Richmond – Kingston – Return (with taxi sojourn)
One of the things about living in Richmond is its proximity to Twickenham. Now there’s nothing wrong with Twickenham, or at least I don’t think so (I’ve not been there very much so I can’t be sure one way or the other), but what it does have is a large Rugby stadium. As a result periodically 80,000 people turn up and it sometimes seems that all of them come through Richmond. This is good for the local economy, largely because they drink, and boy do they drink, but it does mean that as an outsider it’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. To be fair to them, although they do get quite loud, I’ve only ever found them to be very good natured and helpful, even if the drunken assistance is unwelcome or even dangerous, but that’s a story for another blog.
On a match day about half the crowd will travel by rail, that’s 40,000 people going through Twickenham station so trains through Richmond are full, very full, of large, sweaty, inebriated rugby fans. Full trains and disability don’t match, which you’ll know if you’ve ever seen an assistance dog on a rush hour train. For wheelchairs it’s arguably even worse as they are bigger and less manoeuvrable. Knowing the trains would be busy I left it as late as possible to travel. As expected the train I tried to board was full, but not so full that I couldn’t squeeze on with a bit of effort and goodwill from the other occupants of the carriage.
Within a few minutes the train got to Twickenham and it was like someone pulled the plug on a bath of water as the carriage drained of people, pouring its contents onto the platform and onwards to the the streets of Twickenham to continue their journey to the match on foot. The train was left almost deserted except for me and a bemused looking elderly couple sitting quietly in the corner. I almost expected a tumbleweed to roll lazily between the now empty seats.
As the doors closed and we moved off I realised that although the fans had left, their essence hadn’t, in fact I was now even more aware of the smell of sweaty bodies mixed with cheap alcohol. I briefly considered that Homeopathic medicines might have some basis in truth, and their potency really does increase with dilution, but I quickly dismissed this and realised the train just stank! Fortunately I was able to get off 10 minutes later. I hope no-one getting on the train thought I was responsible.
When the time came to go home I’d really had enough. I’d had fun but was tired so I decided to splash out on a taxi home. I’ve mentioned before how some types of taxi are comfortable and some just aren’t, and today comfort was important so I resolved to pay a premium for it and made a special request for a VW. After about 40 minutes there was a knock at the door, where stood the taxi driver. I can’t describe how disappointed I was when I joined him outside to discover they had in fact sent a Fiat. I had to quickly weigh up my desire for comfort against my desire to get home, and decided that it was a higher priority to get home so I reluctantly wheeled up the ramp and strapped in.
As anyone who’s been to Kingston in a vehicle will know, one of Kingston’s major landmarks is the one-way system. It’s the kind of multi-laned system that London does so well, the kind that exerts a gravitational pull on those caught up in it and can only be escaped by building up enough speed to generate sufficient centrifugal force to throw you outwards… or by taking a simple left turn.
Like most modern cab drivers, this one relied on his sat nav which did a good job of getting us into the one way system. It also did a good job of directing us correctly out of the one way system. Unfortunately the driver missed the turning, choosing instead to continue following the road to the right. Having realised his mistake, and with the sat nav correctly recalculating the route we went round again, but I was confident that all would go well the next time. Sadly my confidence was sorely misplaced, literally. After we missed the turning for the second time I’d had enough. As we passed the station for the third time my aching muscles could stand it no longer and I got him to pull over, opting instead for the longer but more reliable train to get me back to Richmond.
Even then the trials of this trip weren’t over. At Richmond I opted to take a black cab for the last mile. As you may know, most black cabs have a ramp built in to the floor. Unfortunately our driver had either never been shown how this works, or had forgotten because, although he was very willing to get the ramp out, he didn’t have the slightest idea how to go about it. Fortunately I’ve done this once or twice before so was able to show him how to undo it (using my own leatherman multitool, I knew I carried it for a reason), deploy it and put it away afterwards (including the kick back into place that so many infrequently used ramps need.)
I got home eventually. The problem is, when your day ends this badly, it’s quite difficult to remember the good stuff that came before, but at least one more London cabbie can now carry wheelchairs.