My wife made the suggestion yesterday to go into London and see the Christmas lights. With her blue badge, we get free parking at the station, and a discount on a family ticket, which made the trip a little more affordable.
When we got there, the decision didnt seem the smartest one. We knew there was a march for Palestine going on, and it was the day after Black Friday, but we really under-estimated the crowds. It was rammed. We got off the train at Charing Cross, and found the Strand closed to traffic. Despite the march not heading that way, the amount of people was quite something. My photo doesnt do it justice.
My son gets quite anxious around crowds, so this wasnt getting off to a good start. The other impact was that we could not get a taxi for love or money. No cars, no cabs, nothing. And the plan had been to get a taxi to take us to some of the hotspots, and save my wife from walking.
So we had to walk, through Leicester Square, along Regent Street and to Carnaby Street. We had to take frequent breaks, but even so I could see my wife becoming more and more laboured, head down, face drawn, colour draining fast. This was not what we had planned. A stop in a coffee shop for a restorative latte helped her, and we got along Regent Street, seeing the amazing angel decorations, then into Carnaby, where the theme was the universe.
You can see the people we were dealing with here. It was hard with working eye sight and hearing, but my wife was really finding it hard. Since her stroke she doesnt see anything down her left side, and when people are pushing into small gaps, and running along quickly, she wont see and was banged into a few times.
Oxford Street was worse (no photo I was worried about getting my phone out too often). It was like shoulder to shoulder along this road, and now I was getting worried about the trip and the crowds. I couldnt keep an eye on both children, and guide my wife along and watch where we were trying to go, and keep an eye out for any dodgy looking folk. It was very stressful.
We ended in China Town, a tradition for us at this time of year. And there were queues to get into every restaurant, even at 5 .30. My wife was desperate to sit down, and so we ploughed on to the end of the road, eventually finding a small place with only a five minute wait. The food was amazing, but we here saw the other problem of being out with someone disabled.
The tables were close together which I could see was making my wife worried as she is still scared of Covid. But also the toilet was down a steep stair case. Not ideal for someone who has eating problems, and can be ill at a moments notice. You realise that even while doing something nice, there is never a rest.
We did eventually find a taxi, and managed to get back to our train, my wife being guided more than walking her self. It was freezing when we got home, so I lit the fire and settled my wife in bed, helping her to pull her leggings over her seriously swollen ankles. She managed to get into bed with a hot water bottle and a warm drink to try and bring her back to temperature. Hopefully the long term impact wont be too bad.
So why do these things? We try to maintain as normal a life for our children as we can. We have always strived to make their lives fun.
But also why should my wife miss out? Why should she stay at home and not see the lights, not enjoy a trip out? She is disabled not someone to be thrown onto the scrap heap and left in the house to be forgotten about. The memories of our trip yesterday will last for a long time, and will act to block out the sad memories we all have.
Yes, it was frustrating at times, but the frustration is at the situation, the inequality for disabled people, and at my wifes illness, not at her. I am amazed and proud at how she managed to cope with it all. She has always been determined (we call it her water ski face from when she tried water skiing on our honeymoon and was determined not to fall off), and that determination has been evident throughout her illness. She battles through everything, long term incapacity, comas, 12 hour ops, and to be able to still walk through a heavingly busy central London is an inspiration to us all.
We are attempting something similar today, visiting RHS Wisley to see their lights. Some more of the determination will be evident I’m sure.
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