Travelling in Style!

Travelling in style!!

I thought yesterday was thwart with difficulties. Today, I really did it in style! I’d just travelled down to town in Alfie, my new electric powerchair when I started to feel out of kilter. Uh, oh, I’d had this feeling before. I immediately looked over Alfie, only to discover two completely flat rear tyres! Not again … the last time this happened, I was on the end of the longest pier in the world at Southend-on-Sea! It’s 2.16 kilometres! You can read this here – Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier.

I was sitting outside M&S (Marks & Spencer) – a big chain store, especially in the UK. I needed assistance, so I limped slowly into the entrance to attract a store assistant. I could feel the rims scraping the ground with every limping inch. Ouch. I just managed to get inside the door out of the hot, bright sun. Fortunately, I have a rescue service as part of my lease contract for such occasions; I phoned them to be told they would be with me as soon as they could.

An hour later, still waiting, I was getting cold as I’d only managed to drive as far as the freezer cabinets by the door. I hadn’t thought to bring a jacket on such a beautiful day. A lovely assistant approached me and asked if I’d like a hot drink. She came back with a coffee. She also picked up a vegan sandwich for me. I was hungry by then. As the hours were ticking away, I was getting very cold, so they gave me one of the Stock Controller’s freezer jackets to put around my shoulders till my transport came. The shop staff were wonderful – they couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. I’ll definitely be making a call to Customer Services tomorrow to give my compliments and to ask for the staff to be personally thanked.

I sat and waited … and waited … and waited. One of the assistants kept popping his head out of the door to see if there were any signs of rescue. Nothing. I phoned the rescue people again, only to be told they were having difficulties finding a vehicle to collect me. More waiting.

After three-and-a-half hours, a man in grey and orange overalls and muddy boots came toward me. This was my knight in shining armour! I was very pleased to see him. He’d come to take my wheelchair home and helped me into a waiting taxi as he wasn’t allowed to carry passengers. Just as I got home, I saw a truck outside with Alfie on the back. It was a 7.5-ton pick-up truck!! Apparently, that’s all they had available. Some neighbours had come out to watch as my knight guided Alfie, looking very sorry for himself, down the ramp. Finally, we were home. What a day. Lucky I’ve got a very good sense of humour. I won’t live this one down for a long time!

I’ll never live it down 😂

Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier

At the beginning of March, I wrote a post about my holiday to Southend-on-Sea during the summer of 2018 – https://elliethompson.uk/2022/03/06/sunnier-climes-part-1/ . This is the continuation of that experience.

Seven Hotel – Southend-on-Sea

It was a beautiful day in July when I set off from the rather plush Seven Hotel and headed for the pier. The train that went almost the length of it hadn’t started running yet as I’d set off very early in the morning. It was the hottest day we’d had in the UK for three years at over 33 degrees, and I’d thought I’d get out before the peak of the heat hit. As I sped off in my electric wheelchair, George, the welcome breeze swept through my hair. It was exhilarating, and I was soon at the halfway point. I looked back at the distance I’d travelled and admired the view. The sky was hazy with the heat, but the sea was blue. The gleaming white buildings, hotels and apartments were in the distance now.

The view from Southend Pier.

I trundled across the pier’s wooden planks, thoroughly enjoying myself with the seagulls flying high above me, squawking loudly. The café was right at the end, and I thought I’d stop there and grab some breakfast and a coffee. Twenty minutes later, when I’d almost reached my destination, the clackety-clack of the wood below my wheels began to sound odd. The planks were old and worn in some places but perfectly sound. After a few more metres, the noise became louder. I wasn’t too concerned and had my eye on the sign at the end. I stopped to take this photo. It read …

Congratulations. You’ve reached the end of Southend Pier.

I could see the café up ahead and was looking forward to my breakfast. I was nearly there. I went to set off again when I suddenly realised that something was wrong. My wheelchair was leaning to one side. I looked down, and there was a completely flat tyre. What a place to get a puncture! Now, what do I do?

I turned to look over my shoulder and saw a couple behind me, although quite some way back. I waved at them frantically. To my dismay, they seemed to assume I was simply being friendly and waved back at me! As they got nearer, they could see my predicament and stopped to offer their help. I had no idea how I would get back to the land end of the pier.

Southend Pier – the longest pier in the world at 2.16 kilometres

The couple said they’d go to the café to get assistance, and soon, they returned with a manual wheelchair. I transferred into it, but there was still the dilemma of what to do with my chair. I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it. The only thing to do was push my chair, George, onto the train with me by his side and head back to land. A great idea, but there was a problem. The goods carriage was the only space big enough to take my chair, and that was filled with crates of wine bottles and beer for the café. There was no option but to unload it all onto the platform. The guard was not impressed! Finally, they got me on the train and back to terra firma. I then had to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the breakdown vehicle came and rescued me, brought me back to my hotel and whipped George off to have a new tyre.

I can laugh about it now, but that’s one holiday I shall never forget!

Sunnier Climes – Part 1

Could be anywhere, couldn’t it? It’s actually Southend-on-Sea – 2018

Southend comes in for an awful lot of stick. Anyone in Essex, UK, will probably know this fact. It’s often known for its levels of crime, often violence and perhaps, even thought of as a rough and scruffy seaside town. However, I just love it!

My story here is an account of my holiday in the summer of 2018. Having not had a holiday for over 15 years, this was to be quite an adventure! I’d packed up ready to set off; the large rucksack on the back of my wheelchair, (called George back then), bursting at the seams. I must have resembled ‘the bag lady’ as I set off with bags hanging off of every arm and projection on my wheelchair. I was determined to ‘go it alone’ and without any help or support. This sense of independence meant a heck of a lot to me.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the train station. The guard brought the ramp so that I could get on. The carriage was packed with animated holiday makers all heading for the coast to make the most of the beautiful sunshine. It was a scorching July that year and I was so excited and eager to get to get there. Two exhausting changes of train later, I arrived at my hotel. It was a pretty smart place and I stood out ‘like a sore thumb’ with my scruffy carrier bags packed to the hilt with everything I needed. Nevertheless, the proprietor and his wife were extremely polite, well-spoken and very warm and welcoming. I checked in, bundled into the small lift and was shown up to my room. I was surprised at how plush it was; roomy too, so plenty of space to park George for charging. The sun streamed through the window and my view from there overlooked the sea (see photo above). Golden Samphire grew out of the cliff face adding to this beautiful picture and I wasn’t far away from the Cliff Lift which had a scarily sheer drop to the promenade . Twenty minutes later, I’d unpacked; gone down to the bar for a refreshing glass of tonic water with elderflower (my favourite ‘tipple’ as I don’t drink alcohol) and headed for the beach.

The beach was gorgeous; certainly to me not having had a whiff of fresh, salty air for so many years. I so wished I could have gone for a paddle or felt the stony sand between my toes. This was a bit difficult when using an electric wheelchair, so it had to remain a dream of mine. However, not for one minute deterred I drove along the prom taking in the sights and smells – stalls selling hot doughnuts, pink candy floss, chips and burgers. There were stalls laden with buckets and spades, rubber rings, summer hats of all descriptions, flags and the good old seaside windmills on sticks. I loved these and bought two and asked the seller to stick them out of the back of my rucksack. I was just like a big kid without a care in the world! And so, I continued along the front literally with the wind in my sails, feeling very joyful and thrilled to bits with my holiday so far. I took lots of photos as this was for the sake of happy memories to come and sure evidence I’d achieved an ambition. However, the fun wasn’t over yet.

I could see the Sealife Centre in the distance and planned to go there the following day. The famous, old Kursaal was also in that direction. For today, I was just admiring the views and feeling the vibes and energy of the place which, by then, was swarming with holiday makers. I could just about make out an attraction happening ahead with a queue of people waiting to take part. As I got nearer, a mischievous thought took shape in my mind. I took a photo of what was going on and then, cheekily, posted it on my Facebook page with the following caption (below) …

And now, for my next trick!!

Now, bearing in mind I’m a wheelchair user, this would have been impossible but I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with my friends and family! Well … one day … you never know…

More of my travels to come in Part 2