Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Accessible London

Amana and I had a day to ourselves, with Imi very unusually being in respite for a couple of nights in half term. She decided she wanted to go to London, to visit Auntie Lou. 

As Auntie Lou actually lives in a very lovely but tiny top floor flat in a fairly inaccessible part of London, we compromised by meeting her in slightly more central London, and putting wheelchair access to historic transport to the test. 

First stop, train from Didcot. So far, so good. Had to resist being put onto an earlier train our off peak tickets wouldn't have been valid for, but apart from that, all well. And nice coffee at the station. 

No one meeting us as arranged at Paddington, but two helpful fellow passengers lifted A off the train for me. Score one for the manual wheelchair.  

Next stop, Westminster. Transport for London suggests a 15 minute journey if you can climb stairs. It had difficulty suggesting a sensible route for us, finding us several which involved multiple buses, and one which included a boat! We compromised on a 1 hour tube ride. District and circle with a carefully timed change to the grey line. Jubilee? I forget. Multiple lifts between platforms, at any rate. 

One happy tube rider. And one happy mother; the "small" gap between platform and train being definitely better negotiated by manual chair rather than power tank beast. 
London Eye. Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, history a go go. Crowds. Heaving, pulsating, stopping every twelve seconds to take another photo with a selfie stick crowds. And very helpful guides fast tracking us through the ticket hall and past the queuing hordes. 
Warm capsules, good views, no elevator musak, good times! 
Off. And anything rather than face the crowds on Westminster Bridge again, so quick diversion to a side stress for an excellent curry lunch, and then a Duck Tour. 
Very very definitely not in any way accessible. And I won't be carrying her up wet metal step ladders again if I can help it. But worth it, once, for the joy and silliness involved in taking a big yellow bus trip into the river and out again. 
And seeing Big Ben from underneath instead of on top.
More tubes. 
A cable car 
With very beautiful sunsetty views slightly further down the river. 
Docklands Light Railway. 
Hammersmith and City. 
Back to Paddington for a particularly well equipped changing places loo. 
Before catching our regular train back to Didcot, having been bumped up to first class because someone else had thoughtfully booked out the standard class wheelchair spot. 
Free coffee for me!
Camera phone for a tired girl. 
Who, me? 
Ramps waiting for us at Didcot, back to our bus and home. 

And sleep. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Small pleasures.

An hour alone with good coffee, a comfy seat, knitting, and snippets of conversations floating up from other cafĂ© patrons. 

"Biblical corporate business"
"Jane Austen's massage parlour" 
"Brainstorming life"
"....this big!" 
"My Lithuanian bible cover"

So many conversations, so many ideas, hopes, dreams, joys and sadnesses. And me, not a part of any of them, enjoying fragments of other people's lives. 

A different world from our home setting, stepping away from nurses and housekeeping and admin, into the conversational kalaidescope. Free to think, to remember a special boy and girl today, forever linked and now two years free from the broken bodies which bound them here on earth. 

"I have NOT been to India"
"A thousand and five on the right."
"Can you walk?" 


Friday, 9 January 2015

Running away (with the children)

Back to Beechenhill farm for another beautiful way to end the old year and start the new. Friends, fires, sledging and walking and just sitting cosily snuggled enjoying not needing to watch the clock. 

Happy New Year! 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Running Away

I love being a Mum. Specifically, I love being Mum to my amazingly awesome and generally all round excellent girls. I love making them smile, I love spontaneous hugs from one, and a gentle lip twitch from the other. I love eliciting the sigh I get when I finally manage to tweak tender hips into just the right spot, I love walking into a room and knowing how to fix distress, and I love sitting down at the end of a long day, listening to the hum and wheeze of ventilators and oxygen and pressure relieving mattresses, and knowing that I have achieved everything I needed to do that day, and that the girls are comfortable and settled and asleep.

I also love being me. Sitting down at the computer and bashing away at the keys, even if it's something I do far less often these days. Sitting on an exercise bike watching rubbish TV and eating up virtual miles whilst watching bits of my body slowly shrink. Walking with a friend and finding such quiet beauty in the countryside all around us, watching England turn from green to gold to white hoary frost and back to green again. Drinking tea upstairs in inaccessible coffee shops, just walking out of the house and leaving the girls safe in the hands of nurses, carers and teachers who know them and love them and have all the tools they need to keep them safe.

I can't remember who suggested it first, but my friend and I were talking back in the Spring, and "wouldn't it be cool to go to Iceland" was definitely mentioned. And we spoke to Helen House, and we did a fair bit of sitting in coffee shops with laptops doing research, and things came together, and in the summer we booked ourselves three nights in Reykjavik for November.

And then suddenly, after a fairly hairy September with a very poorly Imogen, it was November, and the girls were in Helen House, and my friend and I were on a plane flying a thousand miles away to a small and cold island.

We had three nights. Three nights in a hotel, with no need to give meds, turn bodies, soothe aching backs or give breathing treatments. That in itself would be luxury enough. Three days of not needing to worry about what to feed anyone, of finding a cafe once we were ready to eat (or cold and needing to sit down for a bit!), three mornings of coffee fresh from a machine, with waffles and watermelon and pickled herring for breakfast, and lovely grown up conversations with no interruptions. That in itself would be more than luxury enough.

But we had so very much more. A day spent wandering around the smallest and most northerly capital city you could ever hope to find. Ten miles walked around the city without even noticing it, without small people complaining of boredom and leg ache. Horizontal sleet, brilliant sunshine, a rainbow in a C rather than the more traditional inverted U, stars, tin rooves, wool shops, and silliness.

A second day spent being driven through the first snow storm of winter, stopping at a geothermal tomato farm (random!), Geysir (clue's in the name), and Thingvellir national park, home to parliament for a thousand years, and home to the mid atlantic rift. Standing in the gap between Europe and America, at the point where Iceland will one day be torn in two. And then a Northern Lights hunt. Cold, so cold. But so beautiful. Wild, peaceful, God's amazing creation seen so clearly during the day and set to dancing for us overnight. Amazing.

And then a final morning at a geothermal spa, summed up best by my friend. "Cold, COLD COLD!!" as we stripped to wet swimming costumes in 0 degrees C, "Hot, HOT HOT!!!!" as we clambered into the 40C water, and finally "Ah that's nice" as shoulders went under and the cold and the hot were replaced by an all-embracing warmth. Blue white water which remained blueish white even when held up in cupped hands; the world underneath totally hidden so only heads remained. Pots of frozen algae surrounding the pool and being painted on faces (and bald heads), so all fellow swimmers appearing as anonymous kabuki style heads.

Then out, dressed, back on a coach and return to the airport ready for the long flight home. Driving Miss Daisy on the in-flight screens, sniff sniff. And home, with heads full of meat soup, delicate salmon, smoked lamb and lava bread, geysers and volcanoes and rift valleys and the heavens dancing. Knitting projects and cameras full of photos and souls utterly refreshed from the break.

Home, to two girls who had had a wonderful time themselves. To an Imogen who has found her joy in life again, and who has a sparkle back in her eyes which has been missing for so long. To an Amana who had done all her Christmas shopping and been so pleased with herself for it.

Home, to two girls who were determined to make sure I didn't disappear again, by demanding attention at regular intervals throughout the night. It's six weeks now; I haven't yet had an unbroken night's sleep. Home, to a to do list longer than the packing list for Helen House. Home, and back into the world we live in, where healing doesn't always come to friends, where other friends struggle for direction, where one of our special children dies on Christmas Day, and where the cat with a heart condition now appears to be developing a cough.

Doesn't matter. We had those days. Those three nights. God kept his word, he kept my girls safe, my friend's family ticking over neatly. Everything we asked for during those days, he gave to us. Snow, Northern Lights, peace of mind, rest, abundant joy. And it was all very good. Soul food, and six weeks later, it's still feeding us both. Sometimes, running away is the right thing to do.



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