Friday, July 22, 2005

Lucky, lucky..

What a morning!

I was running a bit late as I had a late night with the kids, we had been to the theatre and then out to dinner at The Ivy. Tra la la!

Anyway, this morning I caught the tube at 8.45 which was supposed to go via Charing Cross. It was diverted at Kenning ton and so most of the passengers got off and crossed the platform to wait for the next Charing Cross train. The platform was really busy but everyone was cheery. The train arrived and we all piled on. The doors closed and we started to move , then the train jolted to a halt. The driver told us that we would be held at the station for a while, but not to panic. Then police officers and rail staff rushed onto the platform. The doors were opened and we were asked to evacuate the tube calmly. As we walked towards the exit we were instructed to keep moving and turn left as soon as we left the station. The street outside the station was cordoned off and we were urged to keep moving. The traffic was at a standstill. One guy was trying to walk back towards the tube entrance, he was wearing a rucksack and police manhandled him in the opposite direction, telling him if he didn't move out of the area he would be arrested. I called the office, explained what was going on and walked back towards my flat in Stockwell.

I got to Stockwell at about 9.50 and saw that the tube station was open and so was debating whether or not to try and get the Victoria Line to Oxford Circus or walk back to the flat and pick up my bike. As I walked towards the ticket barriers a guy hurtled past me and vaulted the barrier. People began shouting, "He's got a gun, he's got a gun!" and then there were another five people all running into the station entrance. Now people were shouting, "Get out, get out!" So I ran out of the station and around the corner.

A lady walking towards the tube asked me what was going on, and who were the men with guns. I told her I had no idea, but I didn't think it was worth trying to get the tube. I called the office again to let them know the latest update and walked around the corner to my flat and switched on the news. There was nothing about Stockwell, and so I imagined it must have been a false alarm. I changed into some shorts pumped up the tyres on Flying Sue and headed out planning to cycle to the office. By now the roads in the area were at a standstill, a helicopter was circling over head and a Police Dog Handlers van was trying to get through. I cycled onto Vauxhall.

The whole of Vauxhall roundabout was cordoned off. Traffic was at a standstill. The roads were all taped off. People were standing beside their cars chatting on mobile phones. There were even army officers in camouflage gear. I texted the office and considered just calling it a day. Then a builder who was working on St George's Wharf announced that he would walk anyone that wanted to follow him through the building site and along to the riverside road on the other side of the police blockade. About 100 of us followed him along the path everyone commenting on the lovely views the flats had of the river and how much they would cost! Then someone said that a man had been shot at Stockwell station and I thought, "Hmmm..."

I got back on Flying Sue and cycled along the Embankment trying not to run over the Japanese tourists who were busy photographing Big Ben. Flattie called to check I was OK and he confirmed that someone had been shot at Stockwell!

Sometimes it is good to be a dawdler and not to rush!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Made me stop and think...

I was at home with my parents this weekend. It was my Godmother’s 70th birtday and I was the surprise guest. I am sure she would have preferred someone like Michael Buble, but I was available and considerably cheaper! Our house in Devon is at the top of a long steep hill. I think the gradient is something like 1 in 3, cars and lorries often misjudge the incline and in icy weather they slide all over the place. However, it was a beautiful summer’s day and I was sitting with my parents enjoying a coffee after lunch on the balcony over looking the garden. My mother noticed the guy in the electric wheelchair coming up the hill, “He looks like he is struggling up there”
We all turned to see the red motorised hill come to a stop about 20 yards for from the top of the hill. For a moment the driver of the chair seemed to lean forward to look at a panel at his feet and then he sat back up and began waving his arms around. The cars shot passed him down the hill. It looked like he was in trouble. My father and I decided to walk across to see if there was anything we could do. As we got nearer I could see the guy was about 25 and looked to be suffering from cerebral palsy. I shouted across the road that we would be with him in a second and he grinned and waved his arms.
Dad and I crossed the road and I knelt down beside the guy and asked him if he needed any help. At his feet was a keyboard with various symbols on the keys. He began to push the keys with his toes and spelled out a message on the tiny screen at the top of the keyboard, “Please can you push me up the hill.”
The chair didn’t have any obvious handles behind so Dad and I took a corner each and started to push the chair to the top of the hill. Those things are pretty heavy, and I think we were glad there were two of us. We reached the top of the slope and the ground flattened out. I went to the front of the chair again and told the guy my name and asked him what his was. He spelled out, “Adam Smithfield”
“So Adam, where do you live? Is there someone we can contact?”
Adam typed away again and gave me the number and a contact name at a residential home about two miles away. He told me to ask Stan to bring the charger or his chair. I called the number and asked to speak to Stan. The receptionist sounded a bit suspicious and so I explained that I was with Adam and that his chair had run out of power. Stan came on the line and said that he would send a car to collect Adam. I said that we would push Adam to the Garden Centre car park which was about 100 yards along the road. I relayed this to Adam and he became quite agitated. I asked him what the matter was and he said that he wanted to make his own way home. I explained that the address he had given us was another two miles away and that if his power completely failed we would be stuck and he wouldn’t be able to communicate or go any further. He seemed adamant and typed, “No, no, no”
“OK, fine. I’ll call Stan and tell him not to send the cab, but I still think it is too far to walk.”
Adam drove his chair in a small circle and then typed out, “OK. I’ll wait for the car.”
I told my Dad to go back home and said that I would sit with Adam and wait for the car. I sat on the floor next to Adam’s chair and asked him how he had ended up on the hill. He told me he liked to drive around by himself and that he had been out for about 4 hours. He thought his car could make the hill climb but he had misjudged it’s power. I told him if he was going to climb inclines like that he needed to get a turbo charged chair. He laughed. We talked some more and it became apparent that here was an incredibly bright and independent person trapped inside a body that refused to function as he wanted it to. The taxi arrived after about 15 minutes and the driver started talking to me about where we were going, as he fitted the ramps I turned to Adam who was typing on his pad. I looked to see what he had written,
“Tell him to open the door wider”
“He says you are going to have to open the door wider, oh and drive out onto the road so the incline isn’t so steep.”
The driver shrugged and pushed the door a bit wider and said if we both push I think it we can mange to get him in. I asked Adam if he was OK with us trying and he said OK and then the words “Thank you”
After a bit of manoeuvring we managed to get Adam into the back of the taxi and I walked around to the open window. Adam swung his arm in my direction and I reached into the taxi and took his hand. He squeezed my hand and smiled.
“Nice to meet you Adam. No more hill climbing unless you’ve got your charger with you!”
He laughed and the taxi pulled away.

I walked back to the house with tears stinging my eyes. I can’t begin to imagine how frustrating it must be to want to communicate and be trapped inside a body that makes it almost impossible. To be treated by others as retarded when really you are brighter than they are, to be so dependent on others when you crave some independence. I felt very humbled.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I adopted three new children on holiday

On our first day by the pool in Mykonos, I noticed three exhuberant kids larking around on the sun lounger one along from ours. Frazzle had already checked them out and decided the smaller furry one was worth investigating more closely and so was pretending to listen to his mini iPod whilst actually eavesdropping on the conversations next to him. The tall one walked over and caught sight of Frazzle's reading material, "Wow, Pamela Anderson has written a book?! How fabulous!"
He was obviously Australian. There followed some small talk about the location of cashpoints in the town and whether any of us were attending the orientation meeting later that evening. They twisted my arm and so I changed and walked into town to find out from Phil, the dullest tour rep in the world, where the beaches were located on , "The Island Of Mykonos". I guessed they would be at the point where the land met the shore, and as we were on an island, that was all around us. Phil proved me right. He also then told us how to hire a quad bike (There are no hospitals on The Island Of Mykonos, so no mopeds for the Gays) and not to take pictures of the planes at the airbase. "See that island out there? That's the prison! You could be there for months!" We all thought it sounded like a cheap holiday.

Grrr, I have to leave the office as the cleaner wants to do my desk. Here are the kids....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Back in London

London is getting back to normal after the events of last week. I was getting ready to hit the beach in Mykonos, Greece last Thursday when I started getting random text messages asking if I was OK. We walked into our hotel lobby and they had the BBC World News on. It was about 10am in London and we were starting to see footage of the bus that had exploded. The reporting was vague (a deliberate ploy as it subsequently turned out) with the underground problems being blamed on a power surge. I texted Grumpy at the agency and he said everyone was OK but that it was really strange. Fraser tried to call London but couldn't get through. (The authorities had jammed the London mobile network) There seemed nothing more we could do so we headed to the beach. (It was our last day after all!) As the day went on more news filtered through. It felt bizarre to be sat in the sun while in London everything was chaos and confusion.

We arrived at London Gatwick Airport on Friday afternoon and the usually frenetic atmosphere was very subdued. The only real noise was the pre-recorded security announcements, you know, those supposedly soothing upper middle class male voices telling you not to leave your luggage unattended at any time or the posh lady who tells you to keep your children behind the blue line! We all caught the Gatwick Express into Victoria and were amazed at the number of police everywhere. I'm not sure that the high visibility made me feel any more secure, and the constant sirens howling in the distance were a far cry from the gently lapping waves we had been listening to.

I feel very lucky, no one I know was physically injured. One of my colleagues was on the train that was bombed at Kings Cross, but managed to break free from her carriage and get back to the platform, she was taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, but was back at her desk on Monday. She's a toughie! Another of our friends was on the train behind the one that exploded at Aldgate, he was evacuated from the station and got on a bus. His bus was directly behind the one with the bomb. Two very close shaves, he feels it just wasn't his time. Very philosophical!

The underground is much less crowded in the morning than it normally is, more people on cycles and scooters. The lady next to me on the way home got quite fraught about a suitcase at the end of our carriage. It belonged to a Japanese tourist, who seemed perplexed at her increasingly hysterical demands as to it's ownership. I guess she was just being vigilant.

Next couple of posts will be about holidays, birthdays and possibly even love in the afternoon!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Sorry for the delay!

I spent a good couple of hours typing away on my cronky old iMac last night filling you all in with recent exploits, and there was almost a month's worth of stories. I pressed post and everything froze, crashed and died. Sigh. I will re-write, but I guess I am going to have to configure Lulu Laptop so that she can talk to the World Wide Web and not just store photos and iTunes.