A couple of weeks ago I used my Huffington Post blog to pay tribute to Glyn Worsnip, a stalwart of Radio 4 throughout the 1980s.
Sharing his experience on air of being diagnosed with cerebellar ataxia, the illness that cost him his job and eventually his life, made for the most moving radio I had heard – and the most successful broadcast in Radio 4’s history.
Glyn Worsnip described the effect of his illness as running up a down escalator – which was to inspire the title of his autobiography.
Which reminds me of Jenny’s brush with a down escalator.
Our home city presented some insurmountable obstacles to a wheelchair user. There were lots of steps to front doors or both homes and shops. It’s only really since the late 1990s that disabled access has been taken seriously.
When Jen was in her early teens, we went to the newly built Ridings Shopping Centre. Browsing Marks & Spencer, Jen managed to walk around most of the store on sticks, but was confronted by a down escalator.
Mum placed Jen’s hands on the hand rest either side, but the escalator steps moved down more slowly than the handrail. Soon Jen was very nearly flat on her face. The emergency stop button was pressed and a shop assistant came and helped out with a ‘what on earth do you expect to happen if you bring your disabled daughter shopping?’ look on her face.
I often wondered how Jen ended up in that position. But then, using the escalators on the London Underground 20 years later, I realised: yes, the handrails do move at a different speed – even now!