Going Solo… Sort Of

Going Solo… Sort Of

john connor

In my youth, I hitchhiked the breadth of North America ― Canada, from east to west. I had 16 first cousins in the country and only my parents back at home. My quest was to meet them all. Which I duly did.

I traversed the whole of the Trans-Canada Highway from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Vancouver, British Columbia, replete with a big loop into the far north of the province. (One of my cousins was in the Canadian Air Force and was stationed at an early warning facility.) Then, back down to Edmonton, in Alberta, where I flew back to the U.K. Oh, yes, and completed a self-imposed crossing-a-continent challenge. Vancouver was one of the few towns where I had no cousins.

The point of bringing up this derring-do sojourn is to illustrate that I’m not averse to adventure. This was back in 1982, when the closest we had to a smartphone was the tricorder in Star Trek. All I had to survive on were my wits and a couple of Kurt Vonnegut paperbacks. You’d be surprised at the adventures this led me into, just by reading them in bars/cafes and the conversations that they sparked.

So it goes.

Ahem.

Strange then, to feel apprehension driving 5 miles on my own to my new exercise class.

My wife and son ushered me to the car, where I hit a new problem. Somehow, getting into the driver’s side really confused my legs. Neither would go in! These days, I’m used to the passenger side. My son poured me into the seat. Now what?

It had been months since I’d actually driven. I seem to have forgotten certain technical aspects. It was an automatic, surely just pressing the accelerator would make it move. I have hand controls, but I was using them correctly. Was there something the matter with the car? Should I call my wife? Instinctively, I felt this would be embarrassing. Quelling panic, I revved again. Nothing.

I’d forgotten that even in an automatic, you have to put the gear shift into drive! Hardly an automatic then. Perhaps I’d been doing too much research about self-driving cars.

I was off.

Once on the road, everything was fine. The years of driving flooded back, and I arrived safely.

Made a phone call and a physio got my wheelchair out and helped me into the building. The ramps are far too steep for me to get in unaided. Even a few years ago, in my “I do weights” phase, I wouldn’t have had the strength.

The class was very gentle; several machines did all the work for me. Being disabled has advantages! In the stretching class at the end, I noticed my right arm had lost a lot of its range. I was told by my very first neurologist the maxim, “If you don’t use it, you lose it!” Hopefully, I’ve restarted just in time.

At the end, I was helped back into the car and made it home. I had to sit in the drive, waiting for help to get into the house.

My wife and youngest son had used their freedom to go down to the pub.

My hitchhiking days are over, though I can still raise the thumb on my left arm.

It’s the only one I needed for crossing Canada, hey.

***

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‘In 1982 John Connor was a stand up, sketch writer & journalist – crap at all three he decided whilst watching a man performing with a paper bag on his head that as nobody else was going to write about stand up he would’. ‘Comics’ Papermac 1990. In 2009 John Connor was diagnosed with MS. In 2017 John Connor still produces/directs his own live 27 year old resident topical comedy show at London’s Comedy Store – ‘The Cutting Edge’. He was also a leading UK Casting Director specialising in comedy – including one of the hippest shows ‘Black Books’ [double BAFTA winning Situation Comedy Award] & for at least a decade the biggest sitcom on British TV ‘My Family’. TV & MS was a step too far – and we know how hard any step can be. Luckily his satirical show was a built in part time job & with the election of Trump is now in the zeitgeist. John now writes “Fall Down Get Up Again” – an irreverent journey with MS.
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‘In 1982 John Connor was a stand up, sketch writer & journalist – crap at all three he decided whilst watching a man performing with a paper bag on his head that as nobody else was going to write about stand up he would’. ‘Comics’ Papermac 1990. In 2009 John Connor was diagnosed with MS. In 2017 John Connor still produces/directs his own live 27 year old resident topical comedy show at London’s Comedy Store – ‘The Cutting Edge’. He was also a leading UK Casting Director specialising in comedy – including one of the hippest shows ‘Black Books’ [double BAFTA winning Situation Comedy Award] & for at least a decade the biggest sitcom on British TV ‘My Family’. TV & MS was a step too far – and we know how hard any step can be. Luckily his satirical show was a built in part time job & with the election of Trump is now in the zeitgeist. John now writes “Fall Down Get Up Again” – an irreverent journey with MS.
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2 comments

  1. David Hall says:

    Good for you a Gutsy solo drive ! I’m going solo soon using my Left leg only with a left accelerator.Im pretty nervous.In my younger days I’d driven a campervan all over the UK and Europe

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