Camberwell comedian Jenny Eclair wonders why London has to be so difficult for the elderly and disabled…

My mother has just been in town. She arrived briefly en route to visit some army friends in Devon. She caught a train from Preston and needed to change at Euston to get to Paddington. Have you any idea how exhausting getting around London is for a semi-disabled 85 year-old-woman?

Even with my sister and I taking an elbow each, it’s a very long schlep from the far end of platform four, across the concourse and down to the underground taxi rank. She could have organised assisted passage, but she didn’t want to – she is fiercely independent and for some reason has a strange aversion to perching on a beeping electric wagon. Old Northern ladies can be weird about stuff like that.

All she wanted to do was use the bathroom at Euston, but unless you are in possession of something called a ‘radar key’, you cannot gain access to the disabled loos on London Railway stations. This is because, if they aren’t locked at all times, they will be overrun by junkies, undesirables and sex-crazed commuters. Really?

Does absolutely everything in the capital have to be a battle for the old and disabled?


How about just having a few loos on ground level, overseen and cleaned by a nice friendly member of staff, someone with a bit of sympathy who could possibly help out should the need arise? Does absolutely everything in the capital have to be a battle for the old and disabled?

She came back a few weeks later to stay for a couple of nights because she wanted to see the play her granddaughter had written, which is on at Theatre 503 in Battersea. This is a brilliant fringe venue, but it’s above a pub – there is no lift, not even a Stannah, and there must be a hundred steps. It’s no one’s fault, I understand there aren’t enough funds for disabled access, but I’m a bit embarrassed about it and I wish things could be easier.

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