It was a grey Monday. Perhaps all Mondays are grey. Even for the retired, Monday still holds an air of melancholy. For me, the first day of the working work has always had that sense of despair and desperation. “Go through the motions,” you say. “Get it over with.”
Yesterday was Monday. But it was the last Monday of the month. The local MS Society branch was having its monthly drop-in at the big Sainsbury’s. The wheelchair was charged, sitting silently facing the front door. My favourite gloves rested casually on its arm.
The sharp rasp of my velcro shoes cracked through the stifled air, still resonant with the nuance of toast and strawberry yoghurt. The door opened and I slipped outside.
The far away grey, witnessed through the remoteness of the front window was now all around. I was out in the real world. Down the hill was the stop. A few casual bodies wrapped themselves around the frame of the shelter. Then they saw me. Five pairs of steely eyes watched incongruously as I crept slowly towards them.
“Ts a bit cold innit?” Uttered the tall grey man perched on the narrow plastic bench. I smiled a sort of grunt smile. He studied my chair. Behind him, I knew they were looking. I knew what they were thinking. I cast it aside. “I know children stare,” I thought. “So do adults but it’s harder to catch them doing it.”
I’ll stop writing like a cheap crime novelist now. But I’m trying to reflect the importance of the occasion. We have been making a concerted effort to give me back some independence. It’s quite a wrench to actually get out of my comfortable little sofa rut and actually do something under my own steam.
The bus was brand new. But the aisle was narrower than the others so I scuffed a bit of the shiny padded plastic facia. It was also too hot. But I was on it. Sainsbury’s is easy going for the chair. It’s nice and flat and the cafe was not too crowded. Anyone who needed to move did it with a smile. I had a lovely chat with some fellow warriors over tea and biscuits. We were talking about disabled friendly days out. It gives me some confidence to know that others are quite happy to go out and about.
Then I usually see someone I used to work with. Now that’s good-some connection with the recent past. Getting the bus back was a surprise. It was an older model but it had an automatic ramp. Then I saw someone else I knew on the bus. Getting off, I realised that it wasn’t just me on the learning curve. The driver too admitted a slight misjudgement through inexperience as I went down the ramp straight into a hedge.
It was a comedy moment. He had parked too close to one of Crowborough’s impossibly narrow pavements and I hadn’t even noticed. Nevertheless, he helped me shift the chair back onto the twisted bumpy and narrow pavement and I was home. Soon I’m going to get the bus to the shopping centre and buy something.