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Monday, 22 February 2016

Family days out

I love days out, especially when it's for a family occasion, but sometimes it can be tricky finding things that everyone can enjoy together. Yesterday, we went to the Dome in Doncaster for my niece's birthday treats. We had a great day out together, and the family photos got posted on Facebook. I thought, here though, I'd review the different activities from a wheelchair perspective.

Parking and getting in

There's a blue badge parking area, which is always helpful but I don't think it has been resurfaced since the place was built. There is a ramp up to the main entrance, which is in reasonable condition and isn't too steep. I was able to propel myself up by myself. The main entrance has two automatic doors but one was faulty. I expected it to open inwards as I went towards it. It didn't open, so I gave it a push with my foot but then it started opening towards me, faster than I could reverse which was a bit alarming. Anyway no harm done and I got in.

The entrance hall

We've been to the Dome before so I knew that the queue would be really long. I started queuing early and was third in line to the till. The cordoned off lanes were quite narrow though and when I got to the till, nobody could get past me, which is always a bit awkward.

Pricing is good. Carers go free, which is a good policy.

Swimming at the Dome

To get to the swimming pool and changing area, you have to go downstairs. There is a lift but it has the look of a machine that has been unattended in a humid room for over a decade. It's quite rusty and doesn't look very safe. It didn't make grinding noises though. The changing areas are unisex and they say they have an accessible changing facility but really it's just a disabled toilet with a bench in it. I used it to get changed but definitely needed help getting my stuff to the lockers. It would be helpful to have a bigger accessible changing room with lockers in the room.

The swimming pool was quite busy but I enjoyed swimming and playing with the kids. The best bit at the Dome is the outdoor pool. It goes round in a whirlpool and the water feels hot compared to the cold winter air. I didn't go on any of the slides, as they are all up steps and probably wouldn't be very good for my back.

The shower area was a bit of a nightmare. I managed with help but didn't feel very clean afterwards. I had to wait to get back into the 'accessible' changing room, by which time my legs had seriously run out of standing capacity and I was freezing cold!

Ice skating

I used to love ice skating! I've only attempted it a couple of times since my injury and that was in Finland on an empty ice rink. Andy held my hands and skated backwards and pulled me around. It wasn't pretty but it was great fun.

At the Dome, they have penguins and snowmen for little children to hold onto if they can't skate. It would be really great, if they had something similar for disabled adults - something like a weighted zimmer frame. I would love to be able to skate again. It was fun watching everyone else though.

Frankie and Benny's 

They were pretty good. Level access, plenty of room to get my chair round. The only negative was the door situation to get into the toilets. Two doors opened into each other and there wasn't any room for a wheelchair between them. I wonder why nobody ever thinks about that.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ladies' afternoon tea

I'm aware that some readers don't share my religious beliefs. This blog entry isn't intended to start a religious discussion or argument but I need to give some background for the point of it to make sense.

I think it would be fair to say that I've had a bit of a struggle with church as a wheelchair user. Nobody means to offend or upset, in fact they probably think they are showing concern, but I've felt very uncomfortable and sometimes even unwelcome in an environment where I've previously felt completely at home.

As Pentecostal Christians, we believe in a God that is living and active in our lives. We believe in a God of healing. Just last year, I was sitting right next to a woman in a wheelchair who had been completely immobile for many years and God healed her, right in front of our eyes. However, I have to be honest and say that for every healing I see, there are many more who don't get healed and yes, that presents a conflict. It's difficult to understand why some do and some don't get healed. All I can say from a personal point of view is that I am at peace with not being healed and it doesn't get in the way of my faith. If anything, it has brought me closer to God.

That sets the context for some of my frustrations in church. I've had people pray for my healing (with and without my permission) and then accuse me of lacking faith. I've been praised when I've only used a walking stick and disappointment has then been expressed when I later use my wheelchair, as though it's some kind of behaviour issue. The absolute worst was when an elderly lady publicly rebuked my bladder, at which point I suddenly had a desperate need to go to the loo.

For non-Christians, these sorts of things must seem shocking and I'd understand if you wondered why I then continue to go to church at all. The only answer I can give is that my faith is more about God than people and that all people, Christians and non-Christians can be thoughtless, say daft things and occasionally be downright horrible, myself included.

So that paints the picture, which is the background for the lovely afternoon I had yesterday. Yesterday afternoon was a ladies' afternoon tea. It was scheduled for two and a half hours, which seemed a long time for a cuppa and cake, even for me, but Neil's away so I thought I'd pop along.

I sat round a table with a mixture of people that I've known since before moving to Finland and some new friends. Amongst our group were a lady in her 80s who has the youngest spirit and most mischievous sense of humour going, a lady with MS, the pastor's wife who I was at college with in the 1990s, a Korean lady who I've only ever passed brief greetings with and then me. I felt completely at ease, chatting and laughing... mostly laughing with these wonderful people. The afternoon was broken up with quizzes, poetry and testimonies. Apart from people offering to get me refills of coffee, for which I was very grateful, (I still haven't found a successful way of carrying hot drinks) I wasn't treated any differently from everyone else and I felt so at home there.

It's a fair old drive from our house to Dewsbury, where church is. It takes about 45 minutes on a good run and I do sometimes question whether we should have settled for somewhere closer to home but Dewsbury was our home church for over 10 years before we left the country and now we're back, it's where I feel accepted, loved and normal. So this morning, I shall once again hit the M62 and the M1 to go and worship with friends.