With everything that has gone on in the last 24 hours you would be forgiven for not knowing that there was a rugby league game on today. England met New Zealand at Wigan's Pie Dome (otherwise known as the DW Stadium) in the third and deciding test match. I had planned to be there before that ridiculous lost wallet fiasco from a couple of weeks ago. You may have read about that on these pages. All of it is true because you literally couldn't make that shit up. As it turned out the enforced cancellation of my bank card meant that I wasn't able to book tickets either online or over the phone, and as regular readers will know it is utterly futile to try to turn up somewhere to buy rugby league tickets in person if you're going to insist on taking your wheelchair with you.
By the time my new bank card turned up they didn't have any tickets left. Or rather, they didn't have two together for me and another of my band of sinister wheelchair using schysters. We would have been in different stands. The pub was calling. Yet with my local having long since declared itself a karaoke bar we were going to have to find an alternative venue. Where better, I naively thought, to watch a game of rugby league than at the clubhouse of the local amateur rugby league club? It's five minutes from my house which was going to be handy in the miserable November rain, and it is all kitted out with the kind of accessibility features that most local landlords work overtime to try to avoid having to install. Toilets and everything, you wouldn't believe it.
So an hour before kick-off I made my way down there. There was a hairy moment when the lift to the bar area stopped half way up, but it started up again fairly quickly. I approached the bar area but looked through the doors to find rows of people seated across the length of the room. They were listening to a man talking on a microphone. I looked closer and saw that half of the people listening in the rows of seating were young children. There was obviously something going on that was not advertised anywhere along the accessible route from the entrance to the bar room.
I was just about to leave when a woman opened the door and beckoned me inside. Slightly confused, I popped my head around the door to see that there were one or two men drinking at the bar. They seemed like regular punters so I reasoned that the event, whatever it was, must soon be coming to an end and that they'd be putting the England game on. Ploughing on in hope I bought a drink, and turned around to face the man speaking on the microphone. It was only polite, I thought. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of the screen in the wall behind him. On it was what looked like the classic sports team photograph and the words.....
THATTO HEATH CRUSADERS UNDER 7S PRESENTATION
I couldn't believe it. It was like something out of a long running sitcom and I was playing Victor Meldrew or Rodney Trotter. With three quarters of a Bud in my hand there followed an excruciatingly awkward 10 minutes or so during which my priorities were to 1) drink quickly and 2) Think of somewhere else to go for the game. There were one or two moments when I thought this awkward stand-off might end and I'd be able to stay, but as soon as that thought came it would pass as someone else got up to speak, giving their thanks and handing out prizes. Having outstayed my welcome by a good 20 munutes, I took the desperate decision to meet my friend in The Vine instead.
In fact we ended up at The Elephant. It was slightly closer, giving earlier respite from the rain, and they had taken the unusual (for them) but welcome step of leaving the accessible entrance open. That, added to the 20-14 win recorded by England was just about the only thing that went right during the whole excursion. Sometimes I can see why some members of the general public think I shouldn't be allowed out by myself. In an age when you can't take photographs of your own kids in public without someone accusing you of being a paedophile, it is not a good idea to turn up by yourself to an under 7s rugby function. At that point the stigma of a wheelchair becomes the least of your worries.
Before I go, can I ask that people stop being so bloody stupid about immigration in the wake of the terrorist atrocities in Paris? I am no fan of religion but to suggest that these attacks are some kind of manifestation of Muslim ideology is beyond ignorant. The percentage of Muslims involved in this sort of thing is minuscule. Probably no larger, for that matter, than the percentage of people from other religions and races who are involved in this kind of evil. It's pretty shameful to use such a tragedy to try to justify what are essentially bigoted views. So knock it on the head, eh?