Thank you to Cheltenham Media for the many hours spent chasing and sorting the problem which was preventing access to my blog this week. I am now able to get on it and can tell you of events of last weekend.
Last Saturday (4 October) I drove up to my Wife’s place to collect her and the kids so as to drive them to the Clarkes Village in Street, my Wife wanted to go to get some perfume and I so I figured I could go and look at the shops with the kids. The weather was ok, not fantastic but it wouldn’t matter too much as we would be in and out of the shops so if it did rain then we wouldn’t be out in it for too long. We arrived at around half past nine, parked up and got out. It was still dry which was good and the car park was surprisingly empty for a Saturday but people do take the bus so it was possible that there would be more people than we thought inside, we made our way in and then headed off to the perfume shop. We decided to head there first thing to see if there was any queue which as it turned out, there was and it had around fifty people in it. I told my Wife to join the queue and the kids and I would go in to the shop to buy her some of the perfume that we had come to buy.
We entered the shop and on the counter there three of the fragrances of the collection that we had come to buy and so I asked the assistant if we could smell them. Now there was clearly no way that I would be putting the fragrance on my wrists and so “Pickle” asked if she could wear it. After being asked if she had ever had any perfume on her skin before to which I replied “Yes”, they put a squirt of each of the three on to her wrists and one on her forearm, one of the fragrances I knew was the one that my Wife wanted but I wanted to get another for her from the kids as a Christmas present but I didn’t know which one to get, eventually though I asked “Pickle” and she decided on the one that I had originally liked. We paid for the bottles, headed outside and spoke to my Wife to tell her that we would be buggering off for a while to go and get drinks and have a bit of a look round. The rain had started, but she had a large umbrella which instantly made her friends with the two women in front of her and so as they chatted, under the umbrella, the kids and I headed off towards the coffee shop.
We didn’t get very far as all three of them took a right turn and low and behold we were in the Cadbury shop, chocolate EVERYWHERE! They had a look round but to their credit did not ask for anything, I said we would return after Mum had finished when we would buy some treats and with no complaining, we made our way to the coffee shop. The Costa shop is actually inside another shop which made it quite nice, it had its own little seating area for a handful of customers and was obviously inside but as we were not intending to stay in the shop the limited seating was not a problem, (seating is clearly never a problem for me anyway!). With our drinks sorted we headed outside and made our way slowly around the `village` looking at which shops, if any, I may want to look in. Now I am not a big one for shopping, it used to piss me right off when I could walk and the only thing that made it bearable post injury was that I didn’t have to stand and wait, I was sitting which was a whole lot better. Now of course it is only myself that I have to go shopping for and so if I get pissed at that then I have a real problem. The last time I was at the `village`, aside from the fact that I used to deliver to the fast food place there when I was a delivery driver, was before my accident and back then there were a couple of tool shops, I was looking for the shop because I wanted a woodworkers apron for when I do my aircraft modelling to catch anything that I drop because it is a real pain in the ass to pick the little bits off of the floor and also to keep my trousers clean. It appeared though that the shops had gone which was a shame.
Having looked at the time I figured it best that we return to the area of the perfume shop as time was ticking on, my Wife had been in the queue for around an hour and a half and the time was approaching that everyone had been waiting for. We hadn’t quite reached the area when we heard some shouting and so I knew then that I had made the right call in returning to the area of the shop, it meant that the guest had arrived to meet the people and put his signature on the perfume that the people had bought. I got talking to one of the staff of the `village` who was “crowd control” and one of the guests minders, during the conversation it transpired that they had both been in the Army and with a couple of phrases that I used during the conversation they clocked that I was also military. We chatted for quite a while in between the minder having to drop the barrier to allow more through to the final part of the queue which took them in to the shop itself. The cheering that we had heard had not been as loud as I had anticipated and so I asked the minder why it had been so quiet. He told me that the guest had bought his Girlfriend and baby along and the baby was asleep sop the minders had gone ahead and tried to keep the noise to a minimum which was quite funny. Slowly the queue diminished and my Wife was at the front of the queue, by the barrier waiting to be let in to the shop part of the queue, the minder knew that the kids and I were with her and that I had been told not to join the queue with my Wife in case I needed a nature call as there is no way they would be able to get me out of the queue and so when she reached us and the barrier was dropped to allow her through, the minder opened up for the kids and I to join.
As we slowly made our way to the shop doors I continued chatting to the minder and the “crowd control” guy who were both really nice guys, it was interesting to hear the things that they had done during their time but eventually it was time to go in to the shop. The shop front had strategically placed advertising boards put in front of the windows so as to deter people from causing problems for the staff and the guys in charge of the “crowd control”. The only way that you would see the guest was to go in to the shop which you could only do if you had purchased the perfume, it was all very well done and controlled so there were no problems short of the occasional ignorant person who would push past the “crowd control” guy rather than walk round despite being asked politely to do so, but then, there have to be idiots in this world or there would be no requirement for security guards and Police I guess. Just before the doorway another of the minders spotted me and came over, he kept apologising for leaving me outside for the whole time. If he had seen I was in the wheelchair then they would have pulled us to the front but I said to him that whilst I appreciated the sentiment, I don’t expect special treatment but that I truly appreciated what he had said. He moved some people forward so as to make sure I was inside the shop rather than being outside in what I can only assume must have been chilly weather. I say assume because I find it almost impossible to tell if it is cold or indeed when it is too hot, but anyway, we were inside the shop after my Wife and everyone else had been waiting for two hours. So why were they waiting? Who was the guest? Whose fragrance was it?
I had gone to the `village` effectively to take the kids around the shops to keep them entertained and also in case they needed to use the toilet and to take some pictures when my Wife and kids got to the counter to talk to Peter, when they were the next in the line though this changed. Mr Andre, with his Girlfriend and baby off to the right side of him standing with the shop staff, was keen to talk to me, he was initially playing “peek-a-boo” with “Pickle” through the glass counter which was both quite cute and amusing, he gave my Wife a hug and a kiss (to be fair though she did say, “Hiya, so am I going to get a kiss then? So she may have caught him by surprise a bit, chuckle chuckle) and then wanted to speak to me. He asked what happened for me to be in the chair and some people will shy away from the question while others think it is rude to ask but I am happy for people to ask me anything, if I don’t wish to answer then I will say (and have on a couple of occasions) that I don’t really want to answer that if you don’t mind. He was a very nice guy actually and wanted to talk more but his minders had to tell him that there were still a great many people to go through and that he was against the clock and so to that end we exited the shop with a very happy Wife and kids. The rest of the visit to the `village` was paled into insignificance after the perfume shop but we did indeed take the kids back in to the Cadbury shop where it appeared that I left the shop with a large bag of various chocolate biscuits and sweets, hmmmmmm. It was a nice trip out for my Wife and kids who all enjoyed meeting Peter Andre although it is not the first time that my Wife has met him as those who have followed my blog for quite some time will already know, and I am glad that I got to share it with them. With all that standing around though, they were hungry and so my Wife and I decided that as it was technically (if you take a left turn instead of a right turn) on the way home, we would stop in and have lunch at the Stonemasons (shocker eh?).
My Sunday (5 October) was brilliant! Two of my friends said that they were up for a cycle ride and so on Sunday afternoon at around a quarter past one, they arrived at my place just as I was checking the tyre pressures on my hand cycle helped by my Wife and Daughter. As I am unable to get the cycle out of the bungalow on my own due to the angle it needs to be lifted, I asked if my Wife could come down and take it outside for me so that I could check the pressures and get it ready for my ride which she did. Just as I finished the checks Johnny and Brad tipped up which was helpful as it meant that my Wife could help me in to the cycle so they could see what I needed them to do in the future. The ride to Ilminster is not a long one, probably five miles all in and it is a ride I did years ago every day (Ilminster to Chard and back) for work, I have not ridden it for a good many years and never using my hands so this was for me going to be a challenge, I had no idea how far I would get or how I would get on but I did know that I would be working my butt off to try to do it and would be getting a good workout while doing it. The road out of Chard is a hill, not the steepest hill in the world but steep enough when only using the muscles in the arms and shoulders to move. The good thing of course is that what goes up inevitably has to come down and thankfully this is the case with this hill as the video shows. This is me going out of Chard on to the road running towards Ilminster.
I don’t pedal down the hill as I am unable at the moment to get on to the largest cog which would give me another ten gears, this in turn will give me the speed and momentum to get up the slight slope the other side just before the nice very, very slight downhill road. The gears I am going to get sorted by the cycle shop in town who the friends who I have that go mountain biking go to for repairs and parts, he comes highly recommended and having spoken to him he has said to get one of the lads to drive my “Chucklebus” up with the cycle in the back and he will sort it out, I have to let him know when though so that he can re arrange his shop to get mine in! When we got to Ilminster there was only one real place to go for a refreshing drink, can you guess where that would have been? That’s right, the Stonemasons.
During my ride, which I have to do on the road as the cycle path is now overgrown resulting in thorns in my tyres, has large piles of horse shit which I am unable to avoid and therefore either have it end up on my seat or stuck to the bottom of my seat and the tree roots have obviously grown (because they do that) and have raised the tarmac meaning that my cycle bottoms out, the motorists were amazing. No driving really close, or beeping of horns or shouting abuse in fact many of them actually `flicked` their indicators as a sign of thanks when Brad and Johnny waved them passed. One of them would ride behind and the other would ride in front or if there was a bend which would make it dangerous for someone to pass, would ride alongside me so as to be someone that car drivers could see. I appreciate that I am only a few feet tall in my cycle but even though I have a bright white LED head torch on, a high vis vest, a bright orange flag, a yellow cycle and three red flashing lights on the rear of my cycle, people still don’t see me which is why I don’t go on my own. Having Brad or Johnny next to me just ensures that the cars or lorries don’t drive over me. As I said, on the way the vehicles were amazing, not so on the return journey. There was one car in particular who was quite the tosspot. He sat behind us on the bend which was good as it was not safe for him to pass as he could not see but insisted on blaring his horn. Finally when he was waved past by Brad we got a hand out of the window and it was definitely NOT his thumb that he was sticking up, what a tosser. We had a foreign articulated truck get the arse too but having driven lorries, I know that if you are passing a bike and something comes the other way, the lorries WILL move in and as I am allergic to pain I would prefer not to be driven over by a 40ft lorry! My Sunday was brilliant though and it was great that Johnny and Brad also enjoyed it and want to go again. Next time though I aim to go faster (sorry guys, I know you couldn’t keep up on the down hills), and with not needing to stop although I am not sure that will happen on the next attempt, I rather think it will be a little later than that.
Now for the shitty bad news. Due to my being unable to form a support team to help me with my Three Peaks Challenge at the end of this month, for my safety as I don’t think it is a very good idea for me to try to go up these hills on my own, I am rather embarrassingly having to cancel again. It has left me embarrassed and a little upset as I had been looking forward to it more than you will know, despite my enthusiasm and determination though I am not suicidal and to attempt to go to the tops of the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales at the end of October on your own as an able bodied person would not be very clever at all and as a paraplegic whose body cannot warm itself up like an able bodied person, it would be bloody stupid. I am not however giving up and will simply spend from now until next summer organising up a support team of probably civilian people who enjoy the outdoors if I am unable to create one from the military, assuming I am anything to do with the military by then as I have my Medical Board coming up where it is likely I will now be discharged, I will have to wait and see. I am going to keep the donation page open as there are a few people who have sponsored my attempt and so this will roll over until next year, I will of course put it on here when it is re arranged for the summer of 2015. I do want to thank Sean and Rob though who had stepped up for the first attempt, it meant a lot and I hope that they may well join me in the spring/summer of 2015. Please, again, accept my most sincere apologies as it is not through lack of effort that I have had to cancel.
Take care all.
(Permission given by Peter Andre to use the image)