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Hopping through the heart of Europe

It was when my crutches fell out of the overhead locker and hit me on the head that I decided I was not that keen on travelling whilst incapacitated.  Although to be fair, it was on the return flight so I guess I’d must have done alright up until then.  Anyway, there I was- hopping around like an idiot in the aisle as my boyfriend used a sock to mop up the red wine that he’d managed to spill in his lap.  Once he’d finished I staggered back to my seat with a mild concussion and the consternation and excessive sympathy of my fellow passengers.  I sipped what was left of my wine and looked forward to making it home.

I’d broken my ankle bone in two places and had an operation to fix it only a week before jetting off to Strasbourg in Alsace.  My doctor had no worries about me travelling in this condition. He simply scrawled “she is fit to travel” as a post-script to a letter advising security personnel that I’ll set off alarms every time I travel but was unlikely to be storing a lethal weapon in my sock.

So off we went – each leg of the journey seeming like an epic adventure before the limping me.  We’d thought through how to make things as easy as possible but it still seemed something of an achievement just to get to my hotel room.  For someone who travels regularly, both for leisure and professionally, and frequently alone, this was a strange feeling.  I am normally a confident -even blasé – traveller, getting around quickly with the minimum of fuss. Being nervous about boarding a train would simply never have occurred to me.  I was lucky enough to have someone with me who appeared not to mind that he’d suddenly become a mule to transport all my luggage.  It enabled me to concentrate on the important business of hopping vigorously up the steps onto trains, especially vital when a French train guard is hollering “Allez, allez, allez!” at you as you are holding up the departure of his train!

The other important role he fulfilled was as the “pusher-of-the-wheelchair”.  We had wheelchairs hired at airports outbound and return and at certain points while we were in France. He’d really improved since his first effort at the hospital when we got stuck on a zebra crossing. However, I still found the experience of being in a wheelchair a difficult one, finding that I was highly sensitive to other people and their reactions to me. I’m used to getting around quickly and efficiently and found it very hard not to have that control over my movements.  In addition to that was the strangeness of not being at the same level as the people I was talking to and I was amazed at the sobering effect this had on me. 

Sipping my wine on that plane back home I reflected on the fact that overall, I had a fantastic break. I was thrilled that I was able to do everything that I’d hoped to – and more. Physically tiring as it was, I’d hopped my way round the city every day, even though our attempts to make the crutches more comfortable by putting socks (as yet unstained by red wine) on the handles had not really worked. I was frequently overwhelmed by the kindness shown to me by all manner of people- the guys with the wheelchairs at the airports, a lovely waitress in Strasbourg who held one of my crutches as I made it up and down the rickety stairs in a traditional restaurant in the city, and a delightful old lady in a shop outside the centre who asked how my boyfriend was coping with the plaster cast in bed… The trip felt like it was a real achievement, despite it only being a short hop (pardon the pun!) across the Channel, but I am glad that the pot will be off soon and I can once again travel at top speed. Although it’ll never be as fast as on a travelator in a wheelchair with a boyfriend running as quickly as he can!

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