Are There Many Left?
At the weekend I went out with some old friends from school. You wouldn't call it a reunion. These are people I keep in touch with regularly via the gift of Facebook, or who I see socially on a fairly regular basis. Nevertheless it was exclusive in the sense that I only invited people who had that particular school in common, which meant they all happened to be disabled people.
I was relaying this tale to my taxi driver on the way;
"Where is it tonight?" he'd asked. He and I are quite familiar, given the number of times he has rescued me from a town centre gutter at 3.00 on a Sunday morning;
So I explained where I was going and who with;
"Are there many left?" he asked.
I had to ask him to repeat that.
"Are there many left of all them disabled people?" he said, astoundingly.
Now, it's fair to say that I have tragically lost more than one or two friends down the years. It's fairer still to say that their passing might have had quite a lot to do with their disability. However, the implication seemed to be that death is a minor inconvenience, and fair game for polite conversation in the way that one might start a discussion about the snow or last night's telly.
Worse was to come, when he went on to question me about my own life expectancy;
"How long do they reckon you'll live, then?" he asked.
I was going out drinking so the thought crossed my mind that if I'd made it to 8.00 the following morning it would be something of a triumph, but I didn't tell him this. Instead I told him about how my kidney specialist once told me that there was no reason why a man with Spina Bifida shouldn't live until 'well into his 60's these days'. He seemed relieved by this, almost as if he were the one affronted by all of this death. Why should he have to put up with picking up passengers whose friends won't stop bloody dying? He only came out to make a few quid!!
We arrived at our destination just in time to stop his own life expectancy from being greatly reduced......
On Thin Ice
Alcohol is not the theme here but again I was out with some friends yesterday. We went for our office Christmas lunch. It wasn't a silly one, so I left Liverpool at about 6.00pm and headed to my local to watch Liverpool v Aston Villa on Sky. A few more beers wouldn't hurt an already tortured mind, I decided, and it helped that Liverpool actually managed to play well and win for once.
The trouble started when I went home. As you will have noticed it has been pretty chilly in recent days. The snow of last week has been replaced by great big thick slabs of ice which pepper the pavements, turning them into mini death traps. There's a narrow, unlit path which leads diagonally towards the main road past the doctor's surgery close to where I live, and it was here that I first discovered that getting home might not be so straightfoward. I slid on a patch of ice half the size of Brazil, hit a crack in the pavement and tipped slightly forwards. Fortunately, four wheels returned to the ground before I ended up in the bushes, but I had been warned.
Five or so minutes later I approached my house. I was cold and tired from my excesses and so quite keen to get inside, make a brew and go to bed. I approached the pavement outside my house fully expecting to mount it with the usual ease, but had reckoned without the ice. My wheels stopped spinning mid-ascent which sent my chair veering to the right, back down the ramped part of the kerb and into the middle of the road. It was going to need a bigger run-up. Luckily I live in a quiet road where traffic is slow, especially at 10.00 at night. This meant that I could cross the road towards the house opposite, and take a full run (wheel?) up to get enough momentum to conquer the troublesome pavement ramp.
Mission accomplished. Or so I thought. There is a large ramp leading towards my house. It is meant to be a driveway for the car, but Emma never uses it as such. It isn't very wide so the car would probably block me from getting to the main entrance located at the side of the house. There isn't the same room for a run-up so I just had to try and make do. It wasn't happening. I started to push up the ramp and succeeded only in pulling off more wheel-spins. Using what passes for my initiative I grabbed hold of the wall which runs between the front garden and the driveway. It was excruciatingly cold. It reminded me of the mock iceberg that can be found at the Titanic-themed museum on International Drive in Florida. They get you to put your hand on it and try to keep it there for 10 seconds, which gives you some idea of how cold it would have been in the Atlantic that night. It's much more difficult to last than it sounds, and if memory serves me Emma didn't last the full 10 seconds. Which is usually my domain.
I digress. The wall was freezing my hand rapidly but I knew that it was a case of either trying to pull myself up by that, or letting go and sliding all the way back down the driveway and into the road. Sliding backwards down the driveway didn't seem the safest option so I hung on in great discomfort. I was stuck. Horribly and hopelessly stuck. And not even particularly drunk. Time for more initiative, so I took out my mobile phone and rang Emma, who to this point had been sat in the house blissfully unaware of my presence and it's dramatic struggle. Trying not to laugh, she dutifully came out of the house and walked down the path. Slipping everywhere herself, she had to physically push me up the driveway and on to the ramp outside the front door.
All of which is mortifyingly embarrassing, and set me wondering what would have happened if I had been single. Many of my disabled friends live alone. Who is going to rescue them from their driveways if they are ever stupid enough to venture out to watch a mediocre football team in arctic conditions? These are the sorts of things keeping me awake at night.
Luckily, there aren't that many of them left.