Travelling on a wheelhair.
27.08.2010 - 27.08.2010 22 °C
It was Friday night, after breaking our fast at approximately 8:09 pm and finishing with prayers, my Mom thought aloud ‘let’s go to the beach tomorrow’. Hearing that my eyes lit up and after a long day of fasting instead of feeling tired I felt full of energy. ‘Yes! Great, lets go for it then’, I said, on saying this I also checked the weather on bbc.co.uk, ‘the weather is gonna be fairly humid and warm’, I said, ‘but its gonna be also partly cloudy’. ‘Well’, my Mom said, ‘we’ll go to Ramsgate tomorrow, in England the weather is never good. We’ll try to leave at 11:00 am in the morning’. I was excited as I love visiting places even for a day. Although I have been to Ramsgate many a times before but this time I was a bit more excited as I shall be posting it on my blog.
The next day I woke up at 8:00 am, showered, wore a bright yellow t-shirt and jeans (as I am never able to go into the water since I have been using a wheel chair, therefore I never bother to wear beach clothes) but on this trip every things going to change. Anyway so here I am all dressed ready to leave, as we were all fasting due to Ramadan we didn’t have to pack any picnic edible items. By 11:00 pm we were all in the car, seat belts all bucked up and the Satellite Navigator (Tom Tom) all set to guide us through the web of motor ways all the way to Ramsgate. According to the navigator it was an hour’s drive but before setting on our journey my Mom had to pay a visit to the bank in town, which was totally cool. Technically we left for Ramsgate from Maidstone at 12 o’clock.
Personally I dislike driving on motorway, they are so long it’s like an endless stream of repetitive boredom. Well, here we were driving on the motorway as I call it the ‘endless stream of boredom’. Thankfully we had a lot to talk about, my Mom had come back from her vacation in Pakistan, and so we were talking about that a lot. Finally in no time we were there, as my Mom got my wheel chair from the boot and I was preparing to disembark the car my mobile rang, so I received it. It was a friend whom I had to apologize as I was unable to speak to as I was at the beach with family. As we were fasting and couldn’t eat so my Mom told us that she’ll stay in the car a bit and sleep as the long drive made her tired. Which was kind of good as I could take loads of pictures and venture into the town centre, which was awesome!
There I was on my way to the seaside town of Ramsgate, it is old and beautiful. As said by Terrie Petree (It’s that kind of place) ‘it’s like a dream of kissing old lovers and being dressed up like the Queen. It’s that kind of place. It is a centuries old town of homes, shops, restaurants and small hotels facing the Ramsgate harbour. From the town towards the sea the postcard view of the harbour and the channel beyond, it looks out at a stretch of the English coast where Charles Dickens, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Vincent Van Gogh, lived and worked. The history of Ramsgate and the harbour is enough to make you wish that the place was haunted. I can tell you from experience that it isn’t. I spent one week at the Ramsgate Harbour as an unofficial writer in residence. I didn’t see any ghosts during my stay, but I saw enough exotic people, full moons, passenger laden ferries, monstrous clouds, ancient passageways, and glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice to fuel my imagination for months to come and fresh seafood’. Well that is how Ramsgate the seaside city truly is, beautiful and mysterious.
I crossed the road from the harbour, on the other side they are cafes, motels, pubs, restaurants, bed and breakfasts all in a endless row. Almost all of them have the word ‘harbour’, ‘sea’ or ‘fish’ in their title names, like ‘The Royal Harbour Hotel’, ‘The Sea Front Restaurant’, ‘The Fresh Fish Market’ and so on. As I went deep into the town centre it all reminded me of a very old English market place, where all the shops were squeezed side by side along with narrow pathways and alleys running up and down towards the residential area. They were fruit and vegetable vendors all over the place shouting away the prices of their items to be sold. There was a post-office, many jewellery and charity shops, a butcher, a barber, few banks and hardly any clothes shop (kind of boring, so they had all the basic amenities). On yeh! There was also an ice-cream van standing in the middle of town, they also had a Mc Donalds, KFC and a Boots and Super Drug (the label/logo of Boots and a few other shops was still the old one, the one which I remember when I was a kid. Now that was weird nostalgic and it felt so ancient). Hence the town is basically the centre of Ramsgate in a very typical old fashioned way where the shops and businesses are in the centre (of course!, and in the middle and on the streets they are the open market stalls) and the surrounding area and the out skirts there are the residents of the town.
On a Saturday, that is when I went, I went right up to the corner of King and High Streets and the shop stalls that line the way. Most of the goods are fairly priced: brass light fixtures, t-shirts and fresh fruit, but there is also an Indian leather goods shop where they sell very attractive slippers. I made sure to visit each and every shop and stall (even the chemist and post-office) and also managed to buy some grapes from one of the open market stalls. I got a whole big pack of seedless grapes for just a pound, what a bargain I must say, and they were sweet as well. The stuff sold at the open market was interesting and I spent a lot of my time investigating them. Apart from fruit and veg stalls there was a stall where one could find all the equipment for fishing, from fishing rods, nets to live baits and hooks. Another one was selling all these colourful cheap plastic toys made in China; they were also selling plastic kitchen utensils. There was also a small boot fair sale selling used books and clothes in order to raise money for a animal charity. There were also many cafes, pubs and restaurants there and many of them had fresh fish as their speciality on their menu.
Anyways, after wondering around the town for approximately three hours I headed back towards the seaside. My Mom called to let me know that she is awake now and walking towards the sea. On my way back to the seaside I also saw many people from different countries and nationalities. I found it was very tricky to distinguish the locals from the non-locals that are the Europeans and American. I found out that many are European youths, Portuguese immigrants, British families on holiday, and day travellers like me and others who come via ferries from Oostende (located in Belgium) and Calais in France. From the sea front I also enjoyed the view of massive and luxurious ferries come in and out through the harbour, I also saw the private sail yachts, clippers and catamaran (a sailing boat or engine-powered boat that has two identical hulls fixed together by a rigid framework) that come from all over the UK. It made me wonder that among all those tourists, travellers, and sailors there must be someone who once was in Calais or some other French coastal city and looked out at Ramsgate. It’s true that France is visible from the seaside only and when the weather is clear, but unfortunately when I was there it was very cloudy (this can be clearly seen in the pictures).
Ramsgate is a port city, and therefore a portal into the heart and history of England. Once the tide goes down, one can walk along the white-rocked beach to Broadstairs and visit Bleak House, the home where Charles Dickens lived and worked. (Although drearily named, the house and the walk are bright and entertaining it is all wheelchair accessible so one can even wheel themselves easily even most of the beach is all ramped, so no worries there). If one is eager to shop or explore the place more, they have boats and trains that will take people on several pleasurable day trips. Leaving the Ramsgate station, one can be in London in about an hour and a half. The train ride itself is a nice, easy journey and the scenery changes from beachscapes and rows of tiny ocean-facing cottages to villages boasting tall cathedrals and antique bookstores to the big, metallic and impressive face of industrial London. Or, ferry across the channel and in an hour you can be in Calais and in four hours you can be in Oostende. Although they are surprisingly closely located cities, but entirely different. As someone said that ‘if I were drugged, blindfolded, kidnapped, and then abandoned in the middle of one of these towns, I would know that I am in a foreign country just by looking at the houses and building?’ Both are unique, both are decidedly non-British, and both are refreshingly not alike. At the Ramsgate beach the sea changes its colour at least five times a day and sometimes it is more than five different colours at once. Stripes and patches of water go from teal to slate and from silver to midnight blue. Seagulls are bothersome birds, but when watched them soar white-winged against the blue and white sky and over the multi-coloured sea it sure does make one’s mind change.
At around 4 pm we all decided to sit at the cafe on the beach, where they were selling hats, coffee, drinks, chips and ice-cream. They were a few cute life guards standing next to the rubber rings and life saving equipment. Next to all this there were these two peculiar looking wheel chairs, they had huge rubber tyres like for blown up balloons. I went over to one of the cute life guards and asked about the chairs. I came to know that they were free of charge and specially designed, for wheel chair users, to be driven on the sand and taken into the water. It all sounded awesome and I had to try them. So I asked if I could try them, and yes, they agreed. one of the guys picked me up and placed me on the wheel chair with big wheel, it was like a hovercraft. ‘Am I heavy,’ I asked, ‘No, gosh you are so tiny and light,’ the cute life guard said, shyly I giggled. Although I do know that I am light but it’s nice to hear it from a potential cute guy. But in a instant all my dreams were tarnished as his girl friend came and gave him a kiss on his lips.
Anyway here I was, my shoes and socks off trousers folded, all ready to go into the cool waters (correction please it was freezing cold). Do checkout my pictures it will tell the height of excitement I was in, could not stop giggling. Gently the chair like a hovercraft with me sitting in it was pushed down the beach; it was a bumpy and adventurous trip to the sea. Finally I had reached and my feet were dipping into the sea, the water was so cold but I enjoyed every bit of it. ‘It was AWESOME!’ Anyways, it was getting late now so we decided to head back home to Maidstone. Soon we all got loaded in the car, assembled our navigator (Tom Tom) in the car for directions and on the motorway back home.
I advise all, that a day out at the beaches in Kent is a very good accessible escape from the daily life routine. Please do try it, and do give me your side of the story, anxiously waiting for your question, suggestions, comments, anything