I have three days off work to celebrate my mum’s birthday (which is on Wednesday).
I will have so much to share with you, but this evening I want to tell you all about today.
Mum lives in the most beautiful part of the world – Yorkshire. What better way to see it than by steam train? We headed to Keighley and caught the train to Haworth for a day out and about in the great Yorkshire countryside. She loved it.
One of the difficulties with the day was manouvering the wheelchair. There’s so much to think about all the time – sorting out concession and carers tickets, getting on and off public transport, planning ahead – and the steep cobbled hills of Haworth’s Victorian streets. More on that later.
Worth Valley Railway were absolutely fantastic today. It is a challenge for them; their carriages were built in the 1950s, when accessibility wasn’t really on the agenda. They’ve added new specially-adapted carriages for wheelchair users. For my mum, though, the journey was a welcome break from the chair. She can still walk, so with a little support from me she was able to get in the carriage. The wheelchair was placed with the guard and she could enjoy herself for twenty minutes.
She loved that journey. Her moods still aren’t stable, so when she is happy she just laughs and laughs and laughs. Oh and she did on the steam train. With every whistle and every chuga-chuga-chuga, she laughed. It was such wonderful fun. I am glad we did this now, while she’s still mobile.
Her mobility is what inspired my title for this blog post. Although I really want to talk about public transport for people with MND, I simply cannot ignore the biggest joy of today: her feeling of being on top of the world.
For those who haven’t been to Haworth, the Main Street and the streets connecting it to the train station are incredibly steep and cobbled. We managed about twenty paces pushing the wheelchair before we just couldn’t go any further. But when you get to the top, by the Brontë parsonage, you have spectacular views of the rolling Yorkshire hills. It is stunning.
For Mum, with her weakness in her left leg, especially in her ankle, steep cobbled streets are not ideal. But she made it. She did it. It wasn’t the easiest walk in the world, and halfway up it got a bit emotional – but today she accomplished something. She had a sense of achievement in something which used to be easy – but it wasn’t sad. We delighted in her achievement, and I am so pleased that she was able to walk to the top of the world.
Anyway, after an enjoyable few hours getting some oxygen into our lungs, and stopping at Branwell Brontë’s favourite pub, it was time to go home.
We missed the last steam train, so we had to get the bus back to Keighley. Mum’s free bus pass is actually a blessing, which I didn’t expect. I thought it would be useful for getting her to hospital, but it has actually unlocked a new kind of freedom. She goes out more than she did, and is yet to have a problem with buses. Even the grumpiest of drivers are helpful in ensuring she can get on safely.
One big problem is the brakes on the wheelchair. She’s guaranteed a seat, but the NHS wheelchair has such poor brakes that I have had to hold her in place as the bus goes around the corner. It’s a problem we plan to bring up with the team when she’s back in hospital next week.
Finally, the last leg of the journey was on a new train – well, an old train but slightly more recent than a steam train.
My big lesson from today is plan ahead if possible. The most stressful part of today was standing on Keighley platform, arriving too late to call the train and let them know that a woman in a wheelchair was getting on, then searching for someone to help us.
Planning ahead will make your journey easier, but it’s not impossible if you want to go out on a whim, like we did today.