Spotted At The Sailing Club

The weather was so bad on Monday that I was sure I wouldn’t be going sailing  And then on Tuesday it was better but I still thought it likely we wouldn’t go.  As the day went on I began to suspect a yes was possible.  Then I got an email saying it wasn’t great weather and the access dinghies wouldn’t go out but confident challenger sailors were welcome but likely to get wet. I’m never quite sure when they say that whether I’m what they mean by confident challenger sailors. I’m quite a fair weather sailor and I get scared easily. But the friend I was getting a lift with needed to go and pick something up so I figured I should go and see. And pretty much the decision got taken out of my hands.

It was wet, rained right when I got out of the car (although I didn’t need to change clothes) and a bit choppy with some squalls. I didn’t enjoy the squalls but I was really glad I got on the water.  Unsurprisingly as soon as I told the safety boat guys that I’d had enough and went in the rain stopped and the wind dropped.

We stayed for a drink afterwards and got to watch another spectacular Farmoor sunset.

Dramatic looking clouds over the reservior
Dramatic looking clouds over the reservior
The last few minutes of the sunset, clouds and pink streaks over the reservoir
The last few minutes of the sunset, clouds and pink streaks over the reservoir (this is to the right of the first picture)
Close up on the pinky red sunset with purpley grey clouds in the foreground - sort of bruise colour
Close up on the pinky red sunset with purpley grey clouds in the foreground – sort of bruise colour

A Daughter’s Secret by Eleanor Moran

I received a free copy of A Daughter’s Secret by Eleanor Moran via NetGalley/Simon and Schuster

Mia is a high-flying child psychotherapist, hoping to be made partner in the thriving practice where she works. But then she takes on a case which will change her life for ever, and bring back the past she has done her best to bury.

Thirteen year old Gemma was the last person to see her father before he went on the run, fleeing from a major criminal trial. The police are desperate to track him down, pressuring Mia to tease the information out of his angry and reluctant daughter. But what does Gemma really know and how hard can Mia push without betraying her?

Both are hiding devastating secrets. Both need the other to survive. Will they learn to trust each other before it’s too late?

This was a really fun read despite it’s somewhat tricky subject matter.  I read it on the train to and from London – when I left the house I hadn’t started it and when I got home I’d finished it.  I loved it and really wanted to know what happened – I was racing to finish it as the train called at the last few stops before mine because I didn’t want to have to put it down for the few minutes it takes me to get home.

This is the first full length novel I’ve read by Eleanor Moran and I’ll definitely be looking out for more by her as she has a style I found really engaging, the ability to write characters who are real and just brilliant and it ended with a twist I didn’t see coming. Plus it covered a topic I rarely read about in women’s fiction so it was really fresh – a lot of what I’ve been reading in this genre has felt samey and predictable lately and it was a really nice change.
I highly recommend this book and really hope Eleanor Moran writes a sequel because I desperately want to know what’s next for both Gemma and Mia. If I had a criticism it would be it isn’t long enough!

Bout of Books Update

I have been reading and/or listening to an audiobook everyday this week.  Which is huge for me lately., I can’t remember the last time that happened.  It was probably in June but it may have been the first week in July.  I certainly seem to have been in a slump since then.  I’m really hoping I can maintain that momentum now I have it back and I’m planning to start writing a weekly reading down my TBR pile post again.  That will start on Monday with a wrap up of the rest of Bout of Books.  The weekly post may move to Wednesday though as I’m also thinking of resurrecting my Self Care Sunday posts., I haven’t quite decided yet.

At the moment it looks as though I probably won’t reach the goals I talked about in my earlier post but that’s OK.  I’m just glad to be reading regularly again.  And with the three days remaining of Bout of Books containing two days with very little to do and one day with a long train journey it’s still possible I may meet my 4 book goal. Watch this space.

I finished listening to the audiobook of The Humans by Matt Haig this morning.  I loved it.  It was one of those rare books where I was loving the audiobook but also sort of wishing I was reading the paperback because I was loving it so much and I really wanted to know what happened next.  Reading a book is much quicker than listening to it!

And I’ve read the Official Souvenir Guide Book for Buckingham Palace (sounvenir is a word I always find hard to spell)- I bought it when I went to visit last year and never read it. As I’m about to go back (you can return within one year for free) I thought I should read it otherwise what was the point in buying it?  I found it a really interesting read actually, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy occasionally reading about history.  I was always really interested in history at school.  It was quite indepth for 70 pages too.

Other than that I’ve read a small amount of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  I like it so far and expect to enjoy it – I’ve enjoyed her other books although they are definitely meaty books that make you think rather than escapist reading.  Which is why I’ve only read a small amount, it’s a slow read.

Bout of Books

I’ve decided to take part in Bout of Books this week. I’ve really not been reading much lately and maybe this will focus my mind a bit.

Here’s how the people behind it describe it:
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

This will be the first time I’ve taken part in Bout of Books but I’ve got a feeling I may have signed up and then not taken part once before.

My first thought was to set a goal of 1 book a day – i.e. 7 books over the readathon.  But I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal.  So instead I’ll declare that my realistic goal is to read 4 books and to finish the audiobook I’ve been listening to – Humans by Matt Haig – which I’ve not listened to a second of in over a week.  I’ll be bearing my unrealistic goal in mind though!

Most importantly I’m currently 3 books behind in my goodreads challenge. I’d like to end the readathon back on track.

Have Powerchair, Will Travel (Part 2)

Click here for Have Powerchair, Will Travel (Part 1) – that post has just had a minor edit/update as I read it back and realised I forgot a point I’d wanted to add.

I just got home from the second part of my August travel plans. And that went much better so this will be a much more boring read.

I’ve blogged quite a few times about the ridiculous saga that was the attempt at going to see Dirty Dancing for my birthday last December.  As a result of that I’m not going to the New Theatre in Oxford any more – not so much because of the access problem I experienced but because of the terrible attitude of the staff. That’s mostly irrelevant to this trip but it’s the background to it. And this really is the last time I’m ever mentioning that on my blog (although I suspect I’ve said that before).

Anyway.

I saw that The Bodyguard was coming to Birmingham Hippodrome and I really thought one of my friends from uni, Rachel, would come with me. But she didn’t want to.  When we first met in my first year at uni Rachel and a lot of my friends and carers were all absolutely horrified that I’d never seen Dirty Dancing and made me watch it.  When Rachel emailed me back about going to The Bodyguard and said she didn’t want to because she’d never seen the film I was really surprised and I imagine it was the same sort of horrified feeling that my having not seen Dirty Dancing evoked in her all those years ago.

But I still really wanted to go and I knew that no one else would want to go badly enough to travel to Birmingham. So I left it a while. Then I decided I really did want to go and knowing that the nearby Premier Inn is dirt cheap when booked far enough in advance booked myself a ticket for the show on this past Friday night and a night at the hotel.

Travelling up there by train went fine.  I changed trains in Oxford and had a little while to hang around. I spotted another wheelchair user I know on the platform waiting to get on the same train – we only had a chance to chat for a minute or so before she went one way with one of the assisted travel team to get on one end of the train and I went to the other end with another person helping me.  Luckily the carriage I was booked in was at the front of the train because the platform at Oxford is lower at one end than the other and I’ve struggled to get on the lower end but can manage the front.  Because it was wet both of the ramps I used to board the trains were a little damp and it was harder than usual but I got on.

Then I was on the train and once again there was luggage in the wheelchair space.  The guy helping me called out for it’s owner to come move it.  But no one did.  So he asked again and then when they didn’t picked it up. He announced he was going to remove it from the train if it didn’t belong to anyone there but still no one claimed it. So he declared that it obviously didn’t belong to anyone in the carriage and it shouldn’t have been in the wheelchair space so he was taking it off with him.  A man stopped him and said “I think it belongs to this girl here.” pointing to the girl in the seat behind him but she didn’t say anything.  In the end the guy helping me jammed it into the luggage rack and left. Another man then stalked past me as he did so demanding to know where he was supposed to put his luggage. I told him, sarcastically, “well, not in the wheelchair space.”

Arrived into Birmingham fine and had a wander round and then went to the hotel.  I tend to find that Premier Inn provide some of the best accessible hotel rooms and if you get a room that meets your needs you’re fine.  I’d rung them on the Wednesday (this was the Friday) to make sure they knew that I need a room with a level access shower and not one with a bath. I was told they would give me one and were making a note of my request.

And then I checked in and the lady on reception offered to come to the room with me. The minute I got into the room I looked in the bathroom and told her “this isn’t going to work.”  I’d yet again been given a room with a bath.  They’re as I said very good at rooms that are very accessible. But they’re very bad at accommodating requests for specific needs first time. So much for making a note of it. I told her that too.  They got me moved to another room easily that did meet my needs.  And it was a brilliant room. Much better than the one at the Hilton I had last week which felt like they’d had a list of “things needed in wheelchair accessible hotel rooms.” and just thrown them in with no thought which made it very tricky to manage (that room had amongst other things only access to one side of the bed – and because I needed a socket to charge my chair I had to get several items of furniture removed from the room so I could get to the other side of it.)  But then I know Premier Inn uses DisabledGo to access audit a lot of it’s hotels. So I’d expect it to be good.

The staff were great at spotting when I needed help too – like as soon as I went for breakfast they had someone to do table service for me before I’d even asked for help with the buffet.

The show was amazing and I enjoyed my time in Birmingham.  I mostly wandered around, did a little shopping and met up with someone in my CP group for a drink and a chat. I will blog more about some of that in another entry.

Coming home worked really well. I’d pretty much had enough and even though it was stupidly early I figured I’d go sit in the customer reception and read my book.  I was booked on the 18:03 and arrived in there at 17:26.  It’s a running joke amongst a lot of disabled people and “on the ground” assisted travel staff that the helplines to book swear blind you need to be there 20-30 minutes before the train when if you do that more often than not you get put on an earlier train than your booked one.  I thought I was too late for the train before mine but I went in and said “this is never going to happen again but I’ve got assistance booked and I’m really early.” They went “you want to go on the earlier train?” and I was confused but they swore blind that even though New Street station is huge and there were only 7 minutes to go they could do that. And they did. The guy literally got me onto the platform then grabbed the ramp and ran while I followed behind.  Phone messages followed me on my journey to let them know I was early. And it all worked well.

This is much more what I expect when I travel and normal – niggles and all.

Have Powerchair, Will Travel (Part 1)

This should, actually be part 2 of Have Powerchair, Will Travel. But what was going to be part 1 got called off at the last minute by the friend I was going to do that trip (a day out to the coast) with.

I went to Bath last weekend for my sister’s hen do.  The hen do was Saturday and the majority of those who went stayed over and went home early afternoon Sunday.  I wanted to get the train and we needed to be there relatively early and even before I knew there would be rail replacement works at Bath I decided to travel down the day before.  So last Friday I set off for the station.

Now my local station has shit wheelchair ramps.  They were replaced a couple of years ago by lighter ones. And by lighter read shorter. My powerchair has a safety mechanism that kills it if it tries to go up anything too steep. The combination has meant that I can’t take my chair on certain trains from my local station. I have a standing agreement that I can have a taxi for those journeys but I very rarely take advantage of it.  So I called the FGW assisted travel helpline a few days before and got it all arranged. I was pleased not to need to argue for the taxi or have any fuss and they said straight away they’d get me a taxi back too. I told them the name of the accessible taxi company I usually use (the only one in Didcot)

Friday morning and it’s all good. I’ve got to get better at getting ready to go away in a timely fashion but I’m out the house with all my stuff and sorted. I’d have preferred a less stressful start to the day but it wasn’t to be.

The plan was I would get the taxi as far as Swindon and then they’d stick me on a train from Swindon to Bath. Swindon has the old long nonshit ramps you see.

I get to the station and buy my ticket and then I get a text “your taxi is outside. It’s a black toyota prius registration blah blah blah.” i.e. not accessible.

So I go and have a word with the driver who swears they weren’t told I needed an accessible taxi. Back into the station and asked for one of the assistance guys to come down.  The taxi was booked for over an hour before my train from Swindon so there’s a chance I can get there in time if we get this sorted.

Explained the situation and he called my usual accessible taxi provider. It was off the road.  He called the taxi company that had been sent. Their despatcher swore they hadn’t been asked for an accessible taxi. This has since been proved to not be true. An accessible taxi was booked. They either forgot or deliberately didn’t send one.

So I’m getting wound up and I’m chatting to the assistance guy, D,  asking whether it’s worth my getting a train to Reading and getting a train to Bath from there. Which is a no because they can’t get me there in time for the train I was booked on but there’s still a chance – getting slimmer by the  minute – that they can get me to Swindon in time for it. At which point we both think we saw the accessible taxi I use drive past (so I assume it was being serviced rather than anything else). I’ve had a text that an accessible taxi is en route to me but it’s got to come from Oxford so that’s taking a while.

Time is dragging on and it’s taking longer than we’d hoped for the taxi to get there. D disappears for a bit to see if he can sort something else out because this is getting ridiculous. And in the meantime I’ve rung my mum to ask her to call the assisted travel helpine to confirm an accessible taxi was booked to bring me back from Swindon.  Then called her back to say don’t bother when it’s confirmed this is a taxi company fuck up. I’m beyond frustrated. And as much as travelling a day early had been a bit of a just in case and a bit of a joke I’m just pleased I did.

D comes back and tells me he might have sorted something and he’s waiting for a call to confirm.  He says if he gets what he’s asked for “you’ll have a big smile on your face Emma.” I’m pretty sure I know what that means but I don’t say anything. By this point I’m just like “get me out of here.”

And an hour after I should have left a taxi turns up. We looked at it and went “it’s not accessible.” but it turned out it was, just needed some chairs rearranging. Just as I’m driving my chair up to the ramp D’s phone rang and plans changed. The taxi was going to take me straight to Bath.

Because the taxi had to come from Oxford to Didcot the meter was reading £50 before I got into it. By the time I got to Bath it was reading just over £300. If that doesn’t make them sort out their ramp situation nothing will.

So I arrived in Bath aggravated and wound up but pleased to be there at last. Dumped my stuff at the hotel and headed off. I figured I’d go to the Roman Baths. Which I did.  I was impressed by how on the ball they were about access when I went in. Looked round a tiny bit and then went in the lift down to the next level. Then immediately there was a platform lift down a bit further. Which I got stuck in.

To give them their due it took them less than five minutes to get to me after I pressed the alarm. A staff member turned up and asked someone else “is she stuck?” I screamed “yes I am!” And I think I was stuck for less then 10 minutes.  Apparently it breaks down often and they think I was over a safety line in there which stops it working (really should have had a sign for that). I burst into tears the minute I was free.

They were going to walk me out for some fresh air as I said I wanted to leave but when I calmed down a little and they asked how much I’d seen they said I’d hardly seen anything and offered to get a member of staff to escort me round.  She didn’t stay with me the whole way round but she stayed until I was done with their multiple platform lifts.  She was really knowledgeable, it was interesting to chat with her and it was pretty damn cool.  But I’d really rather not have got stuck in the lift in the first place.  And then as I was leaving another staff member who’d helped me asked if I was OK now and I cried again.

The hotel was OK, the rest of the weekend worked really well, the hen do was a lot of fun and apart from the wheelchair space being full of luggage the train home was fine.  Bath station also has the shit short ramps it seems. But the level change between the platform and the train was less so my chair could cope. The lift was my last major drama. It certainly was an eventful start to the weekend though.

The trip to the coast that should have been part one got cancelled by my friend for two reasons – one of which was there was too much that could go wrong. After all that happened last Friday in Bath I said to mum I thought I better not tell my friend that story, it would just prove her point.  But as mum put it I can do these things and take the risk that things will go wrong and deal with stuff when it happens. Or I can do nothing. And there’s no point in that.

Spotted At The Sailing Club

Farmoor reservoir where I sail is a beautiful place. Particularly in the evening when the sun is setting. I have many photos of those moments and even after all these years of sailing it can still take my breath away.  This year there haven’t been many evenings at the sailing club because of the weather and even when we’ve been there it’s been dreary and meh so I’ve not added many photos to my collection.  And even fewer have been worth sharing here on my blog.  But this week I ended up with one that ticked both categories.

20150811_192452

Photo shows a very still reservoir with a setting sun,  a few boats and some people on the pontoon – all in silhouette.

Random Bullet Points of Life

For the small things worth mentioning but probably not worth a blog entry of their own

+ The furosemide for my lymphoedema is working and my feet are improved. Still obviously swollen but less so and my trainers fit better (but are still out of shape). I’m pleased. Blood test tomorrow to check the meds haven’t messed up my kidneys (and at my request check my iron)

+ I got sailing for the first time in several weeks last night. I really didn’t think I would based on what they were saying in advance about the weather but I was bored so we went to see. Even when we got there I wasn’t sure but the wind dropped down and I got out for about 45 minutes. It was good. I took a couple of pics to do a “spotted at the sailing club” entry but when I looked back at them they weren’t great. I put them on my instagram though.

+ I’ve been trying to do more with instagram actually rather than just taking pics and doing nothing with them after I accidentally lost loads of pics a while ago – wiped what they were on thinking I’d backed them up to my PC then discovered no they weren’t. I’ve got several pics I love on there.

+ For the first time in ages I went looking for a new layout for this blog and found one I really love.

+ My sister’s hen do is this weekend. I’m looking forward to it.

+ Bake Off started again this evening. I liked it. Part of me would like to see about going to a filming of An Extra Slice again, especially as it’s now being filmed at Waterloo so I could take my powerchair. But I won’t because they were rubbish at access when I went (didn’t have wheelchair spaces as such, made my friend sit separate to me and kept asking me to transfer) and I mostly just want to see an episode before everyone else again.