A Day in Scarborough

The weather forecast was promising, enough for me to get the bags ready the evening before. Blue skies and sunshine in the middle of October, the seaside beckoned. We decided to head North. Scarborough was calling…

Kids fed and dressed. Off in the car. 90 minutes later we landed. As we headed down the seafront in search of a car parking space we were greeted with smoke billowing from a nearby chip shop. Knowing that the road might get closed off anytime we hastily parked up. Unloaded, and made our way onto the beach where there were already a number of people gathered watching the ensuing spectacle. Ben though, was pretty much more interested in building sandcastles, Flossie, more interested in eating the sand, and so we had to sit her back into her wheelchair pretty sharpish. Attention was drawn again to the fire, as the fire engines arrived, and as a fireman was lifted up on a platform to start to douse the flames. Slowly, but surely the fire was brought under control…

We left the beach, found a comfy seat, got fish and chips from a shop a bit further down, and ate while we fed Flossie. Tummies filled, we took a ride out on a pirate ship (not wheelchair accessible, we carried Flossie on). Only about 15 minutes, but Flossie loved the wind in her hair and we got lovely views of the castle on the nearby hill.

A further walk, and then another opportunity to see Scarborough from another point of view as we carried Flossie onto the Ferris wheel at the small fairground. Even Col faced up to his fear of heights with this one, although he did have white knuckles from gripping the bars on the ride. Again though the kids loved it, and it was truly one of those days when the sun bounced off the waves in the sea, and was reminiscent of a day in summer rather than the middle of Autumn.

Quick time check, and the realisation that we would have to be quick if we wanted to take a trip up the cliff on the funicular railway (and lets be honest, it’s not a trip to Scarborough until you’ve done this particular journey…!). We caught the tram at the Central Tramway which was established in 1881 and is surprisingly accessible. The carriage we were in was very full, but we got Flossie in there, in her wheelchair, and we actually followed a lady on a mobility scooter into the carriage. The journey itself only takes about a minute, but certainly beats puhing a wheelchair up a hill! We had a quick look around at the top and then made a repeat journey down. Back to the car and a small journey to Peasholm Park.

Now Peasholm Park took a bit of finding, it wasn’t particularly well signposted, we kind of aimed for what we thought was the right direction and hoped for the best… We did find it though, and again parked up for another 3 hour stint.

Peasholm Park is modelled on the Willow Pattern plates, all pagodas and little bridges. First stop was a cup of tea, as we were parched. Then the usual problem, Flossie needed toileting. I knew there was a Changing Places toilet (with loo, adult changing bench and hoist) somewhere in the vicinity of the park but when I looked at the Changing Places toilet map I inwardly groaned, it was further than I thought and looked to be in the midst of a warren of streets and I had no clue as to where I was in relation to it. Flossie needed sorting. My Radar key wouldn’t work in the disabled toilet, so I have no idea if that solution would have been better than the one I was forced to use. I had to use the baby change facility in the ladies toilets. It was in full view of anyone entering the ladies toilets. I was mortified.

I had to change Flossie here, in full view of anyone entering the public toilets…

We got sorted, in what was perhaps the quickest nappy change on the planet but still at least 3 people saw our situation. This whole crisis could have been averted if Changing Places toilets were provided in the public places where tourists such as ourselves visit.

We went back out into the fresh air, and carried on with our day. The rest of the day went fabulously well. We took a turn around the island in the lake in swan shaped motorised boat (We lifted Flossie, in her wheelchair onboard). We saw a heron and squirrels, and then heard a train blow it’s horn in the distance, so of course that had to be checked out and we had a lovely little journey on the minature railway, which had 2 wheelchair accessible carriages that you literally just wheeled the chair into. The ride took only about 20 minutes each way, but we never turn down a trainride!

Access on and off the train at North Bay Railway was so easy.

We found a little cafe and stopped there for tea, and fed Flossie too. We used the loos there, and found that there was a much more private babychange facility there so wished we’d known about that earlier. Col and Ben had a quick go on the waterchute and then it was time to head back to the car. We want to return as it looks like there is so much more to explore at Peasholm. I will be emailing the council about the need for Changing Place toilet facilities at the park though….

If you agree that Changing Place toilet facilities should be included in our public places then please take the time to sign and share this petition, thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

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Exploring Art and Fountains – A Day in Hull

One of those days where we really only had made vague plans, the weather forecast kept changing – heavy showers, no rain, light showers. So with some trepidation we opened the curtains this morning, and decided to go for it. Bags packed, medicines drawn up (as we were planning a full day out), kids dressed, fed and out we went…

Through the countryside, stopping at the signals for a train to go past (we have a game where we have to guess the number of carriages, today I won…!). Drove along by the River Humber as the geese flew overhead, over the Humber Bridge and into Hull.

Our first stop was the Ferens Art Gallery, it’s a while since we had last been and last time we had been thwarted from reaching the upstairs gallery as Ben had declared it was time to go outside. This time we were pretty much thwarted from seeing anything in the downstairs gallery as Ben’s main ambition was to go to the fountains in Victoria Square, however we persisted and saw some fabulous stuff. There were interactive tablet screens that the kids could draw on (and I’m delighted to say that Flossie in her wheelchair could reach them and participate too). We looked at the work by the Turner Prize nominees, I was especially impressed by the slavery teasets done by Lubaina Himid (particularly potent as the slavery abolitionist William Wilberforce was from Hull). There was no way that Ben was going to sit through a 20 minute film by one of the entrants though, and it was Flossies dinnertime so through to the cafe we went. Food ordered, staff were very friendly, Flossie fed.

And then the only downside of our visit, sorting Flossies toileting needs. No Changing Place toilet facility (with adult changing bench and hoist) here, I had checked and knew there was a facility open at the Guildhall, but had no idea where that was in relation to the art gallery. I therefore did as I usually do in these circumstances and decided to go and try to change Flossie on the baby change. I struggled more than usual, the baby change was not located in the disabled toilet, it was in a small accessible cubicle in the now unisex toilets. I therefore had to lift Flossie out of her wheelchair and carry her into the cubicle in order to change her nappy, leaving her wheelchair outside. It was a tight squeeze to get both of us in there, but we did manage.

Back to the rest of the family and more explorations in the children’s gallery, well I was very impressed. An interactive sensory floor, loads of mirrors, books to read (including a childs book in braille), a dressing up box and a light table. Loads of things that kept both our kids occupied and let Flossie have a good roll around and time out from her wheelchair.

We then ventured upstairs and found a part of the exhibition which drew most comments from Ben, there was a short film and a couple of pictures by the artist Spencer Tunick… “Mummy, why have those blue people got no clothes on, wont they be cold…?!” “Mmmm Probably!”, “Mummy, they’ve all got blue bottoms!”

We’d had a good visit, but now it was time to go and get some fresh air, so we headed out into Victoria Square and danced among the fountains. The weather still not hugely warm, but perhaps our last chance before the colder weather does arrive…

We did later use the Changing Places toilet facility at the Guildhall, it’s 5-10 minutes walk away from Ferens Art Gallery, very pleasant building, huge facility. More details on the Changing Places toilet map here. Hull is trying to address the need for Changing Places toilets with facilities opening soon at Hull New Theatre, Trinity Market and The Venue. I have emailed Ferens Art Gallery to see if there is anything that they can do to improve the loo situation there, as it was a really tight squeeze for us, and if it was a parent with a disability trying to change their child it may well be impossible. Obviously my preferred solution would be an adult changing bench and hoist in the pre-existing disabled loo…

If you feel, like I do, that Changing Places toilets should be included in all large public buildings, as they are built or renovated, then please take the time to sign and share this petition, thank you.

 

3 Cheers For Boiled Eggs!

Now this is going to sound a little sad, but I’m celebrating today because boiled eggs are on the menu, all cooked and ready, for when my little minions are home from school…

Now while they are not quite haute cuisine, what boiled eggs means to me is that tonight I shall not be cooking 3 separate meals. I’m sure my pre-mum days would have judged my current mummy days, as some nights it is just too difficult to have us all eating the same thing.

Flossie had several admissions into hospital this year because of issues with reflux. In order to try and avoid a major operation we have cut out various allergens from her diet. She no longer has dairy, soya, any nut based milks or celariac. Added to this she needs a soft diet, which is neither too tough to chew nor puree (because we do want to challenge her into chewing something). So often stews, casseroles and pastas are on the menu for Flossie. We do a lot of batch cooking and freezing in this house…

Ben, on the other hand, will not eat food if it is touching something else or is mixed up. Stews and casseroles are definitely NOT on his menu. But give him his due, he does love fruit and vegetables, so as long as it’s not touching he is generally fine. Although like most 4 year olds he is willing to change his mind about what he likes to eat as often as the wind changes direction.

And me, well due to Col’s shift patterns we often have a big dinner at midday, so by the time it gets to teatime all I want is a sandwich, so that’s me sorted this teatime too…

3 Cheers for boiled eggs…

Something To Celebrate!

It’s been a rough sort of a week. I finally came down with the bug that both Flossie and Ben had last week, Cheers kids! I spent a lot of my birthday feeling a bit sorry for myself, while Ben took it upon himself to open my presents and eat my chocolates (my family do know what I like…!).

But this morning, something happened that made me want to celebrate. The photo above maybe doesn’t look like much (and excuse the mess but this is a house that’s lived in 😉 ). It’s not the first time that Flossie has got herself up to standing (although she can, she doesn’t very often). But I was shocked this morning to walk in on her like this as I don’t think she had anything to pull herself up on, and even more shocked that she didn’t just pull her keyboard down to her level.

So I’m not sure how she got there, but this morning it seems, was a fabulous day to bang out some tunes, while standing, before school. It brought a happy smile to her face and it sure as heck brought a smile to mine… So now I’m just going to leave that keyboard there and see if she’ll do a repeat performance after school…

 

When The Hospital Bag Is On Standby…

There’s a bag that sits in our hallway. Always there, just in case… It’s a bag that has all the immediate things we need in it should we need to rush Flossie to hospital. Nightwear, phone charger, nappies, baby wipes, chocolate (for my sanity), spare clothes etc.

In previous years, we have never needed this. This year already we have had at least three emergency admissions into our local children’s ward. Flossie who was previously medically stable has developed stomach problems due to a re-occurrence of reflux that troubled her as a baby. Everytime that Flossie has a stomach bug we end up rushing her into hospital as she inevitably at some point has a stomach bleed.

What is a minor (albeit inconvenient) affliction for most, can have Flossie go from relatively OK to very unwell in the blink of an eye.

We have managed, for the most part, to get her reflux under control with medication and by cutting out dairy, soya and nut based milks.  But today Flossie has started with a stomach bug that Ben had earlier in the week. Currently she is tolerating fluids, and has had small amounts to eat. She has slept for most of the day (which is when we really know that she is feeling off it). We are watching and waiting, assessing and monitoring, and will be ready to whisk her to A&E should the situation warrant it, and the bag will be ready and waiting so we can just pick up and run…

Spinning Around…

We enter the playground, I cast my eyes around, looking to see if there is any equipment anywhere that Flossie can play on. Ben has already run off, supervised by Daddy, he’s busy making friends in a pirate ship. I see the spinning saucer over on the outskirts, the one piece of equipment that Flossie can enjoy. Quickly I make a dash for it, worried that someone else will beat us to it…

I lift Flossie out her wheelchair, into the spinning saucer, the sun shining brightly, no-one disturbs us, it might as well just be the two of us in our own little universe, no inclusion here, in a children’s park – sadly, there very seldom is…

But Flossie has a grin on her face, the wind is in her hair, as she spins, faster and faster she goes… I turn her in one direction and then another. And then we slooooow down, we tune into one another. Flossie realises if she relaxes her head back onto the metal that it makes a ding sound, I echo by tapping on the outside, clink. I can see Flossie thinking, after what feels like an eternity she relaxes, ding and I return clink, a giggle, ding, clink, a chuckle, ding, clink… And then attention wavers, I need to start spinning her fast before boredom hits and she really bangs her head back. So wheee! around she goes again, faster and faster, until it’s time to go…

Most playgrounds have little to no wheelchair accessible play equipment, currently we are able to manage to lift Flossie out of her wheelchair, one day she may have no other option but to sit and watch Ben as he plays. This is 21st century Britain…

 

Arrows In The Sky

About a week or so ago we decided to go to Scampton Airshow. Booked the tickets, we were far too late to book a place in the disability enclosure which had sold out so figured, what the heck and just went for it…

So the Big Day came today, I had been really organised, pack up done the night before (now Ben has started school I seem to have sprung a Super Organised head, to go alongside the Super Scatty one – which will triumph, only time will tell…!). Breakfast sorted and kids in the car. Set off on the journey to RAF Scampton, travelling merrily along until we just came to the end of the queue to the Airshow (approximately 5 miles away from our destination). The A15 had turned into a long car park, it was what felt like another 20 minutes before we moved again, and drove approximately 20 feet before coming to a standstill again.

“Why have we stopped?” inquired Ben. “Because there’s a lot of other people wanting to go to the Airshow too”. Then Flossie started to complain, non-verbal does not necessarily mean a quiet child! I dug about in the car footwells and discovered a couple of toys for her to play with (sometimes an untidy car does have it’s bonuses…). We took the opportunity to have a look at the landscape which we usually zoom past at 50mph, the Lincolnshire wolds are a part of our scenery that we often take for granted. Off the A15 and down Ingham Lane, slow and steady we made it through. Then the first sighting off the Red Arrows, as we drove through Scampton village they passed us overhead. “Wow!” said Ben, “The Red Arrows!”

We finally made it to the Lincolnshire Showground, parked up, were quickly processed through the entrance way and then we walked to the Park & Ride. We thought we’d be on the double decker buses, but no, they had put on minibuses for wheelchair users. Flossie was loaded up at the back and we were off for the quick journey to RAF Scampton.

First stop as always was for food, we are always dictated to by Flossie’s need for food at regular times and she gets quite upset if we’re even a little bit late. So sat down, started feeding her, while also trying to sort Ben out with his pack up and Col disappeared off to get us food too.

We then went to have a look around the site with regular opportunities to watch the varying air displays. Planes rolling, flying skyhigh and swooping low, the Battle of Britain planes flew (the third time we had seen the Lancaster this year, the other 2 occasions we had just happened to be out in the places they were flying over, and I never fail to be surprised at how such a big plane can fly through the air with ease…). Later the Flying Fortress and a gyroscope came out and displayed. Throughout all of this, the biggest surprise of all – Flossie, who refuses point blank to wear a sunhat, kept ear defenders on throughout the afternoon without complaining or agitation, wonders will never cease!

For a time we watched the display while Flossie had a roll about on the grass (she doesn’t like to be in her wheelchair for prolonged lengths of time). But then we popped her back in and went to watch the Red Arrows preparing for take off. All set out in a line, engines humming loudly, the smell of aviation fuel hanging heavily in the air. The heavens opened, everyone took cover under umbrellas. The sky blackened and thunder rolled. Col and Flossie took cover under an umbrella. Ben wanted to look at the planes through the fence, so hoods up, Ben on my hip, we watched as they left the enclosure to make their way to the runway. It stopped raining, more thunder. We started to walk to look around the stalls as the Red Arrows were delayed and then the announcement that only 4 would be flying instead of the full team. But you know something, they were still fabulous. The black sky only highlighted the coloured planes and smoke as they all teamed together and then flew off in different directions. Flying towards each other where they looked like they must surely collide but passed each other by metres. A truly stunning display.

We wandered around, Ben loved exploring the Lego in the Technozone, while Flossie really was taken by the Busking Maths Fairy Lady, who was trying to teach us engineering skills by getting me to blow a cork into a bottle (think we were all amused by that…). Then to the heritage building where we sat and watched the Punch and Judy. Out again, a walk around the stalls. Stopped to eat, which ended up with me feeding Flossie, while Ben occasionally fed me bits of Scotch egg, while he demolished the rest of it (he’d not wanted a Scotch egg when asked, but as soon as he saw mine declared it yummy…!).

Another downpour of rain, and then onto the only disappointment of the day. No Changing Places loo although it seemed to have been promised in the blurb on the website:        “Disabled / accessible Toilets (including a high dependency unit)”. When we went to access this facility at the disability enclosure it turned out to be a standard accessible loo, which is of neither use nor ornament to Flossie. This oversight meant that we later had to change Flossie on the front seat of our car while attempting to shield her from people passing by. I spoke to the guys manning the disability enclosure and it seems that they were expecting a Changing Places loo too, I have emailed Scampton Airshow to give feedback and will update if I get any answers. These facilities obviously make a huge difference to families like ours.

We did go on to explore the fairground (Ben can’t resist the dodgems), before making our way back to the park & ride. Again the ladies and guys providing the minibus service did a sterling job of getting Flossie up and in, and it wasn’t long before we were making our way home. 2 happy kids, and another adventure completed.

 

 

Sleeping With The Sharks

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to do something that you’ve dreamed of… For years we have visited The Deep, and for years I had seen overnight sleepovers advertised there, for years I had wanted to go on one of these experiences. It was almost a bucket list dream, and one that I wasn’t sure that would be fulfilled…

But then one day when I was picking Flossie up from her mainstream school (she does a mix of mainstream and special needs), I saw that her year were doing a school trip, you guessed it, a sleepover at The Deep. I was more than excited, and the next week I rang the school to see if Flossie could go, and would they like me to go as chaperone… Both answers were yes, I could barely contain my excitement.

Now if you’ve never been to The Deep, it’s a wonderful place for wheelchair users – Flossie can go everywhere. It is also by it’s very nature a very sensory place, perfect for sensory seekers like Flossie. However, I knew that this would be a school trip to remember and, hopefully, thoroughly enjoy.

The day of the trip came. Flossie was at her special needs school and during the day we actually took Ben to Lincolnshire Show so he wouldn’t feel too bad for missing out. Granny and Grandad Next Door picked Flossie up from school so we wouldn’t have to rush back. We got back, and I loaded Flossie into the car. The rest of the kids were going on the bus, I’d opted for the car as it was easier and I also didn’t quite know how Flossie was going to cope with the sleepover and had decided having an independent means of escape, should sensory overload hit, would be a good idea.

We set off, Flossie grinning in the back of the car, me slightly panicking as we were already late. Through the countryside, over the Humber Bridge and to The Deep.

We were late… The emergency contact number I had on my phone for the teacher running the trip had inexplicably disappeared. And so it was that I found myself knocking on the door of The Deep, waving to Flossies classmates, who were more than a little surprised (and happy!) that Flossie had come to enjoy the adventure.

Breathless, we joined the queue to the lift, got our breath back and then up in the lift, through the massive water tanks where you can watch the sharks and fish swimming by. Straight on then for a guided tour of The Deep. .

Flossie and her friends were encouraged to touch and feel starfish and urchins, we watched the penguins as they scuttled on the ice, dived into the water and then bellyslid back onto the land. We were handed torches to have a look at the cockroaches and piranhas in the Amazon area where the lights had been turned down to mimic the reality outside. And we watched again the large fish tanks as a swordfish swam by.

Next we participated in craft activities, which Flossie needs full assistance with, but we made turtle puppets, designed a T-shirt and made keyrings and when Flossies attention went elsewhere then we had a look at bubbletubes, and an infinity mirror built into the wall.

Then it was time to settle down, about 100 odds kids aged from about 4-7 all sleeping next to the fish tanks. This was the bit that I have to say I was dreading – would Flossie fall asleep without too much fuss and bother, well she did make quite a bit of her usual noise but she did really well and slept for most of the night. For a while I just watched the shadows of the sharks swimming around us…

Morning came, and the turtle in the tank next to us decided to go up for air just as we were getting up. Up, dressed and ready for action. We beat everyone else to breakfast, got a table to ourselves, but were very quickly joined by some of Flossie’s school friends, asking had Flossie enjoyed it and pointing out boats on the river that we could see from our windowside table.

Time to write a quick postcard, then said goodbye to Flossies teachers and friends as they left to go to school, while I took Flossie and dropped her off too.

A truly magical, inclusive experience.

As mentioned above The Deep is fully wheelchair accessible, they also do special “quiet days” for those who cannot cope with loud noise etc. The only thing currently lacking for us is that there is currently no Changing Place toilet facility, I have been in touch previously and have been told that this is something that they are looking to include, then it will truly be a fully inclusive place to visit.

Rescue Me…

Norfolk, beautiful place. Sun was out today so we headed out to Cromer Rescue Day. Ben donning his bright green sunglasses that make him look like the coolest dude in town, although he still refused to wear a short sleeve top. Flossie dressed warmer as no matter the time of year she always has the coldest hands and feet.

Into the car, down to Cromer, and we found a disabled parking spot (and got into the right lane of traffic in Cromer town centre, double bonus!). We headed straight down to the front, down the cobble lined rampway, the tide was in so we had a quick foray onto the beach. Ben throwing stones into the sea and Flossie appreciating the view. Back up onto the promenade, and onto Cromer Pier, I was impressed by how the steps and rampway merged onto the pier, proving that accessibility doesn’t have to be unstylish. Flossie herself was more impressed by how the wind caught her hair whilst on the pier, and had a big smile on her face.

Today was Cromer rescue day and we walked to the end of the pier to see the lifeboat. We were made to feel very welcome. The lifeboat itself was not wheelchair accessible, but we lifted Flossie out of her wheelchair and carried her on board. I was immediately struck by how steep the launch ramp was, and one of the RNLI volunteers explained that the boat actually tilts and then is launched. I made my mind up there and then that I could never be a RNLI volunteer at Cromer as my stomach would not get over the initial shock of going on the start of what must feel like a rollercoaster ride… Flossie herself was really impressed by the lifeboat itself, I don’t know if it was the colour orange, or whether it was because it was so shiny but she had a great big grin on her face as I carried her around. Time to disembark.

A wander off the pier and a look around the stalls dotting the seafront. We found a stall selling scrumptious homemade cakes so we duly bought some of those (proceeds of which were going to the RNLI so surely that means that the calories don’t count…), round via the hook a duck, and then to the vintage ambulance and the newer police cars (where both Ben and Col enjoyed trying on the police helmets). I sat down to give Flossie her dinner while Col sat Ben on the RNLI tractor (he didn’t look impressed…), so they then went to have a look around the museum. Flossie fed, we had a quick look at the tractor, and then had a quick chat with the Mayor of Cromer who had come down to watch the proceedings. I gave him one of my Changing Places feedback forms and explained that there was nowhere that I could safely change Flossie in Cromer. “Oh we have the Mobiloo coming to Cromer Festival”, “Fantastic” I replied, “but that doesn’t help out with our current problem of where we are going to change Flossie today”. Feeling safe in the knowledge that I should be able to change her on a babychange somewhere later, but knowing that one day this WILL be a real problem for us.

The RNLI were about to launch their lifeboats. I carried Flossie onto the beach (it really would have been impossible to push the wheelchair on this shingle). We got a fab position. We watched the smaller lifeboat being launched with the tractor, going out to search for a volunteer “in distress” in the sea. Then the big lifeboat launched from the pier with a huge splash. It was all very impressive to watch and well worth the day out.

We went for a wander into Cromer town centre, the traffic was busy but we noticed the church and realised it would be an island in the storm, when we got in we also realised that there was somewhere for Flossie to have a roll around in the back, (she gets fed up if she’s sat in her wheelchair all day), and some toys. Col left us there while he went off to get us some food and we headed into the play area. I lifted Flossie from her wheelchair and my heart sank. She was soaking wet through. I didn’t know how long Col would be, he rarely carries a mobile phone. I knew that the nearest Changing Places toilet was miles away (when I googled later it was over 13 miles away), as mentioned earlier we can still often change Flossie on a baby change but I didn’t even know where the nearest loo was (or whether there would be a baby changer in there that would take her weight…). So Cromer, I’m sorry, but I changed my 7 year old disabled daughter on the floor in the back of your church, because I didn’t know where else to go. Walking her around town leaving her sat in soaking wet clothes while we found somewhere else to change her was definitely not an option.

My earlier confidence that I could sort her without resorting to a toilet floor had evaporated. I was mortified. I positioned the wheelchair so nobody could see, to try and preserve my daughters modesty and dignity, and then just hoped against hope that we wouldn’t be interrupted. As quickly as I could I changed my daughters clothes and nappy. Afterwards she played happily, she none the wiser about how undignified the whole situation was, While I reflected on how it can be that towns across the UK still have no Changing Places toilets for their tourists and residents.

Today proved that it was possible for us to get caught out by Flossies needs and I know that one day todays solution will not be effective for us.

I have emailed Cromer town council and the response I received was very apologetic that I had to resort to such desperate measures and that they hope to provide a Changing Place facility in the future. There is a fantastic campaign to get these facilities into Cromer and you can follow that campaign here. 

There are only 4 registered Changing Place toilet facilities in the whole of Norfolk. I have emailed all the Norfolk councils previously to ask that these facilities be included in new developments, the situation is obviously yet to improve.

One day in the not too distant future we will not be able to visit without these facilities. Today we were caught out, but one day I simply will not be able to lift Flossie anymore without the aid of a hoist. For the people living in Norfolk and tourists visiting the councils NEED to invest in this basic infrastructure. We saw lots of wonderfully accessible places throughout the week, but without a simple loo to use we will not, one day, be able to visit any of them… Please support my petition here, calling on the Government to make these facilities a requirement in larger public buildings. And please watch this short film which explains the real human cost that not providing these facilities means…

The Best Climbing Tree In The World…?

Ping! Message to my phone, “are you free today?”

Flossie was busy being manipulated and cajoled by her therapist.

“Will be this afternoon…”

And so it was arranged, an afternoon out with my mum and dad, aka “The Oldies”, aka “Granny & Grandad Nextdoor” (cunningly named as they do actually live next door…).

Therapy finished, dinner eaten, bags packed, out the door and into the car without too much mishap.

We arrived at Normanby Park in the midst of a downpour. One of those downpours where you could get drenched in a second. Negotiations were held, should we stay or should we go? We waited it out. The sun came out. All was good with the world. Wheelchair unloaded, bags unloaded, kids unloaded. Oldies met.

First stop was the duck pond, lots of ducks splashing about, not one of whom were interested in our duck food. One came over took a look, lifted it’s beak up and swam off again. Tried again, no interest. No interest either from Ben at this point, who was busy playing (and cheating at…) “Pooh Sticks” with Grandad, in the small stream that leads between the duck ponds. It was apparent that leaves beat twigs in the speed stakes, although I’m not sure if feathers might have been even faster…

On through the woods, and a quick game of “The Floor Is Lava”, jumping onto tree stumps and logs to get up off the path. (This got me thinking that I really need to think of a creative way to include Flossie in this as she really would get the giggles if we could get her involved, although she was enjoying being wheeled through the woods…).

Out of the woods, waved to the people on the land train which happened to be passing (and they all waved back)… Time for Grandad and Ben to play with Grandads new toy, a gun that sends twirly things spinning up into the air. Flossie had a go too with some assistance, but she preferred the twirly circle to the gun itself… It certainly kept Grandad and Ben busy though…

Then to the climbing tree, now it is a little known fact that Normanby Park has the best climbing tree in the whole world. Even I venture to climb it from time to time (although last time I was worried that I might be stuck, a little embarrassing at the age of 44 but lets just embrace this, I’ll just keep going until I’m incapable and/or have to be rescued by the fire brigade). Ben is just at the age where he is giving climbing a go, and Flossie, well I lifted her out of her wheelchair and sat her in the branches where she gave me one of those cuddles where I thought she wasn’t going to let go and I embraced that too…

Another meander, through the walled garden, assaulted by the beauty and scent of the flowers, what a wonderful sensory experience a garden can bring. Here, the fruit trees arch over the pathways. Fruits, flowers and vegetables currently growing aplenty.  A walk through the potting sheds and the old gardeners hut too. Beautiful in the sunshine. Then Flossies inner clock chimes and she reminds me that it’s now time for tea.

Quick food stop at the cafe. A visit to the Changing Places loo (yay!!). Then to the park. Flossie into the baby swings (at 7 we can still just manage this) and then sat in the red spinny thing (I have absolutely no idea what it is really called!). Ben pushes her round in this, then dodges her feet as her legs are so long now, but they giggle together again and again.

Time to go home, a happy afternoon spent, a pootle home the long way, 2 happy kids, 2 happy grandparents, 1 happy mum…