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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Idiots, mountains and Frank: Part 1 - Kendal Mountain festival.

I am now 19!

*waits for singing*

So...i've been a little busy.

Kendal Mountain Festival
My kayak instructor messaged me a few weeks ago to let me know that a speaker I would probably find interesting was going to be at the Kendal mountain festival...some guy called Josh Dueck. I didn't need to read the brief he'd copy and pasted me as i obviously knew who he was.
He's a Canadian winter paralympic gold medalist skier with a spinal cord injury, who's heart lies in developing free skiing and making it accessible for people regardless of "disability".
I rolled over excitedly into the kitchen to tell Mum "we are going!" with a slight murmured "but" at the end...
Mum: When is it?
Me: Saturday...
Mum: Ok then. Anything else on that day?
Me: Erm...American idiot the musical in Manchester at 7:30pm.

Now at this point I expected Mum to go mad and tell me to stop trying to do 20 things all at once. But this time, she nodded and asked what time the film/talk would be. It was at 10am and she was ok with coming with me to that up in Kendal which is just over an hours drive...then coming back down to Chorley and driving down to Manchester for American idiot. I was half in shock, half relieved that Mum really does get my passion for skiing/adaptive adventure sports and ambitions and excited that she'd be sharing a "proper Laura May day!"and would also get to see and have a taste of the world i bizarrely seem to belong to!

When we arrived at Kendal (early for once!) we found ourselves going on a little stroll across town...finally found the dojo which was the venue that the talk would take place. A lovely huge, massive tarmac hill waiting for us and then a maze of tents selling skis and bike frames...Mum and I must have walked through this tent about 3 times before we finally found our way in, picked up our tickets and actually got in our places!

I also met up with karen Darke as it is crazy the amount of people who have asked me whether i know her because i remind them a lot of her in my attitude towards life. apparently i'm very "can-do" about things. We had a brief little chat about things i'm looking into, and also the fact she did a post-grad degree at the university of Cumbria, seeing as now i'm looking at doing an undergraduate degree there too...more to come further down!

Josh and Mike Douglas did a "conversation" as they put it, about the film they made a few months back called "The freedom Chair".

It was amazing! Mum was crying...and she doesn't cry at stuff..but she said she could feel and smell thesnow as well as relate to Josh's story and the clever way they made the film and spoke about their experiences and how they thought and spoke about consideration for the people who you care about and who care for you. With all the things i get up to and still being quite young, a lot of people overlook the people around me and just see me as "amazing" while my dad quietly worries and my Mum smiles, lets me get on with it but...still worries! Although listening, seeing and speaking to Josh has really inspired me to keep going on the path i am pursuing and creating, it's also reminded me to consider the people around me and remember that when they are slightly concerned for me, it's not because they want to stop me from doing anything but it's because they want to understand why and how i'll do it. Sometimes, they don't even want to know too much...!

I spoke to Josh and also let him know about my plans and what I'm doing and like all the Canadians i've been in contact with he was really open and excited about what i want to do and even offered to give me a hand with things once i get over there.

So after annoying the Kendal adaptive ski guys for a while, as i remembered seeing Alan in hospital, Mum and I dashed across town to visit the University of Cumbria in their yurt (it was so cute!) to enquire about some of their outdoor courses...as i've been planning things recently and now i know what path i want to sketch out...the outdoor leadership course Cumbria seems to be right for me, not just as a "degree" but for other reasons such as a stepping stone into moving out, meeting other like-minded people, testing new ideas and concepts out in a safe environment and...living in the lakes for three years! Even more that i can't be bothered or remember to list right now!
So picture this: A girl in shorts, thick tights and a hoody (basicaly half dressed to be in the outdoors, half dressed to be attending a Green Day concert) turns up to the university of Cumbria's yurt at the Kendal mountain festival saying, "I'd like to do you outdoor leadership course..."
Initial reaction: erm...
Before i had to go through any awkward explanations I just said: Ok, i do skiing, climbing, kayaking and i believe in this amazing new adventure sport called "mountain tricking"...
Through conversation i said a little more about what i do and the positive, open minded lecturer really thought that something could be done to get me on this course...so something is being done.
And hopefully, and i'll keep updating, by next September i'll be starting my outdoor leadership degree...a little different to how this "blog" began, don't you think? It all started with the hope of studying English at Oxford! Which just shows...a lot can change in a year!

More to come...American idiot the musical and the amazing Frank Turner. This was all in the space of one weekend..I met St. Jimmy on saturday and got a hug off Frank Turner on Monday...crazy!



Friday, 16 November 2012

A tiny post about BackUp for Children in Need.

This is my facebook status but for my twitter followers...

Right seriously dudes. Back up and especially the bit of back up I work with closely, their youth services, gets funding from children in need and believe me I am proof as a participant and now as a volunteer of the amazing positive impact this charity has on children, their friends and families lives. The course I led for under 13s this summer and services surrounding it are funded by many generous pe
ople and thanks to children in need hopefully more people will be made aware of both spinal cord injury and also the amazing lives us crazy (and increasingly normal...honest!) lot lead thanks to back up. So If you're thinking of giving any tonight please do for me, coz this is probably the one thing in the world that is really in my heart (other than Angus and political satire, green day and david Tennant) . It has had a massive impact on my life choices and way I live my life. I wanna work in bloody outdoor therapeutic education because of it for crying out loud! Give them money so back up can continue to support amazing kids, coz believe me the ones I've met, will continue to meet and hopefully had a good impact on along the way, are simply amazing. :)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Positive news story about the perception of beauty...

Sometimes I have little blog posts about accepting, embracing and being proud of who you are. Just caught the news and there was a great story on Granada Reports about a girl who received horrific burns when she was young and is now 21 and pursuing a career in modelling. The photos that are taking really capture true beauty.
It's important to not see pieces of you that are different as faults, but as a part of you that makes you who you are.
Enjoy. :)

A video of the story

Friday, 9 November 2012

"It's fine!" - When old buildings and steps get in my way...

I've started some weekly work experience for North West Labour. It's all pretty exciting at the moment as there's both the Police Crime commissioner elections and Manchester central By-election. I'm helping out and shadowing Simon Greenhalgh who's the regional communications officer and there's a lot of quite high profile visits going on, so I'm really seeing things from quite a fast-paced point of view.

This Monday just gone Yvette cooper payed a visit to a charity in Manchester called "Reclaim"in the Portland building (127) in Manchester. Jumped in the car, made the short drive into Manchester...jumped out of the car. We mistakenly went into 125...(embarrassing) where there was perfectly fine wheelchair access to the reception. So we came out, headed over to 127 where we were met by some lovely, pretty, old, stoney steep steps...about 6.
In reality, i could be carried up and that is what we were going to do. However, the guy sat at reception said that they weren't insured in case anything happened and wouldn't allow it.
So I was stuck outside.
I went back to the office and did some paper work, which was fine but annoying and frustrating. It wasn't simon or anyone's fault. It was the people who owned the building who I'm sure are very good at saying "we can't adapt the entrance because it's a listed building etc, etc, etc..."
As I was sat outside this particular building, grinning (because that's what I do) i noticed the poignant "brunt wood" symbol on the glass doors.
This made me grin a little more.
Not in a sinister way just a "only me" way.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about going for a diploma in journalism. News associates in Manchester do a 5 month course...i enquired, was going to go for it but found out that bruntwood, who also own their 111 Picadilly building said they couldn't permanently make it wheelchair accessible because of the design/age of building.

Now I know that this particular company doesn't have anything personal against wheelchair users or people with disabilities. Like most places (because, let's face it, most places are inaccessible) they just don't think, maybe  a little lazy, maybe can't be bothered or think that wheelchair users live fully independent lives and need to get places.
A few of you may know or may have guessed i'm a political history geek who loves old buildings...i love visiting them. I can understand to a point the whole "protection" thing but let's be honest here...we live in a very historical country full of old and fully functioning buildings. So i care, but in situations like this i full on couldn't care less about all this "listed" rubbish...I just want to get to the places i need to get and do what i need to do.

You do know it was a tiny factor of why I made the decision not to go to uni?

I liked all the old and pretty places...history, english and politics courses tend to take place in places like that. I don't mind pushing through, wind, rain and snow up huge hills covered in mud...but not to attend a little lecture while carrying books and notes about. Yes, if i really wanted...I would have done, but as we all know It's not what I truly wanted. But do you see how it has a major effect on major life decisions?
It has a major effect on every day experiences and it's so frustrating.

For now, i won't be doing my diploma as other routes of true happiness have opened up...and missing out on shadowing the Yvette Cooper visit was  a bummer...but this sort of thing happens every day. It's crazy that i'm used to it. And everyone always says "this is law...you should fight..." but having to fight everyday for everything things means you never actually get anything done.

And you wonder why i smile and brush it off and find ways around things?
I'm all for adapting to your environment and I do that, but in order to adapt and live fully...others need to adapt their man-made environments for me!

Friday, 2 November 2012

NCS: Outdoor adventure week in Scotland...

I turned up at the Bolton Lads and Girls Club a few weeks ago, dressed for physio for a "chat" about becoming a volunteer and helping with outdoor activities. I'm pleased to say that my application was accepted and next week I'll be having my boundaries training so I can start my role as an "outdoor adventure volunteer". While we were chatting however, ideas sparked in people's heads and before I knew it I was enrolling to be a participant on NCS. (National Citizens Service) I've heard bits and bobs about it since it began around a year ago. From what I'd initially heard about through the press, I'd had an array of negative/positive thoughts on how it's giving kids who don't appreciate the world in the way some of us do the pretty much free opportunity (£30) to spend a week doing outdoor activities that i'd happily pay £££'s for...I've heard a few stories too. A few of my friends are outdoor instructors and they've not had fantastic experiences with some groups but still encouraged me to try and volunteer or be a participant...(it was way back in the summer when I had these "suggestions") I pretty much shrugged it off at the time...I didn't really know what I'd be doing now or where I'd be heading...then a few weeks ago the opportunity flew in my face and I just knew i needed to take it, especially as I've found that I actually want to pursue all this outdoor adventure lark...

This is me being a role model...of fun of course!

Although I'd be a participant, I'd pretty much be a volunteer only my CRB hadn't come through so I still had to follow the rules of a participant...make sense? It'd be a 5 day residential at the Belmont Centre in Meigle near Dundee. About 120 16/17 olds would be going up from Bolton from all types of backgrounds and for different reasons, along with a group of young people with learning difficulties. I had to cancel a few things I had planned....but just knew...that I needed to do this. Not because it'd be an excuse to be doing what I do best but also because It'd be me doing it alone. I wouldn't have my Back Up bubble or Calvert comfort blanket (as i like to call them) I'd have to do more things for myself, constantly explain and make people aware of spinal cord injury, share more ideas with the instructors about how to do things and well...have the confidence to actually do something without the reassurance of my usual people...!

I went, as I go everywhere, with an open mind.
I'm glad I did. I'm so used to the Back Up mentality of people being prepared to encourage each other with the openness and willingness to see something that may be perceived as tiny, as an achievement. Not many able bodied 16/17 year olds on half term really think like that. Ok, that sounds mean and generalising but that is one thing I learnt last week...that maybe I do appreciate things a lot more than people who are perceived to "have it all" do. It made a part of me a little sad that not everyone can enjoy the world in the way I and so many others do but it also reassured me in my acceptance of the fact that different things make different people happy and that's ok. But the group I was with, as a whole and  despite initial challenges and difficulties, I think got a lot out of the week...maybe, when I see  them tomorrow to carry on our project, things may have sank in about what they achieved as the week went on.

I'd say a little proud highlight was our hill walk...at the end of the walk, you come to a quarry that is beautiful but in order to get there you have to climb quite a few large steps in woodland. Going up, the instructors and other leaders carried me, but coming down the steps, the whole group helped to carry me down and it as a genuine process of communication and teamwork. We didn't really talk too much about it afterwards but at the end of week review, it was mentioned and I think as a modest team, we were all maybe a little shocked and proud of what we can do when you work together.

As the week went on, I realised just how comfortable I am in this setting, and I was right, without Back Up. I was worried that thoughts and feeling I've had for a few years have been romanticised by the fact that I've just achieved so much thanks to that charity, but this week made me see that my ambitions of going into outdoor education and adventure aren't some silly dream because I made a big impact on a  few kids...na, it's me. It's what I want to do.

Me and my Back Up under 13's course group I co-led this summer
down at Calvert Trust, Exmoor.

The day that this all really fell into place was the final day of activities when Chris (one of our leaders) and myself decided to go rock climbing with the independence group who were the group of young people with learning difficulties. As the week had gone on, my love of adapting things had grown even more..I'd had to be open and honest with instructors and try different things and when we got them right I was able to achieve so much. This was the same with the people of various abilities. Some could or only wanted to do "very little" and some wanted to and were able to do a lot. Either way, this group got so much out of working as a team, encouraging one another and having a go while the instructors and leaders worked together to adapt equipment and activities for them. I loved helping out with this and I must say, my first go at climbing outdoors (you know properly, since my injury...not protesting up trees like i used to at primary school!) was pretty immense!
Think I was doing a spot of gardening..

I was extra careful however, as the harness wasn't designed for people with no feeling/sit down all day and I didn't want to end up on bed rest because of an extra ten minutes of climbing, but I got halfway which is pretty cool!

I'll be honest though...there was this play area...and i could have sworn I've dreamt about it! When we'd all finished climbing, the leaders and myself really encouraged everyone to go and have a go on the park...so erm...we did!
video

I discovered that those "disabled" swings are pretty well damn swingy! And without sounding like some kind of weirdo, I genuinely haven't felt the feeling of swinging for 7 years...it doesn't matter how old you get, it's the best feeling in the world! It then turned into a "let's see what we can get Laura on" hour and i ended up on round-a-bouts, fell off the zip-wire, discovered that you can't have a fireman's lift when you've got two rods in your back and almost fell off this bizarre see-saw invention! Coming back in the little mini-bus on that day, there was just a genuine buzz of happiness and pride of what everyone had achieved and enjoyed and once again, I was glad I'd made the decision to go on that little adventure...I met a few people and made some new connections that will lead to some more!

The morning of the best day that was Thursday, i remembered that i needed to get in touch with my parents and Back Up to sort out a few plans for that weekend's volunteer training...my emails came through as well, so i ran through them as quick as I could, sat on a car park in the middle of scotland in between an audi and a Land Rover...(that was the best place for signal!)...and an email from Vancouer Adaptive snow Sports came through asking me if i still wanted to go over and volunteer this season...i replied that i did...and well, that's the next adventure that truly is forming...

Trike time? Bikes, bums and waiting for bureaucrats...

I received my trike the other day...been out on it once, but had to spend one day staying off my bum as i've burnt it (again!) on my FES bike...don't want to end up on bed rest. Most especially with the life I now lead.
Can you see the head? The birth of my trike!

I can feel my body is getting tougher and stronger now I no longer spend all day, every day slaving away writing pointless essays. (Ok, ok, I will always be proud of my Black Nationalism coursework and James Callaghan essay!) I no longer feel lethargic, de-motivated and I'm really enjoying and embracing autumn. I don't think I've been able to enjoy the golden leaves falling in my fringe since before I started school.

My skiing is improving too! Had my 7th ski lesson yesterday. Garlands most definitely are God, but I keep leaning and stacking it when i turn..but hey, i'm getting them turns on a steep gradient in a sport I never tried or knew much about until very recently. When I get over to Canada I'll really be able to work on it for hopefully more than an hour once a week.

I'm just waiting for the opening of the application process for the international experience Canada visa to open so I can apply, set things in motion and head over to volunteer with VASS. My aim is to go over early January and stay for the rest of the ski season..but visas take 6-8 weeks to come through and it's 8 weeks this week till the beginning of January so may be a little later.
I'm still looking for a place to stay but laurie is being really helpful in putting my details out there to see if anyone has the facilities and room for me to stay with them.
The only extra difficulties with travelling alone and being in a chair is just little practicalities that would cause a bit of nuisance even if I stayed in Chorley for the rest of my life (And let's face it, that is something I could never do!) If you break goals down into chunks, you can do it. Coloplast deliver and have their own branches in Canada so i can pee happily! I'll speak to my GP about medication...might have to sort some sort of physio out, I can still receive DLA for  a short period of time which will be very helpful while I'm still getting on my feet. I just need to think about kit and what will be out there for me, what I should take and what I should buy...I'm thinking of buying a Prasch while I'm out there.

Damnnn it's raning now...still going out with people like my Mum in my trike for...safety reasons! Might drag people to Delamere this sunday to get some proper practice in!

I'm having a swimming assessment tomorrow...so hopefully will be come  confident swimmer pretty soon too!