These last few months of the year for me have been incredibly busy so when December came around, I was completely unprepared and not really feeling very Christmassy. So, we had to do something to change this as Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year! Fortunately, we have had a couple of events booked in that did the job perfectly!
I feel like this isn’t a surprise to anybody that I was back down in London (when you start getting recognised by the passenger assistance on the trains, you know you’re becoming a regular) but first up were two nights at the 02 arena for Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball which is aptly named the UK’s biggest Christmas party! Last time we went to this concert was in 2019 so when I was still using a manual wheelchair and pre-covid. We also only did one night last time but this year we thought after everything we’ve been through we deserved to let our hair down and have some fun, so why not do both?! 15 artists each night makes for awesome concerts & I loved every minute, there were some amazing artists & vocals. I got my hair done the day before, I was feeling my outfits & in the atmosphere of the concert where I can just forget about everything else, I just lived in the moment. I didn’t care who was watching or what people thought as me & my sister sang & danced our hearts out. Genuinely just so happy & content.
The 02 is a brilliant arena as everything is in one place. We tend to go with taxis as our mode of transport now that we know my Whill drives straight into them no matter the steepness of the ramp with still plenty of space for my family. So, we pulled up to the arena in our black London cab and headed straight for the covered walkway as it was raining, how typically British, and headed into the 02. The outside of the arena is made up of a shopping outlet, cinema and restaurants. Street Burger by Gordan Ramsey was our pick and the food was top notch. Best burgers we’ve had and the restaurant was accessible. In fact, I didn’t come across any accessibility issues whilst inside the 02. Staff were super friendly and helpful. One thing that the Whill has given me is a new found confidence for driving through heavily crowded places. The 02 was no different. It’s second nature to me know how to handle the chair through any situation and any amount of people in crowds. It’s quick and nimble and the controls are incredibly responsive, it makes it so easy, almost feels effortless although sometimes you have to concentrate on where people’s feet are. I find the control stick so comfortable to use in the palm of my hand. I can confidently say that the Whill and me are now one. Disabled toilets for me were just outside where we were seated and I could just easily drive into my space of the wheelchair bay with an unrestricted view and chair dance it out! Me and my sister had spaces in the wheelchair bay and our parents had the two standard seats in front. We do concerts as a family (although it would be lovely if we could sit as a family as accessible seating doesn’t allow for more than 3 to be seated in the accessible bay) and I love that we do so we get to share those memories together. My parents brought us up on music, took us to our first concert at 6 & 4 (it was the Pussycat Dolls supported by Rihanna) & since then we’ve not looked back. Live music is good for the soul.
Night one of the Jingle Bell Ball was all about the festive vibes. Night two it was all in the atmosphere from the minute we got into the 02 to the very end! It couldn’t of been a better weekend to get us feeling Christmassy & just have some fun! Especially since now we might not be able to do concerts for a while again or just a trip to London in general.
I would definitely recommend taking the Skyliner across the River Thames though if/when you’re able to get back to London. It’s beautiful seeing the city skyline from above & definitely a pretty cool way to get to the 02 arena. It really added to the day, I loved it! Even if there was a slight wind which added a sway to the trip which took a minute to get used too as I’m not the biggest fan of heights. It was so simple to get onto the sky-liner carriage though. We queued and then got taken round to the elevator which took us straight to the boarding level. I was a little worried about driving onto a moving carriage even if it was moving slowly but I needn’t have worried as they slowed it down for me and then fully stopped it which made driving on so easy. I then realised however that on the other side I would have to be first out and reverse out too but thankfully my reversing skills have improved and with the bonus of them stopping the carriage again and the Whill’s narrow frame, it was a two second move and it was done. Journey completed, new experience in the Whill and I would absolutely do it all over again!
Next up was a trip to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park Illuminations with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in over two years. We spent the first part of the day going round the park and looking at all the animals, some favourite animals of the day were the Red Pandas, Sea-Lions and Polar Bears. The paths are signed with “mildly uneven” and that is very true. A couple of moments got a little bumpy but I never once had a second thought my Whill couldn’t handle it, however, at some points I did question the “mildly” part of the signs! After the normal park closed, we stopped at a café for pastries and a hot drink just at the entrance to the park whilst we waited for the park to reopen for the Winter event. Whilst we were in the café, night drew in and it soon came time for us to head back into the park to see it had transformed into a walkway of light. Light in strings across the paths. Lights in shapes of all different animals both land and water. Lights in even a water display. It couldn’t help but make you smile and feel that joy of Christmas. Granted, some of the paths were a little rough and not particularly well lit so I grabbed the torch on my phone to make sure I didn’t hit any potholes. I had my wheelchair pretty much turned on all day as it was constantly moving and still I had plenty of battery to do so (although it was the most battery I have ever used on a day out).