Recently I had the pleasure of returning to my favourite city in the world, Glasgow in Scotland. I had the good fortune and judgement to marry a fine upstanding Glaswegian lassie so she was just as happy to return to her home city for a few days and take our daughter to see her grandparents.
Although I have been to Glasgow numerous times, this time was different for two reasons in particular: firstly we would be travelling to Oban for the bank holiday weekend to attend a friends wedding, and secondly because this was my first trip of this magnitude as a disabled traveller.
The first leg (other than my friend driving us to the airport) was from Bristol to Glasgow, using the much maligned Easyjet. Before I go on I know that some people have issues with domestic flights but with two disabled parents and a child under two years old travelling I really couldn't think of a more practical way.
Anyway I digress. the check in clerk asked if I would like the Ambi-lift to board the plane, it was very nice not to have to ask, and they explained clearly what I had to do and my wife and daughter could travel on the ambi-lift with me which cut out an awful lot of stress for us all.
Next was the good old security checks. Now I have never been through the bleeping doorway without being frisked, I must just have one of those faces. Now I had to put my walking crutch through the scanning machine which left me delicately and slowly walking through the doorway unaided, wasn't too happy about that. Then I was asked to remove my shoes without being offered a chair, nor had my walking crutch been offered back to me when it had gone through the scanner. I wasn't happy about that either. I know these guys have an important job to do but it shouldn't be forgotten that most travellers are just regular people trying to go about their everyday business, and I am happy to comply with their requests when my disability is taken into some kind of recognition.
Anyway we finally got through that after a struggle, it was then down to trying to keep my daughter away from all the Peppa Pig merchandise the shops insist on putting at toddler eye level. Sadly for my wallet she was walking on my left side (my weak side) so was unable to prevent her from picking up a Peppa Pig colouring book and In The Night Garden jigsaw. Oh well!!
Next after my darling daughter had finished throwing a jigsaw piece of Iggle Piggle at her Daddy, our flight was called so we went to the Special Assistance Desk and they knew who we were so all started well. Unfortunately we were called to Gate 7 but the ambi-lift was at Gate 1 because it wouldn't fit under the awning of the building, so I ended up having to hobble as quickly as I could past 5 gates to keep up with a sprinting assistant pushing an older gentleman in a wheelchair. I wish they had thought this through properly. However with our little one's buggy, once we were at the ambi-lift it did make boarding much much easier and the first row of seats had been reserved for us with walking difficulties.
The flight was thankfully pretty eventless, this was the first time I had flown since my stroke so was a bit nervous, and when I say it was eventless we were travelling with a bored toddler so I am speaking relatively.
When we arrived in Glasgow the ambi-lift had a wheelchair in it for me, and after my experience at Bristol I was going to take advantage of it's availability. The guy pushing my chair was very chatty and friendly and I almost made out every word through his broad Glaswegian accent, but again he was flying along with his pace and my Mrs: pushing the little one in a buggy really struggled to keep up with us.
Once that was all done, it was off to my in laws in the lovely suburb of Milngavie where unfortunately they live at the top of a very steep hill and the public transport options started and ended at the bottom of said steep hill....oh well. My in laws had made me up a bedroom downstairs which was very nice, they even put cable TV in there for me (not 24hr Vince Cable channel I hasten to add).
The following day I ventured down the hill (hither to known as The Precipice) to the train station. My decent was rather speedier than I was comfortable with and not very controlled but I did manage to keep my feet just about. I travelled into the centre of Glasgow to meet a delightful young lady called Rosie from Enable Scotland. We shared a very nice lunch in a city centre public house where no alcohol was consumed, the nearest we had was ginger beer. I learned a lot from Rosie about the local disability issues, and I have to say the train journey from Milngavie to Glasgow was pretty accessible for me, not sure how it would have worked had I been using a wheelchair though.
In the next few days I shall tell you of our trip to Oban and our return to Bristol as I don't want to bore you all, but in the meantime, please feel free to comment with your own experiences of travelling as, or with a disabled person.