Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Am I addicted to wrapping paper?

Packing away the Christmas things this year seems kind of different - we probably won't be living in this house next Christmas, so I'm trying to do a bit of sorting as I go.  The first task on my ever lengthening To Do list was the wrapping paper.

I should point out right now that I am an adult wannabe.  I drool over colour coordinated displays of towels, folded in neat piles with all the edges facing the same way, and wonder why my airing cupboard doesn't look like that.  I indulge my domestic goddess fantasies by flicking through cookbooks bursting with supposedly simple but delicious and nutritious meals that I know I will never sustain the concentration to make.  I have great intentions, but not quite so great at the sustained effort part.  I wish I was one of those tidy and organised souls that has the exact right size box for rolls of paper, maybe even compartments for birthdays and Christmas,  a bit for ribbons and bows... you know,  all sorted and easy.  But I'm not.  Not just not tidy and not organised,  also not sorted and not easy.  Which may explain why I buy a few rolls of wrapping paper every year - after Christmas,  reduced - and why our wrapping paper is in a suitcase.   Scrappy rolls of paper with ripped and dog eared edges surrounded by squashed metallic bows,  all wound around (and around) in a tangle of plastic-y curling ribbon.  Along with some folded gift bags - reduce reuse recycle and all that - Mr Manley's mum usually presents the kids with an extremely fancy gift bag of presents, so we save the bags for the following year.  And also in the suitcase, two or three almost empty rolls of sticky tape and a blunt pair of scissors.

So yesterday, I emptied the suitcase, and uncovered thirteen rolls of paper.   Thirteen.  And I realised that although I buy three or four rolls every year,  I use less than that, so it's been building up.  I think the one that provided the necessary shock to the system was an unopened roll from Woolworths.  How long ago did they close exactly?  I just checked - I would have bought them right after Christmas 2008.  Six years ago. Oh dear.

Anyway,  I binned a load of squashed bows and have reorganised the wrapping paper and bows and everything,  although it has gone back in the suitcase.   Mr Manley said it was easier to get into and out of the loft than a box,  but I pressed a couple of cardboard delivery boxes into service inside it,  so hopefully the remaining un-squashed bows will survive to next Christmas.  And I haven't bought any wrapping paper.  At all.  Even though it's reduced.  Everywhere.  I've resisted the temptation - quite proud of that actually.

I think the origin of my wrapping paper fetish (and probably the whole domestic goddess / wannabe grown up thing in fact) was the crappy first sixteen years or so of my life - one christmas in particular has stayed with me and I've strived ever since for the chance to experience the opposite.  A twinkling tree surrounded by beautifully wrapped and ribboned gifts, hands cupped around mugs of creamy hot chocolate with a handful of marshmallows melting on top, smiles and kisses, giggles and wishes.  Yep, I want a perfect christmas.  Never going to happen of course, someone is bound to eat too many chocolate coins and end up feeling very sick as well as very sorry for themselves (Petal), or start a silly argument over whether we should watch Elf on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (Noah), or refuse point blank to get out of bed until they get a cuppa (me).  And I know that, deep inside, but apparently this seems to be yet another example of being logically and intellectually certain of something but unable to apply that knowledge.

It might be wishful thinking as much as anything else, but perhaps I'm one tiny step closer to that dream version of me, Lucas the grown up.  Not because we had a perfect christmas - we didn't - but because I didn't expect to, and that lessening of pressure, letting myself off the hook, made all the difference.

- - - - -

Monday, 22 December 2014

I saw it through

Trigger warning : includes references to abuse - please take care of yourself

I've never heard a woman describe having a cervical smear test as a pleasant experience, but when your history includes sexual assault it's difficult to explain how genuinely traumatising it can be.  But, on Friday, I achieved a victory over my own history - it was something that might seem insignificant to most people, but I'm trying to celebrate the ups these days, so here goes.

I hadn't managed to keep any food down since Wednesday evening, I was running on fumes for sleep and I was snapping at everyone for everything.  My body and mind felt brittle, stiff, so tense that every sound seemed amplified a thousand times, and as I sat in the waiting room I could feel myself shaking.

When my name was called I exchanged a tight smile of acknowledgement with the doctor as I slowly stood and walked towards her, briefly wondering if it was too late to run screaming from the building before dismissing this as being likely to be noticed.

I am tagged as 'complex', something that means I'm seen at the sexual health clinic in the city centre as opposed to the treatment room at my gp surgery.  My reasoning is that staff who deal exclusively with sexual health are likely to be able to carry out the procedures more quickly than those who during the course of an ordinary day also carry out immunisations, change dressings and take blood.  The appointments for the complex clinic are longer, and the staff are aware that the women coming in might be struggling with all kinds of issues.

'So,' the doctor commented, 'Am I right in thinking you need a smear test today as well as a coil change?'  There was no stern look as I hesitantly explained the smear was two and a half years overdue, and the coil had reached it's expiry date six months ago - no tutting, no judgement, no fuss.  She nodded as I told her, in fits and starts, that this was something I dreaded intensely, and could not face submitting to as often as I knew that I should.  Hence the delayed smear test - although I'm recalled every three years, my coil lasts for five, and it had taken another six months to bring myself to arrange the appointment, and even then only because there were indicators the coil was becoming less effective.  Her calm and confident manner as she explained the order she would be carrying out the necessary tasks was reassuring to a point, but I could still feel anxiety churning up my insides.

'If you could just undress from the waist down and take a seat here, lay this paper over your lap and Helen [the newly introduced assistant who was tasked with supporting me] will show you how to position your legs'


Cold air on my clammy legs, the indignity of being partially clothed in the company of others, worrying about hairy legs and whether I smelled - it was all eclipsed in my mind as I struggled to get enough breath... images flashing before my eyes of times I'd had no control over what was happening to my body, I heard whispered threats, and heavy panting right next to my ear, faster and faster, and I clenched my eyes so tightly closed that I saw colours exploding...

I heard the doctor saying my name, asking me if I wanted them to talk to me for distraction, reminding me that I was in control and if I wanted them to stop then they would do so straight away.  'I'm okay' I whispered - of course I was far from it but the quicker this was done then the quicker I could get out of here.  'I'm fine'.  I tried to breathe slowly as I felt the speculum, as my insides were jacked open like a car in need of a new tyre.

'Lucas, the smear is done, you're doing really well...just try to relax, let your bottom sink into the couch, it's just going to take a minute...'

A twinge of pain, as if someone had flicked an elastic band against my insides...  I kept my eyes tight shut, and realised I was clutching Helen's gloved hand.  I was intensely aware that I was overreacting, but could do nothing about it, still focusing on breathing in and out.

'Okay - that's the old coil out Lucas - do you need me to stop?  You're doing great but we can leave it for now if you want, what do you think?'

My thoughts were whirling round - stop it stop it stop it stop it - but I knew I needed to see this through.  It was nothing to do with the pain (I've had three babies after all), or selfconsciousness of my body, but just the entirety of the situation - there was very little that could be done to make this easier for me.  It was about the struggle to get to this point, on this day, in this room, under this paper sheet - the struggle to relinquish control of my body to someone else.  'I'm okay, please finish' I managed to force out from between gritted teeth - I knew if I freaked out now it would be years before I was able to work myself back to here.

Another twinge and then 'okay Lucas, we're done...  I'm taking the speculum out now, we're finished.  Take a few deep breaths - you did it.  The smear is done, the old coil is out, and the new one is in.  You did so well Lucas - just relax a minute before you hop up, don't want you passing out.  I'm drawing the curtain round, to give you some privacy.  Sit up slowly once you feel okay, pop your trousers on and then there's just a couple of things to tell you and you can get out of here.'

Once I was sat back down, dressed but still shaking, I almost dissolved into hysterical giggling when the doctor commented that I looked pale - of course I did! - and asked if I needed to lie down for a while.  But I just wanted to be done and get home.  'You're not covered for seven days' she reminded me, and though I knew it was going to take longer than that to unwind from this I nodded and thanked her.  I was scared and dizzy and tearful and trembling, but I had seen it through and that was partly because of her.  She'd been professional, but thoughtful; empathetic, but not condescending; confident, but not pushy.  Because I had faith that if I needed it to stop then it would, I had been able to continue.

Mr Manley was waiting outside, having been barred from the women only complex clinic, and hugged me tight against him as he asked if I was okay.  I spent the afternoon on the sofa, wrapped in several blankets, with a steady supply of cups of tea and biscuits.  I have a follow up appointment in a few weeks which, to be completely honest, I will probably cancel as it will include an internal exam, and I just don't think I'll be able to do it.  Then, in five years I'll make another appointment, and go through it all again.

There's a voice in my head pointing out that the smear was way way way overdue; that the doctor and Helen are most likely laughing together over the state I was in (both emotional and physical - I mentioned the tears and the hairy legs, right?); that for most women, ordinary women, this is no big deal; that I should be over this by now.  But there's another voice in there too - a quiet voice...not quite a whisper, but without the confident tone implying years of practice.  A voice that tells me none of that matters.  A voice that suggests I concentrate on the fact that I saw it through, even though it was a struggle.  A voice that reminds me to look forward, instead of back.

Friday, 5 December 2014

news *TW*

Possible triggers regarding mental health distress - please be aware.

***I edited this post after hearing that the family of the individual I mention are asking for media privacy.  I have taken out the limited information that I included on her, but have made the decision to repost this, and hope that it is read and recognised as my personal reaction and desire to promote openness over the issues relating to mental health. ***

Hot tears chased one another down my cheeks as I tried to keep my breathing even, not wanting to draw the attention of the kids.  If they noticed my red eyes and running nose I'd have to explain the reason for my distress, and I didn't know if I could.  Along with many others, my heart was aching for a woman I'd never met, and the pain she must have been experiencing.  My chest felt dull, empty, and I wanted to howl - to protest against the universe about how this was not fair - a woman who had just become a mother, a baby who had just begun her life - gone.

On twitter I found I wasn't the only one who had been shaken by the news that the baby's body had been found.  If we were brutally honest with ourselves we knew that if she'd been left on someone's doorstep then she would have been found already and returned to safety; and if she'd been tucked into a bush then the temperatures overnight would have been too cold for her to survive.  I think for me the news that the baby had been found brought not only grief for her death, but also added another layer of pain for her mother - that she had reached that level of desperation and disconnection.

A huge assumption needs to be acknowledged here.  I am assuming that the mum's mental health deteriorated before she left the hospital with her baby girl.  That may not be accurate, but I'm writing with that in my mind as the likely course of events.  Something else I'd like to point out is the dangers of confusion and missed complexity when relying on social media.  With no body language cues or tones of voice we're forced to rely on emoticons and our own understanding of language, and this can easily go wrong.  A group of us on twitter realised this and the importance of 'think before you tweet' - hopefully mainstream media will be responsible when reporting the circumstances - in fact the Samaritans have an established media protocol, focused on reducing risk to vulnerable readers, respecting privacy and recognising the complexities involved.

As utterly devastating as this must be for all those who knew and loved her I find my focus is not on their grief but on the mum herself.  Not because I don't feel for them - my most sincere condolences go to all those who knew her.  I think my mind is drawn to her distress because, along with many others, I identify with some of her pain - that recognition of her anguish resonates deep within me and brings up memories of times I struggled to connect with the world around me and found myself bereft of hope and unable to look forwards.

Even now writing this I'm in tears, and so I'm purposefully making the choice to tend to my own needs and leave it there for now.  I hope to be able to share with you my experience of post natal depression, as well as the stories of others and the importance of fighting the taboo and stigma relating to mental health and pregnancy and birth.  If you'd like to join in, please get in touch - you can email me, make contact through twitter (@abstractLucas) or leave me a message in the comments box.  

If you need support or want to talk please consider getting in touch with the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (from within the uk) or click here .

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Accessible ice skating? Really?

Some family activities are tricky when one of you uses a wheelchair, and it's easy to grumble when things don't go very well, but I wanted to share a really positive experience we had today - ice skating.  Not one of the most obviously inclusive activities, admittedly...

We're spoilt for choice in Bristol at this time of year - we get temporary outside skating rinks at Cribbs Causeway, another at a nearby garden centre, and a third in Millennium Square run by @Bristol.  Everyone in Bristol knows the big shiny ball - an easy reference point for the kids!

Cerebra (in conjunction with the children's hospital) organised a family session, and we were lucky enough to be drawn from the hat, so down we went.  Staff were great, and not the slightest bit phased by umpteen kids in wheelchairs on the ice, or the couple of meltdowns that are inevitable with that kind of situation.

Noah feel over a couple of times and was helped back to his feet by staff who managed to not make him feel self conscious about it at all - pretty impressive since he now seems to have reached that point in life where you want to be exactly the same as everyone else and falling over on the ice is so embarrassing you're pretty sure you wished you'd knocked yourself out just so you don't have to deal with seeing anyone notice that you fell.  

Petal, still at the 'look at me I'm invincible' stage of pre-puberty, has pretty good balance and kept calling out updates as to how many times she'd circled round and not yet fallen over - at least partly to rub salt in Noah's wounds I'm sure! 

Smiler decided that just because he was in his wheelchair on the ice shouldn't mean he didn't get a turn with the penguins (think sliding walking frame for skaters otherwise reluctant to let go of the side), and since there were plenty it seemed reasonable...  The look on his face says it all!

• • • • •

• • • • •

• • • • •

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I am the soft starshine at night

It happened.  This weekend.

Pam died.

She had been in my life since I was born.

She was ninety, still living in the house she shared with her husband, my Uncle Cyril, until he died last year.

She had no children - living at a time when women had to make defined choices about careers and families, she chose to be a school teacher, then a headmistress at an elite girls boarding school, not marrying until she was thirty, almost unheard of back then.

Post mortem today, to determine whether she fell down the stairs then had a stroke or the other way around.  As she didn't press her alarm, it's likely she was unconscious and "didn't know anything about it".

Goodbye Pam.

She loved this, I know it brought her comfort after Cyril died.

Do not stand at my grave and weep, 
I am not there, I do not sleep. 
I am in a thousand winds that blow, 
I am the softly falling snow. 
I am the gentle showers of rain, 
I am the fields of ripening grain. 
I am in the morning hush, 
I am in the graceful rush 
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, 
I am the starshine of the night. 
I am in the flowers that bloom, 
I am in a quiet room. 
I am in the birds that sing, 
I am in each lovely thing
Do not stand at my grave and cry, 
I am not there. I do not die.

(Sourced here)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

How To Bake :: stilton & grape flatbread

The first recipe Mr Manley chose to try from our review copy of the How To Bake book - Stilton & grape flatbreads.  Straightforward ingredients, clear instructions, fingers crossed...

I'm always a bit wary of the 'leave until the dough doubles in size' bit, mainly because I've never before had dough that actually did double in size, but whaddya know - it did this time! 

Although the pics are in the wrong order (I'm trusting you to be able to overlook that) please note the fancy/not fancy dough cutter/scraper with the blue handle - an inspired birthday gift from Petal for Mr Manley this past Spring, from Lakeland - only £4.99.  According to the afore mentioned Mr Manley it makes it possible to work with impossibly wet dough, so a bargain then!

Each piece of dough is crammed full of what seems like a huge amount of cheese and - as per the slightly alarmingly specific instructions - four halves of grapes.  Although this initially appeared to be ridiculously faffy, once we were flattening out the pudgy little parcels it became obvious why they needed to be less than full size single grapes - they catch as you roll, and tear the dough.  

Then into a frying pan where they puff up and brown off - they came out looking fab actually, and my worries about melted Stilton all over the place fortunately didn't come to anything!  

The flatbreads were very filling - probably something to do with all that cheese - so we had leftovers.  Although the instructions said to serve warm, we defied Mr Hollywood by tucking into them the next day cold, and they were lovely, thank you very much. 

Likely to become a regular addition to our picnics, these got two thumbs up from the kids - a promising start to our exploration of How To Bake!

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{ I was sent a copy of How To Bake to review by Suppose, but all thoughts and opinions are my very own.  Or Mr Manley's.  Or the kids.  Promise }

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

a radio for Smiler

Choosing a gift for someone with a learning disability can be complicated.  Smiler has never been any different in this regard - his developmental stage has never been the same as his chronological age, so birthday present shopping has always been - well, to be completely honest, it's always felt like a bit of a kick in the teeth.  The ever present 'not suitable for a child under 36 months' was a bugger for (literally) years, because of course the reason it's not suitable is because it had small parts they might try and swallow.  So what about when you're shopping for a ten year old who will still happily stick everything in their mouth, just in case it might taste good?  Clothes and books have been a steady fall back - Smiler doesn't play with toys as such, so they've always been a waste of money, but he loves us to read him stories - Charlie and Lola; Rastamouse; Boo; Winnie the Witch; anything and everything by Julia Donaldson.  But this birthday we had a brainwave - a radio!

A strangely age appropriate gift for Smiler's thirteenth birthday, on the surface at least, but oh my word, you wouldn't think it would be so hard to find a radio that did what you need it to.  We didn't think we were being that picky, but it turned out finding a radio for Smiler's birthday was so so much easier said than done...

Just a radio

Smiler adores Heart - a somehow abnormally normal passion bearing in mind his challenges, but he sings along with odd words of songs, and joins in with a couple of slogans from the regular adverts.  He recognises the names of the presenters and has a particular fondness for Ed, Troy and Paulina from the breakfast show, and when Spidey-man phones in to talk to them - well, he loves it.  So the radio needn't be DAB or anything fancy, no mp3s, no GPS, no downloadable doodahs, no flashing lights, no curtain attachments - just the ability to access Heart!

Tough love

It needs to be tough enough to take being handled in what we knew was likely to be a not-quite-as-carefully-as-we-would-have-wished kinda way.  Not indestructible (is there such a thing as an indestructible radio?) but not going to die the first (or twenty-first) time it was dropped or handled a bit roughly.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Paul Hollywood :: how to bake

A sponsored post today, courtesy of Suppose who very kindly sent me a review copy of How To Bake by Paul Hollywood, he of #gbbo fame.  Now cakes I've had plenty of practice with, baking as well as consuming, but bread is another matter entirely, so while I'm in charge of photos, it will be Mr Manley's hands doing the work this time around, but first, the book as is.

Initial impressions are that Paul Hollywood should really consider buying a few new shirts that aren't identical to those he already owns - sorry Paul, I know it's something of a trademark, but really, variety is the spice of life and all that.  I have to admit I tend to be Team Berry on Wednesday evenings as she seems to concentrate on the positive as opposed to the aspects that need to be improved, but the tone of the book is far more encouraging and supportive and positive than many of Paul's ... erm ... constructive comments on Bake Off.  A wide range of recipes covering pies, pastries and even cakes demonstrates he doesn't consider himself an expert only on bread, but as I've plenty of other cookbooks I'd likely peek at first for those, it's really the bread chapters that appeal to me - flavoured breads, sourdoughs, mmm...  Well, I say appeal to me, what I mean is that they appeal to me to eat, and to ask Mr Manley to bake in order that I can eat them.  Same thing, yeah?  Anyway, plenty of photos, pretty straightforward instructions, some slightly fiddly ingredients but nothing you couldn't find in a well stocked supermarket - hopefully no special trips necessary to obtain specialist ingredients!  So far, it looks promising - a well presented book of recipes that seem realistically manageable (says I!), and for £9 I think it would make a great birthday gift for a Bake Off fan or a purchase you can certainly justify for yourself - after all, who wouldn't like the sound of Stilton and Grape Flatbreads, or Apple Brioche, or Chocolate and Apricot Sourdough?

Monday, 22 September 2014

What your man REALLY wants in bed...or not

I had a bit of a random epiphany the other day, but before I share it I should point out that if you know me and don't want to know anything about my sex life (or if you don't know me and don't want to know anything about my sex life), then stop reading.

Seriously, stop now.

Friday, 19 September 2014

accessibility : not just about ramps and wheelchairs

I think that there is something of a misperception to do with accessibility.  Focus tends to be on physical access - is there a ramp or only steps; can the person at the information desk see if there is someone in a wheelchair waiting to ask a question; is there a lift; can those doors be opened by a wheelchair user.  Important as these aspects are, they are not the entirety of the issue.  Even taking into account sensory impairments, there are a lot of other disabilities out there that need to be considered, which is why my word of the week is 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

ac·ces·si·ble   (k-ss-bl)
1. Easily approached or entered.
2. Easily obtained: accessible money.
3. Easy to talk to or get along with: an accessible manager.
4. Easily swayed or influenced: accessible to flattery

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Physical accessibility is only part of the picture, but having spent Smiler's life trying to find places to visit that are suitable for our family I know many venues find it difficult either to recognise this, or to know what to do about it.  After all, we're all quick to grumble when the lift isn't working or our wheelchair doesn't fit through the door, but how many of us talk to shop managers about whether their announcements actually need to be that loud, or to zoo staff to point out that the information presented in an exhibit seems unnecessarily complex?  Even if it crosses your mind, having the time to feed this back, as well as the opportunity to talk to the right person, the confidence to present it to them even if you think it's a small thing, and a realistic enough perspective to suggest a reasonable solution which would improve the situation, even though what you really wish they would do is drastic and expensive.

Smiler has severe learning difficulties, complex health needs, and uses a wheelchair.  Over the last few years we've been surprised to find how tricky it was to find the sort of information we needed about local (and not so local) attractions.  Not just slopes and distances, but how spaced out are the tables in the restaurant, how easy to understand is the information presented in the exhibits, even how loud are the announcements.  But having spent all of Smiler's life learning to spot these things, it has become second nature to us, checking the level of sensory input, physical space and limits, clocking the places and situations which might be difficult, or measures which might help everything run more smoothly.  

The task now is to try and find effective ways to assess this, and to pass this information on to the people that can actually do something about it.  It's a difficult offer to frame - "how would you like us to come and check out your place?" seems a little flippant, but a couple of local venues have taken us up on it.  One in particular is very enthused about taking the opportunity to tap into our expertise, and I hope to be able to tell you more about it soon, but in the meantime, feel free to keep us in mind or recommend us to anywhere you think might be interested!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Reading Residence

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

the sweet and the sharp

In less than two weeks Smiler will have another birthday.

Thirteen years ago I was sat around watching the days pass by waiting for this infant of mine to make it to the outside world - the world outside of me.  
Thirteen years ago I was restless and exhausted, eager to get the pregnancy bit over with and get on with the parenting bit.  
Thirteen years ago I imagined what life was going to be like, what my child was going to be like ...
Boy oh boy did I have it sideways.
I'm not sure how much anyone really knows what to expect - I certainly didn't, but it's tricky to know how much of that was because within hours of giving birth I was being given a whistlestop tour of the neonatal intensive care unit.

So Smiler's birthday is always a day of mixed emotions for me.  He's happy and excited (even though he's not really sure what's going on) and loves the attention - the balloons, the cake, the birthday badge; the candles, the singing, the wrapping paper - he loves it all.
I love to see him engaging with the people around him - with the world around him, but deep inside I grieve for that baby I was expecting, that baby I didn't get.  
Even as I smile at his delight, somewhere way down deep inside I can feel an ache for the innocence, the naivety of the days before his birth.  A sharp stabbing reminder of way back when - way back when I knew nothing about blood clotting factors or portage or anaesthesia or makaton.  When the death of a child was an inconceivable tragedy, a desperately sad but ultimately distant event.  Not something that was ever going to touch my life.  Not something that could ever happen to my child.

I wish that I could see the smiles without remembering the tears;
enjoy the laughter without hearing the screams;
feel the warmth of the hugs without fearing their lack.

I wish that I could calmly breathe in today - just today, as it is.
No heavy dull ache from thirteen year old memories,
nor flinching at the sharp edges of the months to come.
I wish that I could just breathe.

• • • • •

Monday, 1 September 2014

Things have been difficult for the past month or so, and the next few are going to be a challenge as well.  There are a couple of things going on with Smiler that might be resolved easily, or might not.  My health isn't great either - the seizures, along with the concentration and memory issues associated with this brain cloud of mine are making daily life complicated.  Although I'll be trying to get back in the habit of joining in those favourite link ups, my focus for the next little while is going to be on what's going on offline.  Good luck for the new school term everyone!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Saturday, 23 August 2014

things that are unfair #1

The social model of disability holds that a disability is located not in the individual, but created by the barriers in society that have the effect of excluding that individual from taking part, and it is the responsibility of society to minimise these barriers, dismantling them entirely where possible.

But it seems there are limits.  

We live on a bus route, and I don't remember the last time I saw a bus on that route that was not wheelchair accessible.  Sounds great, right?  But what about when the one wheelchair space on that bus is already occupied by a wheelchair user?  If you don't use a wheelchair, you're fine - there's what, fifty seats, something like that?  Just because one is occupied, no matter, you sit on one of the other forty nine.  But if you are (in effect) waiting for a bus with a single seat, and someone else is already sitting there, you're buggered.  You can't get on that bus.

Should buses be required to be representational of the population?  Proportional representation of wheelchair spaces, seats with plenty of leg room for people with other mobility issues and so on in relation to ordinary people who can just get on the bus and sit on a seat?

Bristol City Council subscribes to the social model, and regulates local transport, including buses.  According to this model Smiler isn't disabled by his need for a wheelchair, but by the barriers created by society - in this case, the limited number of spaces on the bus for a wheelchair.

So does this mean Bristol City Council is disabling my son?

I don't have an answer, I don't have a wonderful solution, I'm just asking the question.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Friday, 8 August 2014

Special Shapes Launch {Bristol Balloon Fiesta}

Fancy new Smurf balloon!

The Up balloon!  Not it's proper name, but that's what my lot called it, and they weren't the only ones!  A bit of a crafty 'special shape' - it's actually an ordinary shape covered in shaped vents which gave the impression of a massive bunch of balloons lifting the basket

The lightbulb - probably one of the more easy to make and fly than a lot of the other special shapes, but they still get points for joining in

A new daisy balloon - brought over from the States according to the announcement over the PA - a very special shape, and one of our new favourites.

Miss Daisy was the last special shape to launch, flying off with a cheeky wink

After the special shapes launch there was a wait of a couple of hours before the nightglow...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

an afternoon at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta

Yesterday was the first day of the four day long Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, and the skies looked promising.

 A Lynx helicopter dropped by, landing in the arena - not really Smiler's thing but both Noah and Petal took a turn sitting in the pilot's seat.

Smiler decided he was going to stay in his chair, under his blanket.  We'd brought blankets because we were planning to stay for the night glow and it can get chilly, but sometimes with Smiler you have to choose your battles, and this one wasn't worth fighting!

Petal and Noah - don't ask me what they were up to, I have no clue.  Absolutely none.

Snacktime, courtesy of the Seed Pantry - believe it or not, the kids were full, and this all ended up being packed away again - oh well, perfect treat for another picnic!

I've spilt this up a bit because of all the photos, but the special shapes launch and the night glow coming soon...

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word of the week

A difficult week in the abstract household, for all sorts of reasons, but I try and focus on the positives for this.  Not so much a summing up of this week as an aspiration for the next few, but my Word of the Week this time round is

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focus (ˈfəʊkəs)
npl -cuses or -ci (-saɪ; -kaɪ; -kiː)
1. (General Physics) a point of convergence of light or other electromagnetic radiation, particles, sound waves, etc, or a point from which they appear to diverge
2. (General Physics) another name for focal point1focal length
3. (General Physics) optics the state of an optical image when it is distinct and clearly defined or the state of an instrument producing this image: the picture is in focusthe telescope is out of focus.
4. a point upon which attention, activity, etc, is directed or concentrated
5. (Mathematics) geometry a fixed reference point on the concave side of a conic section, used when defining its eccentricity
6. (Geological Science) the point beneath the earth's surface at which an earthquake or underground nuclear explosion originates. Compare epicentre
7. (Pathology) pathol the main site of an infection or a localized region of diseased tissue
vb-cuses-cusing-cused-cusses-cussing or -cussed
8. (General Physics) to bring or come to a focus or into focus
9. (often foll by: on) to fix attention (on); concentrate
[C17: via New Latin from Latin: hearth, fireplace]
ˈfocusable adj ˈfocuser n

Sourced here

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Focus on the important things, let go of those that don't matter.
Focus on looking forward, resist looking back.
Focus on the things that go right, forget about the others.

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The Reading Residence

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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The B&W Photography Project :: MShed - by the water in Bristol

Rediscovered some of my first experiments with monochrome photography and wanted to share ...

Instantly recognisable to anyone who has visited the Harbourside, these four electric cranes are left from the original fleet of more than forty that were used to offload the heavy cargo from the ships from the 1950's through to 1975.  Now restored to working order, they form part of the permanent exhibition at Mshed.

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Linking up to
The B&W Photography Project

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