Day One, Again

I’d lost track of how long I’ve been at this blogging thing.  But WordPress told me last week.  I’ve been writing at Gin & Lemonade for six years.

Well.

That makes me want to apologise that my last post before this was a muddy puddle.  But I won’t, because y’know, cute kid.

Someone asked me recently how I was doing.

‘Yeah, she’s two.’

‘I know,’ said my friend, in Edinburgh, on the phone, in a building where I used to work.  ‘But I asked about you.’

‘Oh.’ Actual-ha-ha-dry-laugh.  ‘Ehm.  ‘How ’bout you go first?’ I said.

Because I don’t know how I am.  But I’m trying to find out again.

Our very big medium-sized house in the country is set on sloping gravel that we’re getting paved.  The first step in that process was widening the front door and ramping over the front steps.  That happened over two very noisy days last week.

We took Isla to Inverness for the weekend, on a trip that included getting stuck behind some elk at the safari park, catching Pokemon and Finding Dory.

And came back to a finished ramp into the house.

I know, I went very quickly from ‘me’ to ‘we’ again.  But my point is this.  I plan to use the ramp to get out more.  Yes, I’m looking forward to racing Isla all around the house, but maybe I’ll go further and take a class somewhere, and go for coffee more often, take the camera places.  Fill up some new notebooks.

I have been out of the house before this, but the spontaneity and heart is taken out of it when your husband breaks his toe on the ‘portable’ ramps (one track for each wheel) that the OT department gave you.  (Thanks, but no thanks, but thanks?)

And so, new ramp, new me?  Not quite.  Because I like me.  But I’d like to do more of the stuff I like: writing, working, blogging, laughing, finishing coffee, talking to people who aren’t two. Maybe working outside this house.  And yes, making sure Isla eats and sleeps and learns and laughs.  Because when she does all of those things it’s like I’m doing those things.

But more ‘me’ things on the list, I think.

And so, hello. How are you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bow-Ties Available at Reception

Regular readers will know that my boyfriend sometimes wears a kilt and walks around with a knife in his sock, in the name of Scottish traditional dress.  His 90 year-old Gran recently requested that he get fully decked out to attend her birthday dinner, and he obliged.  With a little help.

Last April, he bought a full kilt when friends of ours got married.   He wore the  jacket and my father’s tweed waist-coat.  This caused me to get all misty-eyed and gooey, but that could be another post.

A few weeks ago, we packed a bag and his kilt, and stayed at a hotel closer to the birthday dinner.

The accessible room wasn’t, actually.  And the quest to find another one was like something out of Goldilocks/Fawlty Towers/The Twilight Zone.  The third key opened a door to a room that was usable for the one night we used it.  We brought my chair and Sarge’s kilt over the threshold and all was right with the world.  Sarge put on his kilt and went back into the bag for his bow-tie.  Wasn’t there.  No romantic-looking silk cravat, either.  Not in the bag, under the bag, or in his shoe.

‘How do I look without it?’

‘Fine.’

‘That means not fine.’

I shrugged.  Something WAS missing.

‘Should I phone my Mum?’

‘What for?’

‘To see if Dad has a tie?’

‘You can try.’

‘Is that like ‘fine’?’

‘Maybe.’

And so, he called his Mum.

No tie.

‘Is there time to go to a shop and get one?’

There wasn’t.

Five minutes later, his Dad called Reception and the same woman who showed us into our room brought Sarge a bow-tie.  From her brother-in-law down the street.

‘That’s pay-back for the room mix-up,’ I said when she left.

I have been traveling, and living, all my life; no room is the perfect fit.  That’s true for anyone.  What’s accessible to me in my chair may be inaccessible to someone else.  I know work is always being done to improve accessibility. Somewhere, everywhere.  I’ve helped to do some of it.  One place/attitude at a time.

But there are times when I have access issues.  Most all of my issues are access issues.  When life gets interesting, as I like to say, I choose to laugh and write about it.  Last time I had an ‘access issue’, I got free beer.  Most recently, compensation came in the form of a clip-on bow-tie for my boyfriend.  I can take, and appreciate, both.

A digital photo of an old BOWTIE (red_velvet_p...
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My Island Diaries: Mull

Wherein I get fresh air and new perspectives, remember promises and maybe change my mind.

Edinburgh – Glasgow, holiday o’clock.

Sarge turns on all the lights in our bedroom to make sure I am actually awake. We have cupcakes for breakfast.  They are neither red nor velvet.

I put on striped socks, a museum t-shirt and a Mom-made sweater. We take a taxi to the train station and get there with time to spare.

This time I actually booked ramp assistance. Someone in a suit and tie sets the ramp between the train and the platform, and we are officially on holiday.

The biker sitting next to us is reading his Kindle. My paper and ink book hides my curled lip. And I like bikers.

Glasgow – Oban

Our second train of the morning has facing seats, but we face no-one. We figure the people behind the names on the reservation slips have over-slept.

Sarge reads about 20 pages of Blood Meridian while I finish When God Was a Rabbit. I cried into my ham sandwich.

Oban – Mull

We got our unreserved ferry tickets and joined the queue. Aside from a family with twins, we were the youngest travellers.

We ramped onto the ferry and rolled into the bar for expensive coffee and on-tap lemonade with very little syrup in it.

Sometime later I asked, ‘We moving?’

‘We have fifteen minutes left.’

Once I realised this, I got woozy, of course. I might have used Sarge’s beard as my horizon.

As we docked, a rainbow appeared. We were on holiday.

Mull, Thursday.

The rain greeted us off the boat. We were on an island where time stretched before us. I used the last of my phone signal to tell The Crew (Dad, Anne, and Anne’s Mum) where to find us.

The coffee-shop had about five awkward steps, so we followed the signs to the pub. We were half-way through our fish and chips when The Crew arrived. I might have taken a photo of the map before I said, ‘Hello, I’m on the map!’

We got to the cottage where I snapped another map, and read the back of all the the books on the shelf before I took off my coat.

I took off my shoes and started Notes on a Scandal before the coffee was all the way brewed. Dad and Sarge started the fire. I gleefully switched off my phone, asking Sarge to take the photos so I didn’t have to look at it all. ‘Start with the lobster on the wall,’ I said. Because, well, there was a lobster on the wall. He didn’t. ‘You already have a lobster,’ he said. Yes, really.

The kitchen caught me in the throat, reminding me of the one I did most of my growing up in. We had pasta for dinner. I still find it funny I have to rely on my father for my Italian food fix.

We went back into the living-room and ended up watching a documentary on eagles. I fell asleep before they landed. I woke up long enough to ask if I’d been snoring.

‘Like a girl,’ Sarge said.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Iona, we thought, Friday.

I write and drink coffee at the kitchen table. I am in a time-warp while the others take showers and put on socks.

We get in the car and have ice-cream before lunch on the way to the Iona ferry.

Now. Because of some loophole, we can’t take the car on the ferry. So, Iona is closed to us, kinda. I hate loopholes. I made several mental notes, and the adventure of the day becomes navigating around the gift shop and hunting the elusive accessible toilet. There is one, but it’s Radar key locked. It’s a universal key that opens all the Radar toilets. Well, if you have a Radar key that is. I have two. Neither of which were in my bag when I needed one.

The other toilets were gated, with no attendant to be found. I tried to walk through, but even my skinny ass didn’t fit.

Sarge and I trooped back to the car.

‘What’s the problem?’ Dad asked.

‘It’s locked, and I don’t have my key.’

Dad took his keys out of the ignition and waved one of my Radar keys in the mirror.

‘That’s mine!’

‘Aye, and you gave it to me for times such as this.’

‘I’m so smart. Gimme.’

Sarge opened the door and honestly, I don’t remember much after that.

Back at the cottage, it was time to tackle the shower. Because my chair didn’t fit in through the door, I transferred to another one, brought in from the kitchen.

I looked at the step into the shower. ‘Well, that’s excessive.’ But I took Sarge’s hand, stepped up and launched myself in anyway. Onto yet another kitchen chair.

I took my own chair to the kitchen table, where we had scallops with apple and cream sauce and then played Poker for chips and Goldfish crackers. Let’s do the time-warp again.

On the road, Saturday.

We take a guided van tour around the island, in search of eagles and seals. We stopped at various points for fresh air and photo opps. The guide had straps that hooked onto the front of my chair, and I can now say that I’ve been dragged up a hill. When we got to the top, I said, ‘Thanks, boys. Can we do that again?’

I stayed in the van for the last stops, happy to have the doors open, sharing biscuits and binoculars with Anne’s Mum. Sarge was out at the very edge.  Dad circled back to van to ask me, ‘What’s he doing?’

‘Looking for penguins.’

We drove back through late rain and then sun to another card game before another night on couch cushions.

On the road again, Sunday.

No time for Dad’s pancakes, so we had cereal before the others packed the car. I stayed in the kitchen as long as I could, and as I left said, ‘Goodbye, house.’

I am not a city girl.

We stopped for bacon rolls before the others took the car on the Oban ferry and Sarge and I walked up. And talked of times that aren’t now.

The Crew found us on the ferry and I may asked for a shot of Anne’s Kindle. Maybe.

We got off the ferry, and had fish and chips next to the train station, before The Crew left for the drive back. I may have cried. Maybe. I hate endings. I much prefer hellos.

I finished Red Dust Road before we even got to Glasgow. I was too bleary-eyed to read on the second train. Reality was creeping in already.

‘Where should we go next?’ I asked as we sat with cups of tea in our very-city flat in Edinburgh.

‘Anywhere we want to go,’ Sarge said.

(Taken from my journal, written around a family trip to Mull, September 2011.  Our Raasay trip can be found here.)

Some of Sarge’s photos (and the one of me on the map), used with permission!

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Going Home

‘Is the chair coming off?’ the bus-driver asked Sarge.

‘No,’ I said ‘I thought I’d leave the chair here and walk off myself.  Have a nice day.’  And I went down the ramp.

Two more ramps and I was on a train to Glasgow.  As I dug my book out of my backpack, I realised this was the first time I’d done such a trip without Sarge.  And I began to miss him, because I am sap.

I had plans to meet friends and camp out in the pub before spending the night at my Dad’s.  Another ramp and I was at the bar.

‘Framboise, please.’

‘What flavour?’

Perhaps because I am a word-nerd and a beer-snob, I might have laughed.

‘Um.  Raspberry.’  And then I read a sign that said the pub would be closing at the exact time I was meeting my friends.  Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed.

I drank my raspberry beer, and I waited.  Nobody else was in a hurry to leave.  I may have actually looked up at the sky through the trees and said ‘I’m home.’  My friends arrived, and then another one.  Then we got the chair and ourselves into a rather small car and went somewhere else.  I told the story of how last year four people and the chair jig-sawed into a Fiat.  And off we went.  Good times.

The next place wasn’t closing, so we got dinner.  I kept noticing things on the menu that Sarge liked.

‘I miss him.  Is that weird?’

‘Yes.  But no.  But yes.  More drink?’

‘Yes!’

We ate, and drank.  And I swear peanut-butter cheesecake was cosmically placed on the menu just for me.  Because my cheese-phobic boyfriend wasn’t there.  Of course I ordered it, but I couldn’t finish it.  I might have shed a tear.

At one point, my best friend knocked over my drink in a frenzy when her boyfriend walked through the door.  Now. I cannot truthfully say that I don’t spill, drop or otherwise despatch my unfinished drinks sometimes, Sarge or no Sarge.  But as I laughed and dabbed my vodka-soaked thigh, I asked my friends, ‘Are we that bad?’  I knew they’d speak the truth.

‘Worse.  You guys are worse.  But we love you.’

And that’s the truth.

We decided to do shots.  For purely practical reasons.   There is less for me to spill.  I’m not co-ordinated enough to do tequila justice.  There are too many steps.  I do the salt and the licking in the wrong order.  It makes me nervous.  So I was on the B52s, which has only one step.

Sarge texted that he was bored and working late.  He wanted vicarious excitement.  I texted back:  Doing shots and discussing rules of grammar.  Does that work?

My friends are cool.

After arguing semi-colons; I asked if anybody wanted to come back to my Dad’s; so I could beat them at Poker.  It was easier to get the chair in the car the second time round.  The designated driver drove his sister and me to my Dad’s house.  We talked about ethics and equality and the merits of good tequila until early in the morning.

My Dad’s cool, too.

Later that day, I went up another ramp into the taxi to the train station.

‘Where do you come from?’

‘Here,’ I said.

‘Where you going?’

‘Home,’ said.

This seemed to confuse the driver, who changed the subject to the weather.

I was browsing the books at Waverly, when Sarge says, ‘I thought I’d find you with the books.’

I was home again.

Home isn’t just one place, because some people have lots of places.  Home is the people waiting for you when you get there.

 

 

 

 

 

How To Get Free Beer

These drinks were not free.

Last weekend, Sarge and I went to the pub (OK, two pubs) to meet with friends and prove that he had survived meeting my mother.  We left the first pub in search of another one with an accessible toilet.

I spend half my life needing to pee, and the other half looking for an accessible toilet to pee in.  I have accepted this as an interesting/annoying part of my life, and go with it.  Or not.  (Pun maybe intended, I haven’t decided.)

Anyway.  We arrive at what has become one of my favourite places to drink.  Comfy couches, generous measures, and the much sought-after accessible toilet.  A girl could get spoiled.  Almost.

On this night, I ordered and made my way to the bathroom, where I did not have to pop my shoulder to lock the door.  Maybe that was the problem, it was too easy.

Fast forward to turning to leave.  And I couldn’t.  No, there was no dubious graffiti to hold my attention (although, nothing beats ‘Stephen Hawking hates karaoke’ which I read off the wall of an accessible toilet in Glasgow once.  OK, maybe twice.)  No, the walls were clean this time.

The door that had been so easy to lock wouldn’t unlock.  That’s right.  I was locked in the toilet.  By myself.

The latch was, um, bent.  I tried to push it through with my nail(s), which until this point I’d wondered why I’d let them get so long.  That didn’t work.  I may have rattled.  I may have banged.  I may have looked for the emergency cord, which, when needed, wasn’t actually there.  I may have cursed graduating from bobby pins in my hair.  I may have shouted ‘Hey, you guys?!’ And then, ‘Lo?’  And then, ‘YO!’  I may have done all of these things.  And then I banged some more.

Now.  I wasn’t really worried.  I just wondered at what point Laissez-faire would become ‘What the hell is she doing in there?’

There was a knock.  I froze.  Who would it be to spring me?  And who would I be to them?  Would I be my-loveable-kooky-girlfriend or some-random-crazy-bird-who-locked-herself-in-the-loo?

‘Yes?’

‘It’s me, are you OK?’  When Sarge became my Knight in Shining Army Boots, this was not in the job description.

‘Um, no.  The lock is (broken).  I can’t get out.’

‘Oh.  Right.  I’ll get the bar staff.’

And he might have said, ‘My girlfriend is locked in the toilet.’

‘They said to push the latch with your finger.’

‘Tried that.  Not working.’

And I heard someone else.  ‘Oh.  Right.’  And then, ‘Stand back.  I’ll kick the door in.’

And so.  I parked between the toiled and the far wall, and actually shut my eyes.  ‘Ready!’

As doors go, this one went quickly I suppose.

‘We’ll have someone fix that.  Very sorry.  Can I offer you a drink on the house?’

‘YES.’ I’d forgotten I wasn’t speaking through a door.  ‘I think so.  Yes.  Thanks.   And a round for my friends?’

‘Sure.’

We decided afterwards we should have ordered Champagne.

And so.  If you ever want free drinks, consider getting locked in the toilet.  And then don’t do it.

In my last post I bemoaned doors I couldn’t lock.  I think I should be careful what I wish for, no?

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for free drinks or food?

He’s So Handsome. You Look Tired.

I was sitting in an airport chair, waiting for my chair to roll through on the baggage-claim belt.  Sarge and I were trying to convince the Sky Cap my chair would be through on Over-size Items, which meant we were waiting in the wrong place.

Sarge was tired, and I was just wired and wanted to get OUT.  We got our bags, and then Sarge pointed over my head.

‘It’s over there,’ he said, pointing to my chair which had been where we said it would be the whole time.

Sarge went to get my chair; I did a quick scan to see everything was in the right place and transferred without putting the brakes on.  ‘Let’s blow this Pop stand,’ I said.

My mother has since said she spotted me before I saw her.  Not unlike our last airport hello where I waved at the wrong woman before I realised my mother was standing behind her, a very bewildered stranger who wondered why I was waving so frantically at her.  In my defence, my mother and the stranger had been wearing the same coat, and I so tiredwired, perhaps I thought I was seeing double.

This time, I met my mother halfway, away from the general crowd.  We speak on the phone often enough that my accent is confused, but we hadn’t seen each other in over 5 years.  In the airport, under those harsh lights at around 11 pm, it didn’t seem that long at all.

I introduced The Boyfriend to The Mom, they were already saying hello as I did so.

‘I gotta pee,’ I said, and raced off as my mother asked Sarge to load the car.

I got to toilets just as they were being closed for cleaning.

Now.   Some accessible toilets in America are inaccessible.  Because you can’t get in, turn around, and shut the door.  In a stall, the idea of a turning-circle is as foreign as well, something foreign.  I don’t think it’s possible lock the door, unless you’re a contortionist.  As it is, I’m double-jointed, and most of the time I can Pop-(my shoulder)-Lock-(the door)-Pee (hopefully not in my pants.)

I’d forgotten this short but all-important sequence until confronted with it.  ‘And I’m here,’ I said, as I left the bathroom in search of my mother.

I asked her what she thought of Sarge.

‘He’s so handsome.  You look tired.’

‘Thanks.  Can we go now?’  I was already morphing back into the 12 year-old I’d been when I first left New York.

My mother only goes online when she needs directions.  We got in the car, and Sarge read out the Mapquest instructions to my cousins’ house, where Sarge and I would be staying for what I dubbed Family Week.

An hour later, we’d gone through my old neighbourhood, called the house several times and passed it twice before my cousins welcomed us with pizza and a Saltire sign.

I fell asleep while Sarge brushed his teeth.  And dreamt of surprises.

Where Sweaters Go To Die

A few months after I got my favourite pen, my Dad packed it and the rest of my life into the car and drove me down to University.  As The Dixie Chicks blasted out of the speakers and through the open windows, I was as excited as I’d ever been up to that point in my life.  Scared shitless, but excited.

Pretty much ever since then, I’ve employed Personal Assistants to help me do any of the stuff that can be done while I still have bed-head.  And then they help me tame the bed-head.

I’ve never had a fundamental problem with paying people to help me do things; it is a fact of my life.  And it helps me live it.  Some of my PAs have ended up friends after we stopped working together.  I wouldn’t have met these wonderful people if I hadn’t had to hire them first.

I do have an issue with the fact with every house-move I’ve made my hours/funding has been cut.  I will still have bed-head, whether I wake up in Glasgow or Edinburgh.  No matter where I am, I will always need help in the shower, will always poke myself in the eye while putting mascara on.  And really, who wants to do that?  My mascara would last a lot longer if Social Work Departments/Councils would let me keep all my hours.

While I wait to be re-assessed after every move I have to rely on assistance from the Council which I have no control over.  Any number of people can come into my house, do what they want and leave when they want.

A few years ago, while waiting for my Direct Payments to be re-instated after a move, Council help would come in at 6.45am in order to ensure that I’d be ready for work.  At 10.00.  It doesn’t take me that long to get ready, even with the bed-head.  But that was the time people were ‘available’ to do’ me.  I had to take it.

I will never forget this exchange, at 6.45 on a rainy morning:

Stranger Who Had To See Me Naked:  What’s wrong with you?

Me:  What?  Oh, I haven’t had my coffee yet.  I’m not a morning person.

SWHTSMN:  I meant the scars.  Were you shot?

Me:  What?  No.  If you’re looking for my medical diagnosis, which isn’t any of your damn business, I have CP.  Those are surgery scars.

SWHTSMN:  I know someone who has that.  He’s worse than you.  You can do more.

Me:  Shall I stand on my head and spit nickels as well?

I could write several very long books about working with a varied range of people over the years.  I won’t, because I have other books to write.  If I did I’d call it Shit My PA Says.  Stuff like:  Look UP, don’t blink!  Is that how your hair is supposed to look? And the famous catch-all phrase:  Uh-oh.  ‘Uh-oh’ can mean so many things.  I broke your favourite mug.  You’ve run out of coffee.  I accidently vacuumed the cat.

A few weeks ago I heard that ever-interesting ‘Uh-oh!’  I braced myself and followed the trail of mumblings.  I went into the kitchen, and there was my PA (a lovely lady from an agency I’m using until next week when two lovely new people start.  Employed directly by me.)

Back to the kitchen, and Lovely Lady is holding up one of the sweaters my Mom made for me.  It was decidedly smaller than I’d known it to be.

Lovely Lady:  It shrunk!

Me:  I put it in the hand-wash pile.  It wasn’t supposed to go in the machine.

LL:  It must have escaped!  Maybe it’ll stretch!

Me:  It won’t.

LL:  You can wear it as a belly-top!

Me:  You’ve seen my belly.  That ain’t gonna happen.  And I’m nearly 30 years old.  Even when I wore belly-tops, I never wore belly-tops.

That sweater is the latest of 3 hand-washers that have ‘escaped’ into the washing machine in recent times.

I consider myself a fair boss.  Fairer than most.  New people I work with should know a few things about me:

I am monosyllabic until I have my coffee.

I don’t carry on conversations while I’m brushing my teeth.

I know my hand-wash-only sweaters don’t put themselves in the washing machine.

If we cover those points early on, we’ll get along just fine.  And the new people are starting just in time; I’m running out of sweaters.

Sarge holing up a wayward sweater.