Sunday, 27 February 2011
A Lyrical Death Match: Cargo vs Chemikal
Tickets on door
6pm - 9pm
Two of Scotland’s hottest cultural nests - Cargo publishing and music label Chemikal Underground – come head to head armed with prose, poetry and song. Author Alan Bissett, Rodge Glass and Doug Johnstone, poet Ryan Van Winkle and emerging talent Kirstin Innes get up on stage to face former-The Delgados and revered singer songwriter Emma Pollock, and the multi-talented Lord Cutglass and his band. Stand-up comedian AL Kennedy referees the evening. Expect great music, and great writing at a great venue.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
Using Grassmarket as a hub for wheely exploration, you can head up either side of Victoria Street (1) up to George VI Bridge, or take the left hand side of West Port (2) out of the Grassmarket to Lady Lawson Street and on to Tollcross; or leave by Kings Stables Road (3) heading to Lothian Road or Princes Street. There are no lowered pavement edges onto Candlemaker Row or through The Cowgate or up the right hand side of West Port.
In the Grassmarket itself, The Beehive Inn has smooth access to the restaurant, ground floor bar and disabled loos. Next door, The Lot was an accessible arts venue with restaurant, but sadly it closed last month. Keep an eye on the venue for whoever takes it over.
Right then, heading out of the Grassmarket...
route 1) up Victoria Street. Very steep, but smooth enough. George VI Bridge has several pedestrian crossings with lowered edges on both sides of the road. You can nip between the National Library of Scotland (with cafe) and Central Library (with window art gallery run by ECA students). However, cars can park across any of these crossings except the ones with traffic lights at the top of the street where George IV Bridge intersects with the Royal Mile. The crossings onto and next to the Royal Mile have very steep ramps onto the road, but at least there's a wee green man to stop traffic.
That same style of pavement edge ramp is used across Chambers Street, with the added bonus of not being completely lowered, so the sudden drop onto the road will wake you up en route to the (free) National Museum of Scotland. Note that the wonderfully accessible museum roof garden will be closed for maintenance for the next six months, but the new museum itself is still open. The old part of the museum, under renovation for the past three years, will re-open to the public on 29th July.
Just round the corner from the museum on Forrest Road is the Forest Cafe, with ramp access, cafe, performance stage, bookshop, hairdressers, massage therapist, art gallery and disabled loo all on the ground floor. This is another arts venue under threat: http://www.guardian.co.uk/edinburgh/2011/feb/18/edinburgh-forest-cafe-campaign-update-harry-giles
Back on George IV Bridge, across the road from the Forest Cafe, guarded by a statue of Greyfriar's Bobby (a dead dog), is Greyfriar's Kirk. There's a smooth path round the historic kirkyard, and a cobbled one if you fancy that instead. The road in and out is pretty steep, so you'll exit the area faster than you arrived.
If you have very wee wheels, you won't be able to cross directly from Forrest Road to Bristo Square as the pavement edges at those crossings haven't been lowered much. Get to the Greyfriars side and head along that side of the road to the Uni buildings, library and Reid Hall, or to have a picnic on the verdant expanse of The Meadows beyond. The Meadows Festival is in June, btw. The crossings in and out of the Meadows are lowered and have lights. Don't go anywhere near badly cobbled Buccleuch Place unless you fancy juggling with your kidneys. The main advice for wheels is to try to stick to cycle path rules when trundling round the Meadows pathways, and watch out for jugglers.
Up at the other end of George IV Bridge, you can cross the Royal Mile then speed down the very steep Mound to the (free) National Galleries of Scotland, both of which have ramp access, lifts and disabled loos. Good luck getting back up The Mound afterwards. If you only get half way up, you can coast down Market Street to the (free) Fruitmarket Gallery, which is next to Waverly Station. There is a taxi rank in the station, just in case you need one to get back to the Grassmarket after all that.
route 2) The Art Roche backpacker hostel on the corner of Grassmarket and West Port has a lift to all floors, all the cheap shared rooms are accessible, and there's a private en-suite disabled room if neccesary. Note that the latter is more expensive than an ordinary hotel room, so the Grassmarket Hotel across the square would be a better bargain. The Grassmarket Hotel building is at least a couple of hundred years old but it too has a lift and wifi. If price is irrelevant then try the new Apex International Hotel across the square. Onwards and up West Port, you can visit the art college's new building Evolution House (lifts and accessible loos) or go round the Corner of Doom to the older art college buildings, also with full lift access and loos.
On the far side of the Pubic Triangle, something strange happens to the pavements in Tollcross. You can see Bread Street, but not actually get onto it. To find a lowered pavement edge you'll need to go round via Lothian Road. This will be the route to the canal (with an accessible wheelie canal boat for trips to Ratho and back) in a future guide.
route 3) round the base of Castle Rock, under the (19th tunnel-arched bridge carrying Johnstone Terrace over your head. The tunnel extrance is flanked by massive obelisks, green from the damp. Past the saxophonists and out the other side, you'll have the multi storey car park on your left and Princes Street Gardens on your right. Unless you're wearing a jet pack, this will have to also be your exit from the gardens when you've finished with the trees, fountain, monuments, stealth squirrels and random entertainment, as the paths up to Princes Street on the far side of the gardens are awesomely steep.
St Cuthbert's and St John's at the west end of the gardens provide beautiful old gravestones for a spot of photography, family tree-ing or serene reflection, etc. Both church cafes are open throughout the summer, along with craft fairs and the odd performer.
There is no access to the castle from the gardens, for that you'll need to get onto the Royal Mile. Wheelchair users get a partner in free, thanks to Historic Scotland's assistance deal.
Where King's Stables Road meets Lothian Road, the traffic becomes feisty. This pedestrian crossing has double RED lines at the lights. I think that means you can be shot for parking there. No green man button on this side but the lights will change. Crossing Johnstone Terrace to get onto the pavement on the left hand side of Lothian Road, you'll find lowered pavement edges on either side of the traffic island - but then you'll be faced with a high pavement edge that mysteriously has no matching lowered edge on the far side. I had about ten seconds to reverse to safety before the lights change and the traffic started up again. This crossing should get an immediate response from the council works, so keep your yer on it and keep poking them if nothing changes, and in the meantime use the right hand side of Lothian Road to get to the Filmhouse then the crossing outside it to get to the Lyceum. From there it's just a short downhill trundle back into the Grassmarket.
Monday, 14 February 2011
I ordered my taxi (from a different company this time just to be sure) at 7.10pm. I sat out in full view. At 7.40pm the controller explained that the taxi driver had reported that he'd collected me and delivered me, and the booking was now cleared.
I explained, as much as was possible with chattering teeth, that nobody had collected me. There had been no taxis at all, I was in full view, and even if there was another street in the city with that name it was slightly unlikely that the driver had found a woman on her own in a wheelchair who had wanted to go to the booked destination. The driver had lied, to get out of collecting a wheelchair fare without having to officially turn it down. He'd deliberately abandoned someone in a wheelchair, in the dark, in sub-zero temperatures.
The replacement taxi collected me at 8.15pm. I'd been sitting outside for over an hour.
I can't begin to describe how much pain I'm in from so long sitting in that temperature. I can't describe my morale either, because the levels have sunk below anything I can find.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Saturday, 12 February 2011
San Juan, Argentina - Pleasant surprises
I wasn't really looking forward to the cycle from San Martin to San Juan. To avoid a busy stretch of Ruta 40 I was doing a dog-leg to the east across several empty inches on the map with no campsites for a few days ... in fact, with not very much at all for a few days. However, as is often the case in Argentina, there were pleasant surprises.
At lunchtime on the first day I pulled off the highway into the village of Asuncion, hoping there might be a spot where I could get permission to camp. It was a poor village, the poorest I´ve seen in a country I´ve come to think of as "European". A true desert town, there was only sand and bare soil, scoured by a wind that sent dust devils across the plaza. I´d arrived at the start of siesta and the deserted streets added to the gloominess. I settled myself down in a patch of shade to sit out the the heat of the afternoon. I was just thinking to myself "this is grim" when I spotted a tent between a gap in the houses. Investigations revealed a group of young Americans who were camping in the village while doing voluntary work in the area. My tent was added to the colourful little village of tents and there was even an unexpected shower and dinner invitation! Then of course, after siesta, the village came to life - women watered front yards with buckets of water to keep the dust down, kids flew up and down on bicycles and threw stones at chickens, and a trailer-load of grubby menfolk was deposited on the corner, presumably having come from working in the vineyards to the south.
The next dot on the map was Encon, an unattractive cluster of buildings around a road junction in the desert. At least I knew there was a service station here for camping, although when I got there it wasn´t the most appealing of service station stops. With a long afternoon ahead of sitting out the heat and waiting to pitch the tent, I decided to treat myself to lunch out at a wee "comedor" in the village. I had steak, eggs, salad, a cold drink and a coffee for less than six pounds. As I was leaving, the senora asked me where I was staying and when I said at the service station, she led me around to the back of the restaurant. Here was a little oasis - a lush lawn surrounded by a carefully-tended flower border that was alive with butterflies and shaded by tall trees. Noisy wild parrots flitted back and forth, watched over by the equally noisy pet parrot. His Spanish vocabulary was about as extensive as mine - "hola" and not much more. His English was excellent though! The senora´s house was above the restaurant and a smallholding extended beyond the garden - she invited me along when she went to feed the cattle, pigs and chickens. If they were the source of my lunch, then I can record very low food miles! My tent was pitched in the middle of the lawn and I pottered away a very enjoyable afternoon.
San Juan is another pleasant surprise - a modern city of tree-lined streets. Although there is a sad story behind this. The city was largely destroyed in the middle of last century by an earthquake so what we see today is the result of the modern rebuilding. It´s a wealthy city -the surrounding vineyards have generated the money here which is such that there are even shops where you can buy outfits for dogs!
One advantage of swinging out on a more easterly route is the incredible perspective it´s given me of the Andes, as a result of "standing back" a little. I´m cycling on a 600m high plain. At its western edge the mountains are a sudden uprising of snow-covered rock, snaking away to the south and to the north as far as the eye can see. These are big guys now of five and six thousand metres but yesterday morning the rising sun picked out in pink one peak that rose above the others. At 6959m it´s the highest mountain in South America - Aconcagua.
I´m pretty excited about the road north of San Jan which turns back into the mountains. I´ve picked up a lot of information from other cyclists such as locations of campsites and service stations, the most scenic routes, places to get shade and water and, most critically, where the coffee stops are! But I´m hoping there´ll also be more pleasant little surpises.
Posted by Pauline at 07:49 in http://symaniak.blogspot.com/2011/02/san-juan-argentina-pleasant-surprises.html
Saturday, 12 February 2011
Taxi didn't turn up. I called them when I realised they were now twenty mins late. They did the audio equivalent of shrugging. I asked if it would be with me soon as I was now scootered in the road where their ramp would work. But there's no taxi near you they said.
The replacement they sent didn't arrive. I was now frozen to the bones, slightly rained on, but feeling more angry than miserable. If I'd known that there would follow another hour and a half with two, no, wait I'd forgotten one, THREE taxis refusing to take me but not stopping or saying so, just shaking their head and speeding up, I might have gone back to bed. But I had to get back into town and no-one could give me a lift as the scooter needs a black cab or a van. I suddenly felt completely and utterly vunerable and hopelessly stranded. Fortunately that soon turned to raging fury.
Taxi number seven got me into town, almost two hours late. He was cheery and helpful, so I risked meeting the humans at the after-lunch venue. Unfortunately when the lecturer arrived, she greeted those standing, then they all ran off down the stairs together, leaving me sitting there like a piece of furniture, with no idea of the destination or the route I was supposed to take. If two girls hadn't stopped, stayed with me, helped ask a member of staff where they others gone, then chum me along, I'd have left the building there and then. Well, some days there isn't enough deep breathing in me to sustain serenity.
It's particularly a shame as the night before was really good, being well enough for company and fresh air after another day flat out in the dark. There was more optimism for getting out to the island too. I think it might even be possible to record 'Island of Doom' ON the island itself, maybe, maybe! And did I mention the good food? I can still taste the garlic, yum.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
The last time I used a train I discovered four things about wheely train travel.
1) Trains use split ramps, like the old black cabs, which can't be used by mobility scooters.
2) The ramps are stored at each station not in the train, so if the forewarned station isn't ready, you're stuck on the train.
3) There was a hint of a suggestion that mobility scooters wouldn't be welcome on trains even if they could get on as they are not always used by people who are genuinely wheelchair users and therefore shouldn't get priority parking on board. It would take a couple of years to get to the top of the list for a powered wheelchair, and I can't afford to just buy one, hence the second-hand Scooter of Freedom.
4) My local station has a wheelchair access ramp up to the station. It is, however, so long and so steep that nobody can push my wheelchair up it in one go and some can't do it at all.
I would assume that there is a wheely user guide to Scottish railway stations but experience is teaching me to avoid such assumptions :-) I'm going to start with Edinburgh Waverly and work my way along a theoretical route to get as far North as I'd need to in order to find a beach that has paths to the water, dolphins and the Northern Lights. I realise this may involve continuing on to Finland...
Saturday, 5 February 2011
There's only a fortnight now until a memorial day for someone else, someone who still feels utterly irreplaceable in my life, so I am making plans for that day now. She didn't get a proper funeral as her husband overrode all of her requests and plans, so grieving is filled with outrage too, which isn't healthy. You have to wonder how often that happens, especially with people who were ill or disabled or badly married, to the extent of being not independant or in charge.
With the restrictions on travelling in vehicles, I discovered the extent of the distance I can scooter. Today I made it to the Top Secret Boatshed and back, but may pay for that amount of shoogling for several days. I don't know who decided pavements should consist of small slabs, but every last gap between them all is now written across my joints!
We posed for photos taken by Max Blinkhorn, and were filmed by Osbert Lancaster (evidence to follow soon) though obviously the star was the new skiff. As is only fitting, the shed then slowly emptied as Andres led folk back to the beach to take Icebreaker out for an over 55s session in the last of the day's light. The other teams had been out from 8am until noon. The sea was a bit lumpy but not choppy like yesterday.
Btw, the Portobello Regatta will be taking place on the last weekend in July and it's gonna be hooooge.
Thursday, 3 February 2011
"The arts aren't about self-indulgence, they're about being fully and visibly alive."
quote from http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2011/feb/03/arts-funding
Admittedly there is going to be indulgence in there for some, but for everyone else, being able to express oneself, create, interact and participate in some arts should be a basic building block of personal development, never mind a way to really exist. For me, reading, writing and drawing keeps me alive. That's not an exaggeration. Drugs can only do so much to keep you sane and determined when stuck in bed. I can look at books containing stories I wrote, photos of paintings I've had in exhibitions (that I didn't ever attend) and at my sketchbooks working out paintings I'm about to do, and it reminds me that I have achieved things, taken part in things in absentia, have things to look forward to that I will be able to manage, and that part of me is alive even if the rest of me takes time off. People know I exist, even if they've never met me. I haven't been able to do anything except sit up in bed from time to time these past couple of days, so I've communicated by email and listened to audio books, books that other people wrote.
Which leads me to a programme that should not be named, that I was talking about with someone earlier today, where the enforced illiteracy of the female members of a community in the UK was justified by the men (and some of the women) as 'tradition', therefore any attempts to investigate it as abuse was labelled 'racism', which is a word that will always make people back off. Obviously their cars, mobiles, laptops and flat screen TVs were traditional ones, are you doubting their ethos there? Racist!
If those girls and women could read and write properly, they might be able to learn, to think of new things, to imagine, to communicate with people ouside their community, to make changes, and to escape, even if it was simply into books at the end of each day. Books borrowed from nearby libraries as females don't usually have cash of their own. Oh wait, there may be a flaw in that proposal...
So tomorrow (Saturday 5th Feb) is National Save Our Libraries Day. Go along to your local library to show support (and maybe even borrow a book or two)
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
When I think of how having access to the internet, having online contact with people and having a voice of sorts would have transformed my life - given me a life - for the time I was stuck in bed in a house in the middle of nowhere with no computer and no home-visiting GP or nurse, well, it's best not to dwell on that. Best not to think about it at all. That sort of non-consensual isolation should never, ever be allowed.
Well, I don't have any excuse for online absence now. I will at least continue the venue access reviewing now that I have a new wee shiny notebook (thanks Charlie). It does still feel strange though, sometimes. It's not so long ago that I never got out and feared I never would again. Even now, it's part of the normal routine of life to be in bed for several days at a time and indoors several weeks at a time. This can make a person a little hesitant in becoming too cocky about making plans to explore their surroundings.
To redeem myself, I'll add some things I have succeeded in exploring in town recently:
Tonight's first recommendation is to check out the menu for What's On at the now very accessible National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge. Not only are the free events varied and weekly, and the other attendees friendly, but after 3pm all sandwiches in the library cafe are half price :-)
Edinburgh College of Art, Lauriston Place, launches another menu this week: Summer School. All departments are accessible except Photography. Printmaking is difficult due to the problems manoevering round the workshops while there are several others working the presses, but don't let that stop you calling the CCS office for a chat about the possibilities. There are also some excellent classes just for kids. No cut-price butties here, but you may find yourself working alongside degree students who're taking extra classes, and you'll get to exhibit your work in the college at the end of each week.
The Forest, (long may it last) on Forrest Road, now has the Inky Fingers spoken word performance night as well as the infamous Golden Hour. If you haven't fully explored the ground floor, you need to go right through the cafe and out the other side to discover Sip n Snip and The Massage Corner, two fabulous jewels in the Forest crown. That extra massage gave me a whole lease of life one afternoon. I was almost tempted to get my hair trimmed too.
The Caves, Niddrie Street, have an accessible ground floor level. Now I have discovered that if you have concerns about queueing to get in etc, you can contact the venue beforehand and the nicest security chaps (I don't know what they're called nowadays but they used to be bouncers) will look out for you as you shoogle across the cobbles towards the venue, then speed you indoors.
Another change for the rest of the venues on my to visit list is that while venues with one step are wheelchair accessible, they're not accessible to a mobility scooter. For those who haven't driven one of those dodgy wee feckers, let me explain that they can get jammed on a shadow, so they need a completely smooth doorway. Understandably those are rare in a hilly, cobbly city, but not as rare as you might fear.
However, tonight we pin the tail on some donkeys too: the drivers who park their cars across the lowered pavement edges at crossings along George IV Bridge. If I hadn't found myself stuck in the road unable to get onto the pavement or return to the accessible side, with traffic approaching as the lights changed, and therefore with other concerns, I'd now have an awesome collection of wing mirrors in my shed.
And before I forget - I've been mentioned! http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ouch/2011/01/blogging_disabled_life.html