Just prior to midday on the 30th August, Jarred and myself made our way down to the train station, a mere 10 minutes down a gentle slope surrounded by shops. I had borrowed my mother’s manual wheelchair which Jarred was pushing, as I wasn’t confident that the trains could accommodate my powered wheelchair. We grabbed sandwiches from a café hidden just behind the doorway of the train station, and sat in the waiting area looking at the departure board, waiting for the 1.15 pm to London King’s Cross (yes, that is the one featured in Harry Potter) to appear.
Half an hour before we were due to leave, we went to the disabled support desk. When booking the train tickets, we had also booked a porter and ramp in advance, and I had printed off the documentation to prove this. Once the documents were shown to the porters, they happily escorted us to the train, and by 1 pm we were safely aboard. The only fly in the ointment was the woman who had a pram in the space reserved for wheelchairs, who not only refused to move (despite the notices and even the law giving wheelchair users priority to these spaces), but once I had claimed a nearby seat and the wheelchair had been folded up, fretted to Jarred that it would fall on her precious offspring. Her precious offspring then continued to cry all the way to Wakefield, where I was grateful to see them exit the train.
A little over half way through the journey, having drunk a 500 ml bottle of Coke Zero, certain needs made their presence felt. I waited until the next stop before getting up and hobbling the few metres to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the train set off just as I was getting up again, and I very nearly ended up flat on the rather sticky floor. I managed to steady myself against the walls of the cabin, and then made the short journey back to my window seat.
As I sat down, Jarred began to laugh. Naturally assuming he was laughing at me for something stupid like having toilet paper stuck to my jeans (we’ve all been there), I glared at him. Then I realised that he was using his phone to track the progress of our train, and as it turned out, we were passing through the charmingly named “Bitchfield”.
Less than an hour later we pulled into King’s Cross, and a porter greeted us with a ramp almost as soon as the train had come to a halt. We made our way through the impressive train station, which in all seriousness has a dedicated Harry Potter shop, alongside a platform 9¾ complete with luggage rack entering the wall which fans spend hours queuing just to get a photo of.
We wandered out of the train station, from which our hotel could be seen. We crossed the insanely busy roads in the pouring rain, and were soaked by the time we reached the reception desk. The lovely receptionist offered us two key cards for our room, not just one, in case I wanted to venture out on my own. Given that I was relying on Jarred to push me everywhere, this would have been pointless, but the unprejudiced gesture was very much appreciated anyway.
The room we had been given was perfect, with plenty of room to park the wheelchair, and a bathroom full of grab rails to help me move around. The beds were twin beds, because in most cases a disabled person would be with a carer, and it wouldn’t be appropriate to share a bed. Fortunately, the beds were pushed together, although on occasion one or the other of us disappeared down the gap between them.
Tired as we were, it seemed a shame to waste the remaining afternoon in our hotel room, and so we made our way to a nearby attraction you may have heard of; the British Museum. It was both free to enter and accessible, although the tent where bags were checked by security guards had wheelchair ramps that were, rather ironically, almost impossible to surpass in the wheelchair. Just inside the accessible entrance to the side of the museum there was an old lift. The first time the lift arrived for us, however, we couldn’t enter because a family of physically able-bodied people refused to budge one inch. The lift being old and slow, it was another 5 minutes before we finally got to enter the lift.
With only an hour or so before the museum closed, we didn’t have time to explore more than part of the Ancient Egyptian display. However, we still had plenty of time to find some impressive artefacts, including the Rosetta stone, and this sheep-sphynx that reminded me of my favourite teddy, a sheep named Lamb-da.
By 6 pm we had returned to the hotel, where we made hot drinks to warm ourselves through. After this, we made our way to the only accessible pub in the vicinity – Wetherspoon’s. Having travelled all the way to London, we ended up in a pub we have less than 10 minutes from our flat. One hotdog, millionaire sundae, and Strongbow Dark Fruits later, I was feeling very happy.