Category Archives: HOLIDAYS

Tramp (the cat) holiday & the rampant herb garden

So my last post was all about MY birthday … but what about the cat and things back at home?

Well Tramp is a lucky chappie, because he gets looked after by a nice lady (paid for by us) who pops round each day to fill his food bowl, has a cuddle, plays with him and sets up a 2nd food bowl on an automatic timer for his evening meal. She also sends daily photos to update us on his progress – hence the number of photos that follow. Another advantage of some of these photos is that it gives you an indication of what the inside (and outside) of our house is like – At least from a cat’s point of view. From some of the photos, it looks like we were a little luckier with the weather than Tramp !

Finally, do you remember the photo of the pathetic little herb garden we planted at the end of April ? Let me remind you …

… and this is what we came back to after our holidays !

It appears the weather suited them and now we have no need for further herbs (particularly mint) !

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Birthday Landmark – The half-century

So why did my last post say that I was so busy? Well at the end of May was my (and Kevin’s) birthday and for me it was the big half-century ! Therefore, I wanted to do something to celebrate and what better than to try and recreate my 21st birthday when Kevin and I were at Imperial College in London and I was still a happy go lucky student. Now first: On my 21st birthday Kevin, my parents and I got the overnight ferry to Holland and went to Amsterdam (by train) for an Indonesian rijstafel, returning home on the overnight ferry that evening (well we were students and did have to do things on a tight budget!)

Now of course quite a lot has changed in the intervening 39 yrs – I’ve worked (so have more money), I now use a wheelchair (courtesy of MS) and we have a car. The latter is very important, because trains (that we used all those yrs ago) are a bit more difficult to organise now. However, the ferry still runs from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and with the car we could just drive (Kevin really) from Swindon to Harwich and then from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam. As the picture shows we managed it, had the aforesaid Indonesian rijstafel and a lot more besides. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your age, my/our birthday falls during the Whitsun holidays. This meant that I was never at school during my birthday, but has the downside that travel and holidays in general are more expensive. It also means that the ferry gets booked up very quickly and so plan A had to change immediately – no disabled cabins available for the overnight ferry. Still, we are older now and a little thing like unavailable cabins wasn’t going to stop us. Plan B – take a sedate drive to Harwich, stay overnight in an accessible room at the ferry port and take the day ferry across to the Hook of Holland (having a meal on the way, of course), then drive (Kevin again) from the Hook of Holland to Amsterdam. This should have been easy, but was made a little more complicated by having an out of date satnav and the Dutch authorities building lots of new roads. Anyway, after a short skid via the outskirts of Rotterdam, we eventually made it to the Mövenpick hotel in Amsterdam and met up with my parents that evening. Oh, that’s another thing that’s changed – my parents now live in France and were driving across from the west of France via Belgium to a different hotel in Amsterdam, reasonably close by. Upon meeting up, my parents confirmed that their trip across France and hotel were great BUT their journey around Antwerp had been awful (not good for us to hear, because Antwerp was the next place we were visiting & planned to stay overnight on our way back to their house in France).

Now, booking a hotel when you have a disability and therefore require an accessible room is a bit more difficult than you may think. I picked the Mövenpick hotel in the centre of Amsterdam, because it had an accessible room & en-suite bathroom. It was more expensive than we would normally pay, but I must admit that the accessible bathroom was very good. The hotel is actually built out in the old dock area, which accounts for our rather noisy and changeable neighbours (see pictures). I think this first photograph (of the view from our bedroom window) needs a little more explaining: As I predominantly sleep on my back now, I no longer seem to be able to achieve a full, uninterrupted 9 hours sleep each night. I tend to wake up, Kevin helps me sit up and I spend the next hour or so reading my Kindle. This particular night, I woke up as usual and sat there reading when (around 4 o’clock in the morning) I vaguely became aware of noises outside. Upon looking out of the window in the semi gloom, I was surprised to see that there appeared to be terraced houses opposite that I hadn’t noticed when we first arrived. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours as normal and when waking for the 2nd time Kevin commented that there was a lot of commotion outside. He opened the curtains properly and this was the view that greeted us – A cruise ship ! So after getting dressed and showered, Kevin immediately went outside to take a better look. Upon returning to me in the room, we had lots of jokes about “Costa” cruises and whether the captain had really intended to park to park his large vessel outside our hotel. Needless to say, once I had showered and dressed too, Kevin took me outside and we immediately noticed that our hotel was right beside the cruise ship terminus. We met my parents at the coffee shop right next door to our hotel, where I had a lovely freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. My parents didn’t want or need anything having already partaken of a rather large hotel breakfast, which was included in the cost of their hotel. Once all together, we set off into Amsterdam city centre via a bridge over the River and we started to have a look around. Neither of my parents had seen an Indonesian restaurant when they had had a quick look upon their arrival the previous day, but we decided to look around and try to locate the flower market (where of my parents’ friend had said that they had found and Indonesian restaurant) … and on the way, I had an apple pancake (another of my fond memories of Holland from yrs ago). That evening, we had sushi in a weird Japanese-style fast food restaurant I’d noticed on our travels that was wheelchair accessible (unlike lots of the traditional restaurants, which were both narrow, all and had steps up to the door – no change there then!) Anyway, as can be seen from the photograph at the beginning of this post – we did find a lovely, accessible Indonesian restaurant and I got my Indonesian rijstafel. The morning that we were leaving Amsterdam (and my parents) Kevin and I went into a cafe in the Information Centre just opposite the Grand Central Station. The cafe was downstairs, but there was a lift and we decided to stop for a drink and lunch whilst waiting to meet my parents. They arrived and also decided to have a drink/look at the menu, where my mother saw the item “Bitterballen” which she decided to order – another fond food memory that we had enjoyed as a family many yrs ago. (Therefore, completely unintentionally, I had appeared to ‘tick off’ 3 items from my imaginary bucket list.)

Next, Kevin and I made the journey to Antwerp, which as my parents’ had predicted was a nightmare journey – roadworks everywhere! Our hotel was right in the centre of Antwerp and once we had managed to negotiate all the major disruptions, we finally made it to the hotel … and had to have a lie down to recover from what was a comparatively short hop. No pictures of Antwerp, but as you can probably imagine the combination of major reconstruction/building works, removal of almost all dropped curbs and cobbles made our investigations of Antwerp painful for me (in the wheelchair) and extremely tiring for Kevin (trying to manoeuvre the wheelchair over rubble/unmarried pavements etc.) In summary, Antwerp may be lovely in a few yrs time but not at the moment and especially not when trying to get around with a wheelchair or similar. Round 2 finished and onto the round 3, edging ever more slowly towards France.

Round 3 – Mons. Now Mons was lovely and probably had undergone similar building works to Antwerp but a few yrs earlier i.e. a view of what Antwerp may become in a few yrs time. The hotel was lovely and interesting, but again there were lots of cobbles and this time the town was located on a Hill – oh what fun!

      


And there’s really not much more to say – upon leaving the hotel in Mons, we started on the long drive across France to my parents’ house in Normandy. It had been a fun week away and we were now ready for the final ferry trip home (after a few days recuperating in France) via St. Malo … and yes a bit more food !

Start of 2017 – what’s new?

The start of 2017 was not really very exciting and there  wasn’t much interesting to write about – hence the dearth of new posts.

There were the work tasks: I’m trying to cut my business costs this year and therefore replaced my IP database at the start of January (which included a couple of on-line training sessions in January/February), I met with an old colleague from my previous employer, ostensibly to talk about possible IP protection for some new ideas that he had been tinkering around with, but ended up having a general chat about how the atmosphere has changed as have many of the people. I also did quite a few professional webinars (always good for my CPD).

On the MS/medical front: There were all the usual things – open gym sessions (Monday & Friday), seated yoga (Wednesday), dentist etc., but there were 2 things that did stand out as not being the norm:

1.  On the afternoon of 04 January 2017 – we took delivery of my “super duper” assisted bike which Kevin had arranged as my Christmas treat. We are hiring it for 3 months on a trial basis and I’m trying to use it every day. At the end of the 3 months, we will purchase it and the 3 months hire cost will be deducted from the sale price. This just goes to show you how expensive it is!

2.  During the last weekend in January, I hosted the “Twitter takeover” on behalf of Shift MS. This might have been quite mundane, but of course in the US there was all the chatter about the election/inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the USA. Fortunately, most of the tweets during my “Twitter takeover” steered well clear of politics!

Unfortunately, this fairly lacklustre spell of progress or rather complete lack of it, gave me the urge to organise several things – another visit with my MP (much shorter and more friendly this time), organising a visit from a carpenter to quote for changes to our stairs and levelling our upper landing and also a visit from a blinds company to quote for installation of electrically controlled blinds in our bedroom. Kevin was NOT pleased, although I have to admit that this flurry of activity was taking place just before my parents were coming to stay with us for a couple of days prior to going on a bell-ringing trip to Devon with a view of their friends from Somerset.

Roll on March: As I’m in bad odour with Kevin anyway, and things still aren’t progressing with the new house, I also arrange for a visit from a landscape gardener to quote for cleaning our block paving area and replacing the paving slabs/edging along the path to our front door. A very nice, young chap (I’m getting to that age when lots of competent adults look ‘young’ to me now) came to visit us, see what was required and provide a quote for the work. My main aim was to get the path to the front door level (making it easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair) and to replace the edging along the path to restrain the gravel between the plants in the adjacent beds, which was spilling onto the path in several places due to accidental hits & bumps from me in the wheelchair. The Gardener said that he could, and would prefer, to do the work before the end of March. In fact, he could start the following week.”Ah, that’s difficult” I said, “because we are off to visit my patents in France next Tuesday and don’t return until 22nd March”. (Mmm, now I’m beginning to appreciate Kevin’s frustration – but I wasn’t going to admit it and he could jolly well sort out arrangements for feeding the cat while we’re away … SULK!) Anyway, the Gardener agreed to start on our return from France and right at the last moment, Kevin organised for a “professional cat sitter” to come in and feed the cat, while we were away.  …

AND SO, OFF WE GO TO FRANCE … (Garden photos courtesy of my Dad)

Now my Mum had warned me that on 17 March (St Patrick’s day) they were hosting a celebratory Irish meal and had invited a number of guests – both French and English. We had already seen the Irish flag and bunting as it was ordered on-line and had been delivered to our house a few weeks earlier, and we had been treated to a viewing of their cheap elf T-shirts (picked up in a supermarket during their quick bell-ringing trip to England). The authenticity of the “Irish food” was somewhat dubious, but they had made several attempts to try out the cocktail ‘Black Velvet’ (a mixture of Guinness & Champagne) – now that was sure to go down well in France (!?!) The verdict on the ‘Black Velvet’ was understandably somewhat confused, ranging from “a good way to ruin both Guinness & Champagne” (majority) to “it’s quite nice really” (minority).

I don’t drink much alcohol and definitely avoided the ‘Black Velvet’, but I think the next two photographs go to show what a terrible effect it can have on the photographer (my dad).

All set – before ‘Black Velvet’

I leave it to you to make up your own mind!

Party in full swing – after ‘Black Velvet’

My parents had set up an office for me in their spare, spare bedroom and I did spend a couple of hours each day at my computer doing some work! There was some socialising, relaxing, watching films and shopping too and it did provide a nice break for us humans. And now onto the cat: He seemed to have a pretty relaxed and fun holiday too, being well looked after by the “professional cat sitter” as can be seen from the pictures at the beginning of this post and the photographs to end. We shall definitely be using her again for our next holiday – Birthday celebrations!

THE END OF 2015 & CHRISTMAS

As I have been so bad at keeping a record of all the things that went on up to the end of 2015, I decided to write a very quick, consolidated post. Much to my surprise I found that upon reviewing my calendar and then looking at the ‘categories’ that I had set up previously to decide which were appropriate for this consolidated post, I had done quite a lot really i.e. virtually every category applied!

WORK:

  • I did an online Oral Hearing (patent application) for my old employer and the patent was upheld and Granted
  • I did some online professional tutorials for trainees preparing to sit the European Qualifying Examinations for patents in December, January and February

HEATH:

  • I have had numerous medical appointments both MS and non-MS related for previously mentioned foot, eyes, continence services, Occupational Therapist, wheelchair services and last but not least 6 monthly dentists check-up. In fact it would be accurate to say I pretty much had a full MOT from head to foot – some more successful than others.  I won’t go into much more detail because a. it’s boring and b. it seems so long ago now that I can’t accurately recount all that happened
  • BUT I will make an exception for the foot, because I have written a post on this before and although not resolved before Christmas, at the beginning of January 2016 I finally had a steroid injection in my left foot and hey presto it now seems to be resolved! I know it isn’t a permanent fix, but it is so much better than it has been for the last few months. So, fingers crossed

CHRISTMAS & LOCATION:

  • Now usually my parents and I/Kevin alternate location for our Christmas holidays at each other’s houses. However, despite much effort on my/Kevin’s part, we still hadn’t managed to move house before Christmas (we’ve only been looking for the past 5 or so years)! Added to that, my parents no longer stay at our house because of a lack of bathroom facilities and I was still having problems with my foot. Therefore, we made the late decision to switch order and for Kevin and I travel over to France for Christmas (note. My parents are now the proud possessors of one’s stair climber.)
  • Christmas went OK, but nothing particularly memorable in a pleasant sense. Come Boxing Day, Kevin had problems with his teeth and had to see a French dentist and by the end of the holiday, I had a urinary tract infection which meant I couldn’t wait to get home.

So, that was the end of 2015 (a bit of a damp squib really) and we were all ready to get started with 2016. After all, it couldn’t go much more downhill could it?

Accessible accomodation in Brittany & mum’s 75th birthday celebrations

OK, so cast your minds back to the beginning of the year – 4 February 2015 to be exact. I must admit I can’t remember exactly what I was doing, but I do know that I happened to be checking my Twitter account and saw a post from Disability Horizons offering a voucher for “10% off our accessible holiday accommodation”. I can only imagine that I was feeling a bit glum at the time because I immediately applied and received said voucher (whenever I feel down I seem to want to “do” or buy something to lift my spirits – and let’s face it applying for a discount voucher is a lot cheaper than going on-line and buying something!)

La Roche Derrien

La Roche Derrien

Tide out on arrival

Tide out on arrival

Tide in towards evening

Tide in towards evening

So now I had a voucher for accessible holiday accommodation in Brittany (www.ineedaholidaytoo.com) and the website looked quite fun and interesting. I thought it would be an ideal place to go for a family holiday, but I needed to find a suitable excuse for taking a holiday sometime and I was well aware that my parents live on the Normandy/Brittany borders. I decided to leave it for a while before asking whether my parents would be interested in visiting Brittany, albeit a little further west than usual. 

 By the time I went back on the website to look at availability, most of the prime summer months were booked up and as I said, I needed is suitable excuse for taking a family holiday … That’s it! It will be my mum’s 75th birthday in October (i.e. off-peak) and it would be a good excuse to go out for a nice family meal at decent French restaurant.

So now I had a plan and I just needed to put it into action:

  • I contacted the website and proffered my 10% off voucher
  • booked the appropriate week straddling my mum’s birthday, and then
  • started to take a much closer look at the website.

The accommodation looked great and the facilities that they could offer were spectacular. They seemed to be able to accommodate people, who have much greater needs than me – I now felt quite guilty about depriving someone more worthy of my 10% off voucher.

Open restaurant?

Open restaurant?

Timber framed?

Timber framed?

 

Squashed house!

Squashed house!

So October arrived and we’d decided to take to take 2 cars – Kevin and I catching the overnight ferry to St. Malo and then proceeding onwards into Brittany proper, and my parents following on a little later in the afternoon, from their house in Normandy. This allowed Kevin and I to arrive first, shop for provisions and then await the arrival of my parents with tea and biscuits and food for that evening’s meal. Our journey was interesting because the deeper we got into Brittany we noticed the place names and signs began to change – all in dual language French/Breton. It was just like driving deeper into Wales where we have the same thing!

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Debra on wheels … with mum on a leash

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The accommodation was great, our hosts were very welcoming and we got the use of a 3 legged cat any time we came back to eat, sleep etc. There was a parrot that could do a pretty good impression of a mewing cat, which would drive me mad if I were the cat! So in summary, we had a great holiday with OK weather (at least it didn’t rain until the day we were leaving) and I nearly managed to forget ‘the blasted foot’.  I’d highly recommend looking at the website. They can really offer a lot and there’s lots to do and see, whether you stay local or go off ‘gadding about the place’ – like we did.

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A Chateau … but no cat

Where am I?

Where am I?

Ah, that's better!

Ah, that’s better!

Another timber framed house

Another timber framed house

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