We had taken a group out for the day to Hunstanton, up on the Norfolk coast not far from Sandringham. I don't remember it being particularly eventful, but it was quite hard work pushing wheelchairs up and down the seafront with parts being quite steep, which, considering it was in Norfolk, a county noted for being flat. The Senior Support worker I've mentioned in the earlier post (who will continue to remain nameless.) went somewhat over-board when we went to one shop (I seem to recall we did spend a great deal of time in shops of one sort or another.) This shop is typical of the sort you seem to find at seaside resorts, selling a wide range of items, such as the usual buckets and spades, beachballs, postcards and general souveniers you get at any seaside resort, a great deal of it absolute rubbish and the sort of things that you wouldn't willingly clutter your home up with. Anyway, each of the residents was allowed to spend some of their own money on anything they liked as a souvenier of the day and each of the carers had been given an envelope containing the cash and then we helped our resident choose an item, being careful to get receipts so that the money could be put in their care plans when we returned to the house in Everton. This was all straightforward enough, but the Senior Support went crazy when he saw the cakes, biscuits and sweets that were also on sale in this shop. He obviously knew from an earlier visit to Hunstanton that this shop existed and then proceeded to purchase a quite considerable amount of these biscuits and cakes, which were being sold at very low prices quite large quantities. He had become a bit like a child in a sweetshop when told that it can buy what it likes with money being no object. We than had to cart all these purchases back to the mini bus to be taken home. It was a bit like buying stuff from a wholesaler. I really think he should have toned down this as it was somewhat over the top and not really the sort of behaviour for someone who had a position to uphold, but it was obviously up to him how he spent his cash.
Returning to the trip to London. I arrived really early at the Everton house and we got all the residents loaded into the vehicle. I sat in the front with the driver (the Senior Support Worker who I mentioned earlier. In fact he seems to feature quite prominently in these blog posts it would appear.) As we were about to leave the house I turned to him and said "Shall I go and get the A to Z ?'" (of London, a street atlas.) which I had bought with me and was left in my car. He turned to me and said, 'No. We won't need it." I then said "We might need it to find our way around the centre of London." To which I got the reply: " We won't need it. If we need to find our way, all you have to do is wind down the bus window and shout to a passing cab-driver. They are all good at giving directions." I was totally dumbfounded and by now we had left Everton and were heading for the motorway and central London. So, I thought, you really expect me to stick my head out of the window and shout across the street to the nearest passing cabbie? Did he not think it was going to be highly dangerous? And what sort of response do you really, honestly, expect to get back from your typical London cabbie? More likely a mouthful of abuse and not directions to the next tourist attraction. Did he not think that they had better things to do with their time?
We got into the centre of London and made for Westminster Abbey. As can be imagined as it's a major tourist attraction, parking was very difficult but we had got a space booked near enough that we could unload the wheelchairs and get the residents out and then wheel them into the Abbey, down a specially-constructed ramp for wheelchairs, going through the visitor's entrance and in front of a lot of people who had obviously queued for some time to get in. I don't think we paid, because these were people with disabilities and I'm sure none of the carers had to pay. It was not easy manoeuvering the wheelchairs plus residents around the extremely crowded Abbey. The ancient floors are not really suitable for the tyres of a wheelchair and members of the public do not want to move out of the way either and walk very slowly around such buildings so there would be jams of people at various points of the tour round. I would have liked to have had a better tour myself, having an interest in history, particularly Poets' Corner. I don't honestly think any of the residents were that interested but it was quite an interesting tour. We can't have been inside Westminster Abbey much more than an hour and then we had to find toilets which were not very well suited to wheelchair users.
Having left the Abbey and got the residents loaded back in the mini bus, the driver (my dear Senior Support Worker person, who shall remain anonymous.) said "Where next?" It was decided to go to Buckingham Palace (we were eventually going to end up at London Zoo.) so it was decided and it was myself that managed to get us down to The Mall, the avenue that leads from Admiralty Arch and directly towards Buckingham Palace. As we drove along The Mall, this driver person (who shall remain nameless!) suddenly shouted out, "Look! Soldiers!" as a groups of horses, being ridden along the street in full dress uniform, appeared from a side street. He then insisted on stopping at the side of The Mall and me getting out to take photographs with a camera he thrust into my hands. I immediately said 'No, no, we can't stop here! You mustn't stop on The Mall!" I recalled the incident some years ago when Princess Anne (now Princess Royal) had been involved in a near-disasterous incident with a stranger who threatened to kidnap her, and how it was now illegal for any vehicle to stop anywhere near Buckingham Palace. But the gentleman insisted on stopping, and at the precise moment I was about to get out of the vehicle there was a knock on the window and a soldier in full uniform told us, in no uncertain terms to please 'move along!' I was right of course, but it took some convincing to the Senior Support gentleman that we shouldn't have stopped where we had on The Mall. Some people don't want to listen when they are told or are just plain ignorant, but we could have been done for all sorts of things, from terrorism to attempted kidnapping, just because he would have it that it was perfectly alright to stop the vehicle with only yards from the Queen's residence.
We drove on and round near Buckingham Palace to give the residents a glimpse of the Queen's home and from there we went on to London Zoo. It was myself who managed to navigate as our driver had no idea where he was going but still insisting that it would be fine to ask the nearest passing cab-driver. I have a fairly good knowledge of central London, managing to find my way around because I know where most of the West End theatres are. We got to London Zoo without incident and spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the animals (well, let's be perfectly honest, what else do you expect to do in a zoo?) It was a very hot day, so we had to find the shadiest places to go and make sure some of them had sun-screen on and had hats to wear.
We eventually had a rather pleasant picnic and then drove back to Everton and arrived back late.