(Out Of) The Wilderness

Today was the first day in months when I actually did something – by which I mean something other than muck about on my computer or trundle around at random in my powerchair – and it feels very good indeed. A week or two ago, Sue Elsegood from the Greenwich Association of Disabled People (GAD) invited me to a meeting in Greenwich Park. The park management was redesigning an area of the park, and had asked for feedback on the plans from disabled people. Not knowing quite what to expect yet eager to make a contribution to my local community however I can, I set off to the arranged meeting point this afternoon feeling quite optimistic.

I felt the event went well: I met up with Sue and another lady, Anne, on time, and we were met by a very nice lady from Royal Parks. She walked us through the plans, which were for a wide-ranging redesign of an area if the park I had never been into. Called The Wilderness, they included designs for a new wildlife centre and Learning Centre. I tried to contribute where I could, pointing out access issues I noticed, but in all I found it quite a happy, social event. Apart from the fact that they would need to cut down a few elderly trees, I think the plans met with our approval. Most of all, I think it just felt good to be actually doing something after so many months of idleness.

After the meeting, I went for a socially distanced coffee with Sue, her PA and her mum outside the park cafe. I think that was my first proper, face-to-face conversation with someone other than Serkan in months; to be socialising once more felt incredible. You may not have heard of Sue Elsegood, but she is nothing less than a legend. She was among the group of disabled people who fought for and won accessible public transport in London, at one point by famously blocking Westminster Bridge. As she talked to me about it over our coffee, I suddenly realised that only reason I could get onto a bus to get to the park in the first place was due to what the woman in front of me and her friends had done. I owed her so much, and told her so.

Sue being Sue of course, she said that I didn’t owe her anything. Nonetheless I was then struck by the thought of making a film documenting those events. I suggested it to Sue, who liked the idea. At that, though, it was time to wend my way home, relishing the spring air, the blossom of the trees, and the promise of things to come.

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