We repeated the railway journey back to Paris, but this time we intended to stay for a couple of days. Firstly, although we had booked into a wheelchair friendly hotel in Paris on the way back, some thoughtless soul had put a pillar immediately in front of the lift door. This meant that the wheelchair could not enter the lift, which in turn meant we could not reach the bedrooms.
A long conference followed, during which they upgraded us to a room in the Mercure group, the only hotel available, as it was August in Paris. (It was only much later, on reflection, that I realised someone had put the lift in the first hotel in the wrong way round – the pillar should have been at the back of the lift shaft.)
We took in Montmartre, this time, and the Moulin Rouge, and then went to book the train journey home. It was emphasised that we must give twenty-four hours notice of travelling, so that everything could be ready. We had to be at the station one hour before departure. I didn’t mind a bit – not for luxury like that!
However, on the day of our departure, walking to the station with all our bags, Shand spotted a jacket, which he thought was a real bargain, and a “must have”. I remonstrated that we did not have time. He said we did. And he would not be moved. I became more and more concerned. If I missed this train home, I would be late back to start work. He was totally unconcerned, and taking his time over the jackets…
Eventually, we reached the station with only a quarter of an hour to spare before the train. They would not consider trying to load us. We had to wait another twenty -four hours. As we remembered with dismay how busy Paris was in August, we wondered if we would get a hotel room at all. I was distressed at the delay, and the hotel we managed to locate after several hours trying was through the tourist board. We emphasised that the lift had to be able to take a wheelchair and were assured that it was. So we booked it.
On arrival, the lift was not big enough – to be honest it was miniscule. I had to transfer Shand onto a dining room chair in the lift, had very little balance, this terrified him, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention the odd scream.
The lift attendant looked amazed.
“Le monsieur – est il toujours comme ca?” was the question.
I replied that he was not always like this, but balance was difficult, and he was not required to sit on a dining room chair in a lift very often. We were not sure we could find any other accommodation, and we were booked in…
Once on the appropriate floor, I had to leave him sitting in the chair while I went back down in the lift for his wheelchair, and bring that up folded in the lift. “Shand announced he would just sleep downstairs in his wheelchair rather than go through the lift ordeal again.
Neither of us was too happy at this turn of events. I was devastated as I knew that I was going to be delayed going back to work. As a Ward Sister, it did not look good, nor set a good example. I obviously was effective in showing my anger, because my enduring memory is of Shand pursuing me through the streets of Paris with a red rose between his teeth, (he was unable to hold it) to make up for his unthinking behaviour.
Eventually, we found a hotel that suited our needs, but the first hotel would not refund the deposit.
It is this degree of misinformation and uncaring attitude that is at the heart of a lot of disability issues. It causes a huge amount of stress to people already working at full capacity.
The journey back was uneventful, but there was a real sense of achievement at having undertaken something so ambitious. I do not know exactly what elements led to this holiday being so successful. He had previously only had respite breaks- so this was a real change.
The transport was wonderful, as were the caring people who helped along the way.
The feeling of empowerment was really important. There is no doubt that this kind of holiday is for those who enjoy an adventure.
He always referred to it as his best holiday – perhaps because he had set his sights high and made it happen.
The postcard was sent to the Transit driver.
Shand never wore the jacket.
© Linda McLean