Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier

At the beginning of March, I wrote a post about my holiday to Southend-on-Sea during the summer of 2018 – https://elliethompson.uk/2022/03/06/sunnier-climes-part-1/ . This is the continuation of that experience.

Seven Hotel – Southend-on-Sea

It was a beautiful day in July when I set off from the rather plush Seven Hotel and headed for the pier. The train that went almost the length of it hadn’t started running yet as I’d set off very early in the morning. It was the hottest day we’d had in the UK for three years at over 33 degrees, and I’d thought I’d get out before the peak of the heat hit. As I sped off in my electric wheelchair, George, the welcome breeze swept through my hair. It was exhilarating, and I was soon at the halfway point. I looked back at the distance I’d travelled and admired the view. The sky was hazy with the heat, but the sea was blue. The gleaming white buildings, hotels and apartments were in the distance now.

The view from Southend Pier.

I trundled across the pier’s wooden planks, thoroughly enjoying myself with the seagulls flying high above me, squawking loudly. The café was right at the end, and I thought I’d stop there and grab some breakfast and a coffee. Twenty minutes later, when I’d almost reached my destination, the clackety-clack of the wood below my wheels began to sound odd. The planks were old and worn in some places but perfectly sound. After a few more metres, the noise became louder. I wasn’t too concerned and had my eye on the sign at the end. I stopped to take this photo. It read …

Congratulations. You’ve reached the end of Southend Pier.

I could see the café up ahead and was looking forward to my breakfast. I was nearly there. I went to set off again when I suddenly realised that something was wrong. My wheelchair was leaning to one side. I looked down, and there was a completely flat tyre. What a place to get a puncture! Now, what do I do?

I turned to look over my shoulder and saw a couple behind me, although quite some way back. I waved at them frantically. To my dismay, they seemed to assume I was simply being friendly and waved back at me! As they got nearer, they could see my predicament and stopped to offer their help. I had no idea how I would get back to the land end of the pier.

Southend Pier – the longest pier in the world at 2.16 kilometres

The couple said they’d go to the café to get assistance, and soon, they returned with a manual wheelchair. I transferred into it, but there was still the dilemma of what to do with my chair. I certainly wasn’t going to abandon it. The only thing to do was push my chair, George, onto the train with me by his side and head back to land. A great idea, but there was a problem. The goods carriage was the only space big enough to take my chair, and that was filled with crates of wine bottles and beer for the café. There was no option but to unload it all onto the platform. The guard was not impressed! Finally, they got me on the train and back to terra firma. I then had to wait for an hour-and-a-half before the breakdown vehicle came and rescued me, brought me back to my hotel and whipped George off to have a new tyre.

I can laugh about it now, but that’s one holiday I shall never forget!

Sunnier Climes – Part 1

Could be anywhere, couldn’t it? It’s actually Southend-on-Sea – 2018

Southend comes in for an awful lot of stick. Anyone in Essex, UK, will probably know this fact. It’s often known for its levels of crime, often violence and perhaps, even thought of as a rough and scruffy seaside town. However, I just love it!

My story here is an account of my holiday in the summer of 2018. Having not had a holiday for over 15 years, this was to be quite an adventure! I’d packed up ready to set off; the large rucksack on the back of my wheelchair, (called George back then), bursting at the seams. I must have resembled ‘the bag lady’ as I set off with bags hanging off of every arm and projection on my wheelchair. I was determined to ‘go it alone’ and without any help or support. This sense of independence meant a heck of a lot to me.

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the train station. The guard brought the ramp so that I could get on. The carriage was packed with animated holiday makers all heading for the coast to make the most of the beautiful sunshine. It was a scorching July that year and I was so excited and eager to get to get there. Two exhausting changes of train later, I arrived at my hotel. It was a pretty smart place and I stood out ‘like a sore thumb’ with my scruffy carrier bags packed to the hilt with everything I needed. Nevertheless, the proprietor and his wife were extremely polite, well-spoken and very warm and welcoming. I checked in, bundled into the small lift and was shown up to my room. I was surprised at how plush it was; roomy too, so plenty of space to park George for charging. The sun streamed through the window and my view from there overlooked the sea (see photo above). Golden Samphire grew out of the cliff face adding to this beautiful picture and I wasn’t far away from the Cliff Lift which had a scarily sheer drop to the promenade . Twenty minutes later, I’d unpacked; gone down to the bar for a refreshing glass of tonic water with elderflower (my favourite ‘tipple’ as I don’t drink alcohol) and headed for the beach.

The beach was gorgeous; certainly to me not having had a whiff of fresh, salty air for so many years. I so wished I could have gone for a paddle or felt the stony sand between my toes. This was a bit difficult when using an electric wheelchair, so it had to remain a dream of mine. However, not for one minute deterred I drove along the prom taking in the sights and smells – stalls selling hot doughnuts, pink candy floss, chips and burgers. There were stalls laden with buckets and spades, rubber rings, summer hats of all descriptions, flags and the good old seaside windmills on sticks. I loved these and bought two and asked the seller to stick them out of the back of my rucksack. I was just like a big kid without a care in the world! And so, I continued along the front literally with the wind in my sails, feeling very joyful and thrilled to bits with my holiday so far. I took lots of photos as this was for the sake of happy memories to come and sure evidence I’d achieved an ambition. However, the fun wasn’t over yet.

I could see the Sealife Centre in the distance and planned to go there the following day. The famous, old Kursaal was also in that direction. For today, I was just admiring the views and feeling the vibes and energy of the place which, by then, was swarming with holiday makers. I could just about make out an attraction happening ahead with a queue of people waiting to take part. As I got nearer, a mischievous thought took shape in my mind. I took a photo of what was going on and then, cheekily, posted it on my Facebook page with the following caption (below) …

And now, for my next trick!!

Now, bearing in mind I’m a wheelchair user, this would have been impossible but I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun with my friends and family! Well … one day … you never know…

More of my travels to come in Part 2

HOLIDAYS – HOME AND AWAY

See the source image

At the risk of sounding crazy, I’m going on vacation for a couple of days to my hometown. I don’t mean the town where I was born; I mean the city where I now live! I know it sounds like an odd thing to do, but there is a somewhat obscure reason for this.

A friend who I made at my college asked me if I’d like to go down to the coast for a few days. His parents live very near a lovely seaside town which has a beautiful beach, and the local Pavillion Theatre isn’t far away either. I enjoy watching a good play or a show and don’t get the chance very often. I’d have to travel by train, a two-and-a-half hour journey. I’ll be staying in a lovely hotel with disabled facilities, breakfast included (plus the all-essential wi-fi) and a sea view. I’d see my friend for some of the time, and I also want to have a mooch around by myself too. Wonderful!

So, what’s the first trip got to do with the second?

Well … I’m so looking forward to going away to the coast. I’ve not been there for a very long time. In fact, I’ve not been anywhere much (other than back and forth to London when my Mum was sick), and I haven’t had a holiday away from home since, believe it or not, 1985! I’m nervous though because I’m, understandably, entirely unused to sleeping away from the safety and security of my house. I’m worried in case I forget something important. I haven’t packed a suitcase in decades! However, I do want to go.

The fact that I am nervous and relatively scared is the reason for my first trip. I thought, rather than jump in at the deep end and travel away from home, I’d dip my toe in my water and have a weekend in a local hotel in the city I’m already in and am used to. That way, if I forget anything, or don’t like it, I’m only thirty minutes from home. I’m more confident about that and am really quite looking forward to it.

I can’t help wondering what my dear Mum would have said if she were still here … I think she’d say, “you go girl!!” 🙂

 

(Image courtesy of trip.101.com)

 

GRIEF WITHOUT DEATH

I miss my Mum. I miss her so much.  A death you would think.  No, my Mum hasn’t passed away, but she’s had a severe stroke and has been in the hospital for nearly three months now. I miss her presence in my life – she was always there to talk to when I had problems with my children growing up and always in these later years when I’ve been battling with my mental heath.

She used to support me through everything and as the years ticked by, I was the one supporting her (and rightly so). We would talk on the phone for many hours, putting the world to rights and putting each other to rights. We rarely had a cross word.

I have to confess, there have been times when it’s felt a bit of a chore to have to phone my Mum every day, sometimes twice a day in more recent years.  I would, perhaps, think, “I want to spend more time with friends” on that particular night or “I’d like to spend the time writing my blog”.  Worse still, I’d be keen to text a good friend for a heart-to-heart or get that email written that I’ve been meaning to do for days.

Now, the evenings come, and I find myself thinking,  “I’ll just phone to see how ……….” – My sentence is cut short by the stark realisation that my Mum is not occupying the same space as she used to do. Something else is in her place – a horrible silence broken only by memories of how our relationship used to be.

Gone are our chats, our shared laughter and our mutual support. There are no long discussions about what she had planted in her garden that day with the full expectation of seeing her little seedlings and shoots develop into strong, tall plants. She’d tell me how she’d tied them up with green, garden twine against bamboo canes and watch them develop and bloom.

She won’t go back to that house again, nor her beloved garden that was her sanctuary, her escape from the world when life got difficult – not now. She could never manage the stairs, feed herself or live without 24-hour care and yet she’d managed independently since her separation from my father. She had lived in our family home for over sixty years. And to think the grass was being cut by her only two weeks before she had her stroke.

The damage to her brain is so extensive that she’s still unable to communicate verbally or in any other way,  and any hope of further improvements is met with serious doubt by the doctors and consultants.  The physios, the OTs and the speech and language therapists are not hopeful either.  I try to talk to her on the phone when I can’t get there – hoping to get a response but my questions always have the same replies – nothing – it’s heartbreaking.

I’m still travelling up to the City by train to see her at least once a week. The journey is always tough, fraught with difficulties and exhausting but I need to be there. I need to retain that little bit of hope. However, she isn’t even able to acknowledge that I’m there and I wonder where she has gone inside that broken shell of a body.

I feel I should not be grieving as she is still present with me. But I am – I’m grieving the loss of the person that my Mum once was; her presence in my life, her faded personality and her love, care and affection. She is no longer there.  But grieving when she is still alive; is that right? Is that acceptable? It is simply grief without death.

COME RAIN, COME SHINE

rainy city gif

Well, for today, at least, I’ve turned up like the proverbial bad penny. I’ve missed a lot, I know, in the time I’ve been away – humble apologies for my lack of attention to all your blogs, my friends. I will try and catch up at some point if I can.

They say ‘it never rains, but it pours’ and it certainly has been tipping it down here in my neck of the woods. Today is the first day that I’ve been able to write anything for nearly a month, and I’ve almost forgotten what WordPress Land and my blog look like!

I am a jumble of emotions right now – quite a few negative ones, unfortunately, but a  few positives thrown in amongst them to break up the monotony.

  • My Mum has been in and out of the hospital for the last few weeks. She has now been diagnosed with an extremely rare syndrome that only affects one person in a million. We are trying to come to terms with it. She is now home with Care (which, being a very independent lady of 85, she is not happy about). Nevertheless, at least, I know she’s safe which is a good thing.
  • A not so good thing is that I am receiving nasty, blackmailing emails (again) from a member of my family. How lovely! I am dealing with that one with some difficulty but a lot of grit.
  • I’ve got major problems with Charlie (my wheelchair). He had two new batteries last week at a cost of nearly £300 (needless to say, that’s bumped up the balance due on my credit card), and now he needs a new motor which is going to add another £300 to my debt.
  • One of my favourite Carers is leaving which always unsettles me as I have to build up a trusting relationship with someone who is working that closely with me.
  • My son, Tom, is going back to court to fight for custody of my two grandchildren who are only three and one. Their mother is not taking care of them properly and Social Services, in their wisdom, are turning a very convenient blind eye to the situation.

So, now let me throw a few positives into the mix!

Now, perhaps the world is looking a little more like this.

rain on glass

  • My niece. Gemma (who is 23 which makes me feel quite ancient) has flown on her own (with the help of an aeroplane, naturally) halfway round the world to visit our family for the first time.
  • It gets even better now; my sister is also flying from the other side of the planet to visit me on 1st June. It’s going to be wonderful to see her and give her a real, warm and genuine hug as opposed to those non-touchy-feely cyber hugs that I usually have to send.
  • It’s Easter weekend and although I cannot get to church to celebrate (thanks to Charlie),  I can, at least, soak up the atmosphere of ‘Songs of Praise’ on my laptop and even join in with the singing if the mood so takes me.
  • My neighbour has just come back from holiday and I said I’d keep any eye on the house. As I cannot actually see her house from where I’m sat, it’s more like keeping an ear on her house as we are semi-detached and not a lot escapes my radar. She popped in on her return and has brought me a beautiful, neat bunch of daffodills which are my favourite spring flowers.
  • Good news too in that I have found a children’s ‘soft play area’, not far from where I live which means my son might be able to bring my two little ones to see me without the worry that they are in reach of all my medical equipment, sockets and general disability paraphernalia.

So, finally, perhaps the world is beginning to look a little like this again … x

small vase of daffodills