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London, my London / 27 April 2016

photo of disabled performers Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper holding scripts for performance on stage at a poetry event

Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper at a 'We The City' event.

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London. It was a fluke, my moving here and nearly 20 years ago now... Oh I had visited - weekend trips and skives off school (I was a boarder down in Hampshire. Lunchtime concerts at the Royal Festival Hall (amazing how appealing classical music becomes when you have Saturday lessons!), then freezing outside after, with our packed lunches and cuppa soups! 

Posh London: Once an evening trip to the Royal Opera House for the Magic Flute and falling asleep on the way home… Throwing up on the coach at fourteen because we'd all been nicking champagne for the guests at a performance our choir gave at the Glaziers Hall. 

Mythical London: 'Unreal City' Dreamily remembered visits to Nana and Grandad in Winchmore Hill, the city where my sisters lived and dad was from! Journeys to the capital by train and being met at Victoria Station; the accessible loo with the grey and black tiles, which hasn't changed in all this time! Galleries & parks, bands and gigs, flats up-stairs... And "Ok Mate?"!

Scarey London: A chance meeting and the offer of a wheely-friendly flat in The Smoke (those were the days!) I felt the fear but did it anyway and so to Camden then I came! Camden, with it's trendy market and a Comedy Club! Cafes, lattes and cobbles.

Dogs in Regents Park and my neighbors cat Lassie! Barbecues and parties. The first few days and I bumped down huge curbs, crossed high streets between crossing cars then cried with relief at reaching the other side! Bumping in to my sisters because now they lived just up the road... now that really was scarey!

Political London: with its own Mayor! And me who had a disability but no identity, or Social Model perspective. I was neither diverse nor empowered but now I discovered Personal Assistants over Carers, in all their flavours and suddenly Zulu was spoken in my living room! Assistants came via an agency called Body Bank, run by a woman sounding like an EastEnd Gangsta! I moved in and on, my life opened up. 
Poor London: Me in my homely new home while so many were homeless, outside, amongst dirt and rubbish-strewn streets. I am not a Good Samaritan; like most other Londoners, I usually pass by through pollution and noise.

Accessible London? Cycle lanes, congestion zone and parking fines that felt like they fell on my van every 5 minutes! Black cabs in the rain: we wheelchair-users are like Marmite to Cabbies - they love us or hate us! Here we are all together, in traffic, on buses and amidst endless, ENDLESS building and road works!

Equal London: Where I have a Life, work and friends again of the coolest kind (Pen.) One sister moved South whilst the other, just went South of the River... Sacrilege! But the canal came closer and the damp set in. With the cuts, I escaped my sinking flat and jumped boroughs to Islington. Captained by Jeremy Corbyn!  

Now, as an independent disabled woman, I protest at Parliament, have been chained for change, Occupied(ish) with tea and sausage rolls! Marched down and blocked roads, stopping that flaming traffic!

I watched The Lady Killers a while ago. Shots of Kings Cross as it was! Never in a trillion years did I think I would live just up the road, live here, in London... my London.