Posted by: barbaraneill | February 18, 2014

It don’t make no sense!

No; I haven’t forgotten how to use grammar. I’m quoting; well, almost.

This morning, I went into one of those small, local branches of Tesco, (one of those that replaced independent retailers, but that’s another story). I just wanted a bottle of water and a snack and I noticed that both of the items I wanted formed part of the ‘meal deal.’ I wasn’t totally sure what constituted a meal deal but, when I noticed some small bags of prepared fruit, I assumed that they would probably be included as well. I searched, in vain for a poster, or sign, that would confirm exactly what I could buy as part of the meal deal but, becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of such information, I eventually decided to ask at the checkout.

“Could you please tell me exactly what constitutes a meal deal?” I asked the young woman at the checkout. “Everything with a red sticker” she responded, at least trying to be helpful. “Yes; I know that,” I replied, “but I wondered if you have a poster or something that shows exactly which items you can have, to make up the meal deal.” I was astounded by her next reply; “We did have one but we took it down.” “Really? You took it down?” By way of explanation, she offered, “It didn’t make no sense to some people.”

To be honest, the fact that it was taken down at all didn’t make no sense to me!

Posted by: barbaraneill | January 1, 2014

Why I don’t give to charity and what I do instead

I consider myself altruistic and like to help where I can, when help is needed. Recently, though, I have changed the way I do so. I have stopped supporting charities for a number of reasons and have chosen, instead, to use direct action, either by taking direct action, myself, or by supporting those who do.

What could be wrong with supporting charities? It has to be a good thing, surely. I, like many, used to think so. In fact, years ago, I worked for a charity, myself, and they provided a much-needed service that supported carers. I have no doubts that the vast majority of people who are involved with charities are decent, well-intentioned individuals. However, the move away from being localised and ‘hands-on’ and adopting a more corporate, and business-like approach has, as far as I’m concerned, brought with it a number of potential problems.

I don’t like receiving raffle tickets, (to sell), through the post, without my having requested them, nor do I appreciate being sent unsolicited ‘gifts’ of pens, stickers and other nick-nacks, in exchange for a donation. I’m not keen on the idea of people being signed up to make regular donations to a charity, via direct debit, on their own doorsteps. The people who sign them up generally don’t work directly for the charity concerned but for an independent organisation. Usually, they work on a commission only basis so they are, effectively, sales people; not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but I suspect that it is generally assumed that those sales people are supporters of the charity concerned, when that may not necessarily be the case.

I have read disturbing accounts of cures having been discovered for diseases, only to be suppressed by those whose incomes would be threatened, should such a cure become widely available to sufferers. Just imagine, for a moment, if all diseases were to be cured and there was no illness. There is no doubt that pharmaceutical companies are huge, thriving businesses and I have to ask myself whether it is really in their interests to cure those who are afflicted. Of course, the inevitable conclusion is that it is not. It wouldn’t just be the pharmaceutical companies whose livelihood would be threatened, however. Hospital equipment manufacturers, staff who operate the equipment, doctors, nurses and so on, would all be adversely affected. When incidents of a particular disease are increasing, regardless of the amount of time and other resources being spent on apparent prevention and cures, one has to ask why.

I have reached this conclusion as a result of having researched the case of Dr. Stanislav Burzynski. I would recommend watching the films that have been made about his story and decide whether he has, indeed, found a cure for cancer or, as his adversaries would have us believe, that he is nothing more than a conman.

In the past, I have heard of charities whose head offices are extravagantly furnished and, of course, that’s unacceptable when the money could be better spent helping their beneficiaries. At the same time, I wouldn’t expect charity workers to endure
unnecessarily harsh working conditions but fully accept that a reasonable balance needs to be found and maintained.

Recently, I heard some worrying news about Comic Relief and the way their business is conducted. I, along with many others, I’m sure, have always been impressed by the claims that “every penny donated goes to help those in need.” That, of course is as it should be, but there are inevitable running costs and the money to cover them has to come from somewhere. Apparently, money that is donated doesn’t immediately go to the beneficiaries but is invested for a period of time, in order to raise the funds needed to administrate the charity. According to reports I have read, it seems that Comic Relief have chosen to invest in companies that produce or promote alcohol, tobacco and arms. While these pursuits are, no doubt, very lucrative, they are in direct conflict with some of the aims of Comic Relief; to help people who are adversely affected by alcohol, tobacco and war.

Suffice to say that I have lost confidence in those charities that are being run in the ways I have described and I particularly abhor the fact that so many people who are willing to help are, unwittingly, supporting practices that they would not agree with.

On the other side of the coin, I have also encountered, recently, people who have directly supported charitable projects by volunteering, whether it be by travelling abroad or by being directly involved in projects within the UK. Often, there are financial implications for volunteers, who may need to raise funds for air fares, living expenses etc. while they are volunteering their services, and I am happy to help with fundraising when I am in a position to do so.

As it becomes increasingly difficult for people to maintain the most basic of living conditions; food and shelter, food banks are becoming prevalent in the UK and, although it is disgraceful that they should be necessary in this day and age, the numbers of people relying on them is increasing. For most of us, a few tins or packets of food would not be missed and donating to food banks can make the difference between life and death for those people who are less fortunate.

Another form of direct action to ease the suffering of others has captured the hearts of thousands of people within the UK. I am one of many who believe that homelessness in the twenty first century is totally unacceptable, and yet it is a growing problem. I was disgusted when I heard homeless people described as, “what we step over when we are leaving the opera”; a quote attributed to an MP who is, after all, supposed to be representing the people of the UK. I have also often heard that there is ‘no point’ in giving money to the homeless because they’ll only spend it on alcohol or drugs. That may, or may not be true but there is nothing to stop any of us approaching a homeless person on the street and asking if they would like something to eat or drink and, assuming they do, buying a sandwich, a bag of chips or a coffee for them. They are people and deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity.

The Rucksack Project is something I heard about, recently, and it is heart-warming to see that so many people have been touched by it. The idea is to fill a rucksack with essential items for someone who is homeless. These could include thermal underwear, jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves, bottles of water, packets of food, waterproof clothing, toiletries etc. I was lucky enough to find “emergency blankets”, otherwise known as survival blankets, on sale for £4.99 (and, at the time, were part of a buy one, get one free offer). These blankets consist of a large sheet of foil-like material that can conserve heat and mean the difference between life and death for someone who is living on the streets in harsh weather conditions. The rucksacks are taken to distribution centres all over the country, and given to people who are homeless and living on the streets.

The response to the appeal for help with the rucksack project was overwhelming, with thousands of people getting involved, and epitomised the fact that, in spite of the difficulties so many of us are facing in these times of austerity, there is still a basic desire to offer help to those who need it and that direct action is the way to do it.

Posted by: barbaraneill | August 22, 2013

Dyspraxia, three ice creams and mistaken identity

Well, strictly speaking, it’s not really mistaken identity as such, but a misunderstanding, nevertheless.

On holiday in the beautiful Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, I noticed that an ice cream van drove along the road at the same time each evening and stopped right outside our holiday cottage. Halfway through the holiday, I decided it would be a good idea to indulge in an ice cream so I waited, eagerly, for the now familiar chimes in the form of ‘Greensleeves’.

Sure enough, at twenty past eight, right on cue, the ice cream van appeared but this time, for whatever reason, stopped at the end of the road. Not really a big problem, as we were only a few doors away from the end of the road. Having taken the orders from my Mum and my youngest son, who both wanted ice cream cornets, (one with a chocolate flake and one without), I nipped out to buy the ice creams.

Of course, being dyspraxic, I had to remember what my Mum and my son wanted and was only slightly confused when I was offered ‘sprinkles’. I chose a scrummy-looking choc ice for myself and would have patted myself on the back if I hadn’t been holding two ice cream cones in one hand and a choc ice in the other!

I picked my way, carefully, along the cobbled street. That’s right; cobbles as well. It was all adding up to an obstacle course for dyspraxics. Because I was aware that it was taking me slightly longer to get back with the ice creams than it would for a neuro-typical person, I burst in through the open front door, declaring, “Quick! Take these before they melt!” I nearly jumped out of my skin when I was met with a chorus of horrified shrieks from the family who were sitting around their dinner table in the house next door to ours!

Fortunately, I was able to keep hold of the ice creams throughout the shock, the realisation, and the heartfelt apology!

Posted by: barbaraneill | August 19, 2013

“The Big Issue”; Is selling it just glorified begging?

We’ve all heard of it; “The Big Issue”. It’s become synonymous with homelessness and the struggle for an income for people who are down on their luck. It has even played a part in cruel ‘jokes’ to that effect. But what of those people who are selling it? Is it just another way of begging? Of offering some token in exchange for small change?

You may be surprised to learn that selling “The Big Issue” is carefully organised and has a strict code of conduct that includes the fact that vendors must only sell at designated pitches, arranged by The Big Issue, and that vendors are only allowed to sell the magazine for its cover price of £2.00 and that there must be no asking for spare change or anything other than selling the magazine legitimately.

A recent copy of “The Big Issue in the North” included some fascinating articles, one of which was a heart-warming story of a former vendor who is now hoping to start up her own bakery after her hard work in The Big Issue in the North’s breakfast bar.

Another article focuses on the moves to preserve a great British icon; the red telephone boxes that are, sadly, disappearing from many towns and villages in the UK. Ingenious new uses for these kiosks, known as the “K6”, include book exchanges, in which a visitor can help themselves to a book from inside the kiosk and replace it with one of their own; an art gallery; yes, you did read that correctly. A red telephone box in Settle, Yorkshire, has become what is believed to be Britain’s smallest art gallery. It seems that visitors have even left works of art of their own in the kiosk, an act that has been described as “positive vandalism”! Other uses for the kiosks include emergency medical centres, with life-saving heart defibrillators and, in Leeds, a whole collection of kiosks, now painted blue, that are to be used as high tech, free, solar-powered wi-fi hubs and interactive information centres.

There are other fascinating articles, too numerous to mention but suffice to say that I found the magazine to be an excellent read and well worth the £2.00 cover price.

So, can selling The Big Issue be regarded as begging? On the front cover of the magazine itself, the tag line “working not begging” is used. As a legitimate, informative magazine being sold by legitimate vendors, I couldn’t agree more.

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Posted by: barbaraneill | July 3, 2013

When is a writer not a writer?

Inspired by the recent post of a writer friend of mine, who has started to question whether or not she really wants writing as a career I, too, have analysed what I believe being a writer actually means.

I love writing, and have done since childhood but when I stopped and looked at my motives for writing, recently, and was totally honest with myself, I discovered that I really don’t want writing as a career. I want to always love writing, and I feel that having deadlines to stick to, and writing when I really don’t feel like it, would take some of the joy out of it.

It took me ages to discover what I wanted to be when I grow up, mainly because I’m interested in so many things. I love hypnotherapy. I really do, and I’m privileged to be able to do it for a living. I love lots of other things as well, including other forms of healing, photography and teaching, and I wouldn’t want to change that for anything.

The truth is, I want to carry on loving everything I do, including writing, and never having to do anything because I feel I’ve got to whether I want to or not.

My friend referred to ‘support for insecure writers’ while rhetorically asking similar questions to my own but I couldn’t help wondering if the word ‘insecure’ was misplaced. In my view, it’s perfectly possible to decide that you want to write purely because you love writing, rather than fitting someone else’s idea of what a writer ‘should’ be, without being insecure. In fact, I’d say that making up your mind to do so, and defying convention in the process, is about as secure as it gets.

I thought it might be interesting to try and define “writer”. To be a writer, do you have to write for a living? Does your writing have to be published and, if so, does self-publication count? How about if you had one poem published in a school magazine many years ago? Does that count as “published”? Perhaps you’ve had several articles ‘published’ on the Internet, or maybe you’re a blogger. Can you call yourself a writer, then? Personally, I feel that a writer is ‘one who writes’. That’s about as wide a spectrum as it gets. It means, also, that writing is available to just about everyone, and not some elitist pursuit to be enjoyed by a few.

I do love writing and I hope I always will. Enjoying writing, as well as all the other things I enjoy, is an essential part of who I am.

It took me a very long time to discover what I wanted to be when I grow up but I have discovered it. When I grow up, I want to be me.

Posted by: barbaraneill | March 9, 2013

Delighted to have been an undiagnosed dyspraxic!

B and M outside Beatles shop

Matthew Munson and Barbara Neill aka The Two Dyspraxics

I am delighted to have spent most of my life undiagnosed as dyspraxic and, even better than that, in a time when virtually no-one had heard of dyspraxia, never mind know how to support it.

Yes, you did read it right. I am dyspraxic and have known about my dyspraxia since 1994, when I recognised myself and my own symptoms, in a questionnaire that was to determine that my son was dyspraxic. I was eventually diagnosed in 2010. However, I spent almost forty years of my life not knowing anything about dyspraxia and, because of that, I struggled through school which felt, at times, like a living hell because of the problems I encountered, relentlessly, on a daily basis. I have also encountered numerous difficulties as an adult, due to my dyspraxia.

Why, then, would I be extolling the virtues of not knowing about dyspraxia in my formative years (and beyond)? It’s not because I don’t feel that people who have dyspraxia should be ‘labelled’. On the contrary, if it is picked up and supported appropriately, the label of dyspraxia can offer a valid explanation for the many problems that can be encountered as a result of having the condition.

The reason I will be eternally grateful for not having even heard of dyspraxia until well into adulthood, is because for me, at least, no precedent had been set. I had no limitations placed on me by well-meaning people whose own understanding of dyspraxia may not fit my ability. Throughout my own undiagnosed years, I was able to discover, for myself, the extent of my own capabilities, as well as the difficulties I would encounter, rather than being told what to expect.

I was never told that I wouldn’t be able to learn to drive, for example, or that I would find it difficult to do so. In fact, I did find it difficult and it took me three attempts to pass my driving test. However, I have now been driving for well over thirty years and have never had any ‘points’ placed on my licence. I learned to drive in a car with a manual gear change and I did not see the need for any adaptations or ‘special’ treatment while I was learning. In my opinion, a good driving instructor will be patient, and adaptable to the needs of all of his or her learners.

Worryingly, there seems to be a serious lack of understanding of the fact that, as dyspraxic adults, in particular, we are more than capable of voicing our opinions and, indeed, enlightening others as to the real effects that dyspraxia has on our lives. In my courses on Dyspraxia Awareness I always advocate asking people, who have dyspraxia, how they can best be supported. It’s not rocket science and those who readily acknowledge that dyspraxics often have above average intelligence, would do well to put that knowledge into practice by respecting the fact!

I, for one, have a serious dislike of being patronised, and cringe at the thought of some of the experiences I have had, seen or heard of, in the name of ‘raising awareness’ by some who, clearly, could learn about dyspraxia from those of us who actually have it, rather than making up their own theories and treating them as ‘gospel’.

For example, in one workshop on Dyspraxia Awareness that I attended as an observer, there was an implication that ‘dyspraxics cannot see in 3D’! This was the explanation given for why we often bump ourselves on door posts as we walk through doorways. Of course it’s complete nonsense! A second example was of a neuro-typical person, (in the name of ‘education’), demonstrating how a dyspraxic person walks! Frankly, it would have been more at home in a Monty Python sketch than in an educational setting. Another example is of a document I have seen that quotes, “Neuro-diversity is an umbrella term, which encompasses Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, AD(H)D, ASD and neuro-trauma. These conditions are poorly understood by the general public including the clients themselves and their managers.” Believe me, I have a very good understanding of dyspraxia and how it affects my life. I should do, after having had fifty eight years’ experience of it! Incidentally, I don’t view myself as a ‘client’, (at least in this context), and I don’t have a ‘manager’!

I have considered, very seriously, whether or not I should include these particular references in this article but, on balance, I feel that I, as a person who has dyspraxia, have not just a right, but a duty, to put the record straight.

I have no doubt that the majority of these people mean well but, please, in order to raise awareness we need to present facts; not theories, and who could be in a better position to do so, than those of us who actually live with the condition all day, every day?

Perhaps most importantly, the fact that there is so much mis-information about dyspraxia, from those who are supposedly ‘experts’, will almost certainly limit the expectations of people who have dyspraxia, (or their families), and are being guided by these ‘experts’. The truth is, each of us is our own expert. No-one can know you better than you know yourself and, if you have dyspraxia, my advice to you is use your intuition and don’t allow yourself to be limited by someone else’s opinion of what you can and can’t do. We may not be able to accomplish everything we set out to do, but the possibilities are endless!

Barbara Neill and Matthew Munson are The Two Dyspraxics. We have a facebook page; (just search for The Two Dyspraxics and you’ll find us). We make videos that are designed to support, educate and entertain, and we also work on raising awareness in an informative and factual way. 

Posted by: barbaraneill | March 9, 2013

How to scupper a text message opportunist

Late last night, I received a text message that I wasn’t expecting. It was, fairly obviously, from a man who was looking for female company.

He said his name was Steve and, as soon as I realised it wasn’t a ‘Steve’ I actually knew, I dealt with the situation effectively.

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If this happens to you, remember that whoever is texting you can’t actually see you!

Posted by: barbaraneill | March 2, 2013

The ‘feelgood’ factor and a story of hope

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Grateful thanks to Katie Harden for the photograph.

These are pretty grim times that we are living in; at least for the vast majority of us, but here is a ray of sunshine in the form of an optimistic song that seems to appeal to a wide range of people with varying musical tastes.

My son, Jim, has been unemployed for too long but is a gifted guitarist/singer/songwriter. A few days ago, he recorded a song he has written, and he sings and plays guitars on the track. Jim was amazed when the song was played more than 600 times in three days, on soundcloud.com

The song is called “Sometimes” and it tends to stay in your head after just one or two listens, (in a good way!). Its infectious quality has led to a video shoot, numerous offers from other musicians for Jim, a facebook page for Jim Neill Music and an offer of help for Jim to set up his own record label.

As well as recording and promoting his own music, Jim’s long term plans for the label are to enable other musicians, who don’t have access to the necessary resources, to do the same thing. There is a lot of musical talent going to waste out there and this will be a great opportunity. The success of Jim’s venture is, however, dependent on people like YOU! All you need to do is ‘like’ the facebook page and/or listen to “Sometimes” on soundcloud. It’s that simple. Of course, it would be even better if you could get all your friends to do the same. Grateful thanks from Jim and from me, his very proud mum, to everyone who listens to his song.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jim-Neill-Music/1727710244036357

Posted by: barbaraneill | February 25, 2013

A Family History of Trick Cycling

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My great grandfather, William Munro NEILL, led a very interesting life and his early endeavours included being one of the first ever trick cyclists.

I was first made aware of this when my Dad, (whose paternal grandfather was William Munro Neill), acquired a photocopy of an article that had appeared in our local newspaper, the Kent Messenger, in 1933. Several years later, I became interested in genealogy and, thanks to the advances of the Internet and the subsequent availability of information, I was eventually able to investigate further.

In 1868, at the age of twelve, William Munro Neill and his two cousins performed as trick cyclists in Glasgow, after initially being forbidden to ride the new machines that his uncle had brought to the UK from France. I was fascinated by his story, and by the photograph that had appeared in the Kent Messenger with the article. I searched online for any clue  as to who the photographer might have been or any other information I might find about it. My search was in vain and I came to the conclusion that the original photograph must have been long gone.

A telephone conversation with my cousin in Scotland left me reeling when she casually announced that she had the original photograph in her possession, as it had been kept my great aunt Bessie; my cousin’s grandmother. I was due to visit Scotland that summer and was delighted when my cousin offered to pass the photograph on to me, as the family historian. I’ll never forget that moment, when I first held the photograph in my hands. It was overwhelming, and I knew I had taken on a great responsibility; to bring an important part of my ancestor’s story back to life.

After making contact with an extremely knowledgeable bicycle historian, I discovered the importance of the year in which William Munro Neill and his two cousins learned to ride the new machines, as it was previously believed that bicycles (or velocipedes as they were known at the time and, later, as boneshakers), did not gain popularity in the UK until 1869.

The photograph has now been exhibited at the ‘Who Do You Think You Are? Live’ show, in London in February 2013, having been chosen as one of the ten winners of a family history photograph competition. Perhaps not surprisingly, the photograph attracted considerable interest, perhaps in part because it was the oldest photograph to be featured.

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Barbara with the winning photograph of her great grandfather and his two cousins

Below is a transcript of the article that appeared in the Kent Messenger on 16th September 1933


 

VETERAN’S VARIED LIFE

Maidstone Man Who Was Trick Cycling Pioneer

 

STAGE ARTISTE TO COUNTRY

CARRIER

Born of Irish parents in Scotland, few men have had a more romantic life than Mr William Munro Neill, of 149 London Road, Maidstone.

Looking back over the greater part of his 78 years, Mr Neill chatted with a “Kent Messenger” representative in a way strongly hinting of both nationalities.

Active, in spite of his age, he recounted in a whimsical manner some of the experiences that have been his in a crowded span of years.

At the early age of 12 Mr Neill claims that he was the pioneer of all trick cyclists.

This is how it came about.  His father owned a coachbuilding business in Edinburgh, while his uncle was the proprietor of a cab business in connection with the Edinburgh to Glasgow Railway.  It was this uncle who introduced the Parisian Bicycle into Scotland following a visit abroad.  It later became the well-known “Boneshaker.”

PRACTICED IN SECRET

In this connection, Mr Neill’s father opened the first bicycle-riding school in his coach building works.

Young Neill, with his two cousins, were never far away from the novel machines and when business was slack, in direct disobedience, they rode the cycles.

Furtive practice when their elders were absent, however, soon made them experts on these early boneshakers and they mastered a number of tricks that they performed for their own amusement.

One morning, the son of the local music hall proprietor saw their show.  The result was a week’s contract as the “first trick cyclists ever to appear in Scotland.”

 

The other two lads were then aged eight and four.  They took the name of the Three Petit Lavalles.  A twelve weeks’ run at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, followed.

When it seemed as if the three lads were at the start of a stage career, Neill’s mother, who acted as manager to the trio, was taken ill and a contract to appear at Liverpool was cancelled.

FROM LAW TO SADDLE

The scene shifts to Belfast, where Mr Neill was assistant to his father in the coachbuilding business. 

His parents wished him to study law, and at 17 he became a junior clerk to the Quarter Sessions at Edinburgh.  But the Law disagreed with him and after a few months he was again in Ireland as assistant to a veterinary surgeon.  Then he returned once more to Edinburgh in the cab business.

A move to London followed, and he was in a succession of businesses as a jobmaster, horse dealer, “vets.” assistant, and finally an instructor at the Royal Military Riding School at Earl’s Court.

It was there that he was connected with the then famous show “Savage South Africa.”  He was in charge of 20 untamed horses.

He was again at Earl’s Court when Bronco Bill’s Congress of Rough Riders took London by storm, and was complimented by the great Bronco himself on his riding. 

WAR SERVICE

From London he moved to Eastbourne to another riding school.  Here a serious accident in the hunting field put him out of action for several months. 

The last chapters began when, at the outbreak of the Great War, Mr Neill was once again with his beloved horses as Sergeant in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, and later as Civilian Overseer at the Veterinary Hospital at Aylesford.

Since the war he has been well-known as a carrier and jobmaster at Aylesford.  He retired some two years ago.

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Old editions of the Kent Messenger are, unfortunately, not available for purchase, as all of their old papers are in Bound Volume form and very fragile and to try to photocopy from them breaks the spine of the book.

There are copies available to view at either Maidstone Library, St Faith’s Street, Maidstone tel: 01622 – 752344 or The British Newspaper library, Colindale Ave, London NW9 tel: 0207 4127353.

Posted by: barbaraneill | February 20, 2013

What to do if you get lost on the tube

ImageWhat to do if you get lost on the tube

…or to be more accurate, if you get separated from your fellow travellers.

Have you ever considered what you would do if you were with some friends or family on the London Underground, (or any other underground, for that matter), and the doors of the train were to close with you on one side of them and your fellow travellers on the other?

I was inspired to write this after meeting up with some friends in London. Matthew, (the OTHER founder of The Two Dyspraxics), Tom, (yet another dyspraxic), and I have varying degrees of confidence on the London Underground, or ‘tube’.

In my younger days, I used to work in London and commuted, daily, from Kent so I am very familiar with travelling on the tube. In fact, it is, by far, the easiest form of public transport I have ever used and I just wish all other forms of public transport were as easy to navigate, especially for those of us who have been blessed with dyspraxia. Matthew, until relatively recently, was a tube novice but now he thoroughly enjoys visiting London, which he does on a regular basis, and is rapidly becoming familiar with tube travel. Tom, on the other hand, was travelling to London, alone, for the first time when we met up with him, so his experience on the tube was extremely limited.

As it was a weekend, we didn’t have any of the usual ‘rush hour’ problems to contend with but, due to engineering works on one of the lines, one of the trains we caught was quite full and there was standing room only. With the benefit of hindsight, of course, we should have made sure Tom was on the train first but we didn’t. Matthew got on with no problem, then I got on just in time to see the doors of the train closing with Tom on the other side of them!

Matthew and I had to formulate a plan pretty quickly and, to cut a long story short, we were all separated from each other for a while. Fortunately, we were able to meet up again so we continued having a great day out.

Because there is no mobile phone signal in the tube, so separated travellers are denied the luxury of phoning each other, it occurred to me, that we should have agreed in advance what to do if the worst were to happen. Whoever is ON the train when the doors close, should get off at the next stop and wait on the platform. The tube trains are very frequent and run every couple of minutes or so, so whoever DIDN’T manage to get on the train should just catch the next one; get off at the next stop and reunite with their fellow travelers on the platform.

Although we didn’t think of that when the ‘three dyspraxics’ met up, the idea came in handy a couple of days later, when I travelled on the tube with my youngest son, (aged fourteen). I explained to him, in detail, exactly what we should if we were to get separated. Clearly, he wasn’t at all phased by the possibility. His response was, “Of course, Mum. It’s obvious, isn’t it?!”

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