Click here for Have Powerchair, Will Travel (Part 1) – that post has just had a minor edit/update as I read it back and realised I forgot a point I’d wanted to add.
I just got home from the second part of my August travel plans. And that went much better so this will be a much more boring read.
I’ve blogged quite a few times about the ridiculous saga that was the attempt at going to see Dirty Dancing for my birthday last December. As a result of that I’m not going to the New Theatre in Oxford any more – not so much because of the access problem I experienced but because of the terrible attitude of the staff. That’s mostly irrelevant to this trip but it’s the background to it. And this really is the last time I’m ever mentioning that on my blog (although I suspect I’ve said that before).
I saw that The Bodyguard was coming to Birmingham Hippodrome and I really thought one of my friends from uni, Rachel, would come with me. But she didn’t want to. When we first met in my first year at uni Rachel and a lot of my friends and carers were all absolutely horrified that I’d never seen Dirty Dancing and made me watch it. When Rachel emailed me back about going to The Bodyguard and said she didn’t want to because she’d never seen the film I was really surprised and I imagine it was the same sort of horrified feeling that my having not seen Dirty Dancing evoked in her all those years ago.
But I still really wanted to go and I knew that no one else would want to go badly enough to travel to Birmingham. So I left it a while. Then I decided I really did want to go and knowing that the nearby Premier Inn is dirt cheap when booked far enough in advance booked myself a ticket for the show on this past Friday night and a night at the hotel.
Travelling up there by train went fine. I changed trains in Oxford and had a little while to hang around. I spotted another wheelchair user I know on the platform waiting to get on the same train – we only had a chance to chat for a minute or so before she went one way with one of the assisted travel team to get on one end of the train and I went to the other end with another person helping me. Luckily the carriage I was booked in was at the front of the train because the platform at Oxford is lower at one end than the other and I’ve struggled to get on the lower end but can manage the front. Because it was wet both of the ramps I used to board the trains were a little damp and it was harder than usual but I got on.
Then I was on the train and once again there was luggage in the wheelchair space. The guy helping me called out for it’s owner to come move it. But no one did. So he asked again and then when they didn’t picked it up. He announced he was going to remove it from the train if it didn’t belong to anyone there but still no one claimed it. So he declared that it obviously didn’t belong to anyone in the carriage and it shouldn’t have been in the wheelchair space so he was taking it off with him. A man stopped him and said “I think it belongs to this girl here.” pointing to the girl in the seat behind him but she didn’t say anything. In the end the guy helping me jammed it into the luggage rack and left. Another man then stalked past me as he did so demanding to know where he was supposed to put his luggage. I told him, sarcastically, “well, not in the wheelchair space.”
Arrived into Birmingham fine and had a wander round and then went to the hotel. I tend to find that Premier Inn provide some of the best accessible hotel rooms and if you get a room that meets your needs you’re fine. I’d rung them on the Wednesday (this was the Friday) to make sure they knew that I need a room with a level access shower and not one with a bath. I was told they would give me one and were making a note of my request.
And then I checked in and the lady on reception offered to come to the room with me. The minute I got into the room I looked in the bathroom and told her “this isn’t going to work.” I’d yet again been given a room with a bath. They’re as I said very good at rooms that are very accessible. But they’re very bad at accommodating requests for specific needs first time. So much for making a note of it. I told her that too. They got me moved to another room easily that did meet my needs. And it was a brilliant room. Much better than the one at the Hilton I had last week which felt like they’d had a list of “things needed in wheelchair accessible hotel rooms.” and just thrown them in with no thought which made it very tricky to manage (that room had amongst other things only access to one side of the bed – and because I needed a socket to charge my chair I had to get several items of furniture removed from the room so I could get to the other side of it.) But then I know Premier Inn uses DisabledGo to access audit a lot of it’s hotels. So I’d expect it to be good.
The staff were great at spotting when I needed help too – like as soon as I went for breakfast they had someone to do table service for me before I’d even asked for help with the buffet.
The show was amazing and I enjoyed my time in Birmingham. I mostly wandered around, did a little shopping and met up with someone in my CP group for a drink and a chat. I will blog more about some of that in another entry.
Coming home worked really well. I’d pretty much had enough and even though it was stupidly early I figured I’d go sit in the customer reception and read my book. I was booked on the 18:03 and arrived in there at 17:26. It’s a running joke amongst a lot of disabled people and “on the ground” assisted travel staff that the helplines to book swear blind you need to be there 20-30 minutes before the train when if you do that more often than not you get put on an earlier train than your booked one. I thought I was too late for the train before mine but I went in and said “this is never going to happen again but I’ve got assistance booked and I’m really early.” They went “you want to go on the earlier train?” and I was confused but they swore blind that even though New Street station is huge and there were only 7 minutes to go they could do that. And they did. The guy literally got me onto the platform then grabbed the ramp and ran while I followed behind. Phone messages followed me on my journey to let them know I was early. And it all worked well.
This is much more what I expect when I travel and normal – niggles and all.