MacDonalds. Coca-Cola. Disney.
At times, it seems they own the world. Perhaps they do. Perhaps there was a shadowy deal back in a smokey 50s backroom and they built an Elvis robot to soothe us all into accepting the inevitable. For evermore, our children would grow up speaking with saccharine US accents, swilling fizzy sugar water and furring their arteries with quasi-meat and cardboard 'chicken'.
I resent it. I try very hard to avoid it. But the tide is too strong. My children know every line of Toy Story. Winnie the Pooh got highjacked by Walt and stuffed himself to a familiar, soothing, honey obesity MacDonalds could only sit in awe of. Peter Pan somehow transferred to London, Illinois. Grimm tales lost all the Grim. My children believe Happy Meals to be the Holy Grail of haute cuisine. I believe that they have a secret Coke fountain under their bunk-beds, preparing them for the slightly less addictive crack habit that must surely follow in their teenage years?
So, it was with a mixed sense of triumph and misery that I was able to present them with 4 day passes to Disneyland (Paris - surely no greater cultural oxymoron has ever been created?) with which to sprinkle our current holiday with Tinkerbell-style fairy dust.
I saved like a demon. I REFUSED to allow the surely inevitable corporate-rape of four days captive in a theme park make me miserable. If I must pay £17 for a burger and watch the boys plead me to poverty over every "dream" and "magical experience" I would be ready. Corporate HQ would NOT take me by surprise and strip away my last Euro, leaving us feeling faintly ashamed, beaten and unworthy.
"Take picnics" came the advice at every mention of my impending fiscal hell. So we did.
As a very poorly renegade patient, I would have to succumb to a wheelchair. My Drs were extremely dubious that I should leave the drizzly confines of a UK peppered with A&Es that understand "My bowels are screwed" at all, but I assured them I was fluent in Italian and passably able to woo the French into accepting I can do Gallic. My GP wrote letters, my pharmacist handed me bags of hardcore just-about-everything. I crossed borders with enough syringes and man made heroin to make Colombia blush.
Booking the Disney part of the holiday in the UK, I'd been pleasantly surprised to hear I didn't have to pay for Dave's tickets. As my "carer" he would allegedly go free. I assumed this meant "corporate free" and some kind of catch or proviso would negate this perk, so saved for his tickets anyway.
I didn't think for a second that I would get to participate in the 'Disney Magic'. I imagined happy days, watching the boys squeal and giggle and oooh in wonder from the comfortable prison of my newly-wheeled transport mode.
But I couldn't have been more wrong. About all of it. Oh, the burgers *were* the price of a small country and Mr Cola was indeed charging several months wages for a penny or two's worth of sugar syrup carbonated to ensure true hyperactivity. BUT. Disney itself was quite astonishingly crip-centric. Not "a-nod-to-the-crips-in-order-that-we-may-fleece-them-like-all-the-ablies" but proper crip-friendly, we love you long-time, we will make your holiday super special, crip centric.
I know, I know, suspend your disbelief, I'd never have believed it either.
Dave DID indeed go free. But in a moment of this-can't-be-happening incredibleness, we were ushered on our first rainy morning to the Annual Passport Office. My £143 4 day pass (already £30 or so reduced due to my bowel-inertia) was converted to a free year's pass!!! Yeah, i know, i thought there must have been some mistake too. Not only that, but Dave's tickets really were free and would remain so for an entire year for as many days as I chose to take advantage of it! I checked and double-checked, but it seems I really can go back almost any day I like, for a whole year, with Dave for free!
But there was more - parking would be free ( saving 15 Euros a day) and as close to the entrance as it was possible to be. I would get 10% off in all the shops and restaurants and 20% off if I chose to stay in any of their hotels.
But here's the best bit. This truly-magic ticket entitled me and my whole family to the most VIP-ness of VIP treatment from start to finish. No really, it did.
Quite accustomed to being the crip-also-ran, the one who sits on the sidelines, the one who can't get into the ice-cream parlour or the cinema or the event, I hadn't even imagined I would go on any rides. Just the thought is making me chuckle now as I write it. "Here you in-valid person, you handicapped thing you, come on our Ferris wheel/Rollercoaster/Simulator" I mean, it just doesn't happen does it??
Well, it does at Disney AND they let you on everything first and immediately, sailing with ease up perfect ramps, through short-cut disabled gates, past hour-long queues of damp, bedraggled ablies.
One flash of my magic crip card and they opened barriers, revealed secret entrances, whistled to Joe on the main gate that there was a disabled lass wanting a go and we just wheeled straight on!! Every time!! My ghast was truly flabbered.
Not only were we treated like minor rock-stars, it was DEPENDANT on me, usually the minor irritant, going on whatever thrill laden clump of seats and metal the boys chose next. Far from sitting on the sidelines watching their fun, as I usually do, I did everything. I can't remember the last time I went on a ride, but Disney flung me about with A1 star treatment. I was absolutely shattered, but I can't remember when I had more fun!!
Can't see the parade from your chair? Fear not, a nice man with a torch will open a cordon just for you with all the space in the world and the best view in the place. Can't see the hologram/firework show? Ditto. Can't go on a ride because one of the kids is too small? Fear not, you can do a "parent swap" and go on TWICE like VIPs, again without waiting or queuing.
I'm proper, non-cynically, non-taking the mickey (no pun intended), no provisos or caveats impressed.
They hadn't just thought about access, it seemed they'd genuinely left no stone unturned to flip the normal disability rules on their head. "Thou shalt be treated as better than all others" appeared to be the Disney maxim.
I know, I know, they make billions. A misery might say they jolly well should give a little back to those "less fortunate" (shudder at yucky phrase) But they don't have to. they could apply the same profit-as-God rules to us wheelies as they do to everything else. But they don't. What a pleasant surprise :))