It was moments before I was approached by an older lady who'd been further back in the queue. Tentatively at first she asked me if I was disabled, and when I confirmed that she started to tell me that my 'scooter' was blocking an entrance. Now, I was a little confused as I don't have a scooter and assumed she must've muddled it up with the car which we'd parked in an adjoining road, but no, she meant a scooter. Someone had parked one poorly, blocking people's access. For some reason she made the connection between me being disabled and it being my scooter. I can sort of see the link, but as there were at least half a dozen people in the pub I'd spotted with wheelchairs or walking aids I'm not sure why she assumed it was mine, perhaps because I didn't have any of those aids with me.
The confusion was cleared up in time for our lunch to arrive, although I don't think the lady found the owner of the scooter. Conventgirl and I tucked into our food and talked about
After lunch we decided to go for a drive and have coffee somewhere. Eventually we drove past our holy grail, a rugby tournament. Well, that was us set for the afternoon! Or so we thought
Pulling up at the entrance I asked the marshals where the disabled parking was. Blank look. Eventually one of them asked if I had a blue badge, and when I showed it to him handed over two wristbands and waved his arm vaguely in the direction of 'over there'. Fair enough we thought and went over there.
We managed to park, get the wheelchair out and head off. Slowly mind as pushing a standard wheelchair over rough grassland isn't exactly easy. Our second disappointment was the lack of beer tent, not that I really drink but CG does. Apparently the club had decided to ban alcohol from the main ground after a mass fight a few years ago, the only place alcohol could be bought and consumed was by the clubhouse which seemed fair enough. Only club members allowed up there though. Again, fair enough, it's their club. Although neither CG or I are strangers to the place as both my younger brothers played there for years and CG's nephews were playing in the tournament itself.
Before long CG and I were approached by a couple of club members there to supervise their teenage sons. They wanted to make sure we were ok. Nothing to do with us being the only single women over 15 in sight of course! They were very nice gentlemen though, and one was on the committee of the rugby club. He volunteered himself as chief wheelchair pusher and as is typical for the area I live in, within a few moments we'd established we knew each other from one of my previous places of employment. I didn't need a wheelchair in those days so of course he wanted to know what had changed and in the course of the conversation he realised that the club didn't have any facilities for disabled people and became very embarrassed about that.
Now, generally speaking I wouldn't particularly expect a small town rugby club to be top of the list of accessible venues, but on the weekend of a popular tournament I did think they'd at least have provided an area of disabled parking and an accessible loo. It turned out the wrist bands we'd been given for free to gain entry should have cost us £7 each...which is probably why we weren't charged, the marshalls assumed we'd be leaving immediately as there was nowhere to park or pee. The pub we'd been in for lunch had had a high number of people with all varieties of mobility problems because, although far from perfect they have ensured level access and accessible toilets. Many of those people had gone there specifically to watch the football, and I expect many would have liked to enjoy the live rugby too (even if perhaps not for the same reasons as CG and I did!)
Nice gentleman went off and bought CG and I some tea, and we carried on chatting as he pushed me from pitch to pitch. NG knowing full well what the appeal to CG and I was! As we talked I mentioned the murderball documentary. Nice gentleman had been mentioning his fears about his son being injured playing rugby and during the conversation I said that I thought it was very strange for a sport with potential to cause spinal cord injuries not to be considering the needs of it's injured players. Some clubs are excellent at doing so, but certainly in my area it doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone. I mentioned Daniel James's tragic death and that, although I have no knowledge of how supportive or not his rugby club were, it seemed as though such players need all the support they can get from their former clubs and sport in general.
Nice gentleman became increasingly embarrassed that as a club and committee they had not even thought to provide any disabled facilities. This was highlighted when I needed the loo. There are toilets in the clubhouse, which although not designed to be accessible would have been suitable for someone with my level of mobility, and said he was more than happy to push me up the steep slope to access the clubhouse. He left us to go and ensure that was ok, but returned shortly afterwards to explain he was sorry and ashamed to say that those in charge of the club had refused to allow me access to the clubhouse to use the toilet.
There were some portaloo's on the grounds so instead Nicegentleman and Conventgirl pushed me over to them and helped me up the very steep steps. Inside the toilets were flooded with water and dangerous for anyone, let alone someone not too steady on their feet. Nicegentleman waited outside to assist me back down the steps. He was clearly mortified about the situation and said he would be raising it formally with the club, and that he hoped I would make a formal complaint to them. I'm very reluctant to do so as this is such a small community, and both I and my family are known well to several of the club's committee members and certainly many members of the rugby club itself. It shouldn't matter, but it does.
Conventgirl and I certainly attracted alot of attention from the rubgy players, although for all the wrong reasons. Many were staring openly at the wheelchair, but more so when I decided to just get out and walk. People literally reeled back in shock when they saw that. One player in particular (and very nice looking he was too!) just kept staring at me. I laughed at him, so he laughed back, but continued to keep on staring and laughing long after I'd got back in the wheelchair to stuff myself with icecream. He clearly wanted to ask some questions but was too embarrassed to do so. All the adults were shown up by a group of fairly young teenage boys who initially stood infront of me in my wheelchair blocking the view of the pitch, but quickly realised, apologised and moved over.
Eventually we decided
The RedCross people lifted me up so that they could lower me down on to the blanket CG had fetched from my car. Although they were very kind, one of them had a deathgrip hold of my arm which is still painful now! Once I was lying down I could mobilise my hip but it was a struggle to get it back into it's socket, it just wouldn't settle and kept flicking out. For a horrible moment I was having visions of being forced into A&E on a bank holiday sunday evening, which is quite the punishment for anyone. My hip was dislocating posteriorly which is much more difficult to relocate than an anterior dislocation, especially as I usually find if it's dislocated that way it gets stuck on what I assume must be the rim of the pelvic bone. I suspect this time I've put a tear in the labrum, which is something I've done on many occasions in my shoulders. If that's the case it'll heal on it's own eventually and going by previous shoulder surgeries will heal better if left to it's own devices.
It took a good five minutes for me to get the hip back into a reasonable position but it was having none of it and I couldn't weight bear at all. We decided CG should drive my car home and after some paracetamol provided by the RedCross off we went. After all, the drugs in my flat are far, far better than paracetamol! I must remember to go and get some more Oramorph from my GP, it's expiry date was 2007. Seemed to do the trick though!
*As far as I'm concerned the liability for this rest squarely upon my shoulders. I knew shortly after arriving that there were no facilities (although not about the lack of loo) and made the decision to use a wheelchair on rough ground knowing I was at risk of being catapulted out.
**Actually if I'd had my seatbelt on it would probably have been worse because I would've ended up with multiple spinal dislocations from being held in place