As a surprise for my 21st birthday, my mom and dad surprised me with a trip to London to see Harry Potter & The Cursed Child Part One & Two.
On the day of my 21st birthday, I was at university and we were approaching the end of the student union election week.
I had spent a hard week campaigning to become the University’s disability representative.
At the end of that week, my dad came up for the election results and unfortunately I was not successful.
This result made me very sad so I was glad to be going home, having my birthday celebrations ahead.
Choosing not take any of my presents or cards to University, I had plenty to open when I got home.
I was very spoilt and received lots of new clothes and pajamas and other generous gifts and just as I thought I had opened them all, my parents revealed another present.
Ripping it open, inside I found three tickets to go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part One & Part Two live on stage in July.
(Please refer to next blog post for details on my love for Harry Potter)
The morning of our trip to London, the first thought I had was this weekend had finally arrived and I was going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
We boarded the train and sat comfortably in our first class seats, curtsy of my dad and tucked into a warm sausage sandwich with tomato sauce. Yum!
The train journey itself was quite peaceful and I was able to read more of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playbook, ahead of the play that night.
Arriving into Marylebone station and with the help of assisted travel, who were pre warned of our arrival, helped us off the train and into the main station.
Coming out of Marylebone station, we hoped that we would be able to get a taxi to get us from the station to Green Park tube station so we could get to where we were staying for the weekend, but I had a level of apprehension that we would be met with similar attitudes of taxi drivers that we are often met with in Birmingham.
On approaching a taxi however, the driver got out and gladly helped us into the taxi without hesitation. Why can’t every time be that easy?
Once we got to the tube station, I became nervous, as I wasn’t very confident getting on tubes, as there is limited time for passengers to get on before the doors close.
But with the help of my parents, I managed to get on the tube relatively easily with one big push; we got in, before the tube departed.
The journey from Green Park Station to Stratford was very long and I felt that I was back on the train, on edge to make sure I got off at the right station.
Getting out at Stratford, we took a long walk and made our way out of the tube station. All feeling rather sluggish we took a detour into Costa Coffee to have a drink and cake.
I felt rather greedy having a hot chocolate and a raspberry and white chocolate muffin, but it gave me sugar rush I needed.
Once we had finished at Costa Coffee we all took the long walk up to the office flat where my dad works at and where we would be staying for our London weekend.
Finally getting there, we took our bags from off our aching shoulders and feeling tired from the long walk, we started to unpack and get settled, before we headed back into the West End.
Once I was unpacked and set up and while I was waiting for my parents to change and unpack, I decided to read more of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and more excited about seeing the play in a few short hours.
Catching the tube and getting off at Green Park station and starting to walk through the West End, we came across a Byron’s Burger. Immediately, I fancied a burger and begged my parents to eat there.
Sitting down at a table in Byron’s Burger, we looked at the menu to decide which burgers we wanted along with sides and drinks.
Having been before and enjoyed what I had last time, I was quick off the mark to order; I ordered a cheeseburger with a side of fries and a regular coke.
My parents ordered their meal and we had loads to eat and it was all delicious. After we eat our burgers, we felt so full but when we got the desert menu, the temptation was so great and I decided to have an Oreo milkshake. I couldn’t help it.
Though I managed to finish it, I did feel a bit sick! When we got the bill at the end of the meal, we were all confused; it all didn’t add up, the bill had a very big discount.
The waiter who told us that there was a promotion and their 100th customer and as their 100th customer, all of our food order was on them. We only had to pay for our drinks!
(Please refer to next blog post for details on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child performance)
Returning to Stratford that night, we all felt sluggish and when we got back to the flat we were ready for our beds.
The flat where we were staying was my dad’s London office, so the office was on entering and it had a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen up a number of stairs.
The office was a wide space in which I could move around in, but my parents had to lift me up three or four steps for me to get up to the bathroom and into bed.
The bathroom and bedroom space was quite tight so we did struggle to navigate the three of us around it, but that night I slept comfortably in the one of two double beds.
As I fell asleep, I was excited to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part Two the following night.
The next morning, we woke up feeling rather tired from the night before, but we managed to get to the shopping centre. There’s nothing better than retail therapy!
My parents and I all went to different shops and came out with a great number of shopping bags.
I went into some of my favourite shops and still feeling in the Harry Potter mood, I know I probably shouldn’t have, but I bought myself another set of Harry Potter DVD’s, even though I already had a set.
I also bought several Harry Potter charms, which I attached to my bracelet along with the great number of others I already had.
In between shopping, we had something to eat, but when we went to use the toilet facilities we were faced by the ongoing issue of able-bodied people using disabled toilets.
The shopping centre had limited disabled toilets as it was, so we found it even more annoying this time around.
I swear that as we waited for ones to become available, able-bodied people stepped out of the ones that were engaged.
Suppressing our feelings and resulting to our better judgment we didn’t say anything and used one when one did come available and as we did, we said to each other that next time we would try and find a toilet with a radar key as it would give us more privacy and there’s no way of able bodied people using them.
After doing some more shopping, we took the tube back into the main part of London to spend the rest of the day and evening before Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Part Two.
While we were in the West End, I soaked up as much of the atmosphere as possible. As we walked, we didn’t have any logical destination but we soon found ourselves in Leicester Square.
I didn’t notice where we were at first until my dad pointed it out; Leicester Square was where we came for The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part Two film premiere.
The night of The Hunger Games premiere I was with my dad while my mom was at work so she was unable to come, so being there with her was exciting, I was able to show her where we were sitting and where the actors and cast were coming in and describe what happened. I was able to relive the night and it was fantastic.
Walking into the edge of the West End, we made our way to the restaurant that mom and dad booked for their wedding anniversary meal. They were celebrating their 11th wedding anniversary.
I was still confused, why they wanted to spend their anniversary night watching Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but oh well, it suited me! My parents had chosen this restaurant and booked the night before when we went to Byron’s Burgers, the restaurant was called Balans.
We all had delicious food and I particularly enjoyed my Greek pita with all sorts of meats and vegetables. I ate every last bit of it!
While I was eating, I took a glance at the booklet that I had from the play to see whether there was any other souvenirs I wanted to buy that night.
I hoped by doing this, I wouldn’t be too reckless when I got to the theatre and bought them.
Though this was the plan, by the time the dessert menu came, I was no closer to deciding which souvenirs I wanted to buy when I was at the play.
Though I was still feeling very full from my main course, I couldn’t resist a desert. Glancing down at the menu, I picked a chocolate cheesecake.
At first my mom and dad were adamant they weren’t going to have a dessert and they were going to have an extra spoon to have a bit of mine.
I used my persuasion techniques and finally convinced my mom to have a pudding, wanting my chocolate cheesecake all to myself. My mom decided on a sticky toffee pudding and dad had an extra spoon.
Dad waited on the wings with a spoon, while mom and I tucked into our deserts. I could see by the look on his face that he was just waiting for his opportunity but we were very territorial, he didn’t get one bite! It was the most delicious cheesecake I had ever tasted!
(Please refer to next blog post for details on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child performance)
Originally, we were due to go home the next morning, but we had a change of plans. On the first tube journey into West End, my dad was roped in and spoke to a man who happened to be a steward in the Parathletics, which were taking place at London’s Olympic park, that weekend.
This caught our attention as we’d seen this and similar events on TV or heard about it, but never got a chance to attend. So that morning we got up early, we got tickets and went to the London’s Olympic park and went and watched the Parathletics.
Sitting amongst other wheelchair visitors to watch the Parathletics, I admired the different activities and races that took place and the number of Parathletics that participated.
I watched how different Parathletes with different difficulties went up against each other, but showed a united front in the activities that took place.
As the morning Parathletics came to the end, we walked back through the Olympic Park and found a changing place.
This meant a lot to me as designers had finally taken it on board that these are of importance and buildings need them, particularly when these events take place. It sets a good impression and a good president.
Planning to go back to the Parathletics again that evening, we went back into Stratford and do some more shopping, of course!
I was very much out of money by the end of the weekend, but I still went shopping… Aghh!
I need to practice restrain! While shopping, I went back to use the toilets and found the same as always.
All of the disabled toilets were engaged, being used by able-bodied people, again. On coming out of one, we came out and saw that a line of able-bodied people had formed for the toilets and when I came out, a women held the bathroom door open for me, at first I thought it was a lovely jester, her being helpful, but no. Of course not.
When I got out, the women passed me and went straight into the toilet I had just vacated. Don’t they have any shame?
This encouraged me to consider creating a strong campaign, which fought for more Changing Places and radar keys to be put on every disabled toilet in public, to prevent able-bodied people from using them and to enable those with disabilities to be able to use them.
I know this will be difficult, but I am determined to put up a fight and achieve this, making an impression and a stand.
The Changing Places campaign is difficult and ongoing, but people are still seeing it through to achieve a good result. This is inspiring me and I will create a campaign and petition. It begins now!
Returning to the London’s Olympic park for the evening Parathletics, we retook our seats and the stadium was filled full of people of all ages all coming to watch the Parathletics.
In that night’s Parathletics, I paid close attention to every event that took place and those who took part.
I watched how the Parathletes were altered so no matter the difficulty, every person was on equal footing, then how they all pushed themselves through the race or obstacle course and their own challenges in order to win.
This showed me that anyone with any disability could encourage themselves and others to do anything at any level. Us disabled people have talent too, for me it’s writing. When I went to bed that night, I lay there, thinking about what I saw at the Parathletics.
The next morning, while on the train home, I continued writing. Why pass up a chance when you have time and you have the inspiration? To good an opportunity to miss.
Arriving into Moor Street station, dad went to go and get the car and then we travelled home together, ending our busy weekend.