Thursday, 26 July 2018

Mermaids, Moon Magic and Powers for Change

Since my health has thrown me the latest curveball, I'm finding that I'm managing to do lots of research and planning but writing  my actual novel is proving a little trickier. My usual routine has been scuppered by a change in meds, energy levels and function although sheer bloody-mindedness is keeping me going. The summer holidays are also upon us so my boys are here full time - they are loving these lazy days! Luckily this year my boys seem more interested in hanging out with friends so I'm not having to run a summer camp! Back in the day, summer was a mass of painting, baking, gardening, day trips, picnics etc but I'm feeling a little redundant at the moment while they do their own thing. No complaints yet though - I've insisted that I'm dragging them out somewhere every few days so I will hopefully get to see them!
This summer, my biggest challenge is to develop confidence in my powerchair and lessen my complete paranoia about having to use one along with my ridiculous fixation on the response I may get from others. I bought the thing weeks ago and apart from my big adventure to London and back, it has been out of use ever since. I'm nervous of travelling to and from places and access while I'm visiting new places - I can give myself twenty barriers to progress if I really think about it. I'm being very obstructive to my journey to freedom. But each couple of days I'm determined to go out in it with someone with me so I get over this sticky patch.
It's going quite well so far. Yesterday, I managed to tootle in my power chair up to a local deli for afternoon tea with my dear friend (who stopped me from bailing at the last minute). While a nervous wreck and powered purely by caffeine and adrenalin throughout the whole experience, I feel so much lighter today; in fact quite optimistic now I know I'm becoming independent once more. It's a huge thing adapting to using a chair - I've done it once with a manual chair and a scooter at one time, yet here I am again! But this time, using the power chair means I'm in charge a little more and less reliant on the kindness of my crew to push me about!
So yes - big day yesterday!
I'm getting up each morning to this amazing sunshine we're having at the moment and having to adapt my day a little to work round the heat so that I don't melt or crash!
I get up early and have a cuppa in the garden to connect with nature and my kitty cats, do any jobs I need to do then get on with my research and writing.
I'm currently researching from two books:

The History of Magic by Kurt Seligmann (1948) for a little background in to witchcraft and sea magic generally:

and then just this week I'm reading Mermaid Magic by Lucy Cavendish and Serene Conneeley (2011) which is giving me some real insight in to sea magic and all things mermaid.

I'd recommend both books for anyone interested in these areas.
My process at the moment is very much note-taking and planning as my original ideas for certain characters are changing. One character's motives are slightly woolly and through research I'm starting to wonder if the dark elements of sea magic may be best developed by her. I'm really exciting by this latest idea - drawn from my studying around medieval witchcraft. This character could be the pinnacle that a lot will depend on so I'm playing around with that at the moment. Writing is a little like steering a runaway train as it goes where it wants to go but you just have to try and keep it on track!

My house is steadily being filled with prompts for writing - shells, pebbles and a few sea magic instruments to help me on my way. I find that I'm quite a kinaesthetic learner at the moment and need to work with physical prompts when writing. Whether that's just meds, the heat or me I have no idea. Sea music helps too - I'm listening to a lot to oceanic Romantic music by Brahms. A  trip to the seaside is also on the cards so I can get my toes in the sand and surf. 
Right, I'd best get on - it would seem the blood moon and eclipse are making me very impatient for change! I needed a good shove and it's the eve of the eclipse which apparently means that powers for change are bubbling all around me!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Trains and Tribulations: Travelling Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last weekend, I was invited down to celebrate a significant birthday with one of my dearest friends who lives in London. I have done this journey from South Yorkshire many times but on this occasion, something was different. I was taking myself down there in my new power chair, a recent addition to my tools that keep me moving. I was petrified. As I don't travel alone these days, my children were travelling with me and we started the booking process while every inch of my body quivered..
After booking a ticket using my disabled railcard (a third off your journey!) I was directed to another department to ensure my access arrangements were in place. I was travelling with East Midland Trains. It felt like a military operation but I was kept calm by the incredible woman at the other end of the phone in Assistance and Accessibility who repeatedly put me at my ease every time I told her it might be easier to stay at home.
'When you've done it once, it'll be easy. Put your trust in us,' she promised.
I was talked through each stop and transfer with the placement of staff and ramps on and off every  train we travelled on. I was incredibly grateful for the service in place and actually just the time that was spent ensuring I was ready to travel.
Their support offered is outlined below.

The help we can give

To make your journey trouble-free, we can provide:
  • help to plan your journey, including information about all train services on all train services around the UK
  • information about onward modes of transport
  • the most appropriate tickets for your journey, including any relevant discounts
  • help to book the most appropriate seats on the trains
  • bookings for help to get on and off trains (including the use of station wheelchairs)
  • assistance with your luggage
  • arrangements to help transfer between different train services

I was then emailed an itinerary of every step of the journey there and back. I knew I was in safe hands but I felt terrified.

Booking an accessible cab in Rotherham was a bit of a drama. I found my local EuroCabs office, who promise:

We have a fleet of 5, 6 and 7 seater vehicles which are all wheelchair accessible and adapted to comply with local authority guidelines and safety regulations. 

Again, I was put at my ease and was able to book my journeys to and from the station - for future reference I was recommended to book in advance as they have limited availability at peak times.
The minibus arrived and my chair was secured in place while there was seating for my children.
On arrival at the station, we were escorted to the platform and when our train arrived, ramps were placed for me to drive on to the train. I'd never done this before, but to the encouragement of the train staff I had a go, did a wheelie and nearly tipped back in to the arms of the poor attendant!
'Mum, I'll take care of the chair next time,' my mortified fourteen year old whispered.
So that was the plan. My eldest son would disengage the motor of my powerchair to wheel it on and off the train while I walked down the ramp on my sticks each time. Every day's a school day! Thankfully, the rest of my ramp encounters went without a hitch!
We had three changes in all which were handled by East Midland staff brilliantly. They made us feel at ease each step of the way.

I even managed to write some notes and decide on a new plot point for my latest novel - a huge fishing net tangle of characters and timelines would best describe the state of my newest writing at the moment, but I spent time on that train clearing my head and clarifying a key issue for my story. Just sitting at a train window watching the world go by was incredibly cleansing. I was able to think about my characters and be open to new ideas popping in to my head as I let myself people watch and scribble notes about the goings on around me. Readers of my next novel can expect a train journey and some interesting interactions between Marianne and the travellers she meets along the way. Writing on a train is one of my favourite things to do and I'd really missed it. It was good to be back.

If I'm honest, it was all I could do, on occasion, to stop myself screaming and getting a cab home but I was so proud of myself and my eldest son for getting there and back in one piece.
Stepping outside of one's comfort zone, particularly when you have a chronic illness feels nigh on impossible, but with the correct amount of support and kindness, travel is possible after all.

With firm nudges from loved ones and the accessibility arrangements put in place to improve our day to day living, I was able to visit my lovely friend and be a part of her incredible birthday celebrations.

I'm now planning my next trip. In the words of Arthur Daley of Minder fame:
'The world's my lobster!'