On Monday I went to London for the launch of the Campaign For A Fair Society. It was quite the event, held in a room with a terrace opening out onto the river, cucumber sandwiches and cream teas. I had managed to make myself look presentable, also being sure to wear a purple dress, the Spartacus colour. Somehow, miraculously my outfit had survived the journey intact, which is quite the acheivement considering previous trips to London have involved being hit on the head by an escaping nappy change tray and spending time shut in a 'cupboard' at Euston station after asking for assistance. I'd even been thoughtful enough to wear special 'prevent any embarrassing pant flashing moments' pants as when one is a tad wobbly, pant flashing happens quite often. Like on the train to London for example. Ahem.
Being the organised type I'd written my speech on the train on the way there, sat on the floor in a corner of the function room and had a little rehearsal and was clutching my scrappy, handwritten notes like a talisman. We queued up for tea served by men in pretty penguin suits and decided to mingle a bit and put faces to the names of people we knew from online.
We can be an excitable lot campaigners, so when I spotted a friend who I hadn't actually met in person before, hugs were very much on the cards. Who knew hugging could become an extreme sport? In the House of Lords no less! Well, when the hug is between a wobbly person balancing a cup of tea on their lap and a more mobile blind person extreme sport doesn't quite cover it! I didn't know until the next day that I had screamed so loudly it echoed around the room, but on the upside that does mean I don't have to explain to anyone why I looked like some sort of soggy, bare legged, bag lady by the time it came to give my speech!
I did manage to resist the impulse to rip off my tights in the actual function room. For which I feel points should mean prizes...a cup full of steaming tea doesn't mix well with underwear and inner thighs! Some time was spent in the disabled loo, splashing a bit of cold water around and finding a place to stash my soaking tights. Then a nice man in a penguin suit found a first aid box and a burn dressing so the mingling became slightly more intimate as Stefania and I found ourselves back in the disabled loo squeezing out burn gel to soothe my skin. Fortunately I'm a milky tea drinker and when initially handed my cup had asked for a little more milk which reduced the temperature from needing a trip to A&E levels.
The tea flinger shall remain nameless as she is utterly mortified. I'd like her to know that there's no permanent damage and no need to be upset as she is now in the very honoured position vying for 'hard man of welfare reform' alongside the wheelchair pusher, also nameless, who managed to rocket launch me from my wheelchair on a previous visit to London. If I ever write my memoirs infamy will be theirs!
So that was the House of Lords. Very beautiful, quite impressive and probably not used to screaming women in wheelchairs. Well...not inside anyway...
For those who'd like to hear the speeches, they are all available here. As I speak from notes there isn't a transcript of mine yet, but there is one available for Dr Simon Duffy's speech on the Centre for Welfare Reform website. Big thanks to everyone from Brandon Trust, but especially Stefania for enabling me to be at the launch event and looking after me so well while I was there.
Update 14:16: Photos from Brandon Trust