Tuesday, 15 December 2015

In The Bleak Midwinter, Frosty Gimps May Roll

Well here we are at the final entry of the year. With Christmas just around the corner, the streets are lit up with decorations and supermarkets are desperately trying to bring every potential customer to tears with their diabetes inducing 'Spirit of Christmas' commercials. So I thought I'd do my bit and make an attempt at a festive post to put everyone in the holiday mood. But after spending several days pondering what part of Christmas I could awkwardly crowbar a disability angle into, I was forced to admit defeat and will instead fall back onto that most British of conversation topics and something which has been even more prominent over the last week or so than Santa's impending arrival: The weather!

I'd like to begin by saying that, for a country whose weather throughout the year can more often than not be described as 'bleak', we don't seem overly prepared for it when it arrives and it really doesn't take a lot to send people into blind panic. Within the next couple of months we can look forward to witnessing the entire country grind to a halt as the customary quarter inch of snow dusts the streets. And currently half the country seems to either be underwater or in ruins following the onslaught of Storm Desmond! I'll be honest with you, it's not the most menacing of names, but I presume those are specially reserved for hurricanes, earthquakes and locust plagues. I wasn't even aware storms warranted being anthropomorphised. Before long the Met Office will be warning people to stay indoors lest they run the risk of getting their hair ruffled by Strong Breeze Rupert! But I digress...

I wanted to use this post to talk about the varied effects the weather can have on people with disabilities. However I've just realised that I spent the entire last paragraph mocking people for not being able to cope with a bit of harsh weather but am now, rather sheepishly, going to talk about how perilous that same weather can be for people such as myself. I therefore apologise for the glaring irony and double standards. I know, it's all 'me me me'!

The truth is though that the weather can quite often be one of the biggest issues in a disabled person's plans. I drove up to Edinburgh for a couple of days last week to do some shopping on Princes Street, look round the Christmas market etc. The day I arrived seemed to coincide with the start of Scottish monsoon season and it wasn't long before I was sat in a squishy puddle where my cushion once was, my sodden jeans gripping to me like a wrestler's leotard, as my swollen gloves squelched against the black rubber pushrims either side of me. And these pushrims, so grippy when dry, suddenly become bars of soap in your hands as soon as the rain hits, leaving you cold, wet and moving with all the grace and coordination of Bambi on ice! If only there were some way of staying dry whilst retaining one's dignity...

Gimp In A Bag - The must have Christmas accessory!
The second day in Edinburgh was almost completely rain free and after having wrung out and dried my jeans overnight, I was ready to hit the shops again, but as I soon found out, the wind was ready to hit me harder! In all honesty though, I don't have much of a problem with the wind. I mean sure, it can slow me down (or speed me up depending on its direction), turn me into a human wind sock if I forget to do my jacket up, or try to amputate my leg by slamming the car door on it as I'm trying to assemble my chair, but I'll take that over rain any day. Anything is preferable to rain, that is except...

...Snow and Ice: the bane of the disabled!
Yes, cover the paths and pavements in a few inches of the white stuff and wheelchair users quickly become prisoners in their own homes, especially if, like me, the car park is located a hundred metres from your front door! Of course we've attempted the journey, us wheelers aren't cowards you know, and for a few victorious seconds it can almost seem as though we're making progress, take that Mother Nature! Alas, with the next push you feel the wheels spin forwards whilst you however, remain rooted to the spot. You try again and again, with the same result, until you find you've carved yourself a neat, little wheelchair treadmill where you can spend hours in the same spot, pushing at various speeds from the comfort of your own street! Ice can be just as tricky and even more devious, the invisible assassin! At least when it snows you can see the danger and prepare for it. When there's ice on the paths, half the time you don't even realise it until you find yourself questioning why, instead of going forwards in the direction you're pushing, you are in fact sliding sideways towards a particularly univiting-looking bush! And every transfer in and out of the car becomes a life or death struggle, as your chair takes on a mind of its own and mid-transfer decides to glide a couple of feet in any given direction, as you desperately try to rein it in whilst flailing mid-air! Yes, if you wish to venture out safely in the snow and ice, there really is only one solution:

To Waitrose Jeeves and step on it!
So in conclusion, I'm not saying that as soon as the temperature drops into single figures I lock the doors and stare longingly out of the window until the first blossom of spring emerges, but I certainly wouldn't complain if the government saw fit to introduce a scheme whereby all wheelchair users were airlifted to warmer climates for the winter months...but not too warm mind you, some of us can't sweat to cool ourselves down! I know, there's just no pleasing some people.

Right, that's me done. You'll be distraught relieved to hear that I shall return in the new year, about six kilos heavier and loaded with more rambling tales of obscurity. In the meantime, enjoy the holidays: eat, drink, be merry! And in the event of a snowfall, if you see a person in a wheelchair struggling, before offering to help, why not follow the example of my friend and get your phone out for a quick picture! You never know, it could make for a cracking, politically incorrect Christmas card next year:

Laughing Photographer: Charlotte. Freezing Model: Gareth.


  1. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
    Ultra Lightweight Wheelchair

    Keep Posting:)

    1. Hi,
      Thanks so much, I'm really happy to hear you've enjoyed reading all my waffle haha! I normally try to post something once a month but I was catching up with numerous post-Christmas things all last month. Hopefully should be putting a new post up within the next week!
      Thanks again for the positive feedback :-)