Thursday, 28 November 2013

WOW- the final countdown…

Back in May, I spoke passionately about a part of society that is close to my heart, both literally and metaphorically ( The welfare system has been under attack since the ConDem coalition came to power in 2010 but like I said yesterday, not taking an interest in politics will not help. Changes will only happen if people work together in a cohesive and ordered manner, starting with people signing the War On Welfare petition. There have been 95,000 signatures so far but if the total can surpass 100, 000 by the December 12th (only 15 days), the issue will be discussed in Parliament.

Please stop what you’re doing and sign the petition now:
Don’t forget to check your e-mail inbox and click the link to confirm. I haven’t asked my readers for a favour since the Big Blog Exchange (grovelling for all them votes was such a waste of time) earlier in the year and seems as the blog is free entertainment, signing a petition is the least you can do. Also, sticking it to Iain Duncan Smith and telling him that we shall stand no more of his onslaught feels quite liberating, well it does to a ‘Wheelchair Boy’ anyway.

I know to someone with conservative values, helping others with a welfare state seems like leftie, socialist waffle but surely any human with emotions can realise looking after defenceless people i.e. the sick and disabled is the right thing to do and should be protected at all costs. The government at the moment don’t seem to agree with that sentiment, which proves to me that they are heartless robots. I’ve implied this before but various departments such as housing and benefits have got on top of me recently, forcing me to spell it out clearly. If the government didn’t have opposition, they would kill all disabled people.

On that note,

Bye for now!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Who wears the trousers?

Over the past year or so, I have become more and more interested with politics on a local level in particular because I believe disabled people like myself should put up a fight and hold those in power to account. Everyone knows that my personal battle has been to get the council to remove ridiculous speed-humps from a pedestrian path as they make the route inaccessible and the whole scheme was a calamitous idea in the first place.  I am pleased to announce that after several meetings, ‘Wheelchair Boy’ has won the argument and the humps will be removed soon.

I should confirm that this is not an arrogant post boasting that I have forced the council to make a U-turn (because other people have been instrumental such as the St Albans District Access Group). I just wanted to point out something that I’ve noticed in politics of late and fits in well with some of the points Russell Brand recently made. I completely disagree whit his suggestion that people shouldn’t vote because I feel it does empower you, even for a minute, and not turning up to the ballot box is just laziness and ignorance in their purest forms. Nevertheless, Brand is correct when he points out that most are “utterly disenchanted by politics”.

Now the public mood has been identified and raised by an influential figure, a constructive way to change this general angst (not just by abstaining from the voting process) needs to be agreed upon. The only way politics can move forward is if it is explained why people don’t take an interest in Westminster and the like. The reason is clear and is described by Brand as “the absolute, all-encompassing total corruption of our political agencies by big business”. Some might call it privatization whereas I like to think of it as the submissive British government getting in bed with dominant businessmen.

Of course profit is important and is the sole motivation of any company but surely there is a point where doing what is right for the country is more important than making money, especially when ‘democracy’ is involved. The example that I want to use is the local bus services in St. Albans. Most routes are under the control of companies such as Uno or Arriva who seemingly can do what they like (discriminate against disabled passengers or persistently run behind schedule), which quite frankly I find a joke. Those who the people vote in to do a job seem to be under the thumb of corporate executives who get away with all but murder.

That’s where the problem lies. Politicians no longer wear the trousers. All the importance is given to money and business. The system is messed up because most politicians want to help society but end up being bought off by rich businesses. There’s no quick solution but I just don’t want people to completely give up on politics otherwise change (big or small) will never happen.

Bye for now! 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Losing control…

People often ask what is the worst part of my disability and I would definitely say that it is the powerless feeling that I sometimes get. I don’t mean in a literal sense  (although the lack of energy resulting in me being tired 24/7 is not great) but more the metaphorical way that, at times, I’m not really in control of the Friedreich’s Ataxia and it seems to take over my life. My yearly check-up at the hospital on Friday reminded me that I am a mere onlooker as this condition is allowed to destroy my beautifully toned body.

Since my diagnosis back in 2003, I’ve been told all the problems that could arise in later life as I gradually deteriorate. So far, that’s been fine. The transition from walking to permanently using a wheelchair was slow and therefore gave me time to get my head around the idea. However, potential sight and hearing issues are becoming all too real now. The thought of me needing glasses and a hearing aid was something I envisaged in years to come, not at the grand old age of 19. What’s hitting me the most at the moment is the ferocious speed Ataxia is attacking me, leaving me with no time to reflect on the changes.

Another part of my condition that doctors have always kept an eye on is the heart. It too is a muscle, a very important one that’s always caused me great concern because it is an organ that must work to keep you alive. Luckily, the situation remained stable and everything was fine until this time last year. You may remember that I went into AF (abnormal heart rhythm) and was hospitalised for a week. I have since been on medication and as far as I’m aware, haven’t had any repeat episodes. That was until Friday.

The doctor checked my pulse and told me that I was in AF again but told me not to panic. It could happen all the time without me knowing so it was probably nothing for me to worry about. However, I should check with a Cardiologist who will have expert knowledge. Fortunately, I have an appointment at the Heart Hospital a week tomorrow so can have an ECG then. It again proves that the potential problem surrounding my heart that I have been warned about for years could finally be becoming a reality.

My point is that everything can change in an instant because of FA and it is beyond my power to do anything, which is immensely frustrating and quite scary.

Bye for now!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Made of more…

T.V. advertisements are a common talking point around this time of the year what with John Lewis wasting (controversial opinion) a Million pounds on their latest Christmas ad. The best festive commercial is clearly the Dorito’s take on the East 17 classic ‘Stay Another Day’ which is so good that the company have decided to use it again. All the focus is on the seasonal adverts but the brand that I feel deserves more credit for producing a strong campaign is Guinness. I’m sure most people have seen it but here is the YouTube link in case you have got Sky +:

Although there is not a cartoon woodland animal in sight and Christmas is not mentioned in any way, the advert does in a way reflect the spirit of this festive period with friends coming together. Also, it delivers a thought provoking message and therefore helps to build a powerful brand image. Not that I drink Guinness (or any alcohol except the occasional vodka) but I would happily buy it for a friend now they have included a wheelchair user in their advertising campaign.

The basic message (my interpretation) is that only a select number of people will not judge a book by it’s cover; will decide to be a dedicated and loyal friend to a disabled person. Not because they must or feel it’s the right thing to do but have made an unconscious choice deep down. Personally, I can only count my friends on one hand and like the voiceover says “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character” so my few friends are definitely ‘made of more’. I’m not saying that everyone who isn’t my friend doesn’t have a decent character but just saying that those who are special.

Apologies if that sounds cringey but there is nothing wrong with you a bit of bromance and if you have an issue then talk to the hand because the face isn’t listening.

Bye for now! 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

European tour 3…

When we got to the impressive home of Borussia Dortmund, we were unsure where to leave the car and pulled over to ask a policeman where disabled away supporters could park. Luckily, we chose one who could speak fluent English and was very helpful (obviously, he hadn’t got the warning messages about the British spy going around taking photographs A.KA. my dad). Anyway, he kindly spoke to an angry looking steward in German who told him where the car park was. However, my mum could drive into the bowels of the stadium and drop the wheelchair off but would need to leave as it was the designated area for the team coaches.

After feeling like VIP guests (having our own special entrance and being escorted to our seats), we had two and a half hours to kill until the start. That sounds like a long time but it soon flew by because personally speaking, the Westfalenstadion is a magnificent ground and the sheer size of it is just awe-inspiring. I spent most of the wait for kick-off taking in the 65,000-seater stadium (bigger than the Emirates), in between watching various Sky teams from around the world conduct a pre-match report pitch side.  The media section was in front of us so I got to see a few interviews with a few Dortmund legends including their current manager Jürgen Klopp.

Annoyingly, the disabled Arsenal fans were put in front of Dortmund fans, away from our own travelling supporters. I couldn’t care less because we had won, which meant I got to celebrate like a mad man in front of the Germans. Notice that I glossed over the actual match itself and that’s because I know my audience. If people are interested in the historic victory or want to know about the incredible atmosphere, I’ll post on my football blog soon.

The car journey back to Utrecht and subsequently to the Hook of Holland was pretty uneventful (although I did take us on a bit of a diversion via the Hague but we got to the ferry with an hour to spare) so I haven’t got much left to add. It was a brilliant couple of days and I thoroughly enjoyed myself but, like everyone says after being abroad, it was nice to come home.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to go on another European tour next year so that I can blog about all (well not everything) the adventures I get up to.

Bye for now!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

European tour 2...

I hope you enjoyed looking around the Hook of Holland. I’m sure no one indulged themselves in any misdemeanours. The law is different here but none of my readers would ever be sinful. Anyway, back in the Kia so we can get to our hotel and check in. Unfortunately, we won’t have time to stop off in Amsterdam (I’ve been there before and it’s definitely somewhere I want to visit again) because it’s a bit out of the way. However, if Arsenal get Ajax in the Champions League next season, you never know.

The outcome of my application for Dortmund tickets was only made apparent a few weeks before the match so when we went to try and book a hotel in the North West of Germany, we discovered all of the disabled accessible rooms were fully booked. That’s why our hotel for the two-night stay was in Utrecht (a 2 hour drive to the Signal Iduna Stadion). Again, it seemed like a picturesque Dutch city but we didn’t manage to see much of it as we had a vital match to attend the next day and only arrived at 19.00 on the Tuesday evening so needed to rest.

Although the match didn’t kick off until 20.45 local time, we arrived in Dortmund city centre mid-afternoon. After buying a souvenir key ring in the official BVB shop, my brother and I decided that it was lunchtime. In hindsight, I wish I’d tasted some Bratwurst sausage because everyone knows that you must try the local delicacy when abroad. Instead, I stuck with what I know and got a McDonalds. How unadventurous of me but I did order it in German, which I’m very proud of (I knew my Modern Foreign Languages GCSE would come in handy one day).

So there I am attempting to speak the language out of courtesy for the country we are in. Meanwhile, my dad is trying to start a second cold war by taking a photo of some local policemen. Germany are suspicious after discovering Angela Merkel’s phone was allegedly tapped for over a decade so it came as no surprise to me that when my dad took a picture of a few policemen (for some bizarre reason), one marched over and told him off like a little boy telling him to “stop immediately”. Apparently, my father was taking a picture of a very fascinating landmark known in English as a Pharmacy.

As day fell into night, the main square in Dortmund was full of vocal and very drunk Arsenal fans. I didn’t want any trouble to get in the way of me and the kick-off so thought we’d head to the stadium at 17.30. Better early than late, even if there was three and a bit hours of waiting left.

Right, I’m off to the gym so I’ll be back tomorrow with another instalment.

Bye for now! 

Monday, 18 November 2013

European tour…

What with my angry posts aimed at the Merlin group last week (go back and check out my complaints if you’re lost), I haven’t had time to talk about my brilliant adventure to North West Germany a couple of weeks ago. As most people will know, I decided to trek the 769-mile round trip from St. Albans to Dortmund because Arsenal were playing what had become a crucial Champions League match. An obvious reason. The Proclaimers once sung “I would walk 500 miles” about my devoted support for the Gunners. We didn’t walk obviously but you get my drift. I’d go anywhere to follow the team I love except Turkey or Italy because I don’t have a death wish.

The quickest way to Dortmund would be an aeroplane but I didn’t want to pay £120 per person for a return flight when the alternative was substantially cheaper (£190 return for the Venga including all passenger’s plus two tanks of petrol). Most people wouldn’t even consider a ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland but I decided that it would be better and make life easier, not least that it would mean less driving for my mum. Seven hours on a boat sounds a lot but when we got off, there was only a three-hour drive to Dortmund whereas it would’ve been double the drive if we had gone from Dover to Calais.

The only annoying thing is that we had to be at the port at 08.15 on the Tuesday morning so instead of getting up at a ridiculous hour and rushing to catch the ferry, we decided to stay overnight in Ipswich (near Harwich…sort of) and travel a short distance the next day. I know this sounds quite sad but I was actually quite excited for the seven-hour boat trip. I like the fact you can move around and look around the shop whereas a car can feel trapped after a while. Also, the on-board cinema makes the time go by in a flash so the journey length is really not noticeable.

After watching ‘Monsters University’ and ‘We’re The Millers’ (I’d recommend both), I looked out the window and we had arrived in Holland: the home of Cloggs, Tulips and Windmills. It’s also quite famous for Drugs and Prostitutes but I’m a good boy so don’t care for them two vices. That’s where I’ll leave the story for now. Feel free to have a look around the area until I return and continue to share my various exploits as I make my way to Dortmund.

Bye for now!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Merlin is not magic 2…

I came away from Alton Towers in September rather disappointed with the hotel (read yesterday’s post if you missed it: but couldn’t get enough of the rides, which is what thrill seekers like myself visit theme parks for. Going on rollercoasters left me wanting more and gives a feeling similar to the one after I completed my skydive in 2010. So when I heard Fright Night at Thorpe Park being advertised on the radio, I was desperate to attend what was bound to be a thrilling day/evening. However, my life never goes according to the script and as per usual, this ‘adventure’ didn’t turn out as I had hoped…to put it mildly.

My brother, personal assistant (it’s the posh name I like to give for my carer) and I arrived at Thorpe Park bursting with excitement at the prospect of going on all the rides. All three of us were like little kids on Christmas morning. That bubble was soon burst. We collected the tickets at the front and got my special access wristband from Guest Services in the park. Everything was fine. Until I was told in no uncertain terms by the people at THE SWARM that I wouldn’t be allowed on this and the other main coasters because I can’t walk. Yes. You read it correct. For health and safety reasons, all riders had to be able to walk unaided.

As you can imagine, I was fuming and frothing at the mouth with venom so marched over (not literally of course) to the Guest Services department. A man greeted me casually, thinking I was a little; pathetic Wheelchair Boy so was visibly surprised when he discovered that I could argue. He explained to my dismay that I would not be able to get on the main attractions such as Nemesis, Stealth and SAW: The Ride but would be able to get on some less exciting rides. I thought this was some kind of sick joke and had numerous problems with what the man was telling me.

These rollercoasters are the headline acts if you like and if they weren’t there, people wouldn’t visit. I wouldn’t have booked up to go to Thorpe Park if I was made aware upon booking that the main rides were off limits to disabled customers. Yet I bought tickets under false pretences. My second point is that I was allowed on all the rides at Alton Towers (owned by the Merlin group), which is supposed to be a sister theme park. Why are the rules different? Especially when Nemesis can be found on both sites. With all the talk of health and safety, what would’ve happened if Oblivion had broke down for example.

My points weren’t accepted and to shut me up, I was offered complimentary tickets to Madame Tussauds. Being the naïve mug that I am, I accepted them, which I regret accepting in hindsight. Why? My sister phoned up the next day to air her disgust at my treatment and they told her that the case had been resolved. I feel so stupid but you live and learn. I shouldn’t be bought off so easily and my readers should stay away from Thorpe Park and the hotels at Alton Towers. If you want a thrill but don’t want to line the pockets of money grabbing corporations such as Merlin Entertainment, book a skydive or a prostitute (I’ve only done one of those things, promise).

Bye for now! 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Merlin is not magic…

This post is not me slating the BBC TV series because quite frankly I have not seen the programme and probably never will (fantasy adventure isn’t really my cup of tea). The title is referring to the Merlin Entertainment group who own the main three Resort Theme Parks in Britain: Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures. As regular readers will know, I have visited the first two recently and had negative experiences on both occasions.

In September, I stayed overnight at the Splash Landings Hotel at Alton Towers because I thought it would make life easier for myself after a long day on the rides. Now the park was fine and I easily got on all the main rides such as Nemesis, Oblivion and my favourite Air (flying is such a surreal feeling). A few times in fact. However, the issues begun later that evening back at the hotel.

The first problem was the minute room size considering it was meant to be disabled friendly. The phrase ‘no room to swing a cat’ came to mind as I struggled to manoeuvre my wheelchair around and eventhough I’m only 5 foot 11, my feet were hanging over the edge of the bed. Everything was small apart from the price. My disappointment didn’t end there. When we went to eat at the restaurant later, the buffet was £20 each which isn’t bad for all you can eat but the food tasted awful so I could only eat half a plate, let alone go back for refills.

Although the issues I had are relatively small, I thought a company such as Alton Towers would value customer feedback in order to make improvements so I decided to send an old-fashioned letter. The Guest Services department did reply via e-mail but I feel they didn’t grasp the message of my complaint. I made it clear that I wouldn’t be returning to the hotel yet they offered me 25% off a future stay. What did they not understand? I will never be going back (I’d return to the park but not the hotel). Plus, why would I want to give them more money after I wasted my money last time?

However, my complaints seemed trivial compared to what happened at Thorpe Park a couple of weeks ago (hit up my blog tomorrow evening to read all about it).

Bye for now!