Sunday, 19 April 2015

There And Back Again.

"I'm doing a virtual walk," she said, "you should join in too." And so I did. 609 miles; Lands End to John O'Groats as the crow flies. Turns out, it's quite addictive. Slump in front of the television in the evening, or watch the same programme, but from the saddle of an exercise bike? Drive into town, or walk? Sit in a café with knitting, or go for a walk? Well, both actually. 

Brownsea Island, a very good place to make a beginning. 

And so we walked. And cycled, and I chased my friend up virtual hill and down virtual dale, sometimes up real hills together and with her chaos beasts. 
And before I knew it, I'd logged 609 miles, and received a lovely shiny medal from the lovely people at the Lands End to John O'Groats Virtual Walk Facebook page. I'm sorry, I can't link from my phone, and the computer isn't behaving, so I can't write this there; maybe if I have a reader left they'd post links in a comment? 
What next? Well, turns out we left the virtual car at Lands End, so what else, but to turn around and walk the back the Long Way; 874 virtual road miles. 
More silliness with dogs, 
Cold miles under canvas, 
Warmer miles with random high tech gps thingies, 
Very cold miles walked in the rift between Europe and American tectonic plates, 

And the final 874th mile of the return journey 
Celebrated with afternoon tea 
And another rather fine medal 

We have, between us, walked and cycled around 3000 miles. Which is ridiculous! We have, between us, lost something over 7 and a half stone (over 100lbs for my American friends). And we have had week after week where the weather has been good. Almost a year of fine weather whenever we walked, and wet days only ever when it turned out there was a very good reason for not being out of phone signal range. Every time it has rained, there's turned out to be a reason for it. But every time we've needed a walk, the weather has been kind to us. And an extra loving God sending gentle showers just at the right time to help us decide between longer walks or cafés on tiring days. 

So what's next, I hear you ask? Well, we've signed up for another virtual walk. But, we have created our own too. You see, like me, Alison has experienced the death of a child. Her son Andy died two years ago. Her oldest daughter Debbie decided to create a charity in his memory. 

Andy loved tambourines. And so Andy's Beat sends tambourines around the world, to disabled and disadvantaged children so that they can enjoy the things which brought Andy such joy. It's a little thing, but it's a really big thing - you can bang it, pay it, shake it, kick it, drop it, and it will make a noise. You can spin it, and catch sparkles from the metal, or stroke it, and enjoy the contrast between wood and parchment and metal. And if you're travelling somewhere and visiting a children's home or school, you can easily fit a few in your suitcase (please do contact Andy's Beat if that's you!). 

Andy's Beat ( has all the information and more. And our new challenge is the biggest yet. We are aiming to take a tambourine on a virtual walk around the world, visiting all the countries where tambourines have been sent in Andy's name. E

xtreme Tambourining, the Long Way Round. 50,6000 miles, sixty countries, and hopefully a lot of help! Because this isn't like the other virtual walks we've done. This doesn't require a commitment to a set distance. We just need lots of help. Anyone can sign up, whether as a family or a group, or as an individual or couple. Once you've bought a membership, just log your miles every week. Each week, the groups miles as a whole will be added up, and the tambourine will move on. It started on White Horse Hill, and it's already got to London. I believe this week it's crossing the channel. 

We believe this is a truly inclusive virtual walk; 2 miles or 200, it all counts.

So walk it with a friend, roll it from a wheelchair, but would you consider joining us and helping us to send even more tambourines across the world? Each membership sponsors a tambourine, gives you sweatbands, and there's even a medal at the end of it all! 


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 café 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! 


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