Talk about from one extreme to the other, after a week of virtually doing nothing came a week when I did TWO trips out of the house! Yes, TWO whole trips, one fun and one scary and one of them without the darling P!
The first was a trip with my choir ‘Con Voce‘ to sing in Winchester Great Hall for a Samaritans fundraising evening. Now this was the nervous, scary one; not only was I attempting to get to somewhere a long way away but I was attempting it without P – which meant more than a few sleepless nights and “oh my god, can I actually do this?” moments.
It had been arranged that a friend would drive my Motability car down to Winchester and she had also been roped in to help with the more ‘ehem ‘delicate’ issues such as the putting on of my clothes and the ‘on and off the toilet’ game! We had talked it through beforehand and had agreed that this would actually be ok and I could manage to be away from P for one night. Now, for me that was and still is a huge thing, I am so used to being with him 24/7 with him knowing exactly what I need that being away from his side really worried me. I’m such an independent person that it has taken massive steps to allow someone else to do things for me, to give up control, for me is incredibly difficult. I also find dealing with the frustration of not being able to do things for myself really tricky; in the past I have refused to let P help, pushed myself too far and then ended up in so much pain I couldn’t do anything so getting used to this has been awful and I’m still learning not to get majorly stressed and stroppy when I can’t do something that I used to be able to.
So with discussions of what was needed, the phone call to Motability to insure my friend and the new frock for the occasion packed safely, off we went. The journey was ok although as it progressed I was getting lower and lower in my seat and I had to keep reclining my chair as it was getting far too painful to sit up straight. But it was a fun journey, full of chatting and laughing.
When we arrived at the hotel, (the illustriously named Mercure Winchester Wessex Hotel) the usual problems resurfaced – even though I’d phoned and emailed the hotel about its accessibility, the front entrance had five steps and no ramp. So as per usual, round the back to the fire entrance we had to go. The lift was barely big enough for my wheelchair so that meant that I had to keep going backward forwards just to get out, not embarrassing in the least!
Then the manager escorted us to the ‘disabled’ room…….
I went in and directly in front of me was the walk in shower, great I thought but then saw the lip/step at the entrance to the toilet which try as I might couldn’t get the wheelchair over. The manager’s face was an absolute picture when I asked him directly “how am I supposed to go to the toilet if I can’t get my chair in? He was obviously so embarrassed and didn’t have an answer; he actually looked around, took the toilet roll off the toilet roll holder on the wall and replied very sheepishly “well you could hold onto the holder and the door handle? Would that work?” then added even more sheepishly, a classic reply “mind you, the toilet roll holder is a bit flimsy……..”
We then came to the matter of the extremely small double bed that was against the wall, now usually when we arrange a disabled room, there is never a double bed always twins and once, the second bed was in another room!! So it was so ironic that the only time I come away without P, I eventually get the double bed we always wished for! The sharing of the bed wasn’t an issue for me and my friend, we’re tough old girls and didn’t mind in the slightest but because the bed was against the wall, I couldn’t get in or out easily and she faced having to climb over me just to get out. Unfortunately the room was too small for the bed to be moved so the (by now, mortified) manager arranged for another room for my friend just down the corridor.
Ok, there were problems but we just thought ‘we’re only here for one night so let’s just get on with it’ and removed ourselves to the bar to make arrangements for the rest of the day…..
The Great Hall was incredible; such a joyous place to sing in, the acoustic was wonderful and their access was excellent. They had parking right outside, the stage they provided was amazing, it had a ramp and it was great being ‘normal’ for a change! (Mind you, for some strange reason, I had to be ‘accompanied’ to the toilet by a member of staff! They quoted ‘Health and Safety!)The fundraiser was a great success, we received a really warm welcome and the combination of the Welsh National Anthem and their applause rang loudly through the ancient Hall. The experience was so wonderful and it was both a pleasure and an honour to perform there.
The end of the evening was not so amazing though, my pain levels were huge and once the adrenaline had run out, my frustrations at not being able to go out and party boiled over. I went back to the hotel and gave in to my body and went straight to bed (well almost, after blubbing for a while then giving myself a right stern talking to – not good at listening to sense unfortunately)
The journey home the next day was a trial by torture – the satnav had a right nightmare and we ended up inbetween tanks on Salisbury Plain but that’s for another tale I think…..!
Was it a positive experience not having P there with me? In some ways yes, I had people around to help and it did help my confidence but also reminded me how wonderful my P is and how much I rely on him. He might moan and groan and raise an eyebrow now and again but this trip showed me that he really is my ‘rock’ (although I now can’t let him read this as he might start getting ideas above his station………!)