Spring into… Adventure!

March is always a great time to be a gardener, it is when the earth begins to wake from her winter slumber and we get to start on our plans for the season ahead.

So far this march there has been very little sowing. The weather has been more like December and with a frost appearing most weeks most of my early sowings have died in a cold greenhouse or gone leggy on the window sills.

But I have been plodding along and everything is all set for when spring decided it wants to start properly.

What has been far more exciting is I finally have access to a mobility scooter. I have spent some time looking for scooters and as mentioned in a previous blog, I was very embarrassed by my condition

and found very little online aimed at people like me, young people who want to explore a bit more than the average over 60 mobility scooter user. I want to go to the allotment, get to my favorite fishing spots but be able to get the scooter in the car for family days out.

With so little info aimed at people like me, I decided that what better way than to start. So the advertiser in me got thinking…

There are reported to be 11 million disabled people in the UK, with a disposable income estimated to be worth £80bn to the UK economy.  1.7million being young working-age adults and with the way technology is developing I honestly believe there hasn’t been a better time to be a disabled people in terms of aids/adaptations to help improve our lives, don’t get me wrong I would rather not have a disability, but I do, it cant be cured and so I have come to realise that I need to embrace it.

So I wrote to various people and companies with my ideas and aspirations for a Vlog/Blog on my journey into the world of mobility scooters.

Cutting a long story short the lovely people at TGA liked my ideas and have loaned me a scooter. Now I know what you are all thinking. They pay me or control what I can write about. but they don’t. They even said to me they have no interest in any PR type reviews or recommendations, just get out use it and write about your adventures, in your own words. To be honest if any of you follow me on Twitter you can see I am defiantly not a “yes man!”

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The scooter arrived and the engineer taught me all the ins and outs of it and so I went for a spin around my street. I actually went to a park area, about 800m from my front door, that I have never been to before. I have lived here for 4 years and 800m away is unexplored ground, because I just haven’t been able to walk that far.

Now with a new found drive for adventure, I went to the allotment. Was a lovely spring day, cold and brisk, but to be out and about in the sunlight, hearing the birds singing was amazing. Traveling around streets and avenues I haven’t seen from “street level” since I was in my late teens, even scooting past peoples gardens, getting ideas for my own, was amazing. You miss so much detail driving past in a car.

This first journey jump-started my creative side again and made me realise I need to start taking my camera out again. I loved taking photographs of obscure objects, as a student I would photograph everything from pavements to churches, looking for that special shot, so when a friend called to say he was going to RAF Cosford museum and would I like to come I jumped at the chance to get out and take the camera.

 

Being able to explore RAF Cosford in comfort was lovely I packed the rucksack strapped it to the scooter and off I went camera at the ready.

I was obviously enjoying myself as by the time I got to the gift shop I realised id been in the museum for over 4 hours! There is no way I could have spent 4 hours on my feet, walking and taking photos but on the scooter it was fantastic.

 

I have such excitement for the year ahead now I have a scooter, so many things I loved doing and thought were in the past are suddenly accessible again, and going around RAF Cosford I was reminded by Simon that this summer we get presented with our wings at RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) what an amazing adventure this will be. I didn’t get to look around many of the aircraft last year, due to my stubbiness to accept I needed a scooter. But this year I plan on photographing every single one! #AnyoneCanExplore
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Accepting disability, adapting and adventuring!

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For the best part of my life I’ve, pretty much, done anything and everything to try and hide my disability. it hasn’t always worked, to be honest, anyone that spends a good amount of time in my company soon realises something isn’t quite right, but I muddled through my younger years and lived life as best I could without any public declaration.

So as my conditions deteriorated the thought of using any form of aid or appliance was a no go for me. I may have a masters in advertising but I had no interest in promoting my disability, and the thought of a cane, let alone a mobility scooter, just seemed like a flashing neon sign to hang around my neck.

The obvious downside to all this is, I wanted to still do the things I loved, like visiting the National Trust, fishing the lakes and rivers off the beaten track and simply just going outside with the family and dog for a walk, picnic or mini adventure. But instead, my pride held me back so…
I stopped walking the dog with my fiancee,
I stopped going to my favorite fishing spots,
I stopped exploring the National Trust
I stopped country walks and urban exploration in favor of sitting in a cafe or on a bench, watching my family walk off into the distance as I didn’t want them to miss out on the fun just because I couldn’t do the walking anymore. I had stopped living.

Then a few amazing things happened in my life. I got to learn to fly with the charity FSDP, please see my youtube channel for all the details… I digress.

Anyway, as part of my flying adventure, I met an amazing guy called Dan.
Dan your an inspiration! possibly one of the worst thing you can say to a disabled person and something me and Dan would joke about regularly during the 3 weeks we spent with each other.  That’s Dan in the back of the plane.
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Well, Dan could see how much I was struggling some days with just the pain and walking and kept saying to me you need to get a scooter. to which my reply was normally “go away” but less polite version. but eventually, it started to sink in and the more I got to know Dan the more I was realizing that it’s not a bad thing to accept that you need help from time to time. halfway through the 3 weeks, I had to return home for a weekend and while back the weather was great and the family wanted to visit Attingham Park before we got there I said to my Fiancee, I’m hiring a scooter. I almost bottled it in the car a few times but that day was the first time I had ever been on a mobility scooter.

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Driving around that day was amazing, I saw parts of the park I had never been to and when we got to the adventure playground and I had all my energy to play with the children. At one point a little boy 4 or 5 stopped and pointed, my heart sank as his Dad turned to look and I suddenly felt embarrassed until he exclaimed “Wow Dad that’s so cool, can we get one” that just made me smile.

That night I posted the above photo on my Facebook page, Id bit the bullet and wanted to show everyone, this is me. A guy I know from fishing in the local area commented and it stuck with me.

“Mate, never let anything get in the way of doing the things you love” 

I realised then, that all along the only person with prejudice was me and honestly, no one else cares!

Pick your battles and accept small victories when they arrive.

Pick your battles!

One of the downsides to gardening and having a disability isn’t the obvious, most people would think that all the negatives are related to the physical, but alot is mental. The mind is often willing but the body is unable.

Many times I wake up and my head wants to get up go outside and potter about but more times than note my body is screaming at me, no! This can and often does lead to the feeling of being very low, after all its a realisation that we cant do what we used to or what others can and its something we are always internally fighting with.

The trick is to pick your battles. On days when you’re not feeling great and you have a list of jobs, don’t pick the hardest. don’t fight the cards that have been delt you that day, just fold and concede. This is not defeat this is a tactical retreat.

Struggling to do something will only be a hindrance in the long-term, it will drag you down probably make you feel physically worse and in my case normally means I lose more time in the garden as it then takes me far longer to recover.

Today I got up and I feel rubbish, I really wanted to go to my physio and then get in the garden and tidy my cold frame. I was going to force myself to do it too but then the rain descended and I conceded today as a rest day. The way my disability affects me seems to be that for every day I do something physical I then need two days to recover. I have nicknamed these my rest days as psychologically it sits better. I take ownership of my disability and tell it today I rest, because I want to, not because you are making me rest.

And when the weather rolls in and the garden is too cold, wet or windy to do anything have a rest day and take a small victory and live to garden another day.

 

Making Gardening more accessible.

Over the years I’ve adapted my gardening methods to suit me, rather than doing what other people think is best. After all, it’s my allotment so the allotment snobs can take a long leap into a hot muck pile!

There are several things that make my gardening experiences much better, no-dig is the one that seems to cause the most controversy on allotments up and down the land.

Many an allotment holder have this notion that in order to get the most from your plot you must double dig and have regimented long rectangular beds with row after row of thinned out vegetables, this is all well and good and it looks very nice, but it is not the only way to garden and it definitely isn’t the way to garden if mobility is an issue.


If like me, you have a disability or you are slowing down due to age or fitness the one thing you will want to do less of is dig. so adopting the no-dig approach will definitely be something to consider. it is not a fad or some “quick fix” its a tried and tested “proper” gardening technique, that is better for soil, plants and most importantly you.

No dig is even being used now by commercial farmers (they call it no plough) as they have seen the benefits it has on plant production irrespective of its health benefits.

There is, however, one problem with no dig. What I hear you cry! Well, the truth is the allotment snobs hate it. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked. When are you digging your beds? why have you covered your beds with straw? or a week later. are you digging that in soon?

They seem obsessed, and year on year they seem more puzzled by how my crops, amongst straw, mulch and few weeds, seem to grow as well, sometimes better, than theirs. I think a few would rather start believing in fairies rather than admit that no dig gardening works!

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Spring is on its way… or is it?

Well, well, well… had lots going on, both on the Allotment and in my life in general. mostly good, some not so good and something really exciting. but I will have to hold off on the exciting stuff for now as it’s not official and so don’t want to count my chickens!

The allotment has been ticking along, the chicken run is 90% finished (as per the plans in my head) and they seem to love it are back laying. the allotment has been tidied up and most of the beds covered read for the coming year, plus my father-in-law repaired my greenhouse and I’ve even got another greenhouse to go up in the future. finger crossed this means I can continue to grow well into autumn and winter this year.

On The subject of winter, two weeks ago winter looked over, temps were hitting 12 even 13 degrees here in Shropshire, and I could have sworn one day that I even caught the sun on my cheeks from a day out with the family, but the “The Beast from The East” hit us.

https://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/tag/beast-from-the-east/  No Ivan Drogo did not punch me!

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For those of you who don’t know, it was a nickname the weather people have given a storm front that’s moved over from Russia (Link above) and the UK is having a week, maybe two weeks over -3 to -8 and with wind chill it feels around -12. All you Scandinavians and Canadians will laugh but we Brits don’t really do snow and ice. in fact anything more than 3 inches of snow and the country falls apart.
On the upside, seeds have been sown indoors and my local Poundland has been raided for spring and summer flower bulbs and all being well after Ivan Drogo has passed us by the Allotment can continue into a normal mild and wet March and April…. but we shall see.

In the meantime, if you’re frozen to the spot because there is zero gardening going on right now, feel free to watch a few of my rambling on youtube.