Wheelchairs and mud – not a marriage made in heaven!

Using a manual chair means the wheels are narrow so they sink easily. Having absorbed that fact early on I don’t usually make mistakes nowadays.

On outdoor audits I try for dry days; I’ll look for ruts and footprints in the dry mud and work out how bad it would be on a wet day. Sounds like I know what I’m doing but I can still be caught out.

I once arrived for an official conference during my early days working in Calderdale – it was very wet, but I thought the car park would be tarmaced. Wrong!

I thought there would be empty designated parking spaces at the entrance. Wrong!

I ended up parking in the mud at the back of the car park, getting out in the mud, pushing through the mud to the entrance, and looking and feeling like a dirty drowned rat when I eventually got inside.

Not the best start to the afternoon!

My worst mud experiences by far came as a parent, taking my rugby fanatic son to junior rugby matches and training. From Under 9’s to Under16’s, (that’s eight seasons – yes, eight) winter Sundays had to include a trip to our local club or to a match elsewhere.

Yes, there was excitement! Yes, there was banter! Yes, there were bacon sandwiches! And yes, there was mud, glorious mud!

Being a junior team meant we were usually sent to the furthest pitch, away from the clubhouse – the one through the underpass, beyond the motorway, past all hope of rescue (don’t ask where the toilet is). I always had pushers, however, “come on Dad, take your hands off the wheels, trust me”.

I never crashed but the chair would be covered in mud over the footplates.

The final insult was my son – immaculate out of the showers in white shirt and smart tie on match days. However, he’d walk into the shower fully clothed in his kit, get undressed in the shower, stuff the sopping kit into a bag, and pass the whole dripping mess to me to wash for next week! Adding insult to injury.

I ruined so many clothes during those days, not to mention the frequent mess in my car.

Thankfully those days are behind me now, or so I thought.

As you know I like a good rock festival in the summer, and we have a great one at Jodrell Bank called Bluedot (Earth from space – geddit?) Mid-summer, always bone dry, until the last event when there was a record-breaking downpour the night before. Parking in a very muddy field should have warned me off, having to be carried through the entrance gates to a little patch of grass should have set off the alarm bells, but no! I was on a mission! I’ve never been so completely covered in mud during my whole life. The worst part was crossing the sea of mud to the accessible viewing platform, way over there…. I set off and got nowhere, then a friendly voice – can I help? broke my leg years ago, wheelchair for six months, know how crap it is…and off we went. Perfect result, brilliant music but then had to leave my chair and outside clothes on the patio when I got home while I transferred to another chair to go into my house! Hosed it all down next morning.

But my favourite mud story doesn’t involve me directly – a few months ago I was auditing a potential communal garden which was bordered by an open wire fence. Whilst writing some notes I noticed pre-school children playing on the other side of the fence. They’d found an interesting puddle, and were absorbed with buckets and spades. The boys started conversation – why are you in that chair? do your legs work? my Grans got one of them. How fast will it go? The usual. Whilst answering as well as I could I noticed a little girl sitting

in the puddle and using a spade to pour the (very) muddy water down her outstretched arms and onto her (very) white dress! Whilst driving home I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of the loving parents coming to pick up their beloved child in her (once) white dress!

Until next time,

Cheers,

Chris the mudlark

Britain loses hundreds of public toilets

Cash-strapped councils have closed a fifth of conveniences, leaving some people with no choice but to stay close to home.

Republished courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd, written by Chaminda Jayanetti.

Public toilets are not as convenient as they were. Getting caught short outside home has become an increasingly tricky problem as a result.

The trouble has been caused by austerity-hit councils in the UK who are not legally required to provide toilets for the public and who have cut expenditure on them in order to protect services that they are obliged by law to provide for local people.

The result is a major reduction of Ladies and Gents across the nation. According to Freedom of Information data obtained by local government researcher Jack Shaw and shared with the Observer, the number of public lavatories that local authorities have funded and maintained fell from 3,154 in 2015/16 to 2,556 in 2020/21 – a drop of 19% across the past six years, which comes on top of reductions in previous years.

Public health workers have warned that this loss of public conveniences is now causing major problems for a range of people, including the homeless, disabled, outdoor workers and those whose illnesses dictate frequent toilet use.

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