“The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it” – Gift Gugu Mona.
Some friends of ours own a couple of properties in Covent Garden and kindly offered us use of one of them; a delightful studio apartment. A weekend away. Perfect.
I had noticed some anxiety rising at the idea of travelling on public transport. This was largely due to the symptoms that my chronic illness, that would later turn out to be Parkinson’s Disease, causes me; pains and aches to a severe degree but also, more of a concern, frequent difficulty with walking. Realising that my anxiety was about symptoms that had not yet happened, for in the present moment I was still comfortably at home, I was able to ‘let go’ of my anxiety. Staying ‘in the present’ is a great way to remove anxiety, for most anxiety comes from concern about what is (possibly) yet to come.
I had packed a small ruck sack with just the basic, minimum clothing requirements; a far cry from one of many trips to beautiful Scotland, for which I had once packed seventeen pairs of trousers ‘just in case I might need them’ (okay – stop laughing now) for one week of holiday there! I felt assured that my ruck sack was pretty light to carry and that my only concern would be whether my body would work well enough for me to reach London. I didn’t want to let my partner down, by not being able to travel.
The train journey, from the part of Suffolk we live in to Ipswich, was very pleasant. On this earliest part of our journey to London, I found myself looking through the slightly grubby windows of the train, to watch the Suffolk countryside as we ambled through village upon village with little in between other than green fields, woodland, rivers and the gentle sideways glances of unimpressed sheep and cattle. What a world away from the London I had grown up in, this is. What a wonderful life I now have in this beautiful part of our craggy island.
We alighted at Ipswich. The industrial areas of Ipswich were the first images that reminded me that I was already a long way from our little village. It all seemed so grey. The platforms started to fill and I was already starting to experience leg pains. We took the elevator up to the footbridge and another elevator down to the platform that we needed, in order to catch the connecting London bound train. My leg pains and movement difficulties slowed me and we had only eight minutes to get from one train to the next. Clearly those who create these timetables do not consider whether those with disabilities can sprint! With about thirty seconds to spare, we made it in time – just!
We moved along our coach; coach ‘C’. We found our reserved seats which were at a table. To get into my seat, by the window, I had to almost fold myself into a concertina to cram my legs between the fixed table and fixed arm rest to then get into my seat. A grey haired, suited business man huffed and sighed as I kicked him in the shin at least twice; poor soul. I apologised. He nodded and looked away; how very English to be too polite to tell me what he really thought! Again, how difficult this is for anybody with a disability. My struggle to be seated had caused considerable pain and discomfort; resulting in leg cramps. I started to plan how to get myself out of this difficult seat, for when we would arrive in London.
The train made its way through Suffolk, Essex and into the suburbs of London. I marvelled at the amount of new buildings that had taken their place on the skyline. From the new buildings of Stratford’s Olympic legacy to the shiny new sky scrapers of central London. One could be forgiven for believing that a ‘recession’ had taken place. How was that even possible, with so much development having been completed and still being in progress?
My last visit to London had been a few years ago but with so much being new, it felt in some ways as though I had been away for decades. I say ‘in some ways’ for, once we had escaped the confines of the train and walked along the platform beneath the beautiful Victorian architecture of Liverpool Street Station, I immediately felt the familiarity of London once more; a familiarity that hits like a punch in the senses! Not only the sights, but the roaring sounds and the concoction of aromas that can only come from London’s mix of pollution, grime, sweat and numerous food outlets. Home….of old.
We had agreed that it would be best for me to avoid the discomfort of subterranean travel and so, instead of the Tube, we hopped into a Black Cab. It was only a short distance to Covent Garden from Liverpool Street and offered further opportunity to take in our city surroundings. The Cab Driver was quite young and, unusually for a cabbie, not the slightest bit chatty. We spent most of the journey craning our necks to view so many new buildings through the gleamingly clean windows of the Black Cab. Occasionally sitting in a queue of traffic, like becoming part of some giant, slow moving Centipede, we eventually arrived at our destination. Freedom from Public Transport. I smiled. We had arrived.
Having popped to the house of our friend, Willie, who kindly showed us across the street into his other property; the apartment we would be staying in, we had a brief chat and said our goodbyes and flopped down into some comfy chairs. Having a chronic illness often makes me behave in ways that seem well beyond my years, but I have come to value how I now enjoy rest times. I have a new found appreciation for comfortable seating, ambient rooms and freedom to just ease back into comfortableness.
It was feet up and time to relax. There we sat before heading out to begin the experience of our break in wonderful London; in the heart of Covent Garden. Theatreland. Just a stones throw from our favourite shops, a nice walk from the beautiful and mighty river Thames and the fantastic bars and restaurants of Old Compton Street; Soho.