Manchester Meet-Up: Josephine Writes...

I really wanted to go to the Manchester Meet as it’s not that far as the ‘crow flies’ from where I live, but I was concerned about health issues; if I could manage a whole day without ‘crashing’, whether I’d miss the trains, whether there would be any assistance (even though I’d booked it) whether my Powerchair would let me down and so many more things going through my head. Procrastination set in. I was going, then I wasn’t. Once I’d booked everything I was then determined to go, I told myself I’d got to do this. It was a challenge to be met. 

The morning arrived; I woke up at 6am nooooo! Need more sleep; not happening. Train not due til 1.45pm. Time to go over checklist; charger for chair, just in case, drink and food, just in case, warm rain cover, just in case, rock salt and double cream, just in case, credit card and some cash just in case, tickets printed just in case. Checklist complete. (All bases covered in my mind, to keep anxiety at bay). Daughter offered to be on standby, bonus! 

We arrived at the station early (too early) and the train was delayed by 15 minutes but that’s ok. On arrival of the train there were less carriages than expected culminating in the train being packed with people like sardines in a tin can and although I’d booked a wheelchair space, it was impossible to board the train. Not ok! I couldn’t fault the staff, they were lovely, very apologetic and offered me a place on the northern line, which is one that stops at every tiny station en route, but that’s ok. 

Roughly 90 minutes later than scheduled I arrived but of course the booked taxi was no longer there; Not ok! Messaged him no response, rang him, no response. Not ok! Learning curve, no 1. I needn’t have booked, most cabs in the city carry disabled passengers with chairs. Positive 1. It was a great workout for core muscles. They didn’t unknot until I got to the rendezvous. Note to self: in future don’t leave the station before visiting the lady’s room! Thought I was going to burst! 

Eventually I arrived at The Moon under the Water (Wetherspoons) where I was met by Christopher at the door, security guards asked all that were seated on the pavement to move to enable me to use the designated ramp. If you can picture a bowling ball rolling towards the pins and knocking them all out of the way, then I was that ball! In actual fact it wasn’t an issue for them, it was all in my head, I hate disturbing folks. The next hurdle were the steps to the table but me and the chair were catered for by two burley men (Christopher and Daniel) who lifted the chair like it was a feather! I’m sure it wasn’t. Bear in mind, this was not the meal venue, this was just for drinks! I was going to have coffee but decided a stiff drink was the order of the day. 

Luckily, ‘The Botanist’ was only a few yards away and an hour or so later we were seated with relevant ease awaiting our order, by which time poor Daniel was so hungry he was wasting away! Food arrives, silence descends and we tuck in. Not true about the silence bit. The whole place was alive with chatter. I enjoyed every mouthful of my hanging kebab which the restaurant is famous for. I had chicken & chorizo, I don’t like chorizo, but I liked theirs. We were all good ‘ketoers’ and didn’t have chips or pudding. At which point I produced one I’d made earlier just in case! However, I was stuffed to the gills and didn’t need it. 

We all made our way to the station a little while later. I didn’t need a taxi as it was only a 20-minute walk away from the restaurant. Isabel & I thought we could start a rally or race, Isabel on her scooter and me in my chair; I think I’d have won. I forgot to put my powerchair on ‘slow mo’! I’d predee rocket boosters on mine. The hotel Isabel was staying at was a stone's throw away from the station and as there was still some time to kill before we boarded our respective trains, it was decided to have another drink or two, to which Isabel made a hasty change of direction to accompany us instead of being cooped up in her room. After saying our goodbyes to Isabel and John a little later, I was fortunate to have the company of Claire H, Daniel & Christopher who stayed with me until it was time to board their train.

I know I would have been overwhelmed if it hadn’t been for the help I received, because of the size of the station, the myriad of people and just not knowing where to go, plus I can’t see very well either with having advanced glaucoma which makes it a tad difficult to see signs. 

Learning curve, no 2. It’s not always what you know but who you know. 

Learning curve, no 3. Don’t book with ‘Trainline’ they booked me into carriages with no wheelchair space.

Learning curve, no 4. Getting the right mindset, determination and helpful, kind people anything is possible. I had lovely food, lovely company and finally a lovely trip home. I learned so much. 

I’m glad I stopped procrastinating about going; took the anxiety by the horns and got through it. I was so pleased to see my husband waiting for me at the station though. I had a lovely hug and when we were home he made me a very welcome cup o’ tea. Shoes kicked off, feet up, took over an hour to unwind but it was good. I knew I’d pay for it the next day but that’s ok too.

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