>I’ve Still Got It

>My brother and his girlfriend move in together yesterday.  And today they had a housewarming BBQ.

The house they’ve moved into is an actual house – with an upstairs and a downstairs.  We’d thought the upstairs would be “out of bounds to me” – I used to climb stairs on a regular basis as up until I went to uni I had an upstairs bedroom.  And even then until 2002 I would be climbing stairs to get to my bedroom during the uni holidays.

Then in November 2002 my parents moved into their current house – which is a chalet bungalow.  And I got a downstairs room.  I first saw the house that Christmas and I went upstairs twice to see it.  I’ve not been up their again (and my sister actually thought I’d not seen the upstairs at all).  Other than one incident not long after I left uni (four years ago) involving a broken lift and me getting myself down some stairs, stairs have been something other people did since 2002.  I’ve done the odd step (there are two into my parents house).  But stairs?  I don’t do stairs.

Or I didn’t until today.

I wanted to see the upstairs of my brothers house.  I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I still had the ability to climb them it being so long since I did.  Mum didn’t think I could and didn’t want me to try.  Telling me that is kinda like a red flag to a bull and before I got there I had wondered if it might be possible.  So that was it.

But I was in the kitchen with my brother and we just went and starting going up the stairs.  On one side there is a bannister, on the other a bannister part of the way and then a wall.   I had wondered about going up on my bum – but I walked!  I held on with one hand and held on/lent on the wall with my other.  Ben walked behind me.

I practically flew up those stairs.

Just me and the walls/banister no help.

I couldn’t believe how quickly I got up them or how easy I found it.

Had a brief look round the upstairs and then sat on their bed for a while catching my breath while they greeted more guests and showed them round.  Then Dad came up and helped me into the bathroom which I also managed without help (and we hadn’t been sure I would even with help).  Yay for small bathrooms which mean the loo is right by the wall and the bath is right the other side and on the side i need help on the most.

Dad helped me walk back to the top of the stairs and after going down the top two, I sat on the top stair and worked my way down on my bum.  My favourite floaty blue skirt might not have been the best choice for stuff to wear for that.

I was breathless after my adventure but very pleased.

Welcome back, stairs.  I can’t say I’ve missed you over the last six years.  And I don’t think we’ll be having the relationship we had before.  Because I have no regular need of you now.  Just a now and again when I visit my brother and need the loo will have to be sufficient for you.  But it is nice to know that I’ve still got it.

Oh and the house is very nice and the BBQ was fun.

>Maybe Next Time

>I had a couple of ideas for blog entries in mind.  One about assistive/adaptive tech – having had the opportunity to play with some on Wednesday and hearing about another sort I wanted to record it.  And one about life long dreams and living those dreams – three people I know are moving far, far away in the next week or so and my brother and his girlfriend just moved into their own place.  Plus a good friend and I were discussing her life long dream the other day and so I’ve been thinking about that stuff.

Instead I have to write about meeting the new journey care assistant at Oxford – and I have to do so in a letter of complaint.  *Sigh*

Lets just say that I had concerns about the way she’d set the ramp up and told her but she waved them off – resulting in my almost coming out of my chair and getting really freaked out – I wasn’t crying but I was pretty damn close.  As I said to Chris when he helped me off of the train here, it wasn’t safe and if I’d been getting off of the train it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’d have fallen.  Also she hates her job and told me so.

*sighs again*

I’m going to or through Oxford rather a lot in July.  One of my regular people has retired now and I’m glad for him but he’s definitely gonna be missed if that’s the standard we’ll be having now.  Thankfully however there are two other regulars and they both know what they are doing, are friendly, like their jobs (or at least don’t tell me they don’t).  They make me laugh and they make me enjoy the experience with the jokes and the “nice to see yous.”  I’m really praying one or both of them will be there next time.

Also, why do people think it’s appropriate to telling clients they hate their jobs?  I tend to think it’s something to do with the disability aspect because I’ve heard it a lot from people who are carers or who are otherwise involved in supporting/assisting/helping disabled people.  But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a GP or a shop worker or a secretary anyone else mutter to me about how much they hate their job as they do their job – but some carers and other similar types do as they work helping/assisting/supporting me.  It makes me mad because to me its as though i’m supposed to feel guilty/bad for needing them to do their job.  Amd I refuse to.

*sighs yet again*

Still, maybe I’ll get to write about the interesting and fun stuff next time.

>Travelling – book style

>The final topic for The Friendly Book Nook’s Summer Reading Extravaganza is “Oh The Places You’ll Go – with a book!

Otherwise known as books that transport you to a new place or a different place.

Travel writing is GREAT for that and probably the best of all that I have read is Down Under by Bill Bryson. It’s a book I read many years ago (during my second year at uni) and loved. And it’s a book thats sat on my shelf for a long time. I keep thinking I must reread it and in fact intended to whilst Ben and Geri were in Australia on their trip last year but I never got there. Bryson has a really funny style that just captures life as it is and the way he really experienced things (although I have since heard some stuff about him tweaking some details of who he travels with etc in the books).

I’ve been to Australia – I spent most of December 1998 there visiting various different parts of the country – and that was what called out to me and made me want to read the book. And I do think that a huge part of what made me enjoy the book was the fact that I’d been there and loved the place. I’d been to some of the areas he wrote about and not to others. In one instance he even mentioned in passing a specific hotel I had stayed in (at Ayers Rock) and that made me really excited.

Reading that didn’t take me back there; it couldn’t. But it made me remember and it made me smile and it made me plan for where I would go if I went back (when I go back). Of course I’ve forgotten all of those long ago pipedreams and half made plans and would have to read it again before travelling there. But that would be half the fun.

I’ve also read travel books for places I haven’t been – and although they don’t bring back the personal memories and the “personal touch” Down Under did they let me learn about and dream of another new place – somewhere other than the dreary sameness of home.

Slightly off topic but also not, something else I love to do with a book is actually travel. I don’t drive because of my CP so frequently travel by train. And there is nothing more wonderful than knowing you have an hour and a half or however long the train journey will be to read with no interruptions and no thoughts of other things you “could” or even “should” be doing. Until you get to your destination you can’t do anything but sit there so you may as well take a book and travel somewhere else that way – somewhere much more exciting and interesting!

>Reading Activities.

>The next topic for the reading extravaganza is Fun Reading Activities.  And I don’t really do any of those.  I would love to join a book group and should really make more of an effort to see if I could find one to go to.  But it’s one of those things you put on the list and never quite get round too… I have a rather long one of those lists right now!

One of the best things about the summer however is the opportunity to sit outside with a book – there is something very different about reading outside to reading inside although it does have to be said that there are days when nothing but reading curled under a blanket (or my duvet usually) will do.  I spent an entire afternoon like that, with the window open blowing a breeze over me a few weeks ago.  It was lovely.  The best thing about reading outside however is glancing up and watching the world go by – and maybe having a few words with those who pass.  I have a back garden which is fenced but as a point of preference usually sit by my front door – and there is a path which goes right in front.

Several people who also volunteer at CAB also love to read and over the last several months we’ve had several quick discussions and mentions of good books.  I’ve borrowed loads of different books from them (have books belonging to three different people from there atm) and lent a few out.  It’s fun and it’s a good cheap way to get reading material.  I really enjoying lending my books to others and hearing what they thought afterwards.  It makes buying the books really worthwhile and they seem cheaper that way too.  Our local library is some what lacking in books (it seems) and despite several long trips I’ve not found anything there that’s grabbed me for a long time.  But being surrounded by former English teachers and others who like to read and who lend me books is like having my own personal library and it rocks.

Occasionally we will have a quiet morning and get into a bigger discussion on books but not as often as I would like.  We’ve been borrowing Phillipa Gregory books lately (which I am not getting on well with) and this week during a quiet ten minutes were talking about how those books are historically accurate.  It’s an area/period of history I’m particularly interested in (Tudors and Stewarts) so that was cool because I learned some stuff and I was intrigued to hear of the research that had gone into the writing of this fiction.  It almost made me want to give those books another go having previously decided I wasn’t going to keep going with reading them.

My sister borrows a lot of books from me but we don’t often get into discussion of them beyond whether we liked them.

>Nanny’s World

>Yesterday after a long day out with friends we drove through Thatcham on our way home. Thatcham is where my Nanny lived until 2001 (I think it was at least). And I’ve only briefly been back once since then, to take her to meet her sister and go on holiday from there. I’ve not been back since she died.

Driving through there was really weird. There was the garden centre we always passed as we were on our way; it was when we knew we would soon see the “Welcome to Thatcham” sign. I think we visited once or twice.

And next there was the Catholic Hall where her 70th birthday party was held. There were so many people at that party and the walls were decorated with banners which said “70 Years Young”. I was 11 or I might have been 12. She didn’t have candles on her birthday cake, instead everyone was given a household candle (red, I think) and stood in a circle. Mum or someone, maybe my aunt, went round and lit them and Nanny followed a few people behind blowing them out. I was sat on a regular chair in that circle and holding an unlit candle. Mum wouldn’t let me have a lit one but we pretended and she “blew it out” just the same. They played songs that she liked and songs that we liked. They also played No Limits by 2Unlimited and she did the dance to it; the one that had won her the title of “groovy granny” or some such on a holiday to a Haven Park a while before. We loved that our Nan was so game and would do such things.

And then over on the right, just behind that garage, she lived there. Next was the small row of shops – we’d go there for sweets when we visited. And on the left, She lived there too. There was the nearby library we would visit when I went to stay – she would let me chose a book to get out – I was 14 or 15 the last time I think.

That road, just over there? That was the one we would walk down on our way into town proper.

Oh, there’s the chip shop. Nanny worked in there for a long time and I remember more than once being sat in the car outside with my Dad. It was always nearly closing time and we were waiting for her to finish work. Then we would drive back here with us and she would stay for a few days. I went along more than once “for the ride” as she would say. She’d come out with hugs and kisses and a portion of chips for me. I’d eagerly unwrap them and eat a few. Then she’d take them and wrap them back up again – properly just like they did in the chip shop. I can’t remember how old I was then, it was during my primary school years and I’d imagine I was about 7 at more. But I thought it was absolutely amazing that MY Nan knew how to wrap the chips up just like in the chippy. Wow.

I vaguely remember the woman she worked with too. But what I really remember about her is an event some years after Nanny stopped working there. We went to visit and as we were sitting there in her little bungalow she mentioned that she was going to a funeral the next day. So mum asked who it was – the woman she had worked with.

“Oh yeah, what happened to her then?” asks mum.

Honest to God, Nanny just absolutely deadpan as if this was the most appropriate answer turned to mum and just went “She died.”

Oh how we laughed – and how she laughed too.

***

It took probably less than 10 minutes to drive through Thatcham last night and it wasn’t easy. But it was nice in a way to do so. I was just sat there going “this is so weird.” and then I explained to Alison why that was. I told her the first chip shop story and how it didn’t seem like anything had changed.

Tomorrow my parents are attending a funeral – in the same church and with the same cemetery as Nanny’s funeral. And the burial is to be as close to Nanny’s grave as possible. I would imagine that won’t be easy.

I am glad I got to visit “her world” (even though she lived here for the last several years of her life – I will always think of her when I visit Thatcham and Newbury) yesterday however briefly.

I love you Nanny. And I Miss You too.

I am, are you?

>Magazines is today’s theme.

I’m not really into magazines.  I used to read lots of different ones – the trashy real life weekly ones like Take a Break or Chat but not any more.  I can’t remember the last time I bought any of those.  And I used to read Cosmo but again, can’t remember when the last time I was.  I had a subscription for a while but hardly ever actually read the issues.  And I really can’t stand magazines like Hello or OK!  If I want to read all about others lives I can read blogs – that’s free and less annoying!

I quite enjoy Disability Now but don’t read it regularly – I do surf the website every now and then.  I’ve actually not read an issue since they revamped it’s look but I do have two waiting for a spare moment which I got given free at Naidex.

Really the only magazine I read on a regular basis is Healthy.  I’m actually not a very healthy (in the real sense of the word) person – I’m not good at taking care of myself I mean, I don’t mean anything to do with my disability.  But I think the articles interesting, particularly the regular weight loss and fitness club features – yes I suck at follow through but I get good inspiration from those and tips which I occasionally manage to try out.  Also, alternative medicine is something which begins to interest me more and more and so reading about supplements can be worthwhile – I know from personal experience how much of a difference cranberry extract and evening primrose oil (both recommended by my GP) have made to some long lasting problems of mine.

There is a little bit of me, however, the cynic in me which can’t help but think that the whole thing with the magazine might just be some form of marketing ploy for the certain health food chain which is the only place which stocks it.  I still buy it religiously every time though.

>Tired Em = Bitchy Em

>When I get tired I have a lot less patience and I get bitchy much easier than usual.  The more tired I am, the more bitchy I get.  Today I got up really early and then spent 13 hours straight out of the house.  I am really, really tired.  The result?  It’s really not pretty.

Particularly given the fact that I did something which for me is huge, and I got loads of compliments about.  However there was one person there for whom that wasn’t good enough and who was determined to be sure I knew it – annoying me and everyone else in the process.  Which tired me out more.  Which…

Like I said, not pretty.

>Children’s Books

>Today is Summer Reading for Children day of the Reading Extravaganza.  And as I don’t have kids I thought I would tell you about some of my favourite books from when I was a child and some of the allegedly teen books that I still read now.

And writing this post, the first person who comes to mind is Michelle Magorian.  Yup, she of Goodnight Mister Tom fame.  I suspect that most people who come here from The Friendly Book Nook won’t know who she is because I think most of them are American and I don’t know she’s known over there.  But Goodnight Mister Tom is a childrens book that isn’t.  It’s a great book for kids but it’s also a great book for adults too.  It’s about wartime, survival, being a kid and about learning to live.  The TV version starring the late great John Thaw is amazing too and is actually what turned me onto the book.  I’ve not read any of her other books although I want too.

The Chronicles of Narnia are a huge favourite of mine, I read them all last year for what was the first time for the whole series (had read one or two before).  Prince Caspian will finally be at the pictures of Thursday – can’t wait for that!  I loved Harry Potter but think the last one was a bit disappointing.  I loved the Ella Enchanted film and then read the book which is by Gail Carson Levine.  It’s a really good book, different from the film but still great.  Those are all kids books I’ve read as an adult.

LM Montgomery was a huge favourite when I was 11 or so.  I first got into the Anne books which are still great now but then my Great Aunt gave me all three of the Emily books for my 13th Birthday and I was hooked.  Hooked, i tell you.  All are brilliant but my personal choice would be that Emily is better than Anne.  I think I could (and still can) identify more with her than I could with Anne – she always seemed to be the one with the hardest lot in life but she made it through.  And she wanted to write – like I do.  I can’t find the first of the Emily books (know I still have it) but when I do I’m going to reread all three.

I read His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman this year too – really, really great.

>Pic Post: Race for Life Photos AT LAST

>Huge thanks to Alison over at Ideaslist for the reminder about this post! I did half of it the other day and had to abandon it and then forgot… so serious thanks for the reminder because I would hate not to get these up here!

Me pre-race

This is me taken right before the race for life. I’m wearing a bright pink top with my runner number pinned on using safety pins. My number is 8856 (just in case you were interested!). I’m wearing a cap as well. Mostly the background is grass but you can see bits of a some people too.

\"I race for life for...\" Back sign

My back with the back sign pinned on.  It’s bright pink with a purpley blue border and printing.  It says “I race for life for…” and then I wrote on My Gran which I did in a big silver craft marker.  I also underlined that with squiggly lines and drew a squiggly border too.  There is quite a lot of “pink space” too which would be white (blank) space only the whole thing is pink and lets not pretend, lol.  I’d almost say the top and the sign are the same shade of pink.

Me and Sam just past the finish line

This is me and Sam just past the finish line; you can see it in the background.  I’m on the left and Sam’s on the right.  I have my hands in the air in a “success” or “victory!” type pose.  We both have big grins.

Crowd of runners running away from the camera.

Finally a photo that really comes before the last but that I wanted to finish with.

I think this is probably my favourite of all of the Race for Life photos and it’s one that makes me very grateful that my mum just points and clicks on the off chance as opposed to my Dad’s staged pictures take on photos.  It’s a group of women all walking/running away from the camera.  You can see the path, some grass, shady area (one of a very few!) and some pink ribbon to the side which was used to mark the course.  And a little way in the crowd of people you can see the back of me and my wheelchair with my water bottle hanging off the back.  Being a part of that huge crowd was a really empowering and defining moment for me and I like to think that this photo shows that and shows the way I felt.

There’s an English Proverb:

A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words

I think that’s true, I don’t think I could sum it up properly with words but I hope this photo shows you what I see and what I felt.

Pictures hold life’s experiences. And I feel that with every experience you learn something. Therefore, you learn something with every picture you take.
~Anonymous

I learnt from the Race for Life.  I learnt just how worth it it truly is/was.  And I learnt that I do still have the strength I had years ago.  It was waiting there for me to rediscover it once again.  And I once again did something “impossible.”

When one picks up ones camera and freezes a moment in time we all get a glimpse of ones soul ~ Anonymous

Well, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I think Race for Life and my writings and photos I’ve shared about it show my soul to the world.  But I do think the experience helped me to replenish my soul and along on my journey to who I want to be.  To find who Emma needs to be in the future.  It’s a never ending journey but this is another step along the way.  I have great memories of the day but I’m glad I have these photos too.

>Summer Reading Extravaganza Day One: Fun Summer Reads

>Today’s topic for the Summer Reading Extravaganza is Fun Summer Reads.

First I should probably start by saying that my Books in 2008 page as linked over in my sidebar needs a serious update, I have eight, almost nine, books to add to the finished list.  That’s my job when I’m finished here I think.

Books that I’ve read this year that were fun?  Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is one of the most recent.  In fact, I will probably read some more of her books later on – reading Body Surfing and remembering other books of hers like The Pilots Wife has left me hankering for more of her work.  Beach living, romance and some unexpected happenings this book has it all and is just the right size for a quick read.  An easy read for when you need a break from it all.  I think it’s set in the same beach house as The Pilots Wife (and from what I’ve read online, a couple of Ms Shreve’s other books – ones I hope to find and read soon).  I’ve passed my copy of Body Surfing onto a friend to take on holiday with her; she describes these books as perfect beach reads and I think she’s right.  I have one other of these books on my shelf waiting to be read (been on there years I think) but as that’s called Light on Snow me think it is the exception to the “beach read” rule.

Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace was a really really powerful read which hit me and touched me in ways I didn’t expect.  I wrote about that in detail here.  If you’re looking for fun, easy reading, chick lit type books – this is not your book.  It’s set during the last few year of WWII in Italy and it’s about the hardships and struggles of life and it is very much the real story – not so much the war but the life within it.  If you want a book that will be hard to put down, will touch you, stay with you and completely blow you away – this is your book.

I’ve read three out of four Dorothy Koomson books and think I will probably buy the fourth and take it (possibly along with some other as yet unidentified book) with me when I go away in August.  Usually I take three or four books when I go away and end up buying more there but as I’m only going away from really Friday morning to Sunday night probably late ish I figure I can probably manage with just two.  Actually given that other than travel time and sleep time the rest of my time is probably jam packed with sailing etc (am going to a regatta) one would probably do just for the travel time.  Still I can’t stand to be without reading material.  Anyway, I found the Dorothy Koomson books to be great reads – they all work along basically the same lines but have great characters and well written plots.  It’s a quick, easy, fun read but enjoyable and I expect The Chocolate Run to be just the same.

There’s also a new Jane Green book I have my eye on too but I forget what it;s called.  I mean the paperback one not the hardback.  I don’t buy hardback books a rule but I must admit A Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult is really making that hard to stick to right now.