Man with MS at large in M&S

The lord help anyone shopping in a mobility scooter on Black Friday if a Tuesday morning in Norwich is anything to go by. I am new to using a scooter and, up until then, I had only pootled about in charming Suffolk market towns, which has been largely pleasurable.

My wife and I stayed in Norwich for a few days as a short winter break. Although I am able to walk short distances with the aid of a stick in familiar and easy situations, such as a hotel, I need a scooter for longer journeys for all the usual reasons.

We are both very familiar with Norwich and it is a favourite city but I had not been back since I had started using a scooter. Public buildings such as the cathedral, Norwich castle museum and the Sainsbury gallery were very well geared up with largely faultless facilities for the less able. I had a great time revisiting these and other old haunts.

As an experiment I decided that I would attempt to buy some thermal socks in M&S on my own, whilst my wife went off elsewhere. It was an intriguing experience that I am reluctant to repeat. I have no complaint against M&S as access was possible, with one exception, and the staff were helpful and personable.

Men’s socks were on the second floor so the first task was to negotiate the lift. I found it easily enough and waited patiently for it to arrive. As soon as the doors opened and the lift had disgorged its passengers, the people behind me surged forward, filled the lift and off it ascended leaving me high and dry. My new cloak of invisibility was working well. I tried again and failed. On the third attempt some kind people made sure I was given priority and up we went. There was no intentional boorishness by anyone I met but it was quite evident that only persons of a certain age noticed that I existed.

Arriving at the second floor I felt like a small child in a field of long grass. All the clothing loomed over me and I was totally disoriented as I could not see any signs from my lowly angle. I tried to negotiate the maze to find the socks but finally I gave up and asked a member of staff. The socks, to my dismay, were on a mezzanine floor that, of course, meant the use of another lift.

This lift was a single person device that had a manual door at one level but an automatic door and the next level. I could not open the manual door from my scooter and had to ask a customer to help me. Once in I had to hold down a button during the complete ascent/descent for it to operate which could be an issue for some. This is my only complaint against M&S; why make access easy on one end of the lift’s journey but not the other and why have to hold down the button?

Faced with a forest of socks and underpants I tried to find the section for thermal socks. In my attempt I just avoided felling a personable fellow customer and having exchanged a few friendly remarks she found the thermal section for me.

Once more I battled with the single person lift and scythed a path through the forest of garments to the payment desks. That part went quite well and so did my descent to the ground floor, yet again negotiated with the kindness and goodwill of fellow customers.

I am sure that none of the above is news to any of you who have kindly read these witterings thus far. In fact the experience was not altogether terrible but merely a novel one for me from a totally alien but increasingly familiar perspective. With the exception of the retail fuelled frenzy to scale the lift at all costs, I was largely met with consideration. I did my best to be cheerful and personable throughout it all. Despite all that, it will be on-line shopping from now on as its limitation certainly outweigh the experiences of front line consumer combat.

I had been very apprehensive about the holiday but I am glad we went and I am certainly looking forward to another short break in more clement weather, MS permitting of course.

Thank you for your time.

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Yeh, what an interesting post! Thanks for sharing it.

I wont stop shopping and will be out meddling in my wheelie…Boudicas chariot!...Ive not got round to fixing the bayonets yet!

But unlike you, I have 2 henchmen to assist and reach the unreachable articles I need.

Some stores have their shelves unreasonably high and neither of my henchmen are 6ft…so we await a suitable passer-by and pounce!

Those single person lifts I know well…and yeh, could be difficult if one`s ams cant hold a button in until landing is established.

My hubby aint a shopper…apart from the weekly supermarket trek, which he does without me and abhors shoppers who block his way by chatting.

You stay home and shop on-line in the warm hun. Leave the battles to us females…we love it!

Polly aka Boudica


Hi Alun

I can pretty much identify with those experiences. Those little lifts can be a pain. It’s especially difficult to pull the manual door open when you need to block it shut with the scooter in order to be able to reach the handle! As for holding the button down:

Push button

Travel 2 feet

fingers slip off button

Repeat ad infinitum!

The other irritant I find is the way the queues work where you have to get around the post at the end to get to the counter and discover your scooter has the turning circle of the QE2!

Anyway, stay safe


On alun

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

I am power chair user and struggle with m/s, not that i am there often!

The best lift I have found is at local rail station! Large and doors both sides so just drive thru! Buttons lower at my height.some places are learning and doing!


Struggle with m\s I meant marks!

Oh Alun i know the struggles well, going into Leeds market is such a struggle some days mainly its because sitting in a small scooter you,re not at eye level with people who are totally distracted either by their phones or by the shops ( most likley the phone) the amount of times i,ve had to shout watch out or be careful i cant count ,yes the old invisability cloak is working well.

In a resturaunt there is a lift like you said with the hold down button but you go in 1 way and have to turn the scooter as getting out is to the side of the direction you entered theres no room to turn and i got stuck trying to get out had to get wth waiters to come and tip the scooter to turn it and the same on the way out ,most embarrassing wont be going there again.

Isnt life on wheels fun like you i could write a book on the adventures of a wheelie user,glad you,re getting out and about enjoy your scooter .


Oh Alun, I just read this out to my husband and I’m sorry, I just couldn’t complete a sentence without being reduced to tears of mirth and had to keep going back to the start of the sentence! Wonderful writing and very, very visual. :smiley: You must be a very patient man though. There is no way on earth I would have allowed the hoards to surge forward into the lift, that I had called!!! I’d have shouted at them and stuck my leg in the doors to stop them from going anywhere!

I use a crutch for support at present so can’t identify with your “adventure” but I expect the day will come…

I do hope I can remain as pleasant and humorous as you when/if the time comes. Happy days to you.

Lovely piece of writing - your first line is great! Fortunately, I don’t need a scooter to get around - I do have problems with becoming disorientated in busy shops though ( I can get ‘lost’ very quickly!) so I can see that tackling it from a much lower level would be overwhelming. x

Alun, how are yer bor ??? I don’t have wheels, am totally mobile for now, but Norwich m&s does my head in anyway with all it’s levels, escalators and lifts!!! I think it’s in competition with Debenhams opposite to be the most frustrating !! Thermal socks - market. All flat, just sloped… Of course, if you want a total breakdown try Primark !! :wink: Glad you liked our fine city. Dew yew keep a troshin bor !! Andy

Have to agree with Andy. I used to love shopping in Norwich but last week my son wanted to go. I mostly trailed 6 feet behind him as I “walk too slow”. He bought some clothes and Christmas shopping while I found somewhere to sit mostly and tried to fend off people brandishing surveys. I did go downstairs in Jarrolds as I like their Christmas section but I had one hand on the rail and one hand on my stick and then some people decided to come up the stairs on the same side as me. I just muttered ‘damn’ and looked at them and they kindly went round me!

The shops are too hot, there’s not enough room to get by even just with a stick, and there’s too many different levels. I don’t even attempt M&S any more. I was so relieved when J said he’d finished. I have some ideas for my Christmas shopping and I’ve been in local charity shops (found a lovely decanter for my spicy gingerbread vodka) and will do online shopping this weekend. Sorted. I rarely attempt the shops in December. The last time I ventured out in December a few years ago, I had parked at a friend’s house and turned up back at her’s stripped back to jeans and T-shirt and feeling murderous.

I did love reading your post though. Made me chuckle. You have a way with words.

Tracey x

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I am gratified by all the responses received so thank you all.

Polly – you are right; us blokes fall at the first hurdle and give up – no grit huh! I visualised your chariot and your two henchmen ploughing through a supermarket aisle scattering shoppers as they plunge into the deep freeze to escape your warlike approach.

Marc – I have a small scooter with a good turning circle but I found the spaces between the displays more troublesome than the checkout. Those single person lifts must have been designed by a committee, but missing the essential point; consultation with a chair user.

Ellie – perhaps M&S use an architect inspired by Piranesi with stairs going everywhere and nowhere.

Barbara – yes life on wheels is fun and I am learning more and more about human behaviour. I have yet to meet any hostility but I am dismayed chiefly by each individual’s determined pursuit of a personal agenda, at all costs. Perhaps I was like that before MS, who knows. However, do write that book!

Poppy6488 – thank you for your kind words and I am glad you found the post amusing. With your crutch you have a formidable weapon; I must try harder to be more assertive otherwise I will be doomed to waiting for a lift but never being able to get in it. Perhaps I have just invented a new circle of hell.

BeccaT – just as well that I hadn’t chosen Debenhams for the experiment. I understand the feeling of disorientation very well, and it is always accompanied by its partner in crime, stress. Not nice at all.

Andy – I am also fond of Norwich market and remember using it a lot when I was a student at the UEA in the early 70s. A bowl of mushy peas on a winter’s day was a real treat. My first inclination was to use the market but I suffered a rush of blood to the head and decided on a foolhardy solo charge at a chain store.

Tracey – the spicy vodka sounds a perfect pick me up after a shopping frenzy. I agree about starting a retail hibernation at the end of November as city centres are stressful enough even for the able bodied. Thank goodness for on line shopping; comfort for you, with a glass of something at your side to ease the strain on the credit card.

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Ah, the facefull of skirts and dresses as you try to squeeze between the rails. Almost as good as those people who leave a pushchair in the aisle whilst they’re rummaging through the sale stock!

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