It’s true. I can’t produce anything from my heavily lesioned brain. I’m currently in the recovery position where I intend to stay for most of the day. But I have a story to tell so I’ll press on. Late at night sometime last week, I decided to pay a surprise visit to New Brighton for my brother’s sixtieth birthday. “I know,” I thought. “I’ll take National Express.” It would have been a great new experience to jump on a coach in Tunbridge Wells, change at Victoria and sit back, drifting in and out of slumber on the long road up north. “Are you mad?” people asked. “Two days on a coach?” Yes I was coming back the next day! Well, now modern technology has provided a wheelchair lift onto the bus, it seemed entirely feasible. Plus; and I’ve spoken long and loud about this; I usually benefit from a couple of days of doing absolutely nothing. What could possibly go wrong? Then there was an email. “Sorry, the nature of the street furniture at Tunbridge Wells does not allow the use of the lift.”
So I got my money back and booked the train. So much for a new adventure. Why couldn’t the driver just move along a bit to where the lift could be deployed? Answers on a postcard addressed to National Express please.
At Charing Cross I was feeling brave. With a fully charged up chair, I was going to stroll up to Euston and enjoy the mad vibes of our great capital.
Stroll is a hybrid term; it really means street roll but I cleverly shortened the word street to the familiar st abbreviation and combined it with what I do best-roll. How very Times crossword.
Now I’m getting confident at driving the chair, my focus is now more on people watching than the size, shape and direction of their bottoms. I love people watching. I still notice outstanding bottoms however; especially the ones which defy gravity by their sheer size. But we come in all shapes and sizes and the human body is an amazing feat of genetic engineering. Going through theatre land is always a pleasure.
I like the posters and the little sound bites they present. Next time I’ll count the number of times the word “stunning” is used.
“My great big stick-the musical” “Left me truly stunned” The theatre weekly.
“Multiplication” “It gets bigger and bigger.” Times magazine.
“Stalactites.” “So many outstanding performances.” Geology rocks monthly.
As these great institutions slumbered gently in the morning sun, awaiting the burst of life we know as the matinee, tourists buzzed about like busy bees with their cameras and selfie sticks. They burbled excitedly in tongues. And I too was very excited on my first tourist visit to London. It was a long time ago.
Yes these people maraud like insects, standing in the way, taking pictures and reading menus but I don’t mind. As I said to the man who sold me a Big Issue, London is cool now I don’t associate it with work and commuting any more. Retirement has given me time. And my chair carries my bags of burden.
Then I hit Euston Road. I’d taken an unintentional diversion but was so pleased to see Kings Cross St Pancras close up. St Pancras is a glorious neo gothic creation of stark pointed towers and thick bulbous counterpoint. I expected it to be cleaner but it still has a look of weary occupation as its dark blank window eyes gaze down on the frantic chaos.
Oh what chaos. At this great convergence of busy transport hubs the sound of thunder filled the pavement. Cases are no longer carried. There is no need to feel the ache of arms, a shining brow beaded with sweat or the bruised shins, barked by the sharpest side of the packed suitcase. Cases have wheels. It gives their owners a new style of street weapon. Whilst the sound of hard plastic wheels creates the roar and intimidation of the storm clouds, they are nothing to my angel chair. For they are merely slings and arrows. I drive a tank.
A wary eye is still necessary however. There are always the foolhardy wrapped in their own blanket of urgency. There are platforms to reach. Euston heaved to the daily throng of hard pressed travellers. The centre of the concourse is laid with petrified statues.
They remain embedded, staring up to the great god Departures Board. The mobile nobility again with thundering cases, weave the little patterns around those transfixed with their platform number. Then when it magically appears there is a great exodus as they now become the weavers whilst the newcomers take up their own anxious stance. I’d love that job. The person who presses the platform number. I’d had to have a large screen focused of the concourse. One mischievous day I’d randomly press a number then hold it for three seconds before entering the correct number.
They’d be like pigeons, traumatised by an imaginary cat.
After exiting my train on the way back, I made the long trek up the platform. On the adjacent platform was another Virgin train, waiting to depart for Birmingham. The platform button had been pressed and they’d raced off without listening to the announcement about boarding the front eight coaches only. For there were twelve coaches on the platform and the first four were unattached. Oh how those little people, held down with a lifetime’s baggage, prodded and pushed those unresponsive door buttons.
“Should I tell them?” I didn’t.
Oh how I love to watch people.
Thank-you for reading.