3:30pm, Tuesday 22nd May
I have been dating Alex for almost six months. I have been recovering from paralysis for almost seven months. Our entire time together has been dominated by my need to be cared for, not something that carries a lot of romance.
The pair of us have been holding onto a romance that started almost a year ago now when she visited me in NYC. We had what seemed the perfect week, topped off by the perfect day, getting lucky with free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park, seeing fireflies in Central Park and looking down at the lights of Manhattan from the empty 86th floor of the Empire State building (empty due to fog which fortunately was just above us).
Five months passed where I was travelling and she was working, nothing more than the occasional phone call passing between us. When stricken down by GBS in November and medivacked back to the UK she came to my bedside and it was clear nothing had changed between us, despite the monumental shift in circumstances.
From November to January all our dates were all set in the unromantic setting of a hospital. It got slightly better at New Year when I started being able to come home for weekends. But coming home presented new challenges and Alex became my chief piss taker, (she took my piss) and other duties of caring for me that you would only expect in the relationship of an old married couple.
That’s why going the London last weekend was a big event for us. It was an opportunity to rekindle that romance. Being the jammy dodgers that we are, we used a two for one deal to buy tickets in advance for the London Eye, the main event in our visit.
Upon arriving in Waterloo Station, we struggled to find the disabled exit so popped in to Pret A Manger who were kind enough to give us a free coffee. Slowly we navigated the maze of London’s streets to take a lift up and onto Waterloo Bridge. Alex pushed me over the bridge and up the hill to Covent Garden, every now and then having to take a breather.
As a reward for her pushing me, we spent an hour in Brandy Melville, but bought nothing. Running short of time, Alex ran with me in the wheelchair out of Covent Garden, past Trafalgar Square, over Waterloo Bridge and into the queue for the London Eye. Being in a wheelchair, we were immediately fast tracked to the front of the line. Being wheelchair bound is a pain in the arse most of the time but sometimes, just sometimes, it can work in one’s favour. On the London Eye I was able to stand against the window and look down at the incredible sights of London from above.
Once again, the Eye was stopped so that we could get off. Alex parked me in the corner of the gift shop so that she could check out the pictures taken by the ride. She came back five minutes later having been told off for trying to take a picture of the picture of us that we are meant to pay £15 for.
Hungry, we discovered a Wagamama’s on the South Bank. How could we resist! I ordered a katsu curry and Alex a yaki soba. 15 minutes into our meal, Alex started complaining to me about a bird in the tree above us dropping little poop bombs on and around her. I thought it was quite funny until the bird found a new and more effective target. With a couple of big mouthfuls neatly arranged to finish my meal, a poo bomb landed directly in the middle of my plate! It had covered my katsu curry and my t-shirt. What a waste! On the upside, being shat on by a bird is meant to mean good luck… on the downside, the rest of my meal was inedible. The staff were very good about it and the manager even came out the apologize. They told me that we didn’t need to pay the bill and measures would be put in place the prevent the same thing happening again if we were to return. I really wasn’t too fussed and was delighted to have a free meal. I left a large tip and we went on our way.
The journey from London to Alex’s house in Andover was easy and the train staff were all eager to help me get on and off the trains. We arrived just in time to see Alex’s sister Oriole before she went off to babysit. This was to be my first night at Alex’s house. The sofa bed was pulled out on the ground floor to make it all possible and it looked amazing. We lay there watching Game of Thrones, what more could a man want!
The following morning was a bit of a rush. The legend Tobe, Alex’s father had prepared bacon and eggs, what a treat! We then rushed to the station, arriving just one minute before the train. Alex ran up and down the platform to find a guard but there was no one. When the train pulled up she wrestled with the lock on the disabled ramp, but it was no use. I quickly got two teenagers to run down the platform to get the attention of the guard who was standing at the rear end of the train. At his own pace the guard dawdled over to us. He unlocked the ramp and positioned it. Alex pushed me into the carriage and we were on out way. The guard then proceeded to tell Alex off for not calling in advance, thus delaying the train. I admit that on the website, disabled passengers are advised to ‘call 24 hours in advance to let the station know the exact train that we expect to take’. I understand that we had not done that. However, 24 hours prior to the train, we had not known which train we needed to take. Most guards we have encountered have been extremely helpful and haven’t made any fuss, unfortunately this guard was the exception.
Alex dropped me off at Woking and headed off to London to meet some friends. Exhausted, I ate lunch with the other patients and went to bed.