Friday, 8 August 2014

Making A Move - Part One

If you have been a follower of this blog for any length of time you will know that in 2011 we moved to a new house. Previously we had been living in a two bedroom ground floor flat with a small garden but with two growing boys and the paraphernalia that comes with disability it was becoming a bit of a squeeze, to say the least. It took the intervention of our MP, Tom Brake and our GP, Dr T as well as social services, the district nurses and letters from a specialist doctor at Kings' Hospital to eventually get things moving, so to speak. And, of course, an Occupational Therapist, someone with a professional understanding of disability and the appropriate equipment and housing needs required by us pesky disabled folk.

But, just in case you think the process was a smooth one, let tell you a story. We had been assigned an OT, let's call him Mike for the purposes of this blog. Mike was a charming man whose job, in our case, was to help us find suitable accommodation. He was full of ideas and had a lot of sympathy for our position and so set about finding us somewhere with at least three bedrooms. Three bedrooms was his mantra. I began to worry exactly how much of a grasp of our situation he actually had when he took us to view what he considered to be an ideal prospective home. It was a bungalow in Sutton, located directly behind the High Street at the end of a cul-de-sac. You could go out of the front door and be in Asda within thirty seconds. Of course, you had to share your parking slot not only with the local residents but also with the delivery lorries for the local stores. The bungalow had a tiny garden and was overlooked by blocks of flats on all sides. You could only see the sky if you looked directly up and there was an odour of rubbish emanating from the communal bins some 30 feet away but, as Mike cheerfully reminded us, the bungalow had three bedrooms.

Inside there was a combination kitchen cum living room which was, in total, about two thirds the size of our current living room. The ceiling was a kind of nicotine mustard yellow from, well, nicotine it appeared - and smelt. Along the hallway was a bathroom that I pointed out that I couldn't get the wheelchair to fit in. Next to it was a small cupboard that Mike suggested we could knock through to make more room. Also along the hallway were the three, much trumpeted, bedrooms. I couldn't get into any of them because the angles were too tight but even from the doorways I could see that each bedroom was smaller than either of our already too small current bedrooms. Mike suggested, after he had assessed the situation, that if I backed into the smaller of the bedrooms first I could get the angle to enter the slightly larger one if we pushed the bed into the corner and took out the wardrobe. Instead I reversed back down the narrow hall to the only place I could turn around, the kitchen cum living room. I could hear Polly reassuring the current occupant that we really didn't mind the mess and absolutely understood how difficult it could be keeping a home clean.

Polly and I retreated to a local cafe (about ninety seconds away, very convenient) to weigh up the pros and cons. We'd agreed to meet Mike to give him our impressions there in a few minutes time. The pros, we decided, were good access to the shops. The cons were too many to list. When Mike arrived, grinning cheerfully, he said, "There you go, three bedrooms. Sorted."

As politely as I could I pointed out that yes, technically the bungalow had three bedrooms but that, in actuality, the bungalow was considerably smaller than our current flat and that what we really needed was more space. Mike was a little put out. "It has three bedrooms," he said, firmly. "You said you needed three bedrooms." I looked to Polly, hopelessly. "I think what Steve is trying to say," explained Polly, "is that, yes, we need three bedrooms but that of those three bedrooms at least one of them has to be large enough to get the wheelchair into as well as the bed and the hoist and, perhaps, a chest-of-draws." "Ah," said Mike, triumphantly. "I've thought of that. We can knock through into that cupboard next to the bathroom!" "The same cupboard we were going to knock through so I could get into the bathroom?" I asked doubtfully. "It's a linen cupboard - not the bloody Tardis." Ignoring my sarcasm Mike looked sceptically at my wheelchair. "That's a mighty big chair," he said. "It's not that big," I protested. "It fits in a car. It fits in lifts. It's not a Humvee." "Does it now," mused Mike. "Does it what?" "Fit in a lift." "Absolutely," I assured him. "Up and down in them all the time." With that Mike whipped out a tape-measure and wrote down the dimensions of my chair.

On the way home we passed some houses being built on an old brown-field site. We looked at them longingly.

Next time... Why it is important to understand how a wheelchair works.