I was diagnosed with MS in 1997 and back then my mobility wasn’t too bad. I’d never considered the Motability scheme before always relying on my old banger to get me from A to B, but my worsening condition and a gentle shunt a few years later in London with a fellow road user, saw my trusty steed consigned to the scrap heap, leaving me rudderless and in a bit of a quandary.
At the time I was struggling for money and things were at a bit of a low ebb. My ex-partner had made a new life three hundred miles away in Durham, with my son, Connor and it was a testing time as I juggled my options, coping with my disease and working out how my boy would get a regular chance to see his Dad, especially now that I didn’t have a car. I’d made a vow the day he was born to always be there, so I was not going to let the little issues of distance and finance get in the way of that promise as I pondered a path forward.
My mobility had continued to deteriorate leaving me reliant on walking aids and I had been awarded the higher rate mobility component on my DLA application for my disability. The DWP often sent information in the post and a few days later after the car accident one fell through my letterbox. Inside was the usual financial jargon related to myself and a leaflet about the Motability Scheme. Whether its arrival was down to fate or coincidence its timing was perfect.
Later studying the leaflet and researching the scheme online, I realised that it could be the answer to a lot of my problems. I not only needed a reliable car to get me to Durham, but one to maintain my independence back home. Additionally I required a good support network offering me peace of mind if anything were to go wrong because of my disability and a minimal capital outlay due to the holes in my pocket.
Although I’d sacrifice my weekly mobility component to pay for the car, I felt it was worth the investment. The amount of mileage I had planned, the fact that the scheme ticked all the boxes but most importantly kept the corridor with Connor open, meant I was soon searching participating dealers. Before I knew it, I had booked a test drive and is if by magic 6 weeks later a sleek black hatchback awaited me on the dealer’s forecourt.
The drive the following Friday to Durham up the M1 could not have been more enjoyable. I was oblivious to the chain of frustration around me sweltering in traffic jams around Sheffield as I soaked in my new found freedom heading north dazzled by fields of mustard and the wonders of the English countryside unfurling before me. Con seemed just as excited as I was pulling up a couple of hours later outside his house, bounding out to greet me, a beaming smile across his face asking, ‘Where are we going on holiday this weekend Dad’. That statement became a template of stone for us as we maximised our time together, growing as one.
Over the next 10 years, I’d make that journey countless times, renewing the lease every 3 years for a new car with the same dealership maintaining our relationship. When my legs weakened further, making pedal control difficult, they fitted hand controls. This simple adjustment helped steer the grand tour, keeping the dream alive.
Together over that period we spent un-forgettable weekends with friends in the Lake District or in the wilds of Scotland but always returning to our favourite haunt Seahouses and a day out fishing on the high seas. Later exhausted we’d return with the bounty to our nearby hotel overlooked by Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland’s jewel in the crown, to discuss our day, watch Match of the Day and plan where we were going on holiday next.
Looking back I now see that wonderful time as pivotal in helping direct my life for the better. I never liked leaving him on a Sunday evening, dropping him off and making the long haul home but barring disaster we always knew we’d reconvene again soon, there was always that comfort. When he wasn’t there I grafted on using the car. It helped me getting to and from work, getting me to meetings, aiding me in developing contacts. Through that perseverance I later met my wife Julie who became my soul mate and later carer, as my condition worsened.
In many ways I’ve gone full circle all these years later, I don’t often make that journey now. Connor is grown up and forging a career in the RAF. We still see each other on a regular basis but now it’s his turn to do the leg work. I still use the car for shopping and visiting relatives, but prefer now to take the back seat role, happy for my nearest and dearest to take the controls, whilst I immerse myself in my good fortune and field of dreams.
Con and I still go fishing though. He still needs to work on his beer batter for our Cod & chips, but I don’t care – our bond will always be unbreakable, as will be my relationship with the Motability scheme – it changed my life.