Sunday, 18 December 2016

Catch-up from Helsinki and the Humber Bridge

Long weekend in Helsinki

I could write forever about how much I had been looking forward to being back in Finland for a weekend, even though we didn't make it all the way to Oulu. I could bore you with pages and pages about meeting up with friends, which was so wonderful. But what is Helsinki like from an accessibility point of view?

We arrived in Helsinki by train and had planned to walk to the hotel - about 1.5 km towards the harbour. The trains were brilliant! There was one wheelchair accessible carriage on each one, with plenty of space and if you press the lower wheelchair door button, the floor slides out to meet the platform to provide level entry. I thought that was quite impressive.

The city itself has a range of wheelchair unfriendly surfaces, such as cobbles and gravel paths but I knew this before we went, so I took my Freewheel with me and that helped immensely. It was also noticeable how effective my Loopwheels are at taking out some of the bumps. I was very grateful for both!

Also, most of Helsinki is on a hill. I wouldn't say a steep hill, more like a long, slow, consistent hill. It was one of those places where I would have needed to be pushed all the time before I did that BBC challenge thingy. Now though, my arms and shoulders are much stronger and I managed to self-propel for the most part.

Pic of me in front of the Christmas lights in Helsinki

Perhaps the things I was less prepared for are more about people. I'd forgotten about the door-holding thing. Finns don't hold doors open. They don't automatically look over their shoulder as they go through the door and see they are being followed and pass the open door to the next person. It's not in their culture like it is in ours. Also, there are less automatic doors in shopping centres and railway stations that there are here. I got the feeling that there's a basic assumption that a wheelchair user wouldn't be out on their own... and actually I didn't see a single other self-propeller all weekend.

What made me a little more sad was that children looked at me with a very suspicious look. I couldn't work out whether they were scared of me or just unsure of what I was. If I'd got a euro for every frowning child that stepped back and hid behind their parent, I could afford another visit very soon. Thankfully, our friends' kids weren't like that and we had a great afternoon with them!

Humber Bridge Santa Run

Last Sunday, me, Neil and the boys and my sister and her girls did the Canine Partners fun run across the Humber Bridge and back. I've wanted to cross the bridge as a pedestrian for ages but never got round to it, so I was very excited.

Picture of the family before the fun run

Neil had warned me but I hadn't really believed him... the bridge is quite a hill until you get to the middle. Of course then it's still a hill but going down! I paced myself well and managed to do the whole thing unaided, except for the ramp up to the bridge, which was so steep I'd have gone over backwards without Neil there.

Picture of me and my niece finishing the race

It was lovely to be part of a proper event, fantastic to cross the bridge and take in the views up the Humber estuary, and great to cross the finish line with my niece. We ended up going ahead of the rest of the family and she jogged the return crossing with me.

Picture of everyone in front of the Canine Partners stand