I had tickets to see four events at this year’s London Jazz Festival. Sadly, due to a diabolical cold, I attended only one: the Arild Andersen Quintet at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (QEH) … and rather fab it was too.
I love hearing jazz live and don’t do it enough since being in the wheelchair because many places are just not that accessible. The Jazz Fest happily spreads artists across town so, for two weeks of every year at least, there is usually something good on every night – a treat.
The QEH is a great venue for jazz as it has some great wheelchair spaces right at the front which give both close-up views and brilliant sound. Entrance to this area is via the artists entrance around the side of the stage and up a shallow ramp.
Eek! My nemesis: a sloping ramp.
Going up the ramp: no problem. Coming back down it: I blush to think of my exit. The shame.
Honestly, it is a ramp of tiny gradient, maybe 3 metres long. I have been up and down it in my manual wheelchair dozens of times with no problem and, yet …
Put me in my huge power wheelchair, the Balder, and I freeze the entire way down it.
It’s just ludicrous. The Balder is able to eat these slopes up with no problem. It’s all about me – my broken leg experience, my nervousness, my inexperience, my spatial awareness deficits … yada, yada, yada. Yawn.
Or it would be ‘Yawn’ if it were not for my consequent problem which is: going front-facing, down a low gradient but over-a-metre-long slope, I lose control. This is pathetic, annoying and inhibits me going to places … and I hate that! And, it’s potentially dangerous for me and anyone nearby.
Panic grabs me and I just seem utterly incapable of steady but slow speed. My hand knows only go-hell-for-leather – not advisable with a wall in front of you – or stop and inch down with my rear wheels fishtailing uncomfortably as I shriek or whimper depending on my mood that day.
I tried to get D to stand in front and fill the space to stop me panicking. “Are you kidding,” he said. “You’re out of control. You’ll run me over.”
Fair point. But what to do? How do I get better at this other than forcing myself to do it and feeling bad when it’s all such a shambles? I need to build my confidence up but how?
Has anyone got any ideas that might help? And just telling me to ‘get a grip’ is not useful (D has tried that one to its’ death).
I’m so bored with being such rubbish at slopes but I can’t be the only person struggling with this, can I? Help.