John Close - life / outro

The long-awaited, disabled persons flat

In mid April 2002 John was evicted from a room he was renting in Stony Stratford and was found temporary accommodation in a nursing home in Leighton Buzzard. He accepted, despite not needing that level of care, because he had just been offered a new, disabled persons flat in Milton Keynes, owned by Chiltern Hundreds Housing Association who said it would be ready for him in a couple of weeks. The two weeks eventually turned into six months and John's frustration grew with each passing week. The nursing home residents were a lot older than John and spent most of their day watching or sleeping in front of their televisions with the volume set very high. John found this very disturbing, especially when he was trying to sleep or compose music and he tried various rooms to find some peace and quiet. Eventually he was told that the CHHA flat was almost ready and his spirits lifted, only to be dashed when he was able to view the flat in mid August. A month later John was still waiting and getting more frustrated and, on a second visit on the 24th September, he noticed some design problems. John was by now so angry that he wanted to produce some web pages with photographs to describe the events.

Eventually, on Sunday the 13th October, John finally moved into his new flat with its many faults. When visitors called, John found that he couldn't quite see who was at the front door, not that he could reach the security chain to let them in anyway. If John wanted to wash at the sink in the bathroom he had to do so in the dark because he couldn't reach the light switch and if he wanted to adjust the shower head he couldn't reach that either. With a lot of stretching he could just touch the central-heating thermostat but he couldn't read the numbers on the dial. Hanging his coat on the hooks by the front door presented a problem. Keeping items in the kitchen cupboards was not an option for John and all the kitchen work surfaces were a nice height for someone who wasn't in a wheelchair! Leaving the flat unaided was impossible for John - the fire door required strength far beyond his means and opened across the tiny lobby. He also found it impossible to get his wheelchair over the front door weather strip. The catches at the top and bottom of all the flat's windows were replaced, before John moved in, with handle winders fitted to the bottom of the frames; these could not close the opening lights properly. During the winter of 2002-03 John, and his carers, endured some cool draughts and loud windy noises as a result.

John battled on, regularly emailing CHHA to ask them to improve conditions at his flat and eventually the work surfaces were lowered, the bathroom light was repositioned and the occupational health department fitted a remote control device to the fire and front doors to enable John to open them at the press of a button. Sadly, by this time he was too weak to leave the flat on his own. When John set off for assisted suicide in Zurich in May 2003, the bathroom ceiling, which had sagged since before his arrival due to an overflowing bath in the flat above, remained unrepaired and the windows still didn't close properly.