>Oxford Regatta 2011

>This past weekend was the Challenger English Championships 2011.  And as it was held at Oxford which is my “home” sailing club I was able to go.

I went up Friday to help get things ready but it ended up with my Dad helping out and me sitting in the club house chatting to other sailors who I only see at these regattas.  One of them gave me some really useful tips on racing skills so that was good and cleared up something I’d been confused about.  Also, gossip and catching up is always good.

Saturday started with the traditional pre-regatta bacon and sausage sarnie.  After the briefing I was told it was suitable weather for me to go out (the fleet was going but it’s up to the individual helm whether they go and the weather wasn’t great) so got ready.  We got me ready and on the water but unfortunately didn’t get far (we were only on the water about 2 minutes) when one of the safety crews came over and having already had to deal with two broken boats due to conditions told me that it wasn’t suitable for me and I should go in.  As that was someone who is knowledgable about the type of boat I sail and knows my limits, my buddy and I basically went “if he says we go in, we go in.”  Conditions had changed and those of us sailing with a buddy wouldn’t manage in what they’d got too.  Challengers are great because you can sail single handed or with someone on the side if you need it but technically they aren’t designed to have the buddy so that was it.  I sail alone most weeks but in the regattas take a buddy for support and confidence.

Sadly the conditions hadn’t improved after lunch so I didn’t get out then either.  I did enjoy my traditional regatta lunch of sausage chips and beans though and spent a pleasant afternoon chatting to people, reading and going for what for me is a long wheel.  I didn’t enjoy the bit when I was 2 minutes away from being back inside and there was torrential rain leading to me being a bit soggy!  When I later heard that during that storm the wind had gusted up to 37 MPH I was exceedingly glad I’d stayed on dry land.  More than glad.

I’d been told that there was more hope I’d be able to get out but that it was still going to be gusty so it wasn’t guaranteed.  But it all worked out!

Two races in the morning back to back and I managed to do both of those.  That’s only the third time I’ve managed to do that.  I wasn’t in the best position in the boat but it all worked out.  We seemed to manage the course really well.  As always I got lapped by the single sailors but I seemed to be much nearer the end of the course when they were half way round their next lap so that was better.

Following another plate of the traditional sausage chips and beans and a change of clothes it was back on the water for the afternoon.  We managed to get me in a much better position in the boat and fix the sail so it wasn’t as flappy.  Things seemed much improved all round.  The first race went well and I really enjoyed it.

 I was tired though and kept having short bursts of clonus which due to the position my ankle was in were painful (unusual as clonus doesn’t usually hurt but my ankle was in a v.weird position for me.).  I really wanted to try the 4th race but on grounds of being able to transfer and move the next day and recognising that this is my first year where I can physically do 3 races a day I decided discretion was the better part of valour.

I was a little bit worried by doing so I’d messed up my position in the rankings.  And it was close but I beat my next closest opponent by 1 point and came first in the Bronze Fleet.  Meaning that by some fluke I am the Challenger Class Association’s Bronze Fleet English Champion 2011.  Not something I could have predicted but I’m really pleased and proud.

 This is the trophy that the champion wins every year and then gets passed on the next year.  It’s made of wood and has a barometer in the middle of it with various brass plaques on it. At the top is the logo of the Challenger Class Association and at the bottom it says what the trophy is.  The other plaques have people’s names on, their home sailing club and when they one.  I’ll need to get myself one of those added.  It’s a bit of a funny shape and I’m wondering if that’s because it’s supposed to look like a sail.  I might ask.

This is the trophy that I get to keep.  It’s blue and originally I thought it was made of perspex but actually I now think it’s glass.  It has a medal engraved on it and in the middle of that is a silver inlay with the logo of Oxford Sailing Club.  Underneath is a bronze plaque, on the left of that it says 1st and then next to it it says Challenger Bronze Farmoor 2011 over 4 lines.

>Unreasonable Adjustments

>I wrote a while ago about entering some creative writing competitions.  I heard yesterday that I didn’t win the last of them.  Which I’m totally fine with, I didn’t expect that.  I did pay extra for a critique and whilst a little hard to read it is very useful.  I do agree with a lot of what the critique says although this remains a piece I am proud of.  I thought I would share it below.  As yet I haven’t made any changes. Feedback is welcome

Unreasonable Adjustments
“You have the run of my home”  said Lady Howlett ending her welcoming speech and sweeping gracefully from the room.
The run of this house? If only.  Claire thought.
The idea of spending a night in a haunted house and winning £1,000,000 for doing so had seemed a great one.  An easy way to make a lot of money and probably have a laugh as she did so.  The night had barely begun and already it seemed there was a problem.
They’d known when she applied that she was a wheelchair user.  She’d been assured that there was access.  Even when she’d asked pointed questions about ramps and whether she’d be able to get her wheelchair into the disabled loo, they’d stuck to their vow that they could accommodate her. 
All she needed to worry about, they told her, was whether she really could spend the night in a certified haunted house.  The fact that they made such a big deal of it being “certified” had amused her.  How did they get it certified?  Claire didn’t believe in ghosts and she’d hoped to prove they didn’t exist.  The people who certified it as haunted weren’t trustworthy.  It wasn’t as if the council had rules and regulations (no less than two sightings a week, for a year) and an official haunted house inspector who had to sign off on these things.  She’d thought it would be easy.
Claire hadn’t been surprised that the access wasn’t exactly as she expected.  It rarely was.  However, this was something she hadn’t encountered before – surprising given she’d been in the chair for 42 years and thought she’d seen it all.
The gravel entrance hadn’t phased her, nor had the steps.  Ramped access is often around the back, by the bins, or otherwise out of sight.  So she’d waited. 
Angelo had returned about half an hour later and with the help of another silently hulking man had carried her up the steps into the house.  She’d protested that a lot as there’s nothing worse then being in somewhere you can’t get out of and knowing you’re trapped.  Her words had been ignored and she’d been taken against her will into the house.
There she was, apparently, she had the run of the house, but in truth, she probably didn’t.  It looked as though she wouldn’t be able to get out of the room she was in without help.  Everyone else in the room was milling around looking at the windows and heading towards the door.  They were all ignoring everyone else as well.  This was going to be a long evening.  A boring evening it seemed.  Just one hour later Claire realised just how wrong she’d been.
First, she’d decided to have a good look around the room they were in.  It was a big room with lots of art on the walls so that took a good 15 minutes.  She was one of two people left in the room at that time – the other person was steadfastly ignoring her so she simply did the same.  That was unlike her; she was an extrovert and found it very hard to shut up.  Something told her however that this wasn’t the place to go making friends and being nice, it wouldn’t go down very well with the other contestants.  Getting out of that room proved easier than she expected.  The step she thought she’d seen turned out to be nothing.  Strange, but she accepted it.  It wouldn’t be until later that she realised just how strange that was.
Then Claire had figured that seeing as she was going to be there all night she’d go find out where the loo is.  It’s always worth doing these things ahead of time.  Particularly when you need a disabled loo – don’t want to be discovering that it’s locked and no one knows where the key is when you’re absolutely bursting for a wee. 
She didn’t expect that this was the sort of place where it would people would be having sex in it if it wasn’t locked (why was that, was there some sort of weird places to have sex scorecard doing the rounds? 50 points for a disabled loo!) but you never know.
That was the first sign that the steps weren’t the only problem she was to face that day.  She never found the loo. 
She spent thirty minutes looking for it.  To be fair, it wouldn’t have taken that long to search all the places she did but she kept getting distracted.  Firstly, by all the art and other things she spotted.  Lady Howlett had some really unusual – and unexpected – items in her home.  And secondly by a really strange feeling.  It was creepy – a cold sort of tickly sensation crawling up her back and making her hair stand on end.  She shook it off – she had to, she didn’t believe in ghosts!  There would be an explanation she knew, she just needed to find it.  But first to find the loo.
At the end of the thirty minutes, she came across Angelo standing silently at attention in the hall.  Claire wasn’t sure why he was stood in that particular spot in front of a blank piece of wall (she was later to realise, the only blank piece of wall she saw in the entire house).  Wandering over she spoke to him
“Hi Angelo.  It is Angelo, isn’t it?”  He didn’t answer, didn’t even blink.  Unnerved she continued “Um, well, anyway.  I was wondering if you could tell me where the disabled loo is?  I’ve been looking for a while and I’ve been everywhere I can see.  But I can’t find it.”
Angelo shrugged as though he didn’t care.  It was a strange sight and it infuriated Claire.
“Maybe you could go find out where it is if you don’t know?” she asked, she’d experienced this lack of knowledge from staff members before – too many times to count.  “Only I know there is one because I asked before I came.  The person I spoke to told me there was one and I’d be fine.”
Angelo stared at her for a full minute.  Just when Claire was beginning to think this was useless he suddenly moved his left arm and pointed.  He didn’t say a word and after waiting briefly to see if there was more to come Claire simply turned and started going in the direction he pointed. 
She was very confused and more than a little angry not least because he had pointed back the way she came where there definitely wasn’t a disabled loo.  It seemed she had no choice but to do that. 
A few minutes later she was beginning to calm down and she suddenly realised that she’d come further than she had before.  In fact there hadn’t been enough building to go this far before.
Claire didn’t believe in ghosts.  She really didn’t.  But she was beginning to get a little bit freaked out by all of this.
Suddenly a little bit ahead she spotted that familiar sign that signifies disabled parking and disabled loos worldwide.  The little guy in the wheelchair with his arms out in front like a zombie.  She was pleased she’d started looking for the loo when she had because now she really was heading towards the desperate stage of things.
Opening the door, Claire couldn’t see any of the usual items you’d expect in a disabled loo.  No bins or grab rails.  And, no loo.  She figured that maybe it was a bit further on so she went in.  The door slammed behind her ominously. 
Wheeling back and then back further Claire was astounded by how far she’d come.  She’d been able to see that this was a big room but hadn’t expected something as big as this.
All of a sudden, Claire felt a weird buzzing sensation surround her.  Her vision went fuzzy with lines all across it.  That lasted about two, three minutes (although it felt a lot longer).  Her ears will filled with a loud ringing sound something like church bells.  The result was that Claire was very disorientated.  As quickly as it had started, the sensation finished.  Claire shook her head to clear the residual feeling.  And realised that somehow, unexpectedly, she was back outside the house on the gravel driveway where this had all started.
Screw scared of the ghosts, Claire was scared by what had just happened.  And more than a little pissed off.  She shouted and shouted for help, shouting herself hoarse in the process.  But no one came.
Claire waited all night.  It wasn’t until just after dawn that anyone came.  Angelo turned up at that point along with his hulking companion.  They carried her, protesting, back up the steps into the house and deposited her in front of Lady Howlett.
“Well, Claire, yet another failure to spend the night in my house.  I am disappointed.  No million for you.”
She explained to Lady Howlett that this wasn’t fair, she hadn’t wanted to leave the house, she’d just wanted to go for a wee.  
Lady Howlett made no response to Claire.  She just turned to the two men waiting and said
“Get this waste of space out of my sight.”
They picked her up and carried her from the room once more.
Lady Howlett had expected that to be the last she heard from Claire.  After all, she’d never had anybody come back at her for failing to win the million before.  She’d also never had a mouthy, independent wheelchair user as one of her contestants before.
Claire, however, believed in complaining.  Spending most of her life in a wheelchair had taught her that you often were treated badly for being different and that you were just expected to “put up and shut up.”  The way she’d been treated by Lady Howlett and her staff was appalling.  If she didn’t do something about it, some other wheelchair user was going to have the same horrific experience at some point in the future.
First, she’d tried writing a letter, and then a second when the first was ignored.  Unfortunately, that didn’t get a reply either.  Unfortunately for Lady Howlett, that is.
Claire’s next step had been to speak to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.  They’d been shocked to here of what had happened and had helped her to put in a case for disability discrimination.
Seven months after that, the case came to court.  Neither Lady Howlett nor Angelo appeared to dispute the charges.  That resulted in Claire automatically winning her case, which the tribunal described as “one of the worst cases of disability discrimination in years”
Claire learned that it really is worth making a stand when you need to.  She won £2.1 Million pounds for the discrimination and because she lost the chance to win the original £1 Million prize. 
As for Lady Howlett?  She never held another of her “Haunted House Nights” nor was she ever heard from again.  Claire liked to think that was because she’d learned the lesson of treating people with respect, and that you should, always, always make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people who are disabled.  Truthfully, however, she’ll never know.

>101 in 1001 – Item 18…


Enter some Creative Writing competitions

…has been completed!

I’ve entered three competitions so far and plan to enter some more.

The Writers’ Forum short story competiton, The Arvon Foundation six word story competition and Jot Speak’s writing contest.

I’m not overly hopeful about my chances.  Mostly because the story I submitted to Writers’ Forum is an edited version of the one I read on Saturday.  Having since re-read it several times for practice and for the real thing I’ve spotted mistakes that I’d missed.  And, not long after I submitted my six word story to Arvon I thought of a better one.  I’ve been meaning to look into whether you can submit more than one entry to that.

I only finished, edited and submitted my entry to Jot Speak today (it started life as a writing exercise in the creative writing class and I’ve worked on it off and on since then).  You can read it (and comment on it) on that site.  It’s called Attitude is Everything.  You can enter up to three pieces to that competition and I have a couple of other pieces I may enter as well.  I’m not sure yet.

Regardless of whether or not I win, I am looking forward to the feedback and enjoying getting my work out there.  I definitely plan to enter more competitions in future

>A Reading

>The Arts Centre where I do my creative writing class (amongst other things!) held a literary day on Saturday.  Basically they held a second hand book sale for charity and they had readings from “local writers” AKA the creative writing class.  It was actually described in the e-mail that went round promoting it as “readings from local writers” and I thought, oh cool I’d like to know who’ve got for local writers.  Then I realised, oh shit, that’s me!!

So I gave a reading on Saturday which was open to the public!  Scary!  There were 9 audience members and I think they were all people’s family or friends but still they were all people I don’t know as no one I asked could make it (which to be honest isn’t a bad thing!).  And there were seven of us from the class taking part (including the tutor).  So we had more of an audience than we had participants which is always good.  It took about an hour and a half and I think my bit lasted 10 mins (I didn’t time it then but I did when I was practising the night before)

We’d done a group anthology project where the tutor wrote the beginning of a story and we all used it as a jumping off point and wrote our own versions of what happened next with the rule – if you don’t know or can’t remember – make it up!  He then wrote bits linking it together and an end bit.  And that’s what we read out.  It did go really well and it was interesting seeing how we’d all started with the premise of a certified haunted house and the promise of £1 Million prize if you spend the night and went in completely different directions.  I think out of all 10 of us who wrote bits (3 couldn’t make it on Saturday) none of us had similar stories and none of us had a character winning the million – although my main character ended up in the money for another reason.

I’ve entered a slightly edited version of the bit that I wrote into a competition.  Which is a very good thing.  But it also brings me back to a very bad thing – I re-read the piece several times getting ready for this.  And I’ve spotted several mistakes that I know I didn’t edit out in the version I submitted to the competition (basically that version has a couple of extra sentences to explain the “haunted house, spend the night, win a million” premise)

I was a little bit nervous but not a lot.  And I only got really nervous when the person before me was reading.