It sounds easy – hop a train to the big smoke, take a tour around an ancient building, wander across the bridge and take a scenic river cruise before getting to the favoured eatery for dinner and hop the train back home – simples, right?!? Well sort of usually yes until you add the obstacle of a wheelchair.
We are not going until sometime towards the end of June, but you have to sort these things early. First I contact the Houses of Parliament [via my MP’s secretary] to ask when there are places on the tours across a number of dates, that can take a wheelchair person. Of course the reply is “when do you want to come”; well you see it depends on whether the ONE wheelchair space is available on each of the FOUR train journeys, once I have the dates the HofP Tour can happen, I can see what train seats are available and confirm a date and time. Pencils don’t exist in an electronic world … the HofP couldn’t pencil me across two or three dates that I could confirm within 24 hours, so it was a case of keeping everything crossed, would it be too tempting for Lord Sod and Mischievous Murphy to tinker and f-udge up best laid plans.
Then I called the Train People – I need one wheelchair and 2 others on these trains, on these dates, at these times, pretty please thank you much ….. poor chap, I think there was steam coming from his various screens and keyboards and he went through trying to book the people ticket and the assisted travel service and each time there was one that would not comply. [what you thought the wheelchair booking system was linked to the ticket booking system? You mad mad mad fool!! Of course not, what idiot would do something like that]. Eventually as the tour available dates were being crossed out one by one, there was one that fit ….. BOOK IT, NOW!!
Wing confirmation email to HofP for specific date, specific timed tour, for definite, in proper pen – we are coming!! Thankfully the spaces were still available [often they are booked more than six months in advance – I know, who knew, not their web site].
Next the London Eye River Cruise booking …. copious amounts of reading online as to their preferred procedure. Of course they don’t answer the important questions, so I wing an email to them and the reply answers one of the three questions but not the other two, so return email with two questions and one more is answered. *sigh* Right, sort of sorted, book tickets online, then after paying the non-refundable ticket price, telephone their customer service centre and book the wheelchair space. Err, hello, I don’t want to buy a ticket and then hope the wheelchair space is available, I want to make sure it is available then book and then confirm. Am I the only one who sees this issue? After eventually finding the river cruise times and they eventually confirming that the time is not the boarding time but heading off time so be there 30 minutes earlier to get the necessary things done at the ticket office [they don’t mention that on the web site – every trip must leave late as it never says boarding 10 minutes before time – again am I the only one who sees the problem?]. I managed to get an email saying that the wheelchair space was currently available on these times, and so I went ahead and booked our tickets and emailed back with my order number and confirmation of needing that wheelchair space. Email reply – we cannot take bookings via email please call our customer service line at 15p per minute.
I telephone them, an automated please press 1-2-3 goes through all the Eye options and never mentions anything about the river cruises – of course there is no option to “press to speak to a human because we forgot reasons people may be calling us at vastly inflated prices” …. I pressed a key and waited, waited, waited, spoke to a person and I explained river cruise, this date, this time, wheelchair space please …. of course the option I chose was the wrong one I needed the “make a booking” line not the “alter existing booking” line *rolleyes*. I waited as I was transferred, waited and waited, then finally a human spoke and I repeated my request and got the obligatory “please hold while I see to that for you” which is code for ‘crap we did this in training I think now where are my notes, [nudge person next to you] do you know how to book in wheelchairs, etc etc etc’.
Anyway, wheelchair space booked, the confirmation email never arrived as I am not sure the person spelt my email address correctly [which is already on my existing booking, which she could not access because she only does new bookings, but existing bookings cannot book wheelchair spaces] which I spelt out three times.
Hey ho! We will see if the day rides smoothly or not .. it better!