I had a support gap this evening and wasn’t able to find anyone to come and stay with me overnight. Thankfully my brother-in-law King Russell stepped in. He was looking after Bean, while Fat Sister was out with friends – he agreed to take me in for the night as well.
Shortly before six they came to the castle and collected me. They live just round the corner and had come on foot. Both were well wrapped up and as I reached for my light jacket King Russell encouraged me to wear something warmer.
I took his advice and wriggled into my all-in-one rain suit. This made Bean giggle – she was in a waterproof onesie too. She jumped on my lap and we headed out. We needed some dinner so King Russell pushed us down the road to the chip shop.
It was raining lightly so Bean and I were quite happy as we rattled along the bumpy pavement. I hummed Christmas carols and Bean looked around curiously, occasionally alerting me to the risk of one of her wellies falling off.
We arrived at the chippy and placed our order. While we waited we danced to the radio which was on in the background. Our food was ready super-quickly and we headed for home.
The rain was much heavier when we emerged and we were heading into the wind. We weren’t far from home but it was still a fifteen-minute walk. We were keen to get Bean home quickly so we waited for a bus at the nearest stop. One soon came along but as it approached, the driver shook her head at us, clearly indicating we weren’t going to be able to get on.
She didn’t open the doors to speak to us, just letting a couple of people off the back and avoiding eye contact with me. I could see there was a buggy in the wheelchair space but the driver didn’t even ask them to try and make space for us. She’d decided before even stopping that we wouldn’t be getting on.
This has happened to me many times but it felt especially tough having Bean with me too. King Russell jokingly pointed out that as we were currently operating as both a wheelchair and a buggy we were making a very efficient use of space.
Of course I wouldn’t have wanted the other person with a child to have to get off and I’m sure we could have made it work for all of us. People sometimes describe the issues with access to buses as wheelchair users vs. people with buggies, but in my experience this isn’t the case at all. I can count on one hand the number of people who’ve had any concerns about folding their buggy, but I frequently have issues with drivers ignoring me or refusing to let me board.
The rules are that bus drivers need, at the very least, to ask other passengers to make space or fold buggies. They even have an automated announcement to play so they don’t have to leave their seat or raise their voice.
The driver tonight didn’t play that announcement. Instead she just left us at a bus stop, at night, in heavy rain without making any attempt to accommodate us.
I felt incredibly sad as the bus pulled away. If I hadn’t been a wheelchair user we could’ve jumped on board and sat on any one of the free seats and been home and dry in no time. Instead, aware from bitter experience that this was likely to be the case for the following buses, we chose to walk. I folded Bean’s hands into mine to keep her warm.
It surprised me how much having a young child with me heightened my feelings of vulnerability and sadness at this situation. It wasn’t just me who was experiencing this barrier – it was the baby as well.
Once we were home and eating our fish and chips round the table together, King Russell and I reflected on this experience. I told him how much he was acing being a brother-in-law (as well as being a great parent).
I told him how much I appreciated him supporting me. He said he felt we were in a support triangle. I liked this idea, and triangles are meant to be the strongest shape!
I’ve had such a lovely evening despite the issue with the bus. Support gaps are often stressful but I feel so lucky to have family nearby ready to help me out – even if it does mean a walk in the rain.