Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Accommodation Conundrum

So it's been a good few weeks since my last post, certainly a longer gap than I would have liked (though possibly not as long a gap as some of you reading may have preferred)! But it's been an unusually hectic month that's seen me shoot down to London, up to Glasgow, back down to London, across to Spain and next week back up to Glasgow, using a variety of planes, trains and automobiles (though sadly without the company of a lovable shower-curtain-ring salesman with a heart of gold). In fact, over the course of the last month, I've doubtless spent more time aimlessly roaming cities whilst living out of a suitcase in a random hotel room than I have in my own flat, in the process becoming a wheelchair nomad, a disabled vagrant...the cripplest hobo!

I now however find myself in the enviable position of being back home with a few days to spare before my next trip away (I can almost hear Lenny Henry softly beckoning my name to the Premier Inn reception desk...), so I thought I'd take advantage of this free time and update people on what the devil I've been up to. It's more interesting than it sounds...I hope swear!

The main reason I've been shooting up and down to London is that I got offered a place on a television sport production course which would mean me moving to the Big Smoke and working full time for a year at a production company. It took me by complete surprise as although I'd knowingly applied and interviewed for the place, I was fairly certain I didn't stand a spack in hells chance of actually getting on it! And as soon as I found out I had a place on the course, my usual blasé, happy-go-lucky attitude was replaced by one of equal parts dizzy excitement, blind panic and abject terror, as I realised I had a matter of weeks to upend my entire life and shift it down south! Not only that, but I would have to find accommodation in London within 6-8 weeks and give up my flat in the north which had taken me 16-18 months to find. And therein lay the issue...

Finding reasonably priced accommodation in London is no mean feat in itself, but finding reasonably priced, wheelchair accessible accommodation in London with a built-in wet room that is vacant and ready to be moved into is the housing equivalent of winning the Lotto and Euro Millions jackpots in the same week! The other problem was that I was already in a property up here that met my needs and requirements and so my applications for accessible housing weren't deemed as urgent and I was plonked bottom of the list. And I can fully appreciate why this was, as I wouldn't have been best pleased had I been in desperate need of accessible accommodation and had lost out on an ideal property because some guy needed it for a job. Nevertheless, it was still somewhat frustrating and once again highlights the enormously broad spectrum that is disability/accessibility, ie. an accessible property for one person's disability needs could be completely inaccessible for another person's. I remember one housing association worker helpfully advising me to move down there first and then put myself on the list, and another telling me that once I was on the list I could sit back, relax and look forward to moving into my new property within 7-10 years. Fabulous!

Alas, it was not to be, and my dream of becoming an all-powerful television mogul has had to be put on hold for now. I could rant about the north/south divide and how there just aren't the opportunities up here that there are down there. I could rant about how wet rooms should be standard in all housing association and council properties, and what an utter nightmare it is to find truly wheelchair accessible accommodation. I could rant about how it's gone 1pm and the guy who bought my TV off eBay was supposed to pick it up at 12pm. However I'd rather just be proud of at least making it as far as I did, no matter how raw the disappointment may feel currently. And besides, I can always save up the rants for a slow news day!

"But Gareth, tell us why you were in Spain?!" I can hear absolutely no one you all asking. Well, for the third year in a succession, I was at FIB, a music festival (not a Thunderbirds/Men in Black mash-up) on the east coast of Spain, in the town of BenicĂ ssim.

Before the accident I had been to a couple of British festivals and had had the time of my life. One neck break later however and the idea of navigating fields in a wheelchair whilst likely intoxicated was somewhat less appealing. Plus, if it rains (and this is the UK so who are we kidding) then the Glastonbury Formula dictates that: field + people + rain = bog. And then your chair quickly becomes an immovable object and it's game over unless you happen to have your own man-horse:
In contrast, FIB is almost entirely on tarmac, meaning that you can glide with ease from stage to bar to stage, ensuring that on the very rare occasion it does rain, the ground doesn't become instant quicksand. You won't even need to bring your own Hodor! On top of that you've got guaranteed glorious weather, beaches and promenades to wander down and a great mix of British/American/Spanish bands. In fact, the sun is so powerful during the day that the bands don't start until around 6pm, and then run until around 6am. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you're a wheelchair user looking for an accessible festival. I do have a small confession to make however *takes a deep breath and looks down at the floor*: I am a glamper. That's right, I stay in a hotel with air conditioning, a bed, a shower and a pool, a true festival fraud! However in my defence, this is almost entirely due to the intensity of the Spanish heat, coupled with a week of hangovers and my inability to sweat below the neck: a potent combination that would likely result in my being found on the last morning, melted in a pool on the canvas of my tent!
Another successful year of camping at FIB!
 And that's pretty much that. I'm hoping it's been a healthy balance of informative and amusing, and not just nine paragraphs of droning piffle. But then I've never been the best judge of my own abilities: at school I used to think I could become a professional goalkeeper and maybe even one day represent England. I was 5'8" at the time of injury, I think I may actually be taller sitting down!



  1. and was the premiere in any good?, as I'm currently trying to find a wheelchair accessible room with a bed on legs (for hoist) and level access shower.
    PS.. Spain sounds great will pass that on ..

    1. Hi, I've stayed in a lot of chain hotels over the years and have learnt that the term 'wheelchair accessible' is extremely broad! It is possible to get Premier Inns with level access showers but most that I've stayed in just have a bath with grab rails. And I can't be sure about the beds but I seem to remember most of them being divan style rather than on legs. The Ibis and Holiday Inns I've stayed in have all had level access showers and Holiday Inns usually give you an adjoining 'carer room' free. Your best bet is to speak to the hotel directly and tell them what you need to know as pretty much every hotel is different. And going abroad can be great fun, as long as you plan ahead and ensure air con haha! Hope this helps :-)

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