On Saturday 3rd of December I left the club at 12:30 am. I had had a ball time and I was ready to go to bed. Straightaway I dashed to the train station, the only place which guarantees taxis which take card payment. While in the front of the queue I turned off my wheelchair. The rightful taxi- a wheelchair accessible taxi pulled up and I turned on my new wheelchair to no avail. The monitor constantly displayed the “pm m1 brake error 1505 error”. I was bewildered and my brain was all over the place, trying to start the chair was a puzzling endeavour. This can’t be happening, the chair is fairly new I thought to myself. When I checked my time, it was around 1am.
Many taxis came and went while I was still stuck in front of the queue, however I was no longer dealing with the ordeal alone. One strong Romanian guy was volunteering to go with me to my place and help push me into the house, he suggested this after someone had coined a daft inconsiderate idea to help lift my chair into the taxi and let the driver take me home without help from the other side. Also there was a couple standing by me, the wife was refusing to go home until I get help. She was trying to call the corps (police) to see if they can do something to help. At first they told her that they can’t do nothing as they were too busy, that’s when tears started streaming down her cheeks ruining her nicely done makeup. So emotional she was and genuinely wanted to help however the husband kept on reminding people that he was only waiting because of his wife.
Many kept on asking me if I know someone I could call. Of course I know plenty but what if I was in a foreign country, I thought to myself recalling my independent wheelchair experiences from 2015- 2019. I went through worse experiences but regardless of how far I was from home I unstuck myself free of many sticky situations. I was constantly reminded that there is God if I ever needed a reason.
Two corps finally arrived, one male and the other was a female with striking beauty. One bloke in the queue couldn’t hold back his natural man and tried to charm her panties off, very inappropriate I thought given what I was going through. However from a different perspective it could be said that there is never an inappropriate time to express how you feel about someone, an opportunity comes to pass and might never arise again.
Meanwhile the male corp was trying to restore order because many in the queue where becoming frustrated and agitated. With no authority people live lawlessly like animals, with no civic order.
After he restored some order he then walked back to where I was and asked how he could put my chair into a manual mode. As I was thinking about it and how to show him, he said I have figured it out, while he was kneeling at the rear of my chair. Consequently he pushed my wheelchair to the other side of the road where a black and white Sharan taxi was parked. It proved problematic to access it, the ramp dropping down from the side was a bit steep, and that required a monumental effort. It was an insurmountable task for the corp, instead of offering the corp the help to push me up the ramp many started murmuring then I overheard a gentleman telling the corp to ban me from queueing for taxis at the train station citing that I had been a nuisance to many on several occasions.
I found his remarks not only vitriolic but also toxic and diabolic, I had never been a nuisance to anyone far from it people like me and respect me. When I looked back I recognised his face. He is the senior taxi driver of the Leeds Local Authority Taxis dubbed the ‘Black and White’ taxis. I recalled having some issues with him around 2006, after he struggled to figure out how to clamp my old wheelchair in his taxi. Afterwards he red listed me and ordered all the Black and White taxis to refrain from picking me up.
He drives taxi number 375, he really doesn’t like me. Well no matter how many and no matter how well you get along with many there is always a few who harbour ill will.
Anyhow it was freezing cold and it had been more than two hours waiting at the train station. The ramp for the Sharan was too steep so decided to use a Peugeot rear loader, the ramp comes out from the back and it was less inclined. The agreed plan was for the corps to follow the taxi and help me to access my house.
Serendipitously and miraculously, half way home I turned on the chair and it was working again. I then got home and waited for the corps following me to arrive. When they arrived I made sure that they were not planning on banning me from using taxis or imposing any restrictions alike as the driver of the taxi 375 had suggested. They told me not to worry about it as the guy was spewing vitriolic crap, not in those words as such but you get the gist.
If any of my fellow permobil users ever see “pm m1 brake error 1505 error” on their monitors. Try putting your chair into manual mode for a few minutes and put it again in electric mode and everything should work again.
On the 3rd of June 2019 I took a train from Leeds Train Station at 09:16 and arrived at Kings Cross Station in London around 12. Kings Cross is next to the Eurostar services at St Pancras. The Eurostar train was due to set off at 16:31 and I needed to crossover at least two hours before my train was scheduled to leave. In the train I accidentally ran over a teddy bear which belonged to a little boy following his mother holding her hand and dragging the teddy with the other. The boy was upset and his facial expression terrified me. He was like the creepy kid, Damien from the Omen. The son of the Devil. The kid’s mien or appearance was intimidating. “You are mean, you killed him now he wants your heart” said the boy with the strangest look on his face. The mother interjected, “I will buy you another, Roland, it was an accident now pick him up and let’s go”. The boy could speak English very well but the mother sounded French.
At 19:47 the train arrived at Gare du Norde and it was still as bright as the day. Vigilant as always I dashed to check-in at my hotel which happens to be within the vicinity of Gare du Norde (train station). Since the sun was still out when I got to the hotel. I could have gone out but I decided to have a moment of peace after unpacking my travelling bag. I haven’t forgotten anything, I thought and I gave myself thumbs up. I had downloaded my train tickets as well as the tennis tickets into my electronic wallet on my mobile phone. Also I had not forgotten to pack my wheelchair battery charger.
After I finished unpacking and after using the bathroom to freshen up, I noticed that my battery charger plug was squashed. I couldn’t fathom how that had happened because I always had my bag on my lap throughout the journey. May be I ran over it after I unpacked it, I thought. However I couldn’t recall my chair going over an obstacle.
I was beating my brains, restless I was, trying to find a solution to my predicament. Man that would be a travesty if I go back home prematurely, I thought. Worse more the hotel staff were not proactive in trying to help to address my dilemma. All I needed to know at least, was the directions to the nearest electronic shop. However it was my problem not their problem. My battery was only one bar down out of 5 and I presume that one bar has a 5 miles range. That being said I knew I had enough to sustain my travels for three days before the problem became more critical. What if I order a new battery charger from France, I thought. Thereafter I searched for an Alber Adventure charger on my phone internet. Disappointedly I couldn’t see any battery chargers being sold separately, the only option was to buy the whole dan battery. The company is called All-Batteries based in Lyon, France which presented me with yet another conundrum, what if the battery don’t get delivered in time? I thought. When I have ordered something in the past I always chose the option for a faster delivery- normally a one day delivery service is provided when the orders are placed before a certain time. Worryingly, neither this option was provided nor the estimated time of delivery. For all I knew it could have been delivered when I’m back at home.
The worrisome thoughts were ruining my plans for my holidays. However, I decided to carry on with my holidays using my wheelchair sparingly trying to make my remaining four bars last.
The following morning I decided to go to Gare de I’Est which is about 8 minutes walk from my hotel. Since this was my third time to Paris I was familiar with the route having used it before to go to Roland Garros. I took the immediate left from my hotel and rolled down the busy sidewalk towards Gare de I’Est. Paris is always a busy city at all times, no wonder it’s one of the most visited cities in the world. According to Lonely Planet in 2017 it was ranked as number 3 most visited city with 17.4 million visitors a year. There was throngs of people some in groups and some as lone travellers, many were pulling luggage simultaneously some were merely carrying back packs, exhibiting itinerant characteristics. Due to the sheer volume of the pedestrians they didn’t all fit on the pavements therefore some people were walking alongside the road edges. My path was paved with a procession of people, mainly tourists and a modicum of locals. As I approached Gare de I’Est the streets were slightly becoming less congested, to my relief.
Gare de I’Est
Similar to Gare du Nord, Gare de I’Est is also an international train terminus, with trains to Germany as well as local destinations. From my previous visits to Paris, this is where I boarded bus number 32 which goes all the way to Roland Garros (the tennis grounds), approximately an hour’s drive by bus. It was still early hours, there was even less activity around the corner when I turned left, the Chinese restaurant was still shut and there was hardly any activity in the adjacent Burger King. Across the road to the far left the bus was waiting, filling up slowly. After I got onto the bus it set off a few minutes later.
When I am abroad I prefer using public transport because it’s like a priceless tour. When the bus got to the Effel Tower, almost half way to my destination, it was announced that the bus will be terminating there. The passengers were informed to wait for the next bus number 32 which was going all the way to my destination. Now this would have been cool for me to tour around the Effel Tower without worries but the thought of conserving my battery was still lingering in my mind. In spite of this, I decided to cross the road and mingle with other throngs of tourists. Alas, getting there seemed circuitous and far, I had to go up a further, approximately 50 meters to get to the traffic lights to cross the road and come down a similar distance to get to the Effel Tower. Having not seen this side of the tower before it was worthwhile to see it. At tourist hot spots people tend to trust complete strangers to take a photo of them using their phones or cameras. “Excuse me … can you take a family photo of us please” a lady tourists asked one of the vendors. After he snapped a photo of them I asked him to take me one posing like I was touching the tip of the Tower. To my relief he handed me back my camera. “What if he refuses to give me back my camera” I thought to myself before I asked him to take a photo of me.
Afterwards I made the circuitous route to get back to the bus stop. The distance from Porte de Auteuil (where the bus terminates), to the tennis stadium is about 7 minutes. Thankfully Roland Garros offers free accessible rides to the wheelchair users as well as the physically challenged.
At Roland Garros I was really trying hard not to waste my battery charge nevertheless, some trips were unavoidable. I was glad to get back to my hotel having used only one bar. Therefore I had 3 bars left enough to go back home if my battery issue wasn’t resolved. I had 4 days of tennis left, yet one trip to tennis required at least one bar of battery. On one hand, part of me wanted to prematurely return to the U.K. or simply stay put in the hotel room to save my battery, on the other hand I wanted to carry on with my plans with the hope that my battery would be delivered in time. That said I continued to go to the tennis games.
On Wednesday i made the same trip and better yet, the bus got me there Straightaway without any changes. When the bus arrived at Porte de Auteuil it was raining. Right at the terminus was a French Open Tennis Stall (Le Boutique) selling tennis accessories. “Do you know if there will be any play today?” I asked with great concern. Disappointedly I was told that the order of play for that day had been cancelled. So I wasted my battery for nothing, I thought. Without further dilly dallying I waited for my bus to go back. This gave me the opportunity to go back to my hotel during the business hours.
The penultimate stop to Gare de I’Est is a Parisian neighbourhood called Château d’Eau which is predominantly a black African neighbourhood. Though I saw a few hotels around that area including the Ibis Hotel which I considered booking in 2016, there was less tourists activity. I for one I hardly saw any tourists. I wondered why?. However its a very vibrant neighbourhood often with touts and street vendors.
In the area cheap restaurants are commonplace mostly selling African cuisines with menus on their windows showing enticing colourful roasted chicken. The area is also characterised by cheap convenient stores, some Cinemas and theatres with the latter attracting cool, hip youths.
When i got back to the hotel I started using my crutches to save my wheelchair battery for crucial trips to go outside my room. The following day on Thursday I made a similar trip to Roland Garros. Where every step I took was circumspective and cautious. Though my battery was on 3 bars, I didn’t want it to go down to 2 bars and start panicking- preoccupied by the thought that my chair could suddenly stop at any time in the middle of Paris.
After tennis I made my usual trip and when I got off the bus at Gare de I’Est I thought of withdrawing some Euros from a cash machine with the anticipation that my battery would be delivered on Friday, so I could get around more. As I approached the cash machine there was hardly any soul about. With the chilling atmosphere, it felt like I was a cowboy on a horse riding into a notorious wild west town infested with robbers. Maybe people avoid this cash machine for a reason, am I being watched? I thought to myself. The place gave me the creeps however it was around the corner from a seemingly busy Burger King, so with a benefit of doubt I went on to withdraw 300€.
Thereafter I went to seat in a Chinese restaurant across the road and adjacent to Burger King. The food was dirt cheap having said that I was tempted to get something to eat as well as something to drink. After eating I didn’t want to leave before using the toilet lest I wet my pants or worse so I was in the restaurant for a considerable amount of time.
Finally I went to the toilet and I left the restaurant after about 45 minutes. It was around 8pm but the sun was still shining coupled with bustling pavements. However immediately after I came out of the restaurant there was a bit less people outside. Therefore I upped my speed weaving through people who were in front of me. Guess who I passed, it was Roland the creepy kid holding his mom’s hand and holding the same teddy with the other hand. He was also wearing wearing the same t-shirt he was wearing when I first saw him. When I was passing them I said hi to him and he said “I hate you”. I continued to head to my hotel. As I was nearing my hotel I could see throngs of people, some moving and some simply idling by the shopfronts.
One of the off-licences had given me free water a day before because it wasn’t accessible for me to edge closer to the card machine. Having said that I was in a familiar territory and within the vicinity of the hotel I was staying at. “Excusez moi” I repeatedly said as I was weaving through the crowds. In the moment and before I knew it I had lightly bumped into someone, not serious I thought. Woe the guy was miffed. Jumping up and down exhibiting as much pain and annoyance as he could he uttered a tirade of aggressive words in French. Even I who neither speaks nor comprehend the language very well, got the context of what he was saying from the bits I picked up. “je ne me (I assumed it means, I don’t) … handicapé (this was straight forward, handicapped)… baise toi (from my previous visits I knew this was swearing)”. Putting this together he must have said, “I don’t care if you are a disabled person, I will f**k you up” I thought. The guy who was standing in front of me was seemingly calming him down. I presume he said “just leave it mate, he is a disabled person”. Again I only understood the word handicapé. When the guy I had supposedly bumped into, seemed to have calmed down I said to him “pardon” meaning sorry in French. As I was trying to move off, to my annoyance the guy who had just been calming down his friend put his foot in front of my pathway deliberately. Maybe this whole thing was a set up, I thought. “Excusez moi, je veux passer” I said, meaning excuse me I want to pass. At this point I was trying to speak french as much as possible trying to make them think I was from France or that I had connections there. However he remained put whilst his friend I thought he was calming, opened the bag fastened to my chair and started cherry picking the Euro notes from my bag. I wanted to scream and call for help but I couldn’t find my voice when I needed it most, it felt like my tongue was bound. Fear and fretfulness of equal measure had dumfounded me. My deepest fear was being assaulted and I was hesitant to speed up and run over the guy in front lest I aggrevate the assailants. As the wise man wants said it’s not the snake bite that hurts us it’s chasing after it that drives the poison to the heart. If I had tried to run over one of them or tried to resist they could have left me badly hurt. Looking into their eyes I certainly felt that I was in the presents of ruthless opportunistic thugs with no remorse and hatred running through their veins like lava. When he had grabbed the notes the boy ran like a thief he was, hoping and skipping across the road he disappeared into the crowds on the other side of the road. The boy who was standing in my pathway saw that his friend was done robbing me blind, with his searching and crafty eyes he saw a phone peeping out of my jean pocket. Breathing heavily as if his lungs were labouring redying to take off. He pulled the phone out of the pocket and ran as fast as he could following his mate. Along the way he kind of stumbled into a woman with a push chair but regained his balance and got away. It all happened so fast, despite the bustling streets, no one came to my rescue. Roland and his mom must have passed by too when I was getting ganked. Anyhow Roland would have enjoyed the moment or could have fuelled the fire if given a chance. Remember he wanted me to loose my heart remember. What happened to Paris, the city of romance, I thought.
To my immense relief, they didn’t snatch my camera because I had the strap tied to my chair and the camera itself was hidden between my legs upside down, all they could see was the tripod attached to it. Broken in mind, spirit and body I pulled myself by my bootstraps and continued to go to my hotel which was just around the corner. Physically untouched but feeling victimised and sorrowful I walked into the foyer of the hotel. “What’s wrong” the receptionist asked. Before I answered, “Excusez moi Monsieur, Voulez-vous de l’aide…?” A homely black dude who was following me interjected as he was standing by the entrance of the hotel, on one hand he was holding a plastic bag and on the other hand he was clutching a long baguette with his armpit. I retorted “je ne parle pas français”, breaking my neck trying to picture his face. Again I was making the most of the little French I know. After the mugging I couldn’t trust nobody, I was in a foreign land where I didn’t know who to trust. The thought of being victimised again was cataclysmic. My body language showed him that I wasn’t interested in what he was saying. Though he asked me if I needed any help, I told him that I can’t speak French. What if he wants a piece of me, I thought. I wasn’t rude at all, the rapacious ruffians had made me feel like a free pizza on the streets of Paris. The homely fella eventually left, good riddance I thought.
Then I turned my attention to the Hotel receptionist, “I have just been mugged in broad day light”, I said incredulously. “I forgot to warn you, the area is not as safe as before Mr Max, you need to be careful” said the receptionist with a French accent.
I knew Paris was getting bad especially after the notable mugging of Kim Kadarshian in 2016. Some people could say she asked for it after flaunting her 3,5 million euro ring on Instagram. Few days later her luxurious apartment in the affluent area of Medeline was rummaged by a group of thugs putting on police gear, who got away with 12 million dollars worth of jewellery.
That said anything can happen in Paris even the roving and uncanny eyes of Monalisa couldn’t stop a thief from snatching her from the Louvre.
However it never dawned on me that one day I would also fall victim to the Parisian thugs, worse more I was victimised by my own kind. How could they target a disabled guy, I wondered.
I waited a while at the reception thinking that the receptionist would call the police however and annoyingly he didn’t seem to be in a rush to call the police. “I will call the police for you in the morning” he said as he was helping other customers. “Why not today bro” I retorted showing increasing frustration. Then to my further annoyance and incredulity I was told that the police stations had closed. “I thought police stations in Paris open 24/7, throughout day and night including weekends”, I remarked with a crestfallen voice.
All my tickets including the travel and tennis ones were saved on my phone electronically. Having said that it felt like I had lost not only my phone but also my wallet. I was restless trying to figure out how I was going to recover my tickets. Boom! It hit me I could access all my tickets in my hotmail account. Therefore I used the hotel computer to access my emails so that I could download my tickets coupled with printing them before going up to my room to retire at last. When I got to my room I turned on the Tv hoping to check the time and to my dismay I couldn’t see it. Very strange I thought. It was right there when I felt the agony of loosing my phone like I had lost part of me. All of a sudden I had no concept of time. Looking out through my hotel window, facing Gare Du Nord was my only hope, at least to discern between night and day. Other than that there was nothing much to read. I have never been to prison but it felt like that. In prisons they do have wardens to wake them up though, whereas the hotel I was staying at didn’t offer such a service.
That said I relied on my internal body clock, normally I do wake up around 06:00 when I’m away from home and I hoped I would do such that. The following morning I woke up to what looked like the early hours of the day, to my great relief. After my morning preparations I dashed to the reception to ask for the directions to the police station.
Woe was me, remember I was using my chair sparingly but I had to unavoidably run an errand to the police station. I crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t be far away however as I was going there it was increasingly and annoyingly further than I thought. When I finally got there still on three bars I was relieved. The opportunistic thugs had rattled my cage and made me paranoid so on my way I was constantly looking over my shoulder to check if anyone was following me. Eventually I reached my destination but the place didn’t look like a police station whatsoever and the entrance to access the building was out of sight. The place looked more like a back street garage, to my assurance a police van drove out of the place. “Excusez- moi, where is the police station” I asked expecting him to point out the entrance to me. He didn’t respond to me instead he parked his van on the side of the road, afterwards he beckoned me to follow him swiftly. At the back I saw a police man smoking standing by what seemed like the entrance, beside the stairs there was a platform lift. While he was putting out his cigarette dabbing it on the rail of the lift, “pas de caméras autorisées” exclaimed he. Meaning no cameras allowed. I was wearing the camera on my neck and I was really looking forward to take some photos to use on my blog. Also to show unassailable evidence to the doubting Thomases. Therefore I never took any photos within the vicinity of the police station. After about 30 minutes I was done dealing with the French police. It was difficult to communicate for neither the police on duty nor me could understand each other well. That said it was a struggle to understand each other, going to lengths at times to try and put points across. Eventually I used the one word sentences coupled with a lot of emphasis using gestures, I found this helpful particularly in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Portugal.
I was given some documents which briefly reported the robbery incident. However it was the proof that I needed. “Merci beaucoup“, I said to the police officer as I was preparing to leave. Merci beaucoup means thank you very much, I suppose I had to show my appreciation for his patience to try and understand my story. Thereafter he called another officer and summoned him to escort me out of the building. Disappointedly the platform lift outside didn’t work. I was insistently pressing the down-button to no avail. Alarmingly I was supposed to go to Roland Garros to watch tennis starting at 12:00. I had no watch on me but according to the clock in the police station the time was 09:30 when I left. The journey from Gare Du Nord to the tennis usually takes one hour. However I wasn’t going to take the usual route lest I get victimised again by the same folk. Having said that I didn’t know how long it would take using an alternative route. My mind was also preoccupied by the battery dilema. This was all getting too much for me. To my great relief, the elevator issue was swiftly sorted. One of the policeman coincidentally happened to be a technician. I have so much respect and great admiration for the police but all that had warned after the mugging in Paris. Thanks to the policeman who came to my rescue and restored my admiration for the Parisian police. In the elevator I was holding my breath lest it stalls again. When it hit the floor I again breathed a heavy sigh of great relief. Again I exclaimed merci beaucoup to express my appreciation. Thereafter I was ready to leave la poste de police, the police station. I turned right onto a now busier residential area with restaurants on the ground floor already with a significant number of customers seated outside. It must have been the lovely weather. After crossing over a road I then turned left, at that moment I saw two people coming towards me. One was wearing a beige tight fitting suit like a jacket potato or like his second skin the other was simply wearing a blue trousers and a white shirt albeit looking very smart. As these gentle man drew closer I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing, their faces looked familiar resembling the guys who had mugged me. It can’t be I told myself since the gentlemen looked respectable far from the street wise dressed dudes that ruffled me up. I was fantastically terrified. As I was preparing for the worst, the gentlemen passed by in harmony. At the same time I also passed by disguising my suspicion. Suddenly an amazing feeling of relief swept over me. Maybe it’s not the same people, maybe I’m now schizophrenic, I thought. Of course the other action to take would have been to turnaround and report to the police what I had just witnessed but since I wasn’t certain I decided to continue going ahead.
When I arrived at the Hotel the time was 09:50. Stéphanie was the one at the reception doing her morning shift. “How did it go” she asked. “It all went fine and they gave me some documents that will help me to make a claim from my travel insurance company” I retorted. She had been told what had happed to me and she speculated that I got targeted because of pthe designer clothes that I wear.
Loud and Extravagant
To some extent, I guess she had a point, didn’t she. However on the night of the mugging I was simply wearing a Lacoste light jacket and a pair of old jeans . I wasn’t as loud and extravagant as the expression of freedom by the Americans or dripping with bling as they say. I know I have always had a passion for elegance and fine dressing not bling-bling. Particularly now that I’m disabled I always make sure that I’m on point at all times. On a couple of occasions I have gone out to town dressed homely. The first time a young lady gave me a pound like I was a street beggar, I tried to give her back the money and to explain my position and that I had just been at Leeds City Council that morning for my internship. Alas, she wasn’t having none of it and told me to keep it as I was need. What a setback, she made me feel like a charity case yet I found her attractive and would have asked her out given a chance. On another occasion some lads offered to buy me dinner when I turned down the offer they insisted on giving me some cash. Charity which turned into an argument that I knew I will never win against seemingly drunk folk. I ended up taking their money, 10 pounds it was. Since these two incidents I like to dress well to make a point lest people see me as a charity case
After asking for the alternative travel route to get to Roland Garros. I took bus number 43/26 to Gare St Lazarre and connected to bus number 32.
On Thursday coming back from Roland Garros I took bus number 52 from porte d’Auteuil. I got into the bus and parked my wheelchair facing the rest of the passengers. As it was around 18:00 pm most of the passengers were going home from work. As usual people in public transport tend to speak to one another. I started talking to a woman who was seating adjacent to me. We were conversing in English when one French guy started insulting me. Persecuting me for being British. “You zzz English are z’idiots, you think you better… Go back to your country”, said he with a French accent. When I looked up to see who was insulting me, I noticed that it was a black dude looking like he was under the influence of some sort. This guy surely is not coming from work I thought to myself. The lady seated adjacent to me advised me to ignore him. I ignored him as advised however he continued his unabated rancorous attacks. He deplored Brexit and he hated the fact that the British once defeated Napoleon. The guy was annoyingly rude and his vitriolic rigmarole was repulsive. His acrimony was beyond bad banter and frivolity. He was acting like a brainwashed fella forgetting that his skin was black like mine. It wasn’t my first time to be jeered and smeared at by a fellow African brother in France. My sister as well once told me that she was treated like dirt by certain black French women when she went there for her holidays. From this perspective I don’t get the beef between black French & black British particularly of African descent. it’s like a fight over who had a better colonial master. Similarly the then President of Mozambique Samora Machel claimed that some people ignorantly laugh at his country because they were colonised by a poor European nation, Portugal. It’s like the Scramble For Africa by European nations in the Colonial Era has ironically turned into a Scramble For Superior Colonial Master by the Africans. Which supports the South African politician Julius Malema’s claim that the colonisers made Africans or other races in general hate each other. However I have also met some cool and easy going black French people.
Somewhere in the Paris labyrinth the bus stopped and to my great relief the patriot got off the bus. He was out of the bus but his devilish eyes, full of hate and resentment were still focusing on me as the bus moved off. At that moment in time I was compelled to give the guy the ‘up yours’ gesture. It seemed more fitting because from my understanding the gesture is said to have its origins from the time the English were victorious over the French in ‘The Hundred Years War’ with their highly technical longbows at the time. The V hand shape of the archers lining up their arrows became a battle gesture. As a double entendre, I acknowledged peace, the ‘V’ was used by the World War II allied forces. It was outrageously strange that the French dude was blathering about something which happened centuries ago. A history wonk.
The bus continued and I dropped off at Gare Du Norde, a 3 minutes walk away from the hotel I was staying at.
This did not only offer me a quick escape to a safe haven but also allowed me to save my battery. Nevertheless as soon as I got to the hotel, alarmingly my wheelchair battery went from three bars to two bars. This wasn’t good at all henceforth I was like slack-lining. I couldn’t risk using my chair any longer lest I run out of charge. It was better to reserve the two bars for the return journey even though I had three days of tennis left.
When I woke up the following morning on Friday I decided to call the reception to check wether the battery had been delivered. Without it I had made a conscious decision to ditch my holiday plans and reserve the remaining battery charge for the return journey. I was due to return home on Sunday afternoon after the men’s final game. Therefore I needed more battery for two more trips to Roland Garros. Particularly the gentlemen’s semi final on Friday and the gentlemen’s final on Sunday.
To my great delight I was told that my battery had been delivered. My delight though was soon dissolved after the concierge brought the battery to my room. To my horror the battery wasn’t compatible with my wheelchair. My joy abruptly turned into pain. It was a trip characterised by a morass of mishaps and misfortunes. Finding a way to solve the battery issue was still enigmatic.
I decided to take a nap. Sometimes focusing on the problem at hand doesn’t free up our minds to allow a ‘eureka moment’ or to allow the mind to come up with new bright ideas. After sleeping for about 30 minutes I felt relieved and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Straightaway from my bed i went to pick up the squashed plug and erected the plug’s prongs so that the outlet could grip them firmly. At first it didn’t work but I tried and tried again and eventually it worked, ‘eureka moment’. What if this is a temporary fix? I thought. I was even hesitant to take out the plug before charging the battery to it’s full capacity or for a considerable amount of time. To fully charge the battery takes about 5 hours but I couldn’t afford to wait for that long. With a renewed spirit I was itching to go and watch tennis and maybe explore more of Paris without limits.
The Influence of American Films
At 12 noon I left my hotel after arranging to return the futile battery which was delivered that morning. After about one hour I arrived at Roland Garros in time for the first semi-final tennis match. At the check-in point I was all smiles, “Sir you look a lot happy today” said the steward with an American accent. “Yeah I’m it’s all sorted” I retorted. I knew the Steward from Wednesday, she had escorted me to the stadium and I must have told her that I wasn’t able to charge my chair. Though she was French, the girl could speak good English with an American accent. I asked her if she had spent some time in America. To my incredulity she insisted that she had only visited America once and for a short stay. I farther asked her how she could manage to speak English so eloquently. “Oh thank you, I learnt English from watching American films and I watch a lot of films but I’m not great like British girls” said she modestly. The influence of the American TV around the Globe is quite remarkable. From my travels I have also met people who acknowledged that they had learnt how to speak English from watching American films.
After the second match of tennis I went around Roland Garros to see the invigorated quarter which has now become more environmentally friendly. The revamped and renamed court, Simmon- Mathieu was completed in March 2019 readying for the 2019 grand slam tournament starting in May. Even the main court which had hosted the semi-finals was likewise invigorated and was looking contemporary far from the tired looking amphitheatre like the historic Colosseum in Rome.
Coming from Simmon- Mathieu court I went to an area with lush greenery, I was inquisitive to see what was around there. The area is less frequented but I saw a guy who was holding what looked like a phone, he had a baguette, a glass of red wine and the ambience had a lingering aroma of weed. I had never seen anyone smoking weed before in France. Maybe it was for medicinal purposes, in 2013 I remember reading about France legalising medicine containing cannabis derivative. I’m sure he was breaking the law by smoking it. Macron, the President of France is against people smoking cannabis. The guy was friendly because he offered me a piece of his baguette. Maybe the offering is for me to keep my mouth shut, I thought. It was non of my business and snitches get stitches in the words of Ice Cube.
After seeing the revamped quarter I headed to my hotel. Rather than going straight to the hotel I enjoyed going around Paris in the late hours sight seeing and scouting for good vibes as well as looking for some good food. I ended up buying myself a duck confit, tender and delicious it was. I was also offered a small plate of sliced baguette. The French truly love their bread, I thought. Every time I dine in a French restaurant I have been offered a baguette as an appetiser. Seating on a table not far from me was a French dude presumably on a date dipping his piece of baguette in black coffee after slathering it with Jam and butter, gross I thought. Never will I do such a thing in the sight of my girlfriend I continued to ponder. However it seems to be the norm in France. Worse more he was picking the baguette straight from a table, no plate whatsoever. The French love their baguettes no wonder the boulangeries, bakeries are ubiquitous in France even at Roland Garros there were stalls flogging baguettes. From French kids to Stewards they be staffing chocolates in them to make them tasty. I also saw another person eating a baguette with cheese at my hotel. Having said that they seem to eat it with everything.
They should make the baguette the emblem of France like the maple leaf is for Canada. If you remember after the mugging the guy who followed me to my hotel was carrying one under his presumably sweaty armpit instead of carrying it in its special bag. This might sound strange but yes baguettes do have their own special bags owing to their cumbersome size and shape which makes them problematic to transport. I used to wonder what the tenuous narrow bags were for. Now I know from the day someone asked me if I wanted some at Roland Garros in 2016. “En voulez-vous” he said.
Finally A Brother Is Getting Lucky
On Saturday, though I didn’t have the ticket to watch the Ladies’ Final Match I had a grounds pass. The previous day at the revamped court, Simmon- Mathieu, I learnt that anyone with a grounds pass could access it. That said I had the opportunity to see the legends match taking place at the same time as the women’s final match. As enjoyable and fun as it was, i was looking forward to go back to my hotel and explore more of Paris as well as going to my favourite place to hang out. St Christopher’s Inn is a vibrant place, downstairs they have cheap hostels popular with young English speaking backpackers and tennis fans. I also like the food and the company better yet I acquainted with the manager, Barry O’Neil in 2016 and he is now more like a friend. Despite the psychedelic night shenanigans which happened to me in 2017 I wanted to show up and share my mugging story to spread awareness amongst the backpackers. However backpackers are less susceptible to mugging because they tend to go around in Wolfe packs. The hotel I was staying at is only a 3 minutes walk around the corner therefore from my previous visits to Paris I have made friendship in the inn. After I shared my story with the people Barry the manager was appalled, for a second I thought he would suggest bypassing the police and taking matters in our own hands. I wanted the thugs to be punished for what they did and for my ordeal. I had no phone and the inn was less busier than usual, a recipe for boredom. Thankfully a very beautiful young mixed race lady minced her way to me and asked me if I needed any help. Before answering her and before she introduced herself to me she asked me if I wanted to move to the less noisy part of the inn. “I will be too lonely there” I retorted. “Let’s go I will seat with you” she said. Finally a brother is getting lucky, I thought to myself. At the new table I learnt that she was called Maïssa. She was not only a beautiful young lady but also very talented. After listening to some samples of the music projects she was working on, I was mesmerised. She had the beautiful symmetrical face like Katie Perry and a voice like Amy Winehouse. Her voice, mellow and mellifluous flowed into my heart. My heart rejoiced and leaped forgetting all my problems. A true diva in the making. If her music was in English she would have been as big as Little Mix I tell you. When she finally announces herself on the Global stage I promise to sell my story.
On Sunday morning I woke up and packed my bags preparing to return home. I was so grateful that I had managed to get through to Sunday despite all the shenanigans that I went through. However my vacation wasn’t over yet. I still had a ticket to watch the gentlemen’s final. I made my journey now using the alternative route. I got there around 12 ish, when the women double’s final was in play first, before the gentlemen’s final around 3ish. Regrettably I wasn’t going to see much of the men’s final because my return train was due at 17:13 from Gare Du Norde train station and due to arrive in London, St Pancreas station at 18:32. To allow enough time to check-in for my train I needed to be at the station one hour before boarding. For that I needed to start making my way back to the check in for my train. Therefore straightaway after the women’s doubles final I went to porte d’Auteuil and took bus number 52 back to my hotel. By the time I got to the hotel, time was far spent, it was already 16:00 yet I needed to be at train station at that time. However I still had 13 minutes before my check-in time was overdue. After I collected my bag at the reception as rapidly as I could I made my way to the station. In the station I took a lift to the next floor for the the Eurostar check- in. When I immediately came out of the lift I saw someone wearing a Ralph Laurent woolly hat which looked exactly like mine. Which reminded me of my hat, I wasn’t wearing it but I had brought it with me on my holidays to conceal my disheveled big Afro. As a result that prompted me to check for mine before I checked-in for my train. I couldn’t find it. I must have forgotten it in one if the drawers, I thought. It was a very nice hat. It was a limited addition which prompted me to go back to the hotel to check it.
Unfortunately I was told that the cleaners had not handed it at the reception. “Well if you find it please post it to my home address” I said hurriedly on my way out. “Ok sir” he answered nodding his head while starring down at the paperwork on his desk. I rushed back to the train check-in. To my great relief there was still a considerable number of passengers waiting to go through on the standard premier queue and there was non at all the business premier queue. That said I straightway checked-in which allowed me to have a moment to catch my breath and to watch the tennis final in the lounge. Though the lounge had no screens showing the tennis match there were some tennis fans streaming the match on their lap top.
This time around I was happy to make my way home safe and sound. Despite the devastating mugging in Paris I embarked on further trips. However I learnt from the incident, it was a warning. As I said before with my faith I have guts over fear. In other words faith begets valour. Also I thrive on facing challenges otherwise my expeditions would have been monotonous and futile like a prisoner breaking big rocks into small rocks all day long.
First off I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the #NHS, all health workers around the world on a wider note. The same goes out to all the key workers charged with various tasks which directly or indirectly affects our well being. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for our amazing NHS. Like most of the critical Covid-19 patients I was put on a ventilator, gradually I managed to recover and now I’m making the most of life after head injury. Likewise NHS, health workers at large, they are playing a vital role to save lives during this pandemic. Let’s not kid ourselves thinking that everything will be back to the way things used to be when this cataclysmic pandemic is all over. More often than not critically ill patients do recover but they will be scarred emotionally, physically or mentally. In a similar vein the world will never completely recover in our life time. However the survivors can seek to pave the way for the next generation. To you the reader thank you so much. If you enjoyed reading this, how about I flog my book and give the proceedings to support the NHS? Lastly I would like to thank all those who will continue to work so that the future generations can bequeath a better and a progressive world.
Independent wheelchair globetrotting feels like one. Search my name “Max Mteliso” on Amazon and buy the suitable edition for you. I will recommend people to buy the kindle edition. For paperback I encourage you to buy it from lulu.com- simply enter Headfirst Thrills on Wheels or my name. Enjoy the unputdownable novella: thrilling, enthralling, inspirational, motivational and above all enlightening. I think I just wrote a new and perfect blurb for it.
Eventually, my novella is out: “Headfirst Thrills on Wheels”. The best words to describe it are thrilling, enthralling, inspirational, motivational and enlightening. A non fiction thriller. An account of my independent travels across the globe as an ordinary wheelchair user. The book highlights the challenges that I encountered as well as the enlightenment.
It might not be a hit but I guarantee you that somewhere and somehow, it will touch the minds of think tanks. The novella is also a good read packed with humor and impeccable English. Above all it inspires the wheelchair users and disabled people alike to travel further afield independently.
NB. I would encourage people to it on kindle while it’s selling at a reduced price of £3.99. The paperback is not yet available on Amazon. However I prefer it if people purchase the paperback onlulu.com£9.99.
*Success is a community effort therefore I need your support.