- Richmond – Clapham Jct – Denmark Hill – Taxi – Return
- Actual Return – Taxi – Vauxhall – Clapham Jct – Richmond
I’m not always good at thoroughly planning ahead. I like to be spontaneous, and I’ve always got my phone to help me out of any sticky situations, but sometimes they just get very, very sticky.
The evening started out straight-forwardly enough, and I made it to Denmark Hill in good time, thanks to a Reading train running slightly late.
One thing I’ve not mentioned before is that train ramps are not light. Even with a carry handle they are rather unwieldy. I was fascinated to see this problem being tackled at Clapham with a U shaped Umbrella handle being used like a sack truck. I must say, it looked like more effort and hassle than just picking the thing up, but I digress.
I’d not been to Denmark Hill before but found it easily accessible but lacking any other significant facilities. This was a problem as I’d planned the next leg of my journey to start on a nearby taxi rank, of which there was none. My standard course of action in these situations is to start walking keeping an eye out for a taxi, After about 200 yards I’d seen perhaps six taxis, but none with their hire light on. I was just beginning to get concerned when one came along that I was able to flag. It transpired that the drive was hurrying home and had been hoping for a fare in that direction, not the direction I needed. He very apologetically declined and carried on his way. Often “I was just going home,” really means “I don’t want to get out and mess with the ramps.” What I should do in these situations is take the plate number and complain to TfL. However, all this does is generate work for me, work for them, and has only ever resulted in excuses. I was surprised then, when two minutes later the said taxi came back down the road and pulled up at the kerb next to us. I learned two lessons at this point, 1, he was already late and couldn’t get into more trouble with his wife, and 2, never board a taxi on a hill, which is quite a scary experience and requires quite alot of manpower. This second lesson is the one I’ll take away with me to use in the future.
His change of heart did mean that we got to our destination on time.
After a very pleasant evening of eclectic music and entertainment, I started the journey back at about ten past ten. The journey here had taken fifty minutes, but somehow I knew I wouldn’t be home by 11.00 o’clock. The first task was to find a taxi. After five minutes of waiting it was clear that hailing one would not be easy. London has a taxicard scheme for disabled people where one of the large black cab companies, ComCab, contracts to provide reduced price journeys. I resorted to plan B and gave them a call. After twenty minutes I got to the head of their queue and my details were taken. To be absolutely honest, this set my expectation of success somewhere around the two or three per cent mark.
So I’m in a strange part of London, off the beaten track, no nearby public transport, with the time approaching twenty to eleven on a school night. On the plus side, it was a lovely warm night. Shortly before 11 o’clock an empty black cab sailed past, which I managed to flag down, sadly not a cheap ‘Comcab’ but any port in a storm and all that. By this time it was obvious I was likely to miss the last train through Denmark Hill, and so headed instead for Vauxhall. I did try to cancel the taxi card booking but after being on hold for the ten minute taxi ride without getting through I gave up. This wasn’t a problem because just as I got out of the taxi their automated system phoned me to say they still didn’t have a taxi and did I want to keep the booking? Not bad communication, but poor service.
Just to throw one last spanner in the works, I discovered the lift was out at Vauxhall to the platform I needed. This meant instead first going to Clapham and change to get to Richmond, which the Customer Services Assistant at Vauxhall told me when I eventually found him in his locked booth at the end of the platform.
You may remember I did some re-education on how to fit ramps to trains. I’m delighted to say it seems to have done some good because tonight the same guy, with the same ramp, on the same train at Richmond, got it right, on his second attempt at least.