Updated: Jul 28, 2021
I was one of the few lucky parents that was allowed to attend their children's sports day this week.
Sat on the grass watching children running around trying to keep eggs on spoons took me back to my school days. The list of subjects you learn at school which you will never need in adulthood is long and includes algebra, French, woodworking and pretty much all of the races competed in on sports day.
Between 1993 and 2018 I would have included wheelbarrow walking to the list but this unusual method of movement has become a huge part of my life post injury . Wheelbarrowing is one of the most joyful ways to get around between the ages of 4 and 10 and actually pretty enjoyable in your thirties.
The reason I have taken this up again is not an act of pure nostalgia. It is quite simply the most efficient and comfortable way I've found to travel up stairs. I don't condone it for others and have no doubt it would make my consultant shudder if she saw it but, for me, it works and is a safer option then a piggyback.
About three months after perfecting the method we set off for the usual walk of 36 stairs up to a friends flat one Saturday afternoon. Making steady progress on to the landing between the second and third flights we heard a noise to our right as we rounded the corner. Looking over to where the noise came from we saw a door with number 3 on its front slowly open to reveal an older couple with their coats on chatting to each other. They caught sight of us and immediately stopped their conversation. Shock appeared on their faces. We remained in wheelbarrow, not quite sure how to react. They looked at us, we back at them.
It must have been quite the unusual scene to open your door to. Two guys the wrong side of 30 one balancing on his hands while a guy behind him held his legs both motionless outside your home. The only chance of context was the wheelchair which was well out of sight.
The old couple continued to stare at us with wide eyes and blank expressions.
Before we had a chance to explain, our view disappeared as the door closed in front of them.
The following morning it was time to leave the flat and head home. The wheelchair was carried downstairs and this time a different friend was on leg patrol. I'm always a little nervous with a new partner as it takes a while to learn each others flow and the correct hand positions but I was assured he knew what to do. As we neared the end of the first set of stairs he protested.
"I need to put you down"
"I must have a bad grip or something"
"Are you going to drop me?"
"Then keep going"
We rounded the corner,
"I really need to stop."
"Your trousers are falling down"
"There is nothing left to the imagination"
We had a decision to make. Go down on the floor to reset and pull my trousers up, a much bigger task when paralysed, especially when naked from the waist down, or keep going. I looked up. We were outside number 3 and I couldn't be sure but I thought I heard the faint clinking of metal as if a door lock was being opened. I didn't want to stay to find out.
"Not here mate, we can't. We have to carry on."
I channelled my finest Obama victory speech "Yes you can!, keep going"
We made it safely to the bottom (pun intended) while my shocked partner trying not to look down and gladly didn't see another soul that morning.
Two grown men doing the wheelbarrow with or without underpants is undoubtedly a strange thing to witness when you are on your way out for a spot of lunch, but I'm not entirely sure a piggyback would have been any less shocking. If they had seen us would the police consider it a textbook case of scene of indecent exposure? Would we be an anecdote regaled at the bowls club, or were the couple actually the 1967 wheelbarrow walk world champions and simply considered it vital pre competition training.
We will never know but every time I see the number 3 I check my pants and think about the shocked looking couple.
I learnt something that weekend.
Always wear a belt.