Life in the fast lane by Pat Onions

I have a piece written about David’s new shower. Nothing to do with welfare reform just councils!! It is quite amusing but barely covered half the goings on in a room 12′ x 3′ 6″!! I thought it might take people’s minds away from the horrors of what is happening to us all. A slice of life.


We were fortunate, if you can call it that, to be recommended by the Occupational Therapist, for a new shower for David. The one we inherited when we moved in was far too small for his big frame & disintegrating spine. During a routine assessment this was raised and she confirmed the shower was not fit for purpose. The council would provide a grant of 80% and we had to make up the rest.

So…she visited a second time bringing the council’s answer to Kevin McCloud only shorter and not as good looking or intelligent. This was the ARCHITECT.

The problems soon reared their heads. Shower room is long & narrow. The shower tray is too wide. David sat quietly on his shower stool saying, “it won’t fit, it won’t fit”. Me, who has to shower him, had one foot on the toilet seat trying to reach over to David sitting fully clothed in the pretend space. It was a sheer impossibility that the aforesaid size would ever fit…. it was too big. Architect Kevin was on the floor by now using loo brush and toilet rolls to show where it WOULD go. But it won’t fit David was still quietly telling him.

Right architect Kevin says. We will have to move the radiator, put in a sliding door, shuffle up the toilet and with a bit of squeezing it should go in sideways. This would mean David could be showered, shaved and toileted all at the same time in one very small corner. Brilliant said Kevin.

David had nodded off by now & talking in his sleep, “It won’t fit”

Silent until now OT piped up “but we have to make the door wide enough for a wheelchair”. “Ah” says Kevin now adding soap tray to his growing collection of useful architectural objects on the floor.

My turn to join in as I had cramp in my leg and desperate for a wee. “But where does the wheelchair go once it comes through the door”? The room is so narrow your knees are bumping into the opposite wall and David can’t get to the toilet. If you widen the door to make it wheelchair accessible you will have to widen the bedroom door, outside doors and remove steps. Kevin gave me a look which said…and who are YOU?

By now my Border Collies had appeared in the doorway to see what was happening with their Mum & Dad. Our Collies have invented a game. It involves a squeaky rubber toy and a part of the male anatomy best reserved for procreation. Toys in mouths, as they had a captive audience, the sight of Kevin on elbows & knees with posterior in the air was too much to resist. You know when something is going to happen and there is nothing you can do to stop it? Yup Merritt struck a bull’s eye. Kevin leapt up, banged his head on the toilet bowl, scattering bars of architectural soap, talcum powder & shower gel, letting out a shriek about his manhood. What a brilliant reaction thought Merritt who dived in to collect ball now fallen to the floor and try for a second hit.

David woke with a jolt asking, “Does it fit now”?

It was never going to fit. This is what the council provide for us as disabled people. You know the ‘one size fits all’ syndrome? Most of us would have a space and get something to fit it. Oh no not councils. Buy the cheapest ‘it’ and then make the space fit.

OT went back to her office, searched through her catalogue & sure enough found the right sized one for David AND tray would fit without knocking the house down.

Plans were drawn, we tweaked them, and council tweaked them back again.  Bit bat bit bat. We got final tweak and all was agreed. Door would not be widened but we had to sign a disclaimer saying that if ever David needed to take his wheelchair into the shower room any alterations would be at no cost to them. Signed in blood. Of course we had to have the statutory 3 estimates and they took the statutory cheapest. White tiles, 17p per 100 from a well known Tile shop and any colour floor covering as long as it was cheapest and brown. Oh the worse bit was we had to have half folding doors and a 1970’s plastic curtain. Again any colour & material as long as it is horrible. I did point out that as David’s carer, and with my own disability, I found the half folding doors impossible to manage without getting the rest of the room flooded. Ah yes but you might have a council home carer come in sometime in the future. Might I? You’ve never provided one before in spite of repeated requests. AND David being assessed as entitled to help AND telling us you don’t have any anyway. But I might.

I am a woman. Yup & women have bits that, for the most part, stick out. I am also quite tall but those damnable bits still stick out a little bit. You try leaning over a door which, not only cuts you in half, but squashes those sticky out bits into places Mother nature never designed them to go. Perhaps, in time, Mother Nature will evolve us women into something more suitable to the statutory rules of the council?

After 20 years of caring for David I have never had a problem with full size doors. But then again, what do I know?

Dickie, cheap cheap cheap, Bird, the council appointed builder duly arrived and his first words were “You pay me as soon as I’ve finished, sign here & here & here. OK”?

I had opted to spend a few pennies to try and make it nice for David. I bought some non-white tiles & coloured flooring, which confused Dickie Bird over our 20% contribution. He was one of those people easily confused and clearly wasn’t used to dealing with the likes of me. He didn’t like women full stop. Certainly not ones who knew a thing or two about local authorities & how they operate.

He looked at the plans and scowled. These plans had been drawn up by Kevin early in the New Year and Dickie seemed to have forgotten what he had to do. “My shower trays won’t fit,” wailed Dickie. Bad supplier and new one had a different size. Oops thought I as Collies reached for their toys with a delighted look that said – Is Kevin coming back?

Dickie took the old shower out finding another even smaller one underneath. The removal of this brought his second problem and he left early. I went for a nose around &, sitting on the toilet, thought I can see daylight. Lots of it. In fact weren’t those shapes moving around the cows in the bottom field? I pondered this new non-statutory addition, which Kevin must have over looked. By removing 2 layers of tiles the whole wall had collapsed. Kevin would have had his way and the tray he wanted would have fitted after all. David could have showered outside!

Dickie is still here taking extra time to complete what he regarded as an easy routine council contract. Not a happy bunny. His profiteering from using only the least expensive of materials, ‘offered’ to disabled people, is fast disappearing. All within the council rules who, of course, source the ‘very least expensive’ of everything telling us it is the ‘best use of limited resources.’ They do this regardless of disability needs or those of the carer.

I had a peep this morning, before he arrived, and the new pull to turn on the shower power is hanging from the middle of the ceiling like a hangman’s noose. Ready to snare me when I go in to put towels away. Being brave I questioned this when he arrived. Rules & regulations say it has to be x feet away from the shower & water.  Yes but in the middle of the room inches away from the sink & toilet?  Dunno bout them…just gotta be away from the shower & water. Says so in the rules & regulations. I had a vision of David sitting on the loo with 20,000 volts powering through his body. I left Dickie studying the rules & regulations wondering if some alternative to washing with water had been invented yet?

I will wait until he finishes before passing judgement but despair starts to creep in.

The council work to rules & regulations decided by someone, non-disabled of course, sitting in an office, No consultation to the clients. You take it or leave it and if it weren’t for David I would leave it in the same place as my Collie’s squeaky rubber toy.

Pat Onions

This is dedicated to my 2 beloved Border Collies whose intelligence & inventiveness is beyond any council or architect’s understanding of disabled people.


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One Response to “Life in the fast lane by Pat Onions”

  1. Velva Says:

    Hello, its nice paragraph regarding media print, we alll understand media is a
    impressive souurce of facts.

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