Tuesday 10 January 2017

Your chariot awaits....

A couple of weeks after Jack passed away, Holly had her graduation ceremony in Edinburgh.

We had 3 tickets for the ceremony, not including Holly's one. Jack's one was now free. for obvious reasons, but then David got a job and wasn't able to go either.

So Holly asked her Auntie Jacqui and my friend Kathy to come to the ceremony instead.

During that two weeks, I kept telling Holly that there was a major flaw in the plan and that I didn't think that she'd thought it through properly. She kept reassuring me that all tickets were accounted for and because I was too tired to explain what I meant, I just kept quiet.

About 5 days before, Holly, Kathy and I were sitting discussing the ceremony and the logistics of getting there etc when I brought the subject up again.

This time I had to explain to them that yes, we had 3 tickets but that only two of them were for actual seats and the other one was just a space.....for a wheelchair!

They both looked at me aghast. You should have seen their faces!

As the realisation began to sink in,  I laid out our options.

Option one was just to phone up the establishment, explain that we needed a seat put there instead and the reasons why and hope they could accommodate us.

Option two was to just bring our own wheelchair for one of us to sit in!

There was complete silence while we all thought about it and Kathy suggested that the easiest option was to just phone them.

On further discussion both Holly and I felt that we were too fragile and knew that we would not be able to make the call without crying our eyes out and we didn't want to put ourselves through that.

That meant that Kathy would need to make the call but the more Kathy thought about it the more she felt she couldn't do it either without breaking down.

None of us wanted to go through that trauma if we could avoid it.

So that left us with only one option!

The next question out of both their mouths was " yes but where are we going to get a wheelchair from?"

I explained that the wheelchair we had borrowed for Disneyland Paris at Christmas for Holly was still at my dad's house so I just needed to fetch it.

That made us all laugh as obviously I had really really thought it through!

Problem solving is my thing you know.

Holly was off the hook for sitting in the wheelchair as she had to sit with her class so that left myself and Kathy. I jokingly said that I had the most experience pushing wheelchairs so it made sense for it not to be me.

OH MY GOD you should have seen Kathy's face...absolutely priceless!

She kept saying "really? it has to be me???" Which made me double over in hysterics.

She pays a high price being my friend!!!

That decided, I wasted no time in fetching the wheelchair from my dad's house. It wasn't the most attractive looking thing but it would do. One of the foot rests kept falling off whilst we were in Disney so we'd used the tools we had to hand at the time and it was held on by a bandage! The Beverley Hillbillies really didn't have a look in.

On the day in question we parked at the station next to the university because we would be returning to the university for a reception after the ceremony.

There we were in our glad rags, all dolled up to the nines. Since it was my idea, I took responsibility for getting the wheelchair to the venue.

Believe me when I tell you, that it is no mean feat trying to navigate public transport in 6 inch heels. It becomes an even huger task when trying to navigate said public transport with a folded up wheelchair which seemed to have a mind of it's own and kept heading in the opposite direction to where I wanted it to go.

It was only later that we discovered that one of the front wheels was buckled!

The train was packed solid so we had to stand, I had one hand on the wheelchair whilst clinging onto the luggage rack for dear life trying to stay upright on my sky high heels.

Having successfully survived the train ride to Edinburgh we then had to make use of the numerous lifts and endure the stares of people wondering why the hell we were wandering around with an empty wheelchair. Most of the time, I could barely look at Holly or Kathy in case I started laughing hysterically.

So inappropriate I know.

Once onto Princes Street (the main shopping street in Edinburgh) navigating the crowds became a huge issue. Edinburgh in July is awash with tourists and the pavements get really clogged up so I made the executive decision to go via the Princes Street gardens.

We stopped for a rest there as we'd left early to make sure we had plenty of time.

Kathy and Holly in the gardens

Kathy's seat, complete with Holly's walking stick

After a short rest, we headed off again, pushing the wheelchair which by this time we had opened up as it was much easier to push that way.

Once past the art gallery we had to go down a large set of steps into the next part of the gardens, which turned out to be a two man job. God only knows what people were thinking but hey, this is Edinburgh so really, anything goes.

I was getting a bit hot and bothered as we approached the large set of steps to climb out of the gardens. A man shouted out to us asking whether or not we needed help. I turned to him to say "no, but thank you anyway" and that's when I noticed that he was on crutches. It made me smile as it's so like the disabled community to help each other out even when they are clearly not able.

Once out of the gardens it was another ten minute walk to where we needed to be, the Usher Hall.

I kept asking Holly how much further so that I would know when to get Kathy into the chair. About 200 yards from where we would turn towards the Usher Hall Holly signalled to Kathy to get into the chair. Even getting into the chair was a comedy of errors but we managed it and I had the chair moving before Kathy had properly got her bum on the seat! I did stop to let her get comfy before rounding the corner quite calmly and sedately as if it was all perfectly "normal".

Once at the main door, Holly went off to get into her gown and I parked up Kathy's wheelchair, positioning her so that she could see all the comings and goings. I bent down to speak to her saying "now that you are in this chair....welcome to the world of invisibility!"

Kathy in her chariot!
On cue, just to prove my point, a bunch of students nearly fell over her as they were stepping backwards as a group whilst getting their photo taken. I had to stand at the side of the chair just to protect her! As it got more crowded, she was nearly brained by a person's bag as they tried to get in between Kathy and I. It's a reality that people just don't look down, so if you are not at eye level then you don't exist!

What made us laugh the most though was when Jacqui turned up and she didn't bat an eyelid at Kathy being in the wheelchair, didn't even ask.

That says a lot about the antics of Kathy and I doesn't it???

When the doors opened, we got in fairly quick and I got Kathy's chair into position and laughingly told her that she'd better not need a pee or stand up and adjust her knickers or anything as there would be trouble. I think she was terrified to move!

The ceremony went without a hitch and when it was Holly's turn to go on stage, true to form and following the tradition of all previous award ceremonies she attended, there was a lot of noisy whooping and yelling and we made quite a ruckus for there only being 3 of us.

I think we did her proud.

After the ceremony we made our way outside. It was really crowded so navigating the wheelchair was no picnic and as your average wheelchair is low down, Kathy couldn't see a damn thing.

Holly joined us after a short while and we had our photos taken with her in her graduation get up.


I made Kathy use Holly's walking stick to stand up from the wheelchair. That poor girl was made to play the part for real!

We then made our way to the nearest taxi rank to get a taxi back to the station. There was no way I was pushing the wheelchair all the way back along Princes Street. It was just too traumatic!

In order to get to the taxi rank, we had to cross a really busy street. I was pushing Kathy up the hill to the crossing when Holly spotted one of her favourite lecturers behind her.

So she walked back to talk to her.

Kathy and I just watched her walk away. It never occurred to either of us that Kathy could take this opportunity to get out of the chair since we were now out of sight of the hall.

Instead we watched as Holly's lecturer engulfed my girlie in her arms for a very big bear hug and I knew from that hug that Holly had just told her about Jack.

As they caught up with us there were tears rolling down Holly's face. I had a hard time holding it together myself at that point.

Holly introduced us to her lecturer and we crossed to the island in the middle of the road.

Being an experienced "wheelchair pusher" I had already checked the road to see if there were cars coming and as there wasn't I started to push the wheelchair into the road.

Cue Kathy who wailed "I'm moving" and began to cling onto the chair for dear life.

I was laughing so much that I was unable to reassure her that I hadn't just let her roll off and then nearly gave her a heart attack when I couldn't get the front wheels of the chair up onto the kerb on the other side of the road.

After a couple more attempts, with the help of Holly we made it just as cars were about to run us down.

I was still laughing, hysterically I think by this time!

Kathy though, had had enough and said "aww fuck this, I am getting out" and proceeded to try and climb out of the chair before I had even got it properly on the pavement!

She leapt up so fast that she nearly fell out much to the shock of Holly's Uni Lecturer who tried to help her.

Holly reassured her, that she could indeed walk and then followed a very awkward explanation as to why she was in the chair in the first place!!!

OH MY GOD....I just wanted the ground to open up and swallow us.

As you can imagine, the Uni lecturer made a quick getaway!!!!!

I swear she must have thought we had gone mad.  And you know what, at that point, so did I!

At the taxi rank, as I tried to get the wheelchair into the taxi and fell in head first, I was starting to wonder why I thought making that phone call would be harder than this!!!

We had a bloody good laugh in the taxi but then had to repeat the whole process of going down in the lift at the train station and holding on for grim death to the chair on the train.

You have no idea of the relief I felt when finally I was able to shove it into the boot of the car.

We then made our way to the reception which turned out to be fairly unexciting but to be honest, I felt emotionally and physically exhausted by then so was happy to leave within half an hour.

It was a pretty tough day for us but we made it through in our own unique way and I think Jackyboy would have been very proud of us.

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