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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Two dreams come true!

Yesterday evening was amazing! Rewind 5 or 6 years and we spent New Year skiing in Ruka as a family. It was always so much fun being out on the slopes together. It's one of those sports that the whole family can do together and age and ability don't matter. It's all about learning together, laughing and building memories together. I'm so glad I've got fantastic memories of all our different skiing holidays, because it has been such a long time that we've not been able to go.

Until last night! It was a shame we didn't have my brother Matt with us but that'll come together another time. Maybe we can now look at a proper holiday with him, now that I'm skiing almost independently.

So, two dreams came true:
  1. Skiing with my family again.
  2. Skiing off-tethers.
Don't get me wrong, those tethers are great in a way. When you are sit-skiing for the first time and it feels really fast and out of control, those tethers give you the sense of independence with the security that if it all goes horribly wrong, someone's got your back. It's a bit like putting reins on a toddler. They think they're running along by themselves but if they trip, you can yank them up before they get hurt. There comes a time though, when those tethers are just not wanted anymore and that time has come. 

So, without further ado, here's a slightly longer than usual video of my lesson. It was an hour's lesson with my new Apeman camera fixed to my front and Dan, in his new green coach coat, videoing on my phone. So I got home with 90 minutes of footage, which I've reluctantly edited down to 10 minutes.

We had originally planned this trip during the Christmas holidays and due to a miscommunication at reception, it didn't happen. But I'm forever telling my staff that customer service is all about what we do when mistakes happen. I have to say, Xscape excelled on this one, mostly thanks to Adam, and it was well worth the wait to feel the way I felt last night. Massive thanks to Xscape for getting their adaptive skiing lessons up and running (when I first enquired a year or so back, they had stopped) and for investing in the kit I use. Thank you to Adam for teaching me how to ski a biski and for believing in my dream of doing it independently. And thank you to Dan for being a regular helper and especially for coming in last night to work an extra late night as a volunteer. 

If anyone's reading this and wondering whether to give adaptive skiing a go at Xscape, Castleford, I have only one thing to say... DO IT! Do it now!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Accessible walks - Doncaster Lakeside

I discovered this walk from a website called Jeff's Wheelchair Walks, which lists a number of generally accessible places to get some fresh air and exercise. The first time I attempted the walk around the lake in Doncaster, I underestimated the distance somewhat and nearly wiped out my poor mum-in-law. If you're looking for a quick 15 minute stroll, this isn't it.

Usually, I park near the Vue Cinema and Brewer's Fayre at Lakeside (North) but you have to be a bit sneaky about using their toilets and sneaky isn't that easy with a wheelchair and freewheel. I kind of stand out like a sore thumb. So today, I parked at the shopping outlet. There's loads of accessible parking and there are toilets on site (radar key).

Here's my route, which I did in an anticlockwise direction:

Map showing my route around the lake, beginning and ending at the retail outlet.

From the car park, I headed back towards the Premier Inn and left to the lake. Where you join the walk, there is a map and a board telling you about the different birds that can be seen.

Large sign telling you about the different birds that can be seen here.

Large, colourful map of the walk, showing points of interest.

What I like about this walk is that the paths are all paved and flat. There is minimal camber and it's a pretty good surface. There's always plenty of people around, so I feel quite safe to walk there alone but there is still a peaceful feeling as you follow the route. For me, it's a good length walk. Today I remembered to set my Google Fit app running from leaving the car and it measured 5.3 km, which took me almost exactly an hour. I would have done that much quicker if I'd just kept going but I stopped a few times to take photos.

Here are some of my favourite photos from today:

The fountain in the middle of the lake, in focus so you can see the individual drops of water.

Fountain in the middle of the lake, out of focus so the water looks soft and blurry.

A swan dipping for food with 2 Canada geese and a smaller bird swimming past.

Black and white picture of the fountain and a wooden bridge.

Picture of a swan looking into the lake for food.

Picture of the same swan with its head under water and its tail up, catching food.

Picture of a twig on a tree with new buds emerging.

Looking across to the shore from the island, there are hundreds of birds hoping to be fed.

So is there anything I don't like about this walk? Well, only one thing. The bridge that links the two islands is seriously steep. When Neil was with me last time I went, we managed a team effort to get me up the slope but I wouldn't dare attempt it alone. I think I'd tip over backwards!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Places to go, people to see...

It's the time of year for making New Year's Resolutions but I don't generally follow the crowd on these things. I made my New Year's Resolution last year in May, when I got back from the Norwegian Fjords and realised I was the heaviest I had ever been. Fortunately, just as I was working out how to get healthy and lose some weight, along came the BBC with their Get Inspired challenge and I did. Their challenge inspired me to set some short term goals and start working towards them.

So it's the beginning of 2017 and I'm not making resolutions. 2016 was quite a tough year in some ways. Hardest of all was losing Neil's dad and my childhood best friend in April. I guess you'd have to be quite a tough cookie for deaths not to prompt some degree of reflection. Although we would have liked Neil's dad to keep going for another decade or two, he was an older man who had seen the world and done a lot of stuff. He had children and grandchildren, who all loved him very much. My friend, on the other hand, died young. She left behind young children and never got as far as grandchildren. It was yet another reminder that we really have no idea what's just around the corner.

So with that thought in mind, and knowing how easily time slips away, I've been thinking about what I really want to do during 2017. Mostly, it's really simple stuff... nothing amazing. And these are in no particular order.

Places to go:
  1. Rother Valley Country Park - one of many local places that we haven't been yet.
  2. Cairngorms, Scotland - I'd like to go skiing there sometime.
  3. The beach - probably Scarborough - I want to take a rug and sit on the beach and paddle in the sea. I haven't done that for years!
  4. A European capital that I haven't been to yet. It doesn't matter which one. It would just be nice to see somewhere new.
Things to do:
  1. Sitski without tethers. My goal is to be able to use a lift by myself, get myself ready to ski and then ski down without needing any help. 
  2. Find something that I can do to serve the church. I miss being an active member of the community and would like to feel that I am not someone to be looked after but someone who has a lot to give.
  3. Finish my Masters degree. All being well, I should complete it in October, if everything goes to plan.
  4. Improve my photography skills. I did a course last year so I know how to use my camera properly. It's just a matter of practice now and being more observant.
People to see:
  1. Family and friends. As much as possible, I want to take every opportunity to spend time with the people I love. You just never know when something might happen and I don't want to regret losing touch with anyone.
  2. I'd like to meet other disabled people who are into sport. I'd like to talk to someone who has inspired me and I'd love to ski with Jo Willoughby.
  3. I'd also like to be able to help or inspire someone else. That could be in person or online. 
So that's my plan for 2017. Nothing major. Nothing life-changing. First of all though, and most importantly, I'd like to get rid of this nasty cold that's been making me feel so poorly the last few days. I have to say, the Queen has my sympathy. I didn't make it to church on Sunday either and I don't feel like going anywhere... and I'm not 90!