Sunday, 6 February 2011

More Travelling

Kudos to CCS Disability Action, who operate New Zealand's disabled parking permit system.  They have a very easy process to apply for a New Zealand permit online and have the permit sent to your accommodation (or in my case, brother) to await your arrival.  All they need is a scanned copy of whatever the local equivalent is where you live - in my case the "blue badge".

A pity the UK can't reciprocate with this.

OTOH, it is possible to use UK (and other EU) permits throughout the EU and usually airport parking will let you use the disabled space, but take your blue badge with you on holiday - they usually ask you to let the attendant know as you are leaving.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Travel plans

The last couple of weeks I have been busy with 2011's travel plans.

In March, I'm heading to Ireland for three days, my first visit in almost 2 years. This is unusual - I was there annually in 2002, 2003 and 2004, then in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 at least twice a year. The multiple trips to New Zealand meant there was no trip last year and I promised myself a trip when I finally sold a house I owned in England (even though I made no money on the house at all!).

I'll be staying in Dublin, for the first time in 3 years and in the city centre for the first time in over 8 years. Usually I have stayed with my friend J, who used to live on the western outskirts of Dublin and now lives in Carlow, about an hour south-west of Dublin. I've been to Athlone twice and twice stayed on the outskirts of Dublin, but it was unusual for me to venture into the city centre.

This time, I'm staying just off O'Connell Street and J will join me for at least Saturday, possibly also Friday night. I'm meeting another friend for dinner on the Thursday. During the days I'll get the chance to reacquaint myself with a city I first visited almost 20 years ago.

In April, I'll be heading, with L, back to New Zealand for another longish trip. We're flying Emirates again, as I did on both trips last year. The value of frequent flyer schemes shows - I have so many points now it wasn't worth considering a different airline. We'll have lounge access in Dubai on the way out and in all the airports on the way back. We'll also have enough points for an upgrade on the final leg, which will get us a free car & driver in Glasgow to get us home.

My experiences of Emirates and Dubai have mostly been good, although some staff seem to struggle to balance the combination of a passenger requiring special assistance *and* a small child. I've had a couple of experiences where the wheelchair was moving so fast, L was struggling to keep up, but they've slowed down when I ask.

On my return trip last year, however, there was a bit of a SNAFU which meant they had no way to get me on the plane at Dubai, as it was at a remote gate (no air-bridge). Emirates were very good and held the plane (for 90 minutes!) until it was sorted out but it was all very stressful. I complained and they apologised and compensated me. I'm happy to fly with them again but their apology included a very useful explanation of what had happened and how to avoid it again.

There are three classes of wheel chair assistant available (and I believe all major airlines use these codes - certainly the same options were available when I booked my Aer Lingus flights to Dublin).

  • WCHR - this is for people who cannot manage long distances, but can manage stairs. It'll get you to the gate but not up or down stairs at the gate or plane. 
  • WCHS - this also gets you assistance with the stairs - and if you need it a special lift (elevator) to get you onto the plane
  • WCHC - this means you get assistance (carried or a special narrow wheelchair) to get to your actual seat.  
In my case, the code had been changed from WCHS to WCHR when I changed my flights in Auckland, but because there was a WCHC passenger on my flight from Auckland to Dubai there had been no problem until then.  

Of course I probably need a different one.  I am usually OK, especially on departure, to walk to the gate myself - and I enjoy having a look at the shops or getting a drink or something to eat, rather than being parked in a crowded pen somewhere.  A bit of gentle exercise also staves off stiffness which is an inevitable consequence of sitting for long periods.  

This is especially the case when I have L with me - the last thing he needs before a 24 hour flight is 2 hours sitting somewhere boring!  I can do this if there is an air bridge to get onto the plane, but if I need a lift, I have to get wheelchair assistance the whole way.  

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Friday Club

I am very lucky to have been involved with two wonderful, strong, inspiring groups of women through my life. - my own group of close women friends was blogged about last year by my friend Lissie.

Many years ago, though, another group of women with similar backgrounds, one of whom was my mother, came together at a Parents' Centre coffee morning in New Zealand. All had babies under two, four girls and a boy. All but one went on to have another child, a year or so later - this time three boys and a girl. So in all we were five families. Well, there was a sixth, with an older boy and one the same age as me, and a few other families we spent time with, but as the years went on the core formed around five families.

Each Friday afternoon, these five Mums would meet for a few drinks, with us kids being sent off to play with strict instructions not to be seen *or* heard "unless there is blood" (especially as we got older). Massive quantities of chippies (crisps) would be ground into the carpet, accompanied by plenty of lego. Lifetime friendships were formed. In many ways the other "kids" (for we are still kids, although we're aged between 33 and 36!) are closer than cousins, especially for those of us without actual cousins.

We shared many good and bad times down the years, but big birthdays were always a big event, both the Mums' 40ths, 50ths, and latterly 60ths and the 21sts of us kids. Parties were held and the jokes became more and more elaborate. My brother found this today, which must day from a 50th birthday I think around 15 years ago now. Somehow, it captures Friday Club in it's glory days.


When my mother died, Friday Club gathered round and were a huge source of strength to my brother and I. Everyone came round at some point to help us clear houses, deal with practicalities. We were invited to dinner by kids and Mums alike. After the funeral a core bunch of us gathered to remember happier times and many laughs (and glasses of wine) were had.

This is most of the kids (by Friday Club tradition, one of us is inevitably missing - he turned up 5 minutes after the pic was taken) and *our* kids (again, one - our first girl - is missing, at just over a week old, she was asleep), taken while I was in NZ after my grandmother died.


And here we are, at least most of us, back when it all started - I think this must be December 1977.


Saturday, 15 January 2011

Lost, one crutch

Just before Christmas, I lost one of my crutches. I have, well had, four pairs. My NHS issue ones. which I don't like on a lot of grounds, and three pairs of French made ones I have bought myself. All are elbow crutches, the French call then "canne anglaise". I can't use underarm crutches due to my dodgy wrists.

My red folding pair were the first ones I bought when I started using crutches full time. They are half cuff (that's the bit that goes round your arm, just below the elbow) which I found much better when you need to do things like open doors.

When we were in France over the summer I bought two more pairs. One in grey and one in "Bordeaux" - or Burgundy as we call it in English. They were this type:

Although they are not folding, they are very comfortable, the cuffs give lots of support which takes the strain off my wrists and elbows and they don't have the annoying click of many crutches.

Sadly, just before Christmas, I lost one. I sometimes "get away" with only one crutch. I shouldn't, it's bad for my spine and pelvis, but sometimes having one hand free helps, so for short distances I'll often take just one. All I can think of is that I went somewhere with two and left with only one. I've retraced my steps but with no luck. It's gone.

So now, I have one grey one, and four in different shades of red. Which presents a problem when I wear, for example, green. So now to decide. Do I buy one more grey one or a new pair altogether. I do quite like these ones from Cool Crutches.


Risotto is one of my favourite easy dinners, but although easy it's time consuming so it's something I tend to make just for myself, when I can stand in the kitchen with a glass of wine and add extra liquid when required. This is tonight's.

My basic recipe is to fry a packet of lardons in a wee bit of olive oil. If I am worrying about fat content, I drain it off.

If I am using butternut squash, and I usually am, I add that (cubed) and let it fry a wee while. Then I chuck in about half a cup of risotto rice and let it fry a wee bit too.

I don't use proper stock, so I add in about 2 tsp of Knorr boullion powder with the first cup of water. Keep adding water until it's done.

Once I had that basic recipe, I add vegetables depending on what takes my fancy. Today was asparagus. Petit pois (baby peas) and broad beans are my other standbys.

Near the end, I put in about 1/4 cup of wine and after it's served, I often crumble some soft goats cheese over it.

It's good. And if you have managed to get this far, you will have discovered I not only use recipes, I can't write one either.

Well, life has happened

It's a long time since I posted, for various reasons. I may blog about some of them in more detail, but for now, I plan to just leap back in. For context, a month after my grandmother's death I also lost my mother. I ended up returning to NZ for a month. The day before I flew back, I fell down the outside steps. It turns out I broke my tailbone. Needless to say, my other problems have not helped me recover, but I am probably as good as I will be now.

And so... to the blog.