymore; it was a mission to find food. This hostel looked O.K. so we sat down but looked at the menu and walked off immediately. Glad I didn’t win that comp in the end!

After hours of driving and searching, we ended up getting burgers from a kebab house. Granted they tasted good (and Angela Merkel had once visited) but in summary, we had wasted a day looking for a decent restaurant with parking outside and ended up with a proper Brits abroad meal. Anyway, it provides something to look back at and laugh. Certainly a memorable climax.

I’m nearly out of holiday stories unless I think of anymore. So, tomorrows will probably be the last post about Spain 2013 (sad times).

Bye for now!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

What legacy?

The BBC and Channel 4 for that matter have both been pushing home that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of London 2012 (in fact the Olympic games got off to a start this time last year). Legacy was a key aspect in planning (as shown in the John Morton sitcom based on the Olympic Deliverance Committee) and was a major factor in the games being awarded to Great Britain back in 2005. I don’t know much about how much (if any) grassroots sport for able-bodied people has changed over the last year but I can safely say that overall, the Paralympics has left none of that promised legacy when it comes to disability sport (from a personal point of view).

You may disagree with that statement wholeheartedly and if so, I’d like to read your comments because I’m always interested in hearing other opinions.

Recently, there have been numerous articles regarding the question of legacy and most have reached the same conclusion as me. Of course, there are positive examples of a sporting legacy such as my local gym. If it weren’t for the successful Paralympic Games, Westminster Lodge would not have been redeveloped with top class facilities for the disabled. However, on the whole, it has been thoroughly disappointing and I am not the only one to make that judgement.

None of the changes have happened. Yes, there are sport clubs disabled people can join up and down the county but it was like that before last year. You have to actively go searching for them because the sports are not promoted enough. The media, institutions, and government can all take a portion of the blame. Then, there are attitudes. Apparently, the Paralympics supposedly opened the eyes of normal people to the world of disability but you only have to read my blog posts to see that only lasted a month or so. Disabled people have returned to the underbelly of society where Cameron et al think we belong (please sign the WOWpetition so the underclass can fight back).

Unfortunately, the article by Amelia Gentleman (, which included a few quotes from me, was right. I hate to say it but looks like my scepticism has turned into a harsh truth. When the spotlight was on Great Britain, the organizers gave the impression that disabled people are equal but now the attention has gone, the feeling of being brushed under the carpet has come back. That is why I get annoyed when legacy is mentioned. Please come and live my life. Then, you can truly decide if change is evident.

One thing that has changed is people’s expectations. It is so unrealistic to think that everyone can be the next Hannah Cockcroft (my hero). Everyone has different conditions that limit him or her but the public don’t seem to understand that. For example, my brother was pushing me up a hill the other day and two blokes shouted over “why don’t you stop being lazy and push”? Words failed me. This was a mere example of the true legacy. People thinking they know about disability but remaining blissfully ignorant about the complexity. I am training for the 2015 London Marathon but my Ataxia means I’ll have to do a hell of a lot more training before I can self-propel up a hill. People obviously don’t get that though and need to be educated properly.

Bye for now!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The art of conversation…

Today, I was sitting in the hairdressers and an awkward silence descended. I say it was awkward but not for me because I welcome a bit of “me” time for self-reflection. However, the sudden peace was probably a bit uncomfortable for the woman who cuts my hair as I know how much ladies enjoy a good chat (not being sexist, it’s a basic fact). I was aware of this and tried to strike up a conversation but that wasn’t a good idea because I can’t keep my head still when talking (far from wise when scissors are that close to your ears). So, I decided to shut up and get out of there.

What kind of normal human being (I know I’m not normal in the classic sense) gets butterflies before going for a mundane event such as getting a haircut? The answer is that I do. It’s not just then but basically all times that I have to speak to people, other than family and friends. I have spoke about how my condition affects my speech in a previous post but that’s not the only reason I don’t like conversing with other people. For some unknown reason, my brain struggles to think of sentences to say so I go from writing in an engaging manner to speaking monosyllabic rubbish.

I don’t do this on purpose and it’s actually quite embarrassing. For example, my stylist (I go to a salon because I’m metrosexual and proud) asked if I liked my hair to which I replied “yes, good” as if I was a caveman. That wasn’t too bad but then I mentioned the holiday and instead of sharing an interesting anecdote, I continued to describe the break as “nice” and “much needed”. I really don’t help myself in terms of strangers thinking I’m special and addressing me in a patronising way. Especially as the only subject I truly engage in and can speak endlessly about is football.

Perhaps it would be easier to go back to a good old barbers conversation wise but like I said, I’d rather not speak when getting my hair done, as it’s safer. A salon may be more expensive but it’s worth it. For men, the options are to get your haircut surrounded by sweaty builders or surrounded by beautiful woman. Easy choice for me but if you still think it’s gay, I respect your logic in reaching that conclusion. I just wanted to make that point so that there is no confusion, as I know people find pleasure in having stereotypes.

Basically, conversation is something you get better at. I’m obviously just a late developer in that respect and haven’t mastered the art yet. I know that it will improve with time and I just need people to be patient with me. If I go silent, I’m not trying to be rude and if I say stupid things at first, don’t dismiss me as being a muppet. Just let me warm up and get into the conversation so to speak.

Bye for now!