Liz is a crip activist and actor, now trying to gain experience as a stand-up comedian. Originally from the North West, she recently moved to London, lured by the bright lights and the promise of fame and fortune. She's still waiting.
The bathroom blues
Aesthetically, it didn’t fare much better. The tall ceilinged room was decorated from top to bottom in mouldy white tiles. Every time I went in there I felt as though I should be wearing a hospital gown and having my PA check on my bowel movements. It really was in desperate need of a makeover.
For the past four years, therefore, I have been wheeling back and forth between Social Services, the Local Authority and my landlord in an effort to make it happen.
In that time, I’ve had umpteen assessments from umpteen occupational therapists (OT’s) to prove that I require a wheel in shower, a toilet of a certain height and a few grab rails here and there.
I’ve had bureaucrats in suits visit me to discuss the funding and on top of that, my bathroom has been regularly surveyed by men in hard hats who always seem to just tap on the walls, shake their heads and then scribble down their findings on a clipboard.
"When will the work begin?" I asked, assuming it would be in a few weeks time. "How about tomorrow?" they said.
After years of inactivity, it was all go, and, in hindsight, nothing could ever have prepared me for the chaos that was about to enter my life. Trev, the workman, turned up at 7am the next day. He said that he would be starting at that time every morning, so I lied and told him that it took my ‘carer’ two hours to get me up. From then on he worked from 9-3, during which he took regular breaks to drink vast quantities of strong tea with just a drop of milk and two sugars.
Trev was with me for 23 days. He originally said the job would take ten, but once you add the weekends, the days off for new tattoos, swine flu and funerals...
On day one, he removed the hand basin, the shower and the flooring. For the next three weeks, the only place I could wash was in the kitchen sink. After all these years in the planning, no one had even considered where I might go to take an accessible shower whilst my own was out of action.
For the majority of the time, I had to make do with wet wipes, Fabreeze and a series of pomanders about my person to keep the nasty niffs at bay. it was only the vision of my dream bathroom kept me going. All I ever wanted was a warm, colourful and accessible bathroom that looked good.
Since my flat is owned by the Housing Association, however, their specification was to get the job done as cheaply as possible by replacing the white tiles with the same, refitting the rusty radiator and using plain white paint. When they put in an electric shower, they ran the wires visibly across the ceiling rather than hiding them because to do so would have cost more.
Determined not to be left with a ‘special needs’ bathroom, I went out and bought some large marble tiles, some chrome grab rails and a pot of olive green paint, insisting that Trev use these, rather than the standard issue materials.
It surprised me that he worked for a company who specialised in disability adaptations because when Trev was finished, the mirror hung 5 foot high and out of my reach, the sink plug needed super human strength to insert and the light switch swung tantalisingly from my grasp. I wrote yet another e-mail of complaint and my PA put the kettle on.
At last, an ending to look forward to...
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