Post uni summer part 3: Flying solo and sunny Spain

New media debate coming up: is the band blue or pink?

band

I was given the offer of a family holiday. For the first time in my life, I declined. I didn’t find the idea of a walking holiday in Ireland hugely exciting. Needless to say, when my parents came home early because they could just as easily shelter from the rain in front of the Olympics here as they could at the hotel, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Instead, I made a giant leap for Gracekind and travelled, unaccompanied, to Spain to visit my Grandad and his partner, who now live part time in Andalucia. Sadly, airports have never been my cup of tea. Like that time years ago when I went through the metal detector and it beeped – I automatically tried to run back because I thought I’d done something wrong, and might have been dog piled by a dozen security staff, were it not for my parents.

Anyway. With Mum’s help, I was fortunate enough to discover Manchester Airport and its Blue Band Scheme, created to make flying easier for those requiring extra assistance. Hence the bright blue band pictured above.

Interestingly, out of everyone in the group that I was escorted with, I was the only person who was young and not in a wheelchair. But hey, makes sense to keep everyone together. Also, our escort was very kind and friendly. Then again, I tend to be in awe of anyone who can be so chatty to strangers for so long.

I did turn down the offer of a wheelchair more than once. Actually, when I got to Spain, I had to step straight off the plane and into a special vehicle for the disabled. Ironically I had to sit in a wheelchair until it was time to get off, because there weren’t enough chairs. Haha.

Spain, as with many countries, is definitely prettier and more scenic than the midlands. I’d been before, but come on, do you ever get such a beach view in the UK? There are mountains for miles around, beaches that I thought only existed in magazines, and the summer sky is almost as blue as my “special flyer” wristband.

spanish-beach

One thing I’d forgotten about was the heat. In the UK, the last week of August is practically autumn. In Spain, summer lasts until at least November. I’d over packed partly because I thought Grandad would be taking me on lots of walks and brought all my gym clothes, like in Switzerland and Austria. Thing is, at 40 degrees C, a 20 minute walk becomes more exhausting than a typical gym workout, and throughout the afternoon, the best you can do is sleep the hours away until your next meal.

And of course, insect bites. I’ve used insect repellent before, and it has proven to be about as effective as ketchup. I specifically invested in an extra strength version of the stuff. One day I had three bites. The next day I had about eight. By the time I got home, I had 20. So much for that. I may be the equivalent of a free pic’n’mix stand for mosquitos, but as my mum reminded me, it’s good to be popular. Yeah.

Until next week, adios!

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Just keep walking

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Since waving a cheery farewell to my exam, I have been basking in freedom and laziness and hot weather. As it’s not every summer that I get off lightly for nearly missing an exam while the day I pack my bags creeps ever nearer, making the most of it probably isn’t a bad idea. While counting down the days, I have been happily ticking off my summer to-do list. Do first aid course: would be easier if DMU hadn’t gone and arranged one for when I’m on holiday in London. Spend less time on computer but more time on blog: hmmm, about that… Say “yes” to more opportunities…?

Saying “yes” to opportunities isn’t one of my greatest assets. Saying things like “maybe”, “what does it involve?” and “but I won’t know anyone!” is more my style. So when an opportunity came about to join a group of students on a 17 mile sponsored walk around Rutland Water, I just said yes without consulting myself first. I don’t know what I would have said if I had.

The walk, I must explain, was to raise money for Zoe Blacklock’s CLIC Sargent Fund. CLIC Sargent is a children’s cancer charity. Zoe is the three year old granddaughter of the founders of the Leicester Navigators, the Christian bible study group I have been going to for a whole year now. She has been battling a very rare and severe brain tumour called a pineoblastoma, and so it was that Rachel, member of the much respected Navigators leadership team, wanted to help.

Agreeing to join this walk and just generally raising awareness saw me writing an article about the walk and Zoe’s situation, in the hope that it would make it into the Leicester Mercury. While it didn’t make it that far, it did at least get onto the DMU website: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2014/june/fund-raising-students-step-out-for-charity.aspx.

The most interesting part was quoting myself. I could either type what I wanted to say straight onto the article, or I could see this as cheating and choose the autistic alternative: just slip it into ordinary conversation and memorise my exact words on my way back to my computer.

And off we went, on Sunday 22nd June, backpacks and collecting tin in hand. Myself, Rachel, Martin and Rebecca (left to right in the photo). Long distance walking seems to come in four stages, as follows:

First stage: Holiday mode. It’s a beautiful hot day, the sun is shining, the water looks like the sort you see on postcards. I’m with friends, this will be – MIND THAT CYCLIST! – a walk in the park. Or around a reservoir.

Second stage: Food…water…ice cream. My legs ache, my head aches, half the passers-by we meet say they don’t have money to donate, that café had better not be a mirage and here come more cyclists…

Third stage: Still surviving. Insert any Destiny’s Child/Gloria Gaynor survival themed song lyrics you want. Food, water and ice cream needs have been sufficiently met and am beginning not to – CYCLIST! – notice my aching legs.

Fourth stage: Nearly there. Just another thirty minutes…as has been the case for the last half hour…no, really, only another mile. Or two.

But hey, the walk was a test of strength, a great bonding experience, and, most importantly, a real success. Yes, our muscles and limbs suffered as a result. Yes, Rebecca and I did have a nerdy discussion about how our renal and circulatory systems were dealing with the strain we were putting on them. And yes, we did raise: a WHOPPING £400! If I were to write a follow up article on how it all went, we did come up with what I like to think were inspirational, thought provoking quotes, such as “my toes feel swollen,” and “is that an ice cream stall over there?” Pretty much a summary of the entire day. Yeah.

As far as I know, online donations are still welcome, so please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/NavsRutlandWalk/
To hear more about Zoe’s story, please go to: zozojourney.wordpress.com

So far this summer…

It has been an interesting summer. I have spent it braving the mountains of Switzerland, losing sleep over an assignment I was convinced I could finish in four days, boozing (having one glass of wine) and partying. Now we have recently adopted our latest feline resident Basil (more about him later), so it looks as if the excitement isn’t over yet. But back to where I started…

Within days of returning from the wedding, my family and I were off out again, this time slightly further afield. In my sister’s case, this meant going over to Seattle to stay with our aunt, uncle and two little cousins. In my case, this meant spending ten days with my parents in Switzerland. I briefly mentioned “braving the mountains”; by that, I meant stumbling along even the easiest walking trails at snail’s pace while my parents walked/skipped miles ahead, singing and making terrible jokes.

Walking holidays really aren’t a walk in the park (mountains!) for those with dyspraxic tendencies. Mercifully, we agreed to alternate between days where we’d all do a “Grace friendly” walk and days where I’d relax at the hotel and let them go out and do their own thing. It wasn’t all bad, however, due to good weather, beautiful scenery and the rule that I have to have ice cream on holiday. Ironically it was my mother, health and fitness expert extraordinaire, who came up with this rule years ago. ‘Tis a very good rule, in my opinion, and one that I took great care in sticking to.

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On arriving back from Switzerland, I was forcibly reminded of the Writers Bureau Assignment I had promised I would finish by the end of the month. Why I thought I could easily finish it within four days of returning from abroad I shall never know, and how I succeeded I know not either. Why my tutor thought I’d done a good job when I thought it was one of the lamest things I’d ever written? Again, no clue. However, shortly afterwards, I was informed that my readers letter to “Your Cat” about Lionel (see May 2) is going to be published. So clearly my writing skills are getting somewhere in life.

Since finishing the dreaded assignment, things have continued to look up this summer. For a start, I ended up going to the pub twice in the same weekend and, being the rebel that I am, having a small amount of alcohol. And Nachos. The first time I went was for a catch up with a friend from cell group, the second was with him and assorted other cell group members. We spent the latter evening playing card games and I have to say, I’d had no idea that doing Welsh pirate impressions was compulsory for this. But hey, you learn something new every day.

More recently, I was very kindly invited to a 21st birthday party of a girl I have known through various church based settings. I was glad I went – I got a chance to catch up with many people, stuffed my face, and hardly put my foot in my mouth socially at all. I also participated in balloon wars, mock sword fights and a lengthy discussion about how the English, Greek and Chinese alphabets work. So it was a successful evening.

And now the excitement continues, as we welcome to our household Basil, the Burmese cat. Watch this space…