mobile navigation
Blog - Nick Lewis

Underground incident

FacebookTwitter
pastel drawing of a church seen thorugh a window

Rainy Southwold day 1996. Image © Nick Lewis

My wife Tio who worked at the time for the International Red Cross, decided to take a spell working at their Geneva HQ. I devised a plan to consolidate my three days per week at GLAD into three weeks in Brixton and one week in Geneva so that I could join her.

I had always liked the idea of living abroad, and it worked – for me that is. I felt my role was to keep Tio company and busy myself getting things for her flat. I enjoyed taking washing to a Swiss launderette, but found that my confidence, dented by disability, made the relatively simple process quite hard. Still, I was bold enough to make use of my smattering of holiday French, and made one or two friends.

Of course, disability threw up other obstacles. I stood at the top of the long, deep escalator at Hyde Park Corner Tube station and wept. The escalator was not working. A station worker had hastily scrawled an ‘OUT OF ORDER’ notice and strung it limply from a post. It was the second of my week’s Geneva visits.

I had packed a suitcase with not only my things, but some essentials from Tio’s flat and from London’s shops — a coffee pot; Bob Dylan CDs (she had grown up listening to her sisters’ 60s music). I had targeted Hyde Park Corner because I could get almost directly from a cab via an escalator onto the platform for Heathrow, and then a safe transfer to a Departures luggage trolley. I was fairly proud of this plan, being used to leaving things mainly to fate.

That is why I was standing there dismayed, watching how everyone else was managing. And then: salvation! A middle-aged woman approached me. “Need some help?” she asked politely. How did she know? I hadn’t asked, nor was I at that time very obviously disabled.

She must have sensed my predicament from my body language. I told her I was expecting the escalator to be working . She did not hesitate. She took hold of my baggage, trundled it down the stairs, and then waited while I plodded down. As much as I feel frustrated that society – capitalism, the market, and the social structures that belong to it – are deployed against those of us who are disabled, I feel a great love for those whose humanity gets beyond its narrow utilitarian margins.

Leave a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Notify of
avatar