I spent this Saturday on Hampstead Heath. My girlfriend’s father was visiting from Brazil and she had decided to take him for a day out in the park.
Communications due to a defective phone meant there was a problem with the rendezvous point. I ended up walking several kilometres through the park and was just about to give up and leave when I spotted a man sitting in a wheelchair. It has been about five years since I saw her father and in that time he has lost his beard and I have grown one, so I wasn’t certain it was him and he did not initially recognise me. It was quite possible I was about to approach some other one-legged man who would be mystified as to why a stranger was greeting him in bad Portuguese!
Things worked out OK and against the odds the three of us managed to spend a pleasant few hours in one of the largest parks in London. As you may gather from the previous paragraphs my girlfriend’s father has lost a leg and in a wheelchair. Some of the paths in Hampstead Heath are quite steep, even if you have the blessing of both legs. They are quite rough too and at one point we had to stop and tighten the screws on his wheelchair that were working loose. Yet another use for the Swiss Army Knife and Leatherman Squirt I always carry!
My girlfriend’s father mainly likes to propel himself but he needed help on some slopes. I will admit that my lady did most of the pushing but I did a few stints myself. The handles are set rather low so pushing was difficult for someone of my height and I was feeling it in my back and hip joints. While I was pushing I was passed by a number of cyclists and joggers, so the thought occurred to me:
“If people want to exercise, why not do something constructive with it?”
This idea is admittedly half-formed, but might there not be some kind of charity event or program that unites athletes and running enthusiasts with wheelchair bound citizens? Not sure how to organize or publicise such an idea, but thought I would throw it out and see if someone comes up with something.