While I have my newer chair back, for which I am now very, very grateful, I’m sorry to have to report that my older chair had to be scrapped. It was a purple Quickie F55 which I called the Defiant, after a small agile ship on Star Trek, and I must admit I was rather attached to it. She was my first chair: before I was about thirteen or fourteen, when we went out I had to be pushed everywhere in my manual wheelchair. One Saturday, however, my parents and I were walking down chester Road in Macclesfield when we passed a mobility shop, and I suddenly had an idea. I convinced them to take me in, and, to cut a long story short, a few weeks later I had my first powerchair.* To be honest it was a very logical step, as I was getting older and would soon need more independence.
At first, though, I treated it as little more than a toy: we kept her in the garage, and I just used her to ridde around the housing estate. But my excursions gradually got longer: soon I was able to go into the town centre on my own for the first time ever. My favourite trip, however, was up Giantswood lane, to the north of Congleton. This is a long country lane heading towards the tiny village of Swettenham. It is a good distance, but not too long for a cripple taking his first steps into a brave new world. I still remember that lane with great affection, winding through fields and over streams, passing ancient cottages with barely a car in sight. It took me about an hour to get to Swettenham on Defiant, and it was in the ancient Swettenham arms that, one day, I ordered my very first beer.
I also have fond memories of using defiant at university. At first I didn’t dare use my electric wheelchair on campus, but, of course, it soon became the obvious option. I have written here before about how uni was very much my awakening – in large part that was down to the fact I had Defiant. In the secure environment of campus and the safety of Alsager village, I began to find out what I was capable of, and thus a timid home-loving boy became…well, me. It was on defiant that I made my first trip into crewe, and it was on defiant that I one day decided to go looking for my friend Richard. I have many memories involving that chair, some good, some not so good, but just as my communication aid freed me by allowing me to communicate with others, my first electric wheelchair freed me by allowing me to move around.
In a way, then, that chair helped shape me. Of course, I have it’s replacement, the Bat’leth, and it will soon be time to look for a replacement for that too. Yet defiant was always the sturdier, more reliable chair – the one I was less nervous of breaking down; I suppose you could say I have a soft spot for it. It was getting old and decrepit, and I had probably crashed it one too many times, but I will miss her. She was the chair upon which I truly found myself, what I was capable of: on her it was as if, for the first time, I felt if I needed to go somewhere all I had to do was get on my chair and go. What the enterprise was to Kirk and the Stargazer was to Picard, what the DB5 was to Bond, what Endeavour was to Cook, Defiant was to me. May she rest in peace.
*Incidentally, there is, or was, a dancewear shop on the same road, so that’s also how I got my first leotard. That, however, is another story.