The phone rang: ‘Tomorrow’s flight for the Scillies is cancelled. Fog has grounded all planes for the last three days and is continuing… the coach to take you to the Penzance boat leaves at 5.00 a.m. tomorrow.’ We both gasped at mental images of my Magic Chariot airborne, dangling over an open ship’s hold and its fate while being pushed willy-nilly amongst suitcases in a coach.
With some trepidation I glided into Newquay Airport. No worries… the coach driver admired its technicalities as he carefully strapped it alongside the suitcases.
I crossed the cobbles at the Penzance jetty. Manual wheelchairs are allowed into the passenger areas of the Scillonian, so I switched to Manual. The Special Access staff cheerfully pushed us up the gangway, chatting of regular clients who would love this special Chariot.
On arrival at St Mary’s there was the prospect of a crowded small ferry. Two young crew members lifted the Chariot down the steep stone steps, slippery with green threads of slimy seaweed. Handed across onto the boat with studied nonchalance, it sat in state on the open deck.
Island lanes with few vehicles are heaven for wheelchairs/mobility scooters and wildlife… tarmac, a few potholes, bicycles and intrepid walkers and hedges and gardens twittering with birds. Verges and walls are crowded with wild flowers and bold big bulbs from Africa – Agapanthus with lush thick strap leaves and stems topped with pure blue. Enormous succulents and Cabbage Palms give the islands a sense of foreign excitement. Such tender exotics thrive here in the mild climate. Red Squirrels making lightning dashes up and down large pine trunks seem incongruous amongst red Bottlebrush bushes and tall Aloes.
Such a mild maritime climate has its moments of gritty reality. Fog rolls in from the Atlantic and storms can be wild. We had had one, and now we were in for the other. Forecasts of imminent storms brought an abrupt end to many holidays; extra flights were laid on in the race to get people back to the mainland.
On arrival at the airport we found to our dismay that the Chariot had been booked on to one flight and we were on another. Even its low weight, equivalent to two hold suitcases, is critical in a very small aircraft. Our plane, a six-seater+ pilot, was too small for its compact size, let alone its weight, so there was no alternative… The head of ground-staff was reassuring; Peter removed the two big wheels into wheel bags and folded the ‘cocoon’ into car transport mode. The joystick went into hand baggage, and the nickel-metal-hydride battery stayed stowed in its usual place (lithium batteries are a different proposition).
The only hitch was retrieving the entire Chariot. The ‘cocoon’ appeared, described as my ‘mobility scooter’; the wheel bags had been misidentified. A description of their unaccustomed size soon resolved the situation.
For our part, from our little plane we had wonderful views of clear turquoise sea, underwater pebbles, foraging seabirds and rocky mainland shores.