As I write this, I’m not sure what is going on with Covid-19, as I am writing in advance. I’m trying to keep the flow going in my mind from For the Love of Music P1…..
London is pretty close
Being close to London – about 40 minutes on the train – is handy for big concert venues, but smaller venues sometimes are more powerful. Reading Rivermead Centre is fairly close, but public transport links to it are pretty rubbish for me. Not sure if you have experienced this venue, but you could say it’s like a town hall. I’ve witnessed Ocean Colour Scene play here, and of course, Weller. The only relation to using wheelchair skills at this hall is confidence. As it’s small, there are not really any large corridors to wheel at pace down; it’s just a mass of gig-goers, or fans… or Mods depending on who you are seeing.
The furthest I have gone for a gig in Birmingham NEC. This is about 100 miles north of the M40 for me. The O2 in Stratford, or the Millennium Dome, is closer but takes longer to get to either by car due to the chaos of London traffic and by train due to all the necessary changes needed. It’s quite an interesting journey for me by public transport to Stratford. A short taxi journey to the local train station and hop on a train to London. If I am lucky enough to get straight through one, it’s 30ish minutes. I need to get off at Marylebone.
Can I disembark?
Hopefully, the Station Guard who assisted me in accessing the train has called through to the guard at the trains final destination to help me disembark. If he has this prevent any problems or delays to the trains onward journey. Quite often, this message either does not get through or hasn’t even been communicated to the person intended. So, where will that leave me if the message does not get through? I have been to Marylebone enough to know I can manage to get off the train safely. The platforms are just the right height to disembark on my own. I practised a lot with friends to ensure my safety before I was tempted to risk it independently!
Onward to the O2 Dome
So after leaving Marylebone, I head down a street towards Bakers Street Station. After entering and making my way down the warren of tunnels towards the Jubilee Line, I end up on the correct platform. Totally confused as to which direction the tube train I’m about to get on is going. It pulls in with a screech of brakes. Doors slide open, and I wait a few moments for the masses to get off. I approach and see there is only an inch or so step I need to negotiate.
My front casters are up, and I move forward the necessary distance so they are on the train. I bring my head is forward and push the rear wheels forward to get my torso up the small step. I am safely in. The train moves away, and I am scanning through the gaps between the travellers to see a map and try to work out how many stops I’ll be on here for. Luckily this particular time, I am travelling in the right direction and can count the stops.
The train pulls in, the doors slide open, and off we get. I know this destination station is fully accessible because it is a modern station. The lift is the safest option to the surface, and then a short push to the venue. The slabs my wheelchair is rolling along now are smooth, and it is a comfortable ride… My friend, or wife, or whoever is lucky enough to join me at this epic concert venue is having to skip along to keep up…..