So…I’m still here!

I’m sorry folks, I know I promised to write a big bad blog this year, but although I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m sorry to say that I’m still here and am still planning to do it. I STILL haven’t sorted out my complaint about an airline treating my partner like doo-doo, just because she has a disability. This is in part, due to the fact that it involves the SPECIAL company who arrange holidays for people with disabilities, the travel company who they booked our holiday with, the airline who that travel company seconded our flight to, even though they have hundreds of their own planes and the people who provided ‘assistance’ by throwing my partner around like an old sack-o’-spuds and leaving her actually sitting atop one of the seatbelt holders! They are all currently passing me from pillar to post and not accepting ANY responsibility. So anyway, if I EVER get around to doing this promised super-blog post, it will probably be about how, not that my partner is disabled, but how the whole world IS disabled. The more I look around, the more things I see that are made into barriers to keep disabled people OUT. We have rules now that say any new buildings must be made accessible to all, but so many companies have found ways AROUND those rules, by building their places into awkward shapes and putting ‘dividers’ about the place, to stop wheelchairs from getting anywhere near. Like one restaurant I know that has fixed seating by all the tables and you are not allowed to put a wheelchair on the end of the table as it’s ‘against the fire safety rules’ and they are legally allowed to (and do) enforce that rule. So in other words, NO wheelchairs are allowed in! Although it’s illegal to discriminate. Work that one out if you can!

WHOOPS! I nearly started writing a post right there and then. Sorry! Hope to see you all soon!

Mai time had come

mai_tai

I am someone who, when ‘inspired’ to do something, will stop at nothing to achieve my desire. Not just ‘oh I think I’ll do that’, but something clicks within me. Like many years ago, given the challenge to fix an ‘Anniversary’ clock. Someone put this thing down in front of me, said “I’ll bet you can’t get this going again” and left me with it. Of course, such a challenge to me is more like a red rag to a bull. Let me explain to those of you not in the know, just what an ‘Anniversary’ clock is. You may have seen one. It has a circular wooden base, with a clock movement atop it, below the clock part, at the top of four metal posts, is an arrangement of four (for want of a better word) balls. These spin around, like a circular pendulum, making the clock tick as they stop one clockwise revolution and tock as it completes an anti-clockwise one and so on. All of this is covered by a glass or plastic dome. The anniversary part, is due to the fact that it should run for about 400 days or thereabouts, so if you get it as a gift, you then wind it up on the anniversary of receiving it. I’m not talking about a silly, battery operated one either. No, this was as mechanical as it gets, the four-balled pendulum dangles by a thin strip of metal, like a kind of spring that gets wound up and unwound on each alternating spin and it was this that was the main problem of this clock. My instructor informed us that the best way to see why a clock DOESN’T run, is to watch a working one and try to discover exactly why it DOES run. So I sat there for a few hours watching a good one to see what made it tick (and tock). I’m digressing, so will cut this short. Basically, although it took me about a week of tweaking and watching, (while doing other things as well of course), I completed the challenge and fixed the clock!

The main point of this post, which has taken me ages to reach is that for years, I have wanted to try a (rum-based) ‘Mai Tai’ cocktail. I used to drink a lot of rum when younger and believe that I may have, single-handedly, helped keep the Barbados government budget afloat with my rum-drinking efforts! However, having ‘asked around’, it seems that no-one local, or within over a thousand miles even, makes or sells such a concoction! I kept asking and even printed out the ingredients and handed them to various barmen in pubs, inns and hotels all around, all to no effect. I finally accepted that no such cocktail would be imbibed by me, unless I made one myself. I gave myself a challenge to drink one on Christmas Eve 2015 at the latest. So armed with the internet, (thankfully, as I could NEVER have done it without), I set about researching the history and ingredients of the previously unsourceable Mai Tai. It would have been much easier if I had simply had the funds to take a holiday in Hawaii, the Caribbean or even just California and other such places that DO make and sell such a thing. But it wasn’t to be and so, burning the midnight oil and poring over web-based documents, like Gandalf, trying to research the history of THAT ring. During my search, I discovered interesting characters such as “Don the beachcomber” and “Trader Vic” and their infamous, colourful histories, while trying to find the original and best version of my much sought after libation. Not happy with just any old Mai Tai was I, oh no, I had to find the actual, proper one as, apparently, nearly every bartender and ‘mixologist’ makes a different version. So I eventually found the real one and then spent a few more weeks trying to find the ingredients locally(!) Not an easy prospect at all! I bought some ‘bits’ in the shops, had to find others on the internet and even had to resort making my own in the kitchen! Did I succeed? Of course I did, but the first version, created just the day before Christmas eve, was not very good, although I did it! But have made a much better and more enjoyable one since, but oh my heavens is it strong!?  (I had a different cocktail abroad last year, an ‘Aviation’, only it tasted very good, but very weak as, obviously, the bar wanted to make it with hardly any alcohol, in order to make a massive profit out of me)!!! So now I shall probably have to ‘water down’ my own Mai Tai, in order to save me from being blown away by booze, every time I fancy a cocktail. I’m not much of a drinker anymore and thank goodness for that! I hope this hasn’t left you all shaken? (Or stirred, come to that). Happy New Year! Hic!

P.S. The picture above IS an original Mai Tai and not like any of the red, orange, pink or whatever people will tell you is the correct versions, when they’re not. It’s the taste that counts. Maita’i roa ae. Look that up, if you have the time!

Disabling Holiday travel

“Travel both broadens the mind and loosens the bowels”. So sayeth my partner. I think the second bit comes from the differing choice of foods that you find abroad. Some spicy and some not. But it’s the travel bit I want to address here. My partner Sue, is disabled. She is a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, that she is confined to. Or to explain it better, she is paralysed from the chest down (from T4, for those of you in the know). This is roughly half-way down her chest. So she can use her arms and can lift and move herself a bit, but not much. So when we travel by air, while everyone else is heading on down the tunnel, from the airport straight into the plane, Sue usually has to go in a funny truck, that lifts up and down and somehow attaches to the other side of the plane from the tunnel. From there, she is lifted from her wheelchair into an ‘aisle-chair’, which is more like a sack-barrow with a seat on it. She is then strapped onto this thing, to move just a few yards from the plane door, to where she will be sitting. Usually this is either the front left or right aisle seat. This last time, on a ‘737’, due to differing safety laws, she had to sit in the fourth row instead of the first and in a window seat, instead of the usual aisle one. We took this ‘safety’ thing to mean the safety of all the able-bodied passengers. Needless to say, she was left in an uncomfortable and distressed state, due in part to the (obviously un-researched) problem of getting her into that position on the plane and also due to the cabin crew having no idea of a disabled persons needs at all! But travelling with a disabled person is something even I, as her partner, had no idea about until I tried it. You know when you see a ‘special offer’ in the travel agents? ‘Seven days in the Med, for only £3.50’! Well, Sue has never and could never go on one of those, because, as able-bodied people can just ‘flop anywhere’ in any room on any bed, again, she can’t. She needs a special hoist to lift her onto and off of the bed and also into a shower-chair (that’s a wheelchair, that can be used for showering in), which needs to be used in a wet-room. Which is basically a room like a whole shower cubicle, so that everything in it can get wet. She also can’t use a shoe-box sized room. This can be handy, in that you get a much bigger room to move around in, but we would prefer to be able to use a normal room, like everyone else! Staying on the subject of the room, one of the reasons she’s only been able to travel again recently is, that with her condition of being unable to just use ‘any room’, If her room was given away to anyone else, as rooms sometimes are, due to double-booking etc., the only option Sue has, is to go straight back home on the next available flight! No way to spend a holiday. Her most simple wish, to be able to walk on the beach with me, hand-in-hand, is one that can never be granted. Also we are misunderstood sometimes, as occasionally, people make the mistake of thinking that she gets ‘special’ treatment, by getting all these ‘added extras’. That couldn’t be further from the truth, as the only special help she gets, is just so that she can live as normal a life as possible. Even with all this help, that ‘normal’ doesn’t even begin to approach the normal of everyone else, as everything takes longer to do and sometimes needs three people just to help her achieve it! One case that comes to mind, is when we first moved into our present home. A lady had lived here before, who, although old, was perfectly mobile and had an ordinary bathroom and shower. When ringing to ask how much longer it would take to convert our bathroom for Sue’s use, the lady on the phone said “Well I hope you appreciate the amount of money we’re spending on you to make this happen”! Sue simply replied “I’m not asking for anything special though, just the right to have a wash, like everyone else”. The lady thought for a moment, then became a bit ‘nicer’ when she understood, everything happened a lot quicker after that. That’s the main problem we have, if people could understand disability and the needs of those with it, like making somewhere accessible for instance, then all our lives would be so much simpler. Back on the subject of travel though, think about how you get on and off a plane so easily. We wish we could do that, but this most recent trip of ours (a two-hour flight, in both directions), took six hours in total! Having to be put on the plane first and having to wait for assistance at the other end, meant sitting around for another hour upon arrival, before we could even begin to move and having to do it all again the same, upon our return. I think next year, may well be a ‘stay-cation’!

Fine-Ants Problems

Well hello again! I hope you are having a fine and happy summer, o readers of my incessant blog! We’re not, in the UK that is. The weathermen (and women) tell us that “it’s going to be a lovely day tomorrow, with temperatures up to 22 degrees celsius” and then it isn’t. It’s cold (16 deg.), wet and rainy, then on the next forecast, they say “Well it’s been a lovely, warm day today” and it wasn’t. So maybe they’re just pretending, as there’s nothing they can do about it. Anyhow, I’m digressing as, the main reason for this ‘rant’ isn’t the weather at all, but rather money. ‘Finance’, not like the title at all is it? It certainly isn’t funny and neither is money.

We recently had to change some money from ours into theirs for a holiday, at the rather French sounding, ‘Bureau de Change’. Why can’t they just call it money exchange? Anyway, this is from British Pounds into European ‘Euros’ that I’m talking about here. I spent weeks watching the euro exchange trends, seeing it bounce up and down against the pound, like a pony-tailed young girl in a tennis dress at Wimbledon, trying to win a few points against it’s opponent. The Greeks couldn’t seem to sort out their problems with the ‘single currency’ and I waited, like a hawk, fluttering it’s wings and hovering above a mouse or vole, ready to pounce the very moment the Pound hit the magical 1.50 mark. Or 1.45, or 1.44, you get the picture. But it didn’t and when the Bank Of England didn’t do what it was supposed to do to the interest rates, the exchange rate suddenly fell like a stone and I, like a rat leaving a sinking ship, dived into the nearest foreign exchange to change my money at a paltry 1.38! We had got some Euros a few weeks earlier at a higher rate, so we’ve still done fairly well I suppose and only lost a few pounds into the bargain. The last time we went, we only got 1.20, so we’re still way ahead of that now. At least I now know that I couldn’t work in finance. Never mind ‘Black Friday’ or whatever, my nerves are now so bad, that on my first day there, I would be the first out of the window, even if things were going OK! I know I shouldn’t joke about such things, but I could never handle such a high-pressure environment. I get worried if I over-inflate my tyres, never mind the bloomin’ economy!

What I do dislike about changing money though, is the porkies they all tell! That is, porky-pies (lies). Bit of rhyming slang there. They say, “Oh come and change your money here, we don’t charge any commission”! Rubbish. So the actual foreign exchange rate for the Pound to Euro is say, 1.42, that means that on the online comparison site, the place you intend to change your money at, will say 1.40 or 1.39. When you get there however, it will say 1.38 or even 1.36! I always ask why this is and they say “No, we don’t charge commission, but we have to make money somewhere”! In other words, they DO charge commission, but call it a ‘different’ exchange rate. Then if, while on holiday, you haven’t blown the lot on bull-shaped bottles of Sangria and china donkeys in hats with holes for their ears to poke through, as presents for the family, then you get robbed again, when you try to change your money back! The rate to get your pounds back, always means that you lose quite a lot, just on those two transactions alone! So it’s always best to really enjoy your holiday. Forget about blowing a load of cash on things for Auntie Flo et al and just stuff yourself with spicy foreign food and strange herbal concoctions of the local spirit, to use the money up. Then when you get to the ‘Bureau de Change’, you’ll have such a bad head, you won’t care if you get much back or not!

I hope you have all had/are having/will have a great holiday or just a great summer if you’re staying at home. Whatever you’re doing, make the most of what we have left of any good weather as, as I always say, it will “Soon Be Christmas”!

“North, South, East, West”…

…”Wherever you go, home is best”. Or so they say. I have been doing a lot of travelling today and also a lot of thinking, while the world was rushing away beneath my feet (and the rest of me, come to that). I have way more travelling to do too, before this year is done. Some of it, the more ‘exotic’ kind, gives me more to look forward to. I think, where I live, is not so exciting to travel around and because of that, travelling locally has become a bit of a chore. But when I came home today, the usual sigh of relief left my lips, the kettle went on and I gladly sank into my favourite chair. Yet for people in other countries, they must get excited to come here. Where I live is one of the most beautiful areas of the country, (to my mind at least). People pay a lot of money to stay & travel around locally, so why don’t I love it so much? I came up with the idea that it must be because I am so used to it. We had a friend stay locally recently and she was pointing places out, saying how lovely they are and for a while, I saw them anew. Yes, I thought, they are lovely, arent’ they? If you see someone rushing around in London or any other city, with their head down and walking speedily past other people, it’s a good possibility that they are a local. Yet if they are walking slowly, looking all around and pointing cameras this way and that, it’s a sure bet that they are tourists! So I suppose, I must have been a local where I live, for a little bit too long. Where I went today, I have been many times before. Mostly just passing through, but sometimes staying for a while. So I wasn’t ‘excited’ to go there, but I was looking forward to it a little bit. My old haunts, have mostly disappeared, I was surprised to find. This made me feel older than I should.  So in a way, where I am yet to go, is seemingly more exciting, but only because I don’t know it so well. When there, I will once again, be the tourist. I shall be walking slowly and pointing MY camera this way and that. But no doubt, if I stayed there for any amount of time, maybe a year or so, I would get used to it and I wouldn’t love it so much anymore. I would start walking faster every week, the head would go down and the camera would stay at home. So, I suppose that after all this, maybe home IS best. A bit like when you have a new love in your life, everything is all exciting and wonderful and new. You are both on your best behaviour and try to keep your bad habits hidden. Yet slowly, as the relationship builds, you relax more in each other’s company and well, let things slip a bit! So it is with where you live. I am very lucky to live where I do, but my home has ‘gotten used’ to me and I to it. So from today, I shall really try to see it in a more positive light. While pounding the same old streets in the same old way, I will try to think that this or that street a thousand miles away, is no more exciting than this one is, just because I am hardly ever there. It may seem like a new, more exciting love, but in reality, it is this place, my old, well-known hometown, that I love the most. That old river still flows the same way it ever did. The geese fly in and out again every year. The starlings come and feed at our bird table with their new young, every year. Nothing changes, everything stays the same and that’s the way I WILL see it. I shall look up and around again, my pace will slow and occasionally, the camera will come with me and point this way and that.

Sorry it’s not so funny this week. I’ve gone all ‘thinky’!