Tag Archives Get out of the house!

Cane walking (part two – public transport)

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Travelling by public transport while using a cane is quite an ordeal here in The Netherlands. To get into a tram, bus or train I have to hoist myself into the carriage, as there’s usually steps. More often then not this hoisting is preceded by a jump, as the platform and the carriage do not line up. Arrived at my destination, I then have to find a way to get out of the vehicle. This “getting out of the carriage”-motion can only be described as “ejecting”: I have to throw myself out and hope that I manage to land safely on my “good” leg, at the risk of breaking said leg, my cane and/or landing face forward onto the pavement/bike path/road. Back in my competitive figure skating days, I could have never foreseen that those years of training would ever come in handy in a completely different setting, but they do.

Seeing that getting in and out of carriages is a nightmare, changing vehicles or modes of transportation is pure hell. After ejecting myself out of the bus/tram/train, I need to first fight my way through the people blocking the exit. For the non-Dutch: this is a Dutch thing. The people who want to get on the vehicle, all huddle together right in front of the exit, despite it being obvious that there’s people who need to get out first. I know, it makes no sense, but they almost all do it. I’ll make a short documentary about it one day. So yeah, after fighting my way through the huddle, I have to barge through a herd of people who are in a hurry to catch their connection. In the mean time, I have to hope/furiously check if the vehicle I need to change to hasn’t changed platforms. Having found my new tram/bus/train, I again have to hoist myself inside, and hope there’s a place where I can sit. On the train, the designated seats for the elderly/handicapped are wonderful, but on the bus they’re often really high up, forcing me to hoist and jump again. The person who designed these allocated seats has clearly never thought about the physical state of the people who need them.

Another reason why changing vehicles is hell, is that I often miss my connection. I am unable to eject myself from one train, then limp my way from platform 20 to platform 3 and then hoist myself into another train in 6 minutes. Which means that I have to leave home earlier and that my journey takes longer. A lot longer: where cane-less I usually get from a particular A to a particular B in 50 minutes, with my cane it takes me 1 1/2 hours. Times two, this amounts to 3 hours of travel instead of my usual 1 hour and 40 minutes. It’s exhausting. And this is when all goes well. I haven’t counted the times I had to cripple myself up and down stairs while crying in pain because of elevators that were “Out of order”, making me then miss yet another connection, making my journey even longer.

On the other hand, I must admit that most people were very friendly and helpful as soon as they saw that I was using a cane. In the entire period there was only 1 asshole who almost body checked me off the escalator with her bag. Everybody else was super nice: people gave up their seat, asked the bus driver to wait for me, carried my bag or held the door for me. Also, the cane proved a great conversation starter: I have never had so many interactions with strangers in public. Some people just said “Great cane!”, others cautiously inquired about “the leg”. One lady told me her sister had the exact same cane, and a gentleman of around my age told me the story of his paralysed arm.

Despite my aversion to the whole “Suffering is a learning experience!” way of thinking, I must admit that this experience has given me insights that I didn’t have before. Sure, I knew that walking around in this world is a lot harder when you have mobility issues and that there’s still a lot that can and should be done to make this easier, but I had severely underestimated the extend of it. The fact that I, with what in the grand scheme of things is a temporary, minor injury, have had SO MUCH TROUBLE getting from A to B, means that there is a truly HUGE group of people who are currently shut off from (travelling by themselves by) public transport, which is effectively shutting them off from a part of society. And that is, again, most definitely Not Ok.

Here are some links to Dutch organisations who are working hard to change this:

Cane walking (part one)

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In an attempt to accelerate the recovery of my achilles tendon injury, I underwent two Shockwave treatments; one in November and one in January. After each of those treatments, I was not allowed to walk for two days. For the 12 days after that, I was advised to “walk as little as possible, and as slowly as possible”. Knowing myself, I knew I had to find an external tool to keep myself from disregarding all pain and barge up and down the large Jan Schaefferbridge at the end of my street, to then do an aerobics video in my living room. File under: how I acquired this particular injury.

Inspired by a Hannah Witton video, I decided to buy a foldable walking stick that fit inside my purse. On a side note: there must be a difference between a cane and a walking stick, but I haven’t been able to figure it out and will therefore use both words when referring to the same thing. Anyway, this walking stick would both be supporting me and making sure I couldn’t walk faster than I should, but it would also signal to the outside world “I have difficulty walking, please don’t rush me”. Because The Netherlands in general and Amsterdam in particular is a stressed out mess.

Having lived here for the majority of my life, I am well aware of this fact, but I must say that every time I (due to illness or injury) am not able to keep up with the pace, it’s a shock. Amsterdam’s public space in particular is completely unsuited for anyone who has even a small mobility issue, let alone a large one. There’s bikes everywhere, curbs are often ridiculously high, elevators and escalators are regularly either broken or blocked by (you guessed it!) bikes, the traffic situation is often completely unclear. On top of that, most if not all Amsterdam pavements are wonky and far from smooth. I have been told that this is due to ground water level shifts and not because we are bad at laying pavements.

What also doesn’t help, are the almost constant renovations and works in various areas of the city. And of course the fact that after all this, a huge amount of tourists and a huge amount of people actually living here who are trying to get to work are thrown into the mix.

The resulting situation can only be described as “a complete mess”. Amsterdam has clearly become a city for young, healthy people, and I’m quite sure that I don’t have to explain to you why this is Not Ok.

“Quentin Blake’s Friends” exhibit at Museum Meermanno The Hague

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Last summer, during my handlettering workshop at CREA, I first heard of Museum Meermanno. A museum completely dedicated to books: I needed to go there asap, especially when I found out that they were having a Quentin Blake exhibit.

Niiice!

As you can see, the museum building is an attraction in itself. I as usual went “Yup, sure, I’ll move in!”, but I don’t think they were looking for a live in caretaker at the moment. Or at all. Anyway, the museum was a lot larger than I had expected, so I decided to see the temporary exhibits first. Should I run out of time, I would just come back some other time to see the permanent exhibits.

In this day of “there are no rules, walk into an exhibit any way you want”, I am always happy to see clear directions. And arrows.

I love that they thought of their target audience and had these little foot stools everywhere.

What I really liked about this exhibit is that they didn’t only show finished work, but also a lot of works in progress. Quentin Blake takes you with him through his work process and explains why he made certain decisions when creating certain characters. He also shows that sometimes creating illustrations is quite literally trial and error, which is encouraging to anyone who tries their hand at creating things.

This fish is everything. <3!

A close up of an original illustration from his very first book. You can still see the white out!

One of my favorite illustrations from ESIO TROT, a charming story with a happy end. Yes, even for this tortoise.

Early character sketches for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The sketch and the final published illustration.

A self portrait.

This extensive exhibit chronicles his entire career up to now, and not only features finished drawings and works in progress, but also books and (video) interviews. However, since this exhibit is still on until 3 March 2019, I’ll leave it at this short impression. If you have the chance to go to Museum Meermanno in The Hague and see it for yourself, please do. You won’t be disappointed!

Links:

Museum Meermanno (English site)

Quentin Blake’s awesome site

Note: Like all my posts in the “Get out of the house!” series, this activity was booked and paid for by me, after which I got stoked and decided to write about it all by myself. #nospon