Driving down the alleyway, buildings either side looking out for strangers as there was nowhere to hide The sky was dusky pink as the sun began to set I should have gone the long way; now, full of regret.
I travelled further onward while I looked in all directions What a fool am I to set out without protection I reached into my pocket and grasped at my alarm At least I had a halfway chance of avoiding any harm
Looking up skywards, I could see the crescent moon Trying to be brave, I whistled out my loudest tune Shadows of my wheelchair from the strobing streetlight The bulb’s on the blink, don’t fail now; I cannot fight
Suddenly, a sound could be heard from up ahead Imagination at its worst, fearing I could soon be dead Should I turn and speed away back the way I came? My life could be in danger, with just myself to blame
My forehead was sweating; my heart banging like a drum Glancing up into the sky and hoping help would come It was my own stupid fault; I should have gone the other way I pictured my early death; what would the neighbours say?
As the shadow of the person was getting very near I was absolutely terrified and wished I wasn’t here He approached me with a beer can, knocking back the drink My mind in total panic mode, not knowing what to think
As he staggered towards me; my head was in a spin A waft of marijuana and, on his breath, the smell of gin His words left me surprised; “I’ve not come for a fight.” I’ve locked myself out, missus. Have you got a light?
As a UK citizen, the death of our Queen came as quite a shock yesterday afternoon. Naïve, perhaps, given her age. I should have expected it, but somehow, because it was only three days ago, when she was pictured smiling whilst greeting and welcoming our new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, I was, for a while, lulled into a false sense of security. I’m not a fan of Liz Truss at all, but I didn’t envy her having to come up with a speech within two hours of the Queen’s death.
I’m not a staunch royalist, but I have a lot of respect for the royal family despite all the difficulties various family members have encountered over recent years. After all, they may be royals, but underneath the surface, they are just human beings and as fallible as the rest of us.
I have never known another King or Queen to be on the throne; it’s going to take some getting used to saying King Charles; I keep going to say Prince Charles. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the same.
Some of you may know (and perhaps, disapprove; not that I need approval), but I’m a member of Extinction Rebellion (XR), as I’m passionate about taking action against climate change and getting our government to act like it’s the emergency that it is. However, I’m not going into a political debate here. There was due to be an XR festival in London this weekend. I was going to go, which would have been a real challenge as it meant a journey to Hyde Park via one overground train, one underground train and two buses – all in my wheelchair, Alfie. I was determined to take part, though. Obviously, under the sad circumstances, it would not have been respectful for this to continue to take place; apart from which, Hyde Park is one of the royal parks, so that deemed it even more inappropriate. Of course, rebels were disappointed as an awful lot of work had gone into the planning and organising the event. I’m sure it will be rescheduled for a later date.
Anyhow, that’s all I wanted to say. I very much feel for the royal family in their grief as the UK enters a period of mourning. Naturally, not everyone feels the same; some people on a local neighbourhood website have been downright disrespectful. Is that really necessary, I ask myself? No, I think not. If they don’t have anything kind to say, then I believe, under the circumstances, they should keep quiet. Why is it necessary to be so rude, albeit everyone is entitled to their opinions? So, now the UK has entered a new era. I wonder what changes will be made now that Charles is King.
My deepest condolences and respect to the royal family. RIP Queen Elizabeth II.
I’ve had three requests from my lovely readers to write a blog about my rather wild garden, so here it is. It will be primarily photos rather than writing, so I hope you won’t be disappointed. I’ve lived at my house in Essex in the UK for over thirty years. The railway runs across the bottom of the garden, and a river runs at the bottom of my road. I cannot get out into my garden now that I use a wheelchair because there is no access apart from on foot. Most of these photos were taken before the accident that left me with a disability and before I badly fractured my pelvis a few years ago. The garden is mainly grass in the middle but has dozens of wildflowers growing through it (some people may call them weeds, but I disagree). Nothing in it is cultivated. Everything has seeded itself naturally. These are just some of the wildflowers growing in the grass – daisies and buttercups, wild violets, forget-me-nots, orange hawkweed amongst some dandelions and a photo of a single buttercup.
At the back of my garden is a steep bank full of mature trees of various types. I have elm, ash, sycamore and others including hawthorn which has white flowers. There are also bluebells there in the very early spring.
At the side of the garden are some shrubs that have come under the fence from my neighbour’s garden, which I was delighted to see. These were (on the left) euphorbia, some unknown yellow flowers and green alkanet. There is also (on the right) a yellow forsythia bush, an elderberry shrub with black berries with which you can make delicious elderberry juice or wine and another unknown shrub with yellow/orange berries.
Finally, I have taken some shots of plants and trees triumphing over adversity. These are proof that nature will always find a way, whether it’s a wildflower growing through concrete or a tree that was once chopped down to near the base, which is now producing branches and leaves.
We must protect all these wildflowers and trees as they are essential to insects, butterflies and bees. Trees are being chopped down, and small creatures are now in decline in our world, and without them, humans (and many larger animals) will eventually be unable to survive. Nature without the human race would do very well, but humans cannot survive without nature.
I do hope you’ve enjoyed your time in my garden. I realise I am fortunate to live in such a beautiful place in the UK, where there is an abundance of trees and plants to be seen. The pictures I’ve included in this post are just a few of them. I’d be pleased to hear your comments and perhaps, suggestions as to what else I could add to my garden. Thank you so much for reading and viewing my photos.
We could die, and nature would almost certainly be fine. But humans cannot survive without nature. Our culture, everything that makes us human, cannot survive without nature.
I thought yesterday was thwart with difficulties. Today, I really did it in style! I’d just travelled down to town in Alfie, my new electric powerchair when I started to feel out of kilter. Uh, oh, I’d had this feeling before. I immediately looked over Alfie, only to discover two completely flat rear tyres! Not again … the last time this happened, I was on the end of the longest pier in the world at Southend-on-Sea! It’s 2.16 kilometres! You can read this here – Sunnier Climes – Part 2 – The Pier.
I was sitting outside M&S (Marks & Spencer) – a big chain store, especially in the UK. I needed assistance, so I limped slowly into the entrance to attract a store assistant. I could feel the rims scraping the ground with every limping inch. Ouch. I just managed to get inside the door out of the hot, bright sun. Fortunately, I have a rescue service as part of my lease contract for such occasions; I phoned them to be told they would be with me as soon as they could.
An hour later, still waiting, I was getting cold as I’d only managed to drive as far as the freezer cabinets by the door. I hadn’t thought to bring a jacket on such a beautiful day. A lovely assistant approached me and asked if I’d like a hot drink. She came back with a coffee. She also picked up a vegan sandwich for me. I was hungry by then. As the hours were ticking away, I was getting very cold, so they gave me one of the Stock Controller’s freezer jackets to put around my shoulders till my transport came. The shop staff were wonderful – they couldn’t have been more helpful and friendly. I’ll definitely be making a call to Customer Services tomorrow to give my compliments and to ask for the staff to be personally thanked.
I sat and waited … and waited … and waited. One of the assistants kept popping his head out of the door to see if there were any signs of rescue. Nothing. I phoned the rescue people again, only to be told they were having difficulties finding a vehicle to collect me. More waiting.
After three-and-a-half hours, a man in grey and orange overalls and muddy boots came toward me. This was my knight in shining armour! I was very pleased to see him. He’d come to take my wheelchair home and helped me into a waiting taxi as he wasn’t allowed to carry passengers. Just as I got home, I saw a truck outside with Alfie on the back. It was a 7.5-ton pick-up truck!! Apparently, that’s all they had available. Some neighbours had come out to watch as my knight guided Alfie, looking very sorry for himself, down the ramp. Finally, we were home. What a day. Lucky I’ve got a very good sense of humour. I won’t live this one down for a long time!
I thought I’d give you a little background information about my disability. It’s not something I’ve previously spoken about much in my blog, so this is my story.
I started life as an able-bodied little girl who did all the usual activities that young children do. I was always small, skinny and underweight, but there were advantages to being as I was. I could shin up the gym apparatus faster than many children in my class. Considering I was sometimes thought of as a weed, I did pretty well. I grew up, married, had my two children, Tom and Clare, and then my ex left. I continued to raise the children alone and also had to work to bring some money in for us to live on. It was a tough time, but I was very content. Between school runs, the children’s football matches and netball, I was a carer and home help for ten years (I’d initially trained as a secretary and worked in the City of London for several years). I combined my work which I loved, with caring for Tom and Clare; we were a very happy little family.
When the children were about thirteen and eleven, I saved enough to take them to the funfair in town (Essex in the UK). It was there that I had my accident which was to change the course of my life. When our carriage crashed, I felt a tremendous jolt that jarred my neck and spine. Eventually, after a lengthy spell in hospital (with my children staying with my Mum) and with many tests, x-rays, scans and examinations, the doctors decided I’d damaged the nerve endings leading from my spine. They said it was permanent. It was an awful lot to come to terms with, but over time, I grew, not so much to accept it but more to live my life despite it. I wasn’t about to give in easily. The pain was awful, though, and I was on morphine for quite a while. It wasn’t all bad – I was away with the fairies much of the time 😄!
Fast forward twenty years. It was recommended that I have a DEXA Scan as osteoporosis was suspected, given that I’d always been small-boned, had experienced a few years previously with anorexia, and being unable to exercise very often. When I got my results, I was unsure who was more shocked, the radiographer or me. My T-scores were appallingly low. A score of -2.5 indicates osteoporosis, but mine was -4.5, which meant I had severe osteoporosis.
I was told I could die if I fractured my hip or be left even more disabled if I injured my spine. I have to admit I was scared – very scared. Every move I made seemed risky, and I lived in fear for a while. I became super-careful with everything I did, but two years ago, I tripped over Peanut (my new cat) while transferring from my wheelchair to my walking frame. There I was being rushed off to Accident & Emergency for the second time. I was in agony. I’ve never felt pain like it. After all the x-rays and scans came back, the doctors announced that I’d broken my pelvis, not once, not twice, but in six different places. I don’t do things by halves. If I’m going to have an accident, I’ve got to do it in style!
Strangely enough, contrary to what most people would think, I don’t have any regrets; I’m not angry or bitter or in the least bit dissatisfied with my life. I am who I am. Without the experiences I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be me. I wouldn’t be Ellie.
My next post (Part Two) will be about my journey back to good health and where I intend to go from here on in.
This is my dear late Mum’s house as it stands now. It was my childhood home until I married at twenty years of age and moved out. I’ve been reminiscing about this house over the last couple of days. One of my sisters had been back to visit there recently. Although she advised me against it, I asked her to share her photo with me. Big mistake! Huge mistake, in fact. It’s no longer how I remember it. Gone is the beautiful orange door (not that it’s visible in this picture) – it’s been replaced by a dull grey. The window frames have all been painted stark white over the original orange. Orange was Mum’s favourite colour. The steps outside are also not visible in this photo. The neat box hedge has completely overgrown, as has the glorious pink azalea shrub. I feel so sad. I shouldn’t have asked to see this photo. I should have known it would be different now, six years after losing my Mum. I still miss her so much. I always will.
The steps at the front of the house were a barrier for me for the last four years before Mum passed away. Being a wheelchair user now, there was no way I could climb them to get into the house. To make matters worse, Mum was severely agoraphobic, which meant she couldn’t leave there. It meant that we didn’t see each other for all that time. It broke my heart (and hers). We spoke on the phone a lot, especially towards the end. I would call two or three times a day to check she was okay. She mainly was as fit as a fiddle … until she had her stroke. Before that happened, she would vigorously mow the grass, raking it up, digging and planting flowers and tomatoes.
Those last four years were so painful. I didn’t feel sorry myself; I never did, but I felt angry and frustrated about my disability stopping me from seeing her. It was hard to come to terms with, and we missed each other terribly. The only time I got to see her in those last years was when, towards the end, she was admitted to hospital after her stroke. Hospitals are nearly always accessible. She was never the same after that happened. I wrote a post about this at the time. You can read about it at https://elliethompson.uk/2016/11/26/grief-without-death/.
I’m glad I can’t see the inside of the house; it must be so different now, and it would only upset me further. The kitchen was always my favourite room. The kitchen units were orange, as was her one-person teapot, which sat permanently on the side waiting to be filled. She loved her cups of tea and her toast and marmalade, which she’d have for breakfast every morning. After we lost Mum, there were all the usual formalities to arrange; the funeral, the interment, the house to sort out etc. My sisters came from various parts of the country to deal with all this, but I had no choice, being unable to go up those damn steps. My sisters were very kindly involving me as much as possible by taking pictures of everything, so I could decide what I’d like to have. I chose Mum’s little orange teapot. It reminded me so much of her.
I have a tradition now. Every year, on Mum’s birthday and on Mother’s Day, I take myself off to a quaint tea shop in my city. I order myself a pot of tea (I usually drink coffee) and some toast and marmalade. Sometimes, I order a slice of cake – Mum always enjoyed her cake. Having recently bought the loveliest card I could find in John Lewis, I sit for a couple of hours and write to her. I write it as a conversation between us, just as if she were there with me, drinking tea and eating toast or cake. It makes me feel closer to her at those times. I wish she were still here to join me. But, however much I write, it’ll never make up for those four years when I couldn’t see her. I missed so much of her later life. I think I’ll always miss her – the pain doesn’t lessen. Perhaps, it will in time.
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.
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 …
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.
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!
It was a gloriously sunny day when I set off for the dentist despite it being the beginning of March … chilly though. The practice wasn’t far from where I live. I arrived early as I always do. My appointment time was at 2 pm and I was pleased that I had nearly twenty minutes to read my book. I was so completely absorbed that I hardly noticed the time until my dentist, Natasha, came dashing through the side door of the surgery and headed for the treatment room. It was then that I noticed she had no mask on. I’ve never seen her without it before as she hasn’t been my dentist for very long. It suddenly struck me how pretty she was, what a beautiful smile she had and how she looked at least ten years younger than I thought her to be. I wanted to tell her this; compliment her, but then I considered that it was, perhaps, a little too personal to express this to a professional and one I hadn’t known for very long.
A couple of minutes past my appointment time, the dental nurse, Charlie, put her head around the door and called me in. I made my way across the busy waiting room and lined myself up with the treatment room door. The doorway is very narrow as the building was once an old house and not built for wheelchairs, especially a large electric one like mine.
And so, as usual, I started to unpack the pannier at my side and the full-to-the-brim carrier bag hanging off of my wheelchair arm. We have this ‘performance’ every time I go there! I could feel the eyes of the other patients in the waiting room all glued to my back and I wasn’t sure whether they were thinking, “she’ll never get through that gap” or, “for goodness’ sake, get a move on!” I proceeded to unload my red metal reusable water bottle, an empty Tupperware box that housed yesterday’s sandwiches, a frozen Marks and Spencer’s Thai Green Curry for my dinner that night, a large head of broccoli, a litre bottle of fresh orange juice and my blue reusable coffee mug complete with a wodge of newspaper to keep the coffee hot on my journeys. The mug had the lukewarm remains of the coffee I’d bought in town but I decided against finishing it to avoid opening wide and blasting coffee breath in the dentist’s direction!
After a couple of minutes, the dental nurse had piled all my worldly goods onto a chair in the treatment room and I inched my way, bit-by-bit, through the tight doorway. I was aware that everyone was watching me unpack everything and wondered whether they’d been curious as to what was coming next. Having finally unloaded everything but the kitchen sink, I was almost expecting a round of applause from the unimpressed patients in the waiting room. “Not much chance of that,” I thought to myself.
Finally, I entered the room and was helped into the chair. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the instruments of torture all sterilised, gleaming metal and waiting to attack me! My stomach lurched spectacularly. This wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. It never is. It’s almost unheard of for me to escape the eager clutches of my otherwise lovely dentist without needing probing and prodding and worst still, injecting with nasty tasting anaesthetic. Three numb minutes later, just as the drill was heading in my direction, I asked the dentist, as I stared at the ceiling if she’d ever considered putting posters up there to direct the attention of the unfortunate patient from what was happening. She said something about health and safety so I guessed the answer was no. I tightly shut my eyes as if, in doing so, I could pretend I was at the cinema, the theatre, the beach or the fair – anywhere my imagination could take me – anything would be preferable to where I was right then.
Thirty-five minutes later with three amalgam fillings, a scale and polish and one shiny new crown, I was then allowed to sit upright in the chair. I swished my mouth out with pink mouthwash and spat it into the bowl. I was then helped back into my wheelchair and was eager to get out. Charlie handed me my belongings, bit by bit again, after I’d squeezed back through the narrow door and I repacked everything. As I did so, I noticed there were bits of stray broccoli on the seat of the chair and a puddle where my frozen meal had started to defrost! I muttered a hasty apology, then thought I ought to make a quick exit … I went up to the reception desk to pay the bill and waited while my bank card went through the sickening and painful process of coming out exactly £282.80 lighter!! The receptionist looked at me and smiled. As she did so a big, sloppy dribble ran very obviously down my still numb chin and into the neck of my jumper! Oh, the embarrassment …
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) …
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…
Having my old tatty kitchen amazingly transformed into a beautiful, new and modern kitchen with units and a gas hob I can reach has meant I can use it independently of my carers. I’ve got a lovely, new electric oven (I have to get used to the temperatures as I’ve only had gas before). I’ve truly found freedom. At first, the novelty of washing-up at my low-level sink seemed attractive! Now I’m not so sure about that bit, but, nevertheless, I’m determined to not to rely solely on my carers, and I thoroughly enjoy cooking.
The next home-improvement project was my patio with a ramp. The word ‘patio‘ is in italics because it is actually built on the base of my newish forget-me-not blue garden shed – see my earlier post which you can find here … MY FORGET-ME-NOT SHED. The poor unfortunate hut became redundant (which is another story!), and was sold for a small sum to a primary school whose sports shed had been burnt down in a horrible arson attack. By rights, I should now be able to get up my ramp, accessing it through the front door, down the side of the house and through the gate – a bit of a long way round, but functional nevertheless. I’d be able to eat, drink and sunbathe up there if I wanted to whenever the weather is good and I have the time.
There is one big hiccup to this story. GEORGE!! Just when I was savouring the prospect of getting a nice suntan (with sun-factor 50 cream), and entertaining guests out there in the sunshine, George (my electric wheelchair for those of you who aren’t yet acquainted) decided to develop a fault. He sits, stubbornly staring at the ramp and refuses to summon up enough energy to climb it. He’s meant to travel at 8mph (no idea what that is in km), but in fact, he’s probably only going at about a fraction-of-a-mile an hour. No good! I imagine it’s the equivalent of an accelerator in a car going – or rather, not going. All this fantastic progress going forward; first the kitchen and new-found independence; and then the patio; and now? Now – my usual trustworthy lump of metal (sorry, George) frustratingly refuses to get up the ramp and embarrassingly slides backwards. I’m going nowhere fast.
Roll on Monday when the mobility repair company come out, and hopefully, give George the kiss-of-life, no doubt at a sizeable cost to me. Needs must.