Summer fun

A photograph of Daniel Baker in Black Park surrounded by pine trees

So my PA booked two weeks off, usually this would be a big problem for me as I’d miss out on getting up and going out, in the summer it’s even worse as not being able to get out in the sunshine sends me into very low moods.  This time was different though, I’ve managed to find an agency carer that is safe to take me out, it’s not easy with all my specialist equipment and needs, it doesn’t matter how many years of experience and training a carer has had they need to know me, be able to instantly spot when something isn’t quite right or I’m acting off and react, quickly and calmly by checking equipment, how I look etc. and knowing what I need to fix the situation, it also needs a great deal of trust from me as my life is literally in their hands, my anxiety exacerbates things too.

The time didn’t start perfectly, the weather was looking decidedly dodgy, so we had a quick visit to Croome followed by a trek to the top of Cleeve Hill. which was very cold and windy. and then walked round two local parks, one bonus of having the carer was longer days with less rushing as she’d agreed to twelve hour shifts.

On the Tuesday morning the weather wasn’t great either so we just waited and headed to my mindful photography course in the afternoon.  After the course the weather started brightening up, and as I am always prepared I’d put a location nearby in the Satnav that I wanted to check out, a viewpoint called Coaley Peak.  It was rather blowy looking over the edge and trying to get a good panorama shot, but away from the edge it was gorgeous and warm, not completely accessible with some stiles and locked gates, I wish the National Trust etc. would start replacing these everywhere with something more wheelchair friendly.  The view was amazing though and we also stumbled across Neolithic long barrow, a pleasant surprise.

The next day the weather again looked decidedly dodgy so I decided to check out another new place, Greyfriars’ house and garden in Worcester, we stumbled on some disabled parking bays when taking a wrong turn which was lucky as finding somewhere to park my 2.2m high van had proved troublesome on my last visit to Worcester.  It started raining so we ducked into Worcester Cathedral and had a quick look around, there was a little sermon while we sat there with obvious little digs at Trump and May, it did make me smile.  Afterwards we headed through town towards Greyfriars’ my carer noticed a church was having a flower and joked about going in, unbeknownst to her a lady standing behind her was promoting it, so feeling guilty I paid the £4 entry and went in, it was a pretty display so not a total waste and everyone was very friendly.

Greyrriars’ itself isn’t the best in a wheelchair, with cobbles and steps down to the garden, I was offered a ramp into the house but didn’t bother, instead deciding to walk by the river and take some photos, the clouds were in and out but it was quite pleasant watching the rowers and swans on the water.  It turned out to be another good day, although we never found out why so many fire engines and ambulances were racing around.

Thursday was a wasted day as we had a van service booked, the carer kindly off-road to swap that shift and come in on Sunday instead.

Friday was another day to try somewhere new, this time Charlecote Park, we had a wander around the park and were fortunate enough to spot a crane and deer sitting right next to the path, focusing and exposure were a pain but I managed to get a few good pictures I think.  It was lovely being allowed so close by the deer, I didn’t stray from the path as I didn’t want to spook or upset them, they weren’t bothered at all by me though, some weren’t overly happy with other people walking past, but for me they were perfect.

After Charlecote we headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, I hadn’t been for about 3 years and that was with the carer who shall not be named and wasn’t a great experience.  This time was more relaxed and enjoyable, I did make the mistake of checking my emails though, one of which put me in a bad mood for a while.  On the way home I realised it may have been hotter out than I’d felt as my arm started stinging, I’ve had to keep it covered this last week as it developed little blisters.

Sunday I decided to visit West Wycombe as I know parts of one of my favourite childhood films, Labyrinth had been filmed there (I still have a big crush on Jennifer Connolly now), the park didn’t open until 2 pm which meant I had a few hours to kill beforehand, I decided to visit Black Park for the morning, this backs onto Pinewood Studios so many scenes from movies had been filmed here too.

The park was lovely and varied, I ended up staying longer than planned as I wanted to find the back of Pinewood Studios before leaving, we did find it but couldn’t see anything going on, the carer tried encouraging me to walk down the link path which had been left unlocked but I really didn’t fancy security arresting us!  We had one hiccup just after this, my wheelchair decided to cut out and wouldn’t turn on, I figured out the problem fairly quickly and by disconnecting my power button got it working again, I think it’s a broken connection or short in the control unit, I will get it checked soon but I worry the unit will need replacing, something I just can’t afford.

West Wycombe was lovely, we arrived in time to listen to some singers performing outside the house, we then searched for the spot Sarah ran across the bridge as I really wanted to get that shot, I got it as best I could but the camera for filming was obviously on a crane so I couldn’t get the perfect angle.  Wandering round was lovely, turning corners to come across hidden statutes and beautiful scenery, a place I need to visit again and for longer.

Monday was the last chance for a proper day out and the weather was gorgeous, I’d noticed on my Requiem script that part of the series was shot at Tredegar house in Wales so set that as my first destination.  We had a look round the outside and I got some photos, then walked to the lake and met some cygnets, a really enjoyable morning.  I wanted to make a day of it and my carer suggested we visited Barry Island, it’s not at all what I expected from watching Gavin and Stacey.  I was greeted with a beautiful sandy beach, sparkling blue water and a lovely promenade, we wandered along the promenade and against my better judgment I was encouraged to try driving on the beach, something my chair is supposed to handle, very quickly I was stuck, two large Welsh men and my carer got me back on solid ground fairly quickly, I should probably have reduced my tyre pressure before trying as when the local repair centre change them they do tend to put more in than my chair is designed for.

The rest of the day went okay until I started feeling a little odd, I think it was the combination of heat and a cold another carer had passed on to me, I quickly felt very ill, my anxiety kicked in and when we checked my heart rate it was over 150 bpm, we got back to the van, which was like a sauna, then drove home quickly with the aircon blasting and Windows wide open.

Tuesday I spent recovering, I was extremely frustrated as it meant missing my Mindful photography course.  On Wednesday I was helping deliver a mental health workshop, I was far from 100% but knew I needed to do it, I visited Crickley hill first as it’s near to Barnwood Trust and I needed time to relax, even though it was around 20°C I still felt cold, a sure sign something still wasn’t right physically.  I decided not to overdo it and stayed for just over half of the workshop, making sure I’d delivered most om my parts before leaving.  As always it was a very rewarding experience and left me feeling mentally stronger and with a sense I’d helped people understand a bit more about mental health.

The last few days I have rested, my carer went on holiday on Thursday and my PA didn’t return until today, lets hope the weather holds out a little longer and I can get out to do some more local activities.

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