Archive for Days Out

HOO18 – Where Fizz got invested as a Cub Scout

Photo shows Fizz with her necked on and her left paw being held by the GSL as he said the Cub Scout promise

This past 5 days I have been wearing my scouting volunteer hat and been camping just outside Wareham with roughly 3,000 children and leaders for the Big Hampshire Event HOO18 which saw beavers, cubs, scouts and explorers from across the county come together to undertake a ‘Monster’ themed camp.

I volunteer within 1st Locks Heath Cubs and it was with my 1st Locks Heath Volunteer family that we had a ‘mini-camp’ within the bigger event.  We had cubs & scouts for most of the week and the smaller Beavers came for a sleep over and a day of activities too.  But we were contained within our own little area;  it is this one little detail that enabled me to go, to join in, to support and to enjoy 5 days and 4 nights at such an amazing event.

With the glorious weather we have been having it was only reasonable that we should arrive in rain on Sunday!  In fact, we had an impromptu stop at Nordon Mines because those leaders and support who had camped out on Saturday night had had to re-build part of our camp after strong winds brought some of it down.

Traveling with Fizz, I went in convoy with a fellow cub leader while the others were transported via minibuses.  When we did arrive to camp it was then that I was to set about pitching my tent. (Something I have done a few times now as you can see in A whole other challenge  ) only this time it was in the rain!

It was actually quite fun.  And having only replaced a dog chewed guy rope the week before I was grateful I had left my groundsheet and inner attached to the outer shell.

With a little help from another cub leader in getting my poles in I was quickly set up.  My tent having side doors was pitched on an angle (one to fit the space and two so the door faced the opposite tents where the children were sleeping) Our ‘mini’ camp was set up with a large marquee and kitchen tent, then children’s tents along one side, with leaders and support along the opposite, with each oth the top tents turned in slightly to create an almost enclosed horseshoe shape.

Each different group had an area like this to set up their own ‘mini’ camp within the camp although layouts varied.

As we had a large canvas marquee with just as large support ropes and guy ropes, an area around the marquee was fenced off with steaks and orange lattice style fencing.  This actually served an alternative purpose, this area gave Fizz an enclosed grass space where she could do her business and I was safe in the knowledge that should i miss picking up if it were dark, no child or fellow adult were going to stand in anything. (As it was she was very clever and kept alll that to daylight hours!)

First item on the agenda for camp is introductions.  We were each introduced to one another (children and adults) and then we went off to explore the bigger site, find our bearings and learn where the all important toilet and shower blocks were.

There was a designated disabled toilet and on our second walk out to if Fizz had it in her mind, knowing where the low tree branches were, where the tree stumps were and even where the boundaries of the camp beside us were.

She was doing so well.  Camp sites are not the easiest to navigate at the best of times; let alone for a guide dog.  A guide dog who is trained to walk on paths, to follow ‘shorelines’ or building lines and to work on clear commands.

I had the clear commands, but there were no buildings as such, I worked her to use the boundary of the camp beside us as a ‘shoreline’ but as for paths ….. It was a large grass field with some gravelled patches and wood chipped paths around the toilets, but very little ‘concrete’

Our ‘shorelines’ only failed when the camp beside us moved their boundaries.  This added to the fact that Fizz quickly came to realise that the camp beside us was one with whom we knew the leaders, we had previously camped out in their hut.  And she soon wanted to take me into their camp rather than around it !!  Teamed with the wonderful food smells that came from their shelter kitchen, I couldn’t completely blame her!

Being such a big camp, the activities were set for us.  There were different ‘zones’ with different activities laid out in each.  These zones were clear and easy to navigate.  The children within the section were sometimes put into teams, sometimes worked in pairs and on other occasions worked alone.  The activities included things like Zip-wire, Go-Ape, Zorbing, Spiderweb-climbing, crazy golf, escape room, dragon boat racing, water slides and even a type of ‘its a knock out’ inflatable arena to name a few.

The only downside was that the activities were for the kids only! I would have loved to have joined in.

As the days went on we moved around different zones, which added a new challenge.

By Tuesday the temperature had risen dramatically, we had erected additional shelters on our camp to ensure everyone had plenty of shade.

This meant Fizz too.

Before heading away I had sought advice from Guide Dogs and with some handy tips and ideas I knew the time had come to leave her ‘benched’ in camp while I used my all-terrain cane to accompany the children and leaders to their activities.

This made the kids laugh, my all-terrain cane has a large red disk on the bottom of a heavier set cane.  This makes it look a bit like a metal detector; but what it means for me is that it will glide effortlessly over rough paving and grass, indicating to me the divots and tree roots, but not getting caught on them.

Unlike Fizz, my cane can only tell me about the ground.  It can not tell me about tree branches and it can’t correct for a group of oncoming children.  So to say I caught a few of those low bracnvhes and bumped some (not many) of the on-coming children would be an understatement.

But this minor inconveniences to me meant that Fizz was safe, she was in shade, had a breeze, plenty of fresh water and no direct sun on her.

The kids within 1st Locks Heath quickly took to ‘looking out’ for me.  My own Pack of cubs were aware of me, but for some of the other groups cubs, beavers, scouts and even some of the leaders I was new and I imagine at times I was also confusing to them.  But without me asking they walked infront of me, they warned me of tree branches and they explained if there were any major tree roots or stumps coming up.  This was a very pleasant surprise to me, it made me feel at ease and as regular readers will know, anxiety goes hand in hand with my sight and hearing loss.

On Wednesday 01.08.2018 at 14:00 as a group we celebrated the 111th anniversary that General Baden-Powell held his first camp for boy scouts on Brownsea Island.  And in the evening at 18:00 we gathered together again as a group and this was when The Group Scout Leader invested Fizz into the Cub pack. Kieth the GSL took Fizz’s left paw in his left hand and read out the promise to her.  He did this with agreement and permission from the County Commisioner and District Commisioner who both believe that this is the 1st ever Guide Dog to be invested into a pack.

As it was felt by all that Fizz was an important part of the team and should be recognised as such.  She was even awarded her own necker, which I am to sew her badges from camp onto.

I managed to keep smiling during the investiture, but when it was over I found myself crying with pride and happiness at the way in which not only Fizz, but also how I had been accepted into the group.

Yes I have been an assistant leader within my Cub pack for just over a year, but I have always felt a little on the outside with regards to the other leaders because of my disabilities. (not intentionally, but just in how there have to be additional measures taken)

I saw a very different side to my fellow leaders and I felt that they respected me for being me and didn’t feel I was a burden to their camp, but rather a benefit. (Given the nature of my sight I am not able to count directly in the ratios for adults to children on camp-so they could have simply left me behind, but my knowledge of the kids, my perseption with the kids was felt to be important, so I was very much included)

The group I went away with made for a great experience.  I have never camped for more than 2 nights together, but barring the odd guy rope incident I managed to survive the 5 nights and 4 days I was away.

Taking my tent back down in glorious summer sun meant I knew it was dry, but it took three times as long to do.  For a tent on a hot day is no place to be; so I took it down in sections.  Resting and rehydrating in between each set.

Other cubs and leaders offered to help me, but I am a creature of habit and like to do things in my own way (but that’s for another blog!)

For now I am feeling tired and I am suffering with eye strain, but at the same time I am feeling happy.  I am finally feeling like part of a scouting family (which so many others talk of)

And I am a very proud guide dog mum.

Photo shows Fizz with her necked on and her left paw being held by the GSL as he said the Cub Scout promise

 

 

Comfort zones

Prolonged hot weather and guide dogs don’t mix.  So where I have been using my cane for all ‘ESSENTIAL’ journeys and cancelling those I could, the length of this heatwave is getting rediculous now!

I can’t keep cancelling things, I can’t keep letting people down.  I can’t keep letting myself down!

Then a very such event popped up in the diary.  An event that no-one would have judged me for for not attending; but one I really wanted to go to and be part of.  So with some extra planning I didn’t let myself cancel.

I even arranged a ‘puppy sitter’ for my faithful Fizz so she would have company and I could take my time….. Also as this event saw me travelling to London it wouldn’t have been fair on her just having the neighbour pop in every few hours.

Yup, you read that right…. I went to London; more so I went to London dogless!

The event was facilitating and supporting route setting for an informal para-comp being hosted by VauxWall Bouldering Centre and Paraclimbing London.

The wall wanted to run the competition to enable abled bodied, non-sensory-Impaired climbers to gain an understanding of how someone could climb with differing abilities.  The competition was also set up so that those with impairments could try out bouldering or improve on what they were already doing.

Being a very hot day meant that London would feel EVEN HOTTER to an outsider like me.  The event was also set to take place on the very same day that The Gay Pride Parade marched on London; and if that’s wasn’t enough, it was also the day that the England Football team got into the Quarter Finals of the World Cup for the first time in decades!

So, as the title suggests ….. Who needs a comfort zone anyway?

Maybe it was the heat beginning to take its toll.  Maybe it was the chance to climb.  Maybe it was simply the fact that I felt I needed to prove to MYSELF that I could do this….. Who knows.

Anyway,  train ticket bought, journey planned and even altered so I didn’t have to tube through London with my cane. (Vauxhall is just one change at Clapham Junction-a station I have regularly used) and I even (virtually) walked the route from the station to Starbucks and then onto VauxWall via Google Streetview.

I planned to arrive early, sadly delays due to network rail engineering works and cancelled trains changed that for me.  However it did mean that I arrived ON TIME!

Selfie photograph of me sat inside VauxWall with people climbing behind me and the signage for VauxWall behind me

The climbing was great fun, even though I sustained an injury to my left hip and right knee.  Paraclimbing London and VauxWall had a brilliant turn out (despite the weather, pride and football) And I found myself only leaving 30 minutes before I had originally planned; in case there were similar issues on the way home.

It wasn’t easy to navigate major (or even minor) railway stations with my cane.  It wasn’t easy navigating where the door to Starbucks was and it most certainly wasn’t easy to navigate finding a seat (or even assistance) on the train.

But I did do it.

Big tick to me.

Although I wouldn’t do it again out of choice!

Its good to challenge yourself some times, it’s good to know that barring the odd ‘rib-jab’ my cane akills are still pretty good.

 

Panoramic photograph of the room hosting the competition in VauxWall with people stood around and some climbing

When my disability felt disabling

This weekend I had a real wobble; anxiety, panic, fear and upset all rolled into one.  This weekend didn’t start off very well.

There are times when people say how inspirational or how positive I am, well this weekend I wasn’t any of these things.  In fact I felt like I was being penalised because of my sight and hearing issues. And I just wanted to leave where I was, give up on my plans for the weekend and walk away from it all.

Thankfully I was surrounded by some great friends; who didn’t allow the negativity to get to me, who stepped up and even stepped in to support me and change things around….. And for this I have gratitude.  Because what started out pretty shitty ended up being pretty AMAZING.

This weekend I attended a MAHOOSIVE Herbalife training event called ‘Summer Spectacular’  This training consisted of two days of training, stories and information from not only some of the best in the UK part of Herbalife, but also some of the best from America, France and South Africa.  Men and woman within the business that were not within my immediate reach.

So my ticket for the event was bought, childcare sorted, transport and sleeping arrangements sorted.  I had the support of my amazing team so I knew that both me and Fizz would be ok.

The training was at a venue I hadn’t been to before, but that was ok because an hour or so on google and I had found enough images of the venue to feel that I had a good enough virtual awareness of it to get through.  There was even a Starbucks on site, what more could I ask for?

The venue; The International Conference Centre (ICC) in Birmingham was also only a short ten minute walk from the apartment we were staying in AND there were plenty of grass areas between the two for me to know that Fizz’s needs were catered for also.

Saturday morning came and while my team mates were taking part in a very large ‘Fitclub’  I was able to grab a coffee, get my bearings and feel prepared for the next few days.

We came to entering the training room and a member of staff quickly found me (having the only dog in the building will get you noticed!!)

My team mates explained (because it was too loud for me to hold a conversation) that I would need to be seated near the front with space for both me and Fizz, but not in a direct walk-way as this could put Fizz and others in danger (black dog in a dark venue is a real trip hazard)

So, the staff guided me down the steps of the auditorium and sat me at the front, but with space the side where Fizz would be able to lay out.  Brilliant, a seat was allocated for my team mate too and I thought all was ok.  That was until the music started.  It was not that it was LOUD.  It was the fact that it was coming from a large speaker right beside where Fizz was to be able to rest…. let’s just say, she would have probably been more likely to burst an ear drum than relax.

No trouble I thought my friend and companion  Jenny got the attention of the staff, asked for us to be moved and off we went.

The next seating we were offered would see Fizz sat directly beside the auditorium steps (a major trip hazard)  but as the seating within the venue was fixed in place the staff were a little perplexed.

Another member of staff was called upon and it was decided that a couple of chairs could be brought in from outside and placed by the door……

“Um sorry I am not sitting right beside the door, where people will be coming and going throughout the day, that’s hardly relaxing for Fizz or suitable for me.”

So the chairs were moved and we were seated beside the camera mans tripod.  But that was ok; at this time the meeting was starting and I just wanted to sit down.

So me and Jenny moved the chairs across slightly giving Fizz the space to lay down.  But by this point not only was I feeling anxious and upset, I was also feeling that because our seating was so different to everyone else that I was on show, a bit of a ‘look at our token blind guest’  and this was what ALMOST saw me walk out.

I messaged my teammate and cousin Charlie with a very frank, honest, choice set of words and we simply replied

”Stay put I will sort this”

Charlie is a rock.  Jenny got me a drink and Fizz nudged at me as if to say ‘it’s ok mum’

Charlie sent me a message a few moments later that simply said “it’s sorted” so I sat, listened to the speakers and awaited the break.

At the break we stepped outside and were greeted by the events coordinator who moved me away from the crowds (these events have upwards of 2000 people attend) and explained that there was a larger room just opposite that had the lights up, had tables, plenty of space and a large screen that was streaming the main event directly into the room.

Well considering at similar events I can only just watch the stage via the screens and never actually see the people as they stand on the stage, this sounded like a good solution.

So into the room we went, table found, cool air con and really good lighting and I felt both me and Fizz relax.  Jenny came with me and she instantly agreed that this was a great alternative and would make it easier for her too to write notes and move about. (The room was a large conference hall, with about two dozen large circular tables.

Fizz was aware that I was more relaxed and as such, she was more relaxed.  And thankfully the rest of the day was much calmer.

The events staff came back to find us to discuss the evening dinner and party.  It would be held in the very room we were sitting in, but dressed to celebrate.  There were set to be food stations, where festival themed food would be available.  The event team asked me to just come also for and try to see if I could cope.

Again they made arrangements for me, Fizz and the a guest of my choice to enter the room before it was opened up to everyone.  To enable me to come in while the lights were up to navigate the room.

Fastforward to the evening ……

I entered the room early with Fizz and Jenny, we found a table to sit at and I was able to familiarise myself with the room layout.  The food stations would be far to tempting and distracting for Fizz, so Jenny agreed to support me by collecting food for me.

Entering the room early may not sound like much; but actually it made all the differenxe to enabling me to enjoy the evening.

I felt relaxed; I felt much more relaxed than I have at any other party event I have attended with Herbalife.

I even got up and danced for a bit and found myself mingling through (with a Jenny’s help) to catch up with other friends and colleagues.

Sundays Training was so much simpler.

We went straight into the ‘break out room’ and we actually found a good few more people sat here.  News of the air conditioning had spread through to the auditorium and even some of our own team joined us.

I don’t feel that I missed out by sitting in the other room.  I did however gain so much.  I would highly recommend that such ‘accessible’ seating was available ….. And as such and email has gone off to the company to ensure more support is available.

After all, o can’t be the only person within Herbalife that has a disability or anxieties about large numbers of people?

 

The day I brought my cane

“Stepping through the door like a troubadour
Whiling just an hour away
Looking at the trees on the roadside
Feeling it’s a holiday
You and I should ride the coast
And wind up in our favourite coats just miles away
Roll a number, write another song
Like Jimmy heard the day he caught the train.”
On this beautiful sunny summers day I couldn’t resist the play on words!
But with this beautiful weather and scorching temperatures come one very sad moment.  And that is that for me to go out during the peak part of the day, my faithful hound Fizz must stay behind.
It isn’t because she is a black dog, it is simply just because she is a dog. And as such can only reduce her body temperature through panting.  She would also be walking bare foot on pavements that have been heated by the sun, which could cause blisters on her paws.
So for me, it is back to my (not so faithful) long cane.  With its red and white strips it was recently likened to a barbershop candy striped cane!!
As a guide dog owner it is important to keep up my cane skills for very such occasions……. But it doesn’t mean that I enjoy this time at all; not one little bit.
Bright sunshine, blue skies and long canes (for me) do not mix well.  I find myself scanning with my residual sight, apologising to shadows and generally find myself more exhausted by the whole experience.
I can’t however cancel all plans and stay home.  I am however limited to how far I can go as Fizz is home I need to ensure I don’t leave her alone too long either.
It is a balancing act and in one way I am grateful that I can still keep my essential independence because of my long cane skills, but in another way I will be much happier when the weather cools a little.

Days like today…….

I have a ‘Have Guide Dog, will travel’ attitude to life, today I decided in the sun to visit Winchester (alone) something I don’t think I will be in a hurry to repeat.

The rudeness, the sly comments & general ‘opinions’ that were continually thrust upon me resulted in a very short visit.

I am more than happy to accept and I do understand that not everyone likes dogs, be that an assistance dog or  a pet.

I do understand that in some cultures dogs are not warmly accepted. But today the comments or actions of rudeness did not come from the here.

Today it came from,

A business woman looking down on her phone;

The art student with a VERY LARGE portfolio;

The man in the queue in Starbucks;

The woman behind me in boots who tutted at me when I asked the sales assistant to repeat herself for the 3rd time because I couldn’t hear her;

The van driver who got shirty when I waved him on because I wouldn’t cross in-front of him.

Were it not for the kindness of strangers I would have found myself fighting tears & heading for the nearest taxi.

it was thanks to ….

The window cleaner who moved his ladder so I would walk past;

Theassistant in Starbucks who offered me water for Fizz while pointing out to the rude man that assistance dog or not I had every right to enjoy coffee;

To the sales assistant in boots who guided me to a quieter area so I could hear what she was saying!

I know that I may stand in the wrong queue at times, I know that my guide dog likes to walk by the building line, which means we often walk right in front of the shop doors, I do understand that I take up more width on the pavement as I walk beside my guide, and she can’t tell me to “step in” the way a sighted person would if the path was narrow.

But at what point does vocalising your opinions change this? All it does is demoralises someone who just wants to get on.  And could even stop a (less stubborn) person from going out and visiting other areas.

Today has been one of those days where I have felt isolated and hurt by the actions of others.  But writing this now I am able to say that I won’t let it stop me, I share this with you now to raise awareness.

Because it can often be the ‘off-handed’ comment that you quickly forget making that can cause irreparable damage to someone.  We never know what demons people are fighting; so just be kind.

It really is THAT simple.

Overheard in Costa (other coffee shops are available)

 “you can tell your teacher tomorrow how you saw a guide dog being trained, that is a very special dog and once that lady has trained him he will look after a blind person.”

“Mummy isn’t that lady blind?”

“No darling that lady isn’t blind, she wouldn’t be out on her own in coffee shops if she was!”

This whole conversation tickled me and I shared it with my friends on Facebook.

I would usually correct the mum, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling myself so didn’t.

For which I am now kicking myself; I also find myself asking

“Why can’t a guide dog user go into a coffee shop alone?”

London just got A WHOLE LOT Easier!

Today I made my first trip of the year into London.  After all, have dog; will travel still stands.

Even more so when a return ticket costs just over £10!

So, 2 hours on a direct train to London Victoria and then to get the tube to meet friends.

Something in the past that I have dreaded a little from London Victoria, but not anymore.

Why?

Because as THE busiest tube station on the entire underground network, Victoria is now ACCESSIBLE.

So, it’s not quite so straightforward, and it isn’t the easiest of ways to navigate.  But all the same, Victoria now has a new North Entrance; which offers step free access (via lift) from street level to tube.

I say it isn’t straightforward because the entrance to the accessible part of the underground isn’t within London Victoria Railway Station, rather it is up the road on the outside by a fairly new shopping area on Victoria Street.

And then once you find the street level lift area, it is then a series of lifts to get down to the deep level of the district/central line, before changing to a 3rd lift to go even further under to reach the Victoria Line.

This multi-lift approach is very similar to the confusion that is Kings Cross, however (thankfully) the lifts have really clear white on blue signage indicating which lift to take to which level.

And as always, helpful and friendly TFL staff more than happy to help.

So, no more dreading this particular tube station and a whole world of possibilities opening up to me without the need to walk on switched off escalators (which isn’t actually always possible when it’s peak time!) with their steeper treads and length distances.

To some this may not seem much, but to others this will help reduce some of the ‘additional’ stresses that London can pose.

When Molly and Chris gave a Masterclass

Image of Members of the group sat around a large table with phones, iPads and other tech sat on the table with numerous cups of tea, coffee and water with Molly stood at the head of the table showing her iPad:

Would you think of a pair of glasses as a mobility aid?

When you see an item every day and used by everyone then it becomes ‘the norm’ and not seen as an aid to support someone with a disability.

There are many products that are designed to support those with disabilities, these include glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs and even other everyday products like iPhones and iPads.

It may not seem like it to a person who has no sensory or motor disabilities, yet all apple products were designed with accessibility and intergration as their base principle.

There are obviously other computer operating systems, programmes and technologies available.  But as a Mac (made famous in a Mitchell & Webb sketch) which I have been ever since I studied at university; way back when Apple Macintosh was for everything design and Windows was for everything administrative.

I have spoken before of my liking for Apple products, and in this I am not alone.  Molly from The Molly Watt Trust is a big believer and user of Apple products, her charity have also helped to support and fund those with Ushers Syndrome by funding an Apple Watch programme as she herself had found its features so very beneficial.

As part of an Ushers Social and awareness weekend (The Weekend that almost wasn’t) Molly was going to give a presentation similar to that that she gives to large companies about accessibility and awareness.

Her work as a Keynote speaker and accessibility advisor sees her working alongside Chris from Sigma (https://www.wearesigma.com/) Among others.

Molly explained the way in which she made use of the accessibility on her iPad.  She spoke of the obvious ‘voice-over’ and how she didn’t use it, how she found ‘zoom’ and ‘speak screen’ more neneficial to her.

She spoke of how you could set you home button triple click to bring you a list of accessibility options.  Including how to use your camera as a magnifier.

These little ‘nuggets’ of information were some that I was aware of and some that I wasn’t.

Since the latest iOS update there was also a rather clever new accessibility feature called ‘smart invert’ this is where the screen and text are inverted in the colours used, but the p have photographs are not……. Savi g confusion with colours when looking at images.

Chris spoke of how accessibility is in the every day, how as I said at the start of this post , “ when something is used and seen every day it becomes the ‘norm’” and how the work he does with Sigma and Molly is about making that a reality.

Molly explained how she found “Hey Siri” a great help; although this was when she realised that another piece of technology she was used stopped the others in the room from heading the response.

You see, Molly wears ReSound hearing aids; hearing aids that stream her iPhone and iPad directly and clearly into her ears.  Just as if she were wearing headphones!

Molly’s work has seen her work with ReSound and it is through this work that I have followed her and learnt about the fantastic products that are available.

Molly and the work she does through her company Molly Watt Ltd is paving the way for those with sightless, Ushers and hearing loss.

This masterclass have me some fantastic information to work with, some new connections to talk to and more importantly new friends who enjoy similar struggles to me.

The session was just a snapshot of what Molly and Chris do when talking to big companies, where there is often very rarely anyone with additional needs in the audience.

But it was enough to make me feel confident that accessibility becoming part of ‘the notm’ Could be a reality in the not to far distant future.

The day we caught the train

Hang on, isn’t that the title to an Ocean Colour Scene song?

Well, for me and Fizz it was a journey home from a fantastic conference and social; with The Molly Watt Trust which saw us take a rather different diversion to one I would have expected.

Friday 15th September saw a terror attack on a London tube train at Parsons Green in South West London.  One that yet again reminded us as a country that there are those among us who wish to hurt, mame and distroy the lives of innocent people.

This was a reminder that being vigilant and staying safe (especially when travelling) was very important.  It was why I had questioned if I should travel to the event this weekend in Maidenhead.

But I decided Maidenhead was far enough away from London not to allow it to affect my plans.  I had planned and double checked all of my travel arrangements and the walk from the station to the hotel several times over (nothing different in that, I do it each time)

So, Fizz and I packed our case and off we went.  The train journey saw us change at Reading.  A station that has undergone lots of work to give it one central walkway, which is up above the train platforms and access is gained to the platforms by escalators and lifts.  The central concorse is home to shops and a verse open space.

This gave to it a very ’empty’ feel.   It also made it hard for me to find assistance to help me negotiate to the correct platform to travel from Reading onto Maidenhead.  So having finally found assistance, we were able to continue with our journey.

It was at this point the staff member that helped us let me know that for the weekend most of Reading railway station would be closed for routine work, with buses replacing trains.

That wasn’t an issue, it would simply just delay or trip home.  Not one I was concerned about.

Well, returning to Maidenhead railway station on Saturday saw me and Fizz greated by friendly GWR train staff,  they asked me where I was heading and gave me a diversion that I was not expecting.

Given the bus replacement services, I could get a bus to Reading, where I would then transfer to another bus and travel onto Basingstoke.  Where I would then get a train to Southampton before the final leg of the journey on a train to fareham.

Or……..

I could go to London!

A direct train would see us arrive at London Paddington in just over half an hour.  Where we could get a tube on the Bakerloo lint to Oxford Circus before transferring to the Victoria Line Tube, to London Victoria from where I would be able to get a direct train to Fareham.

Given the events of Friday in London I was anxious, but at the thought of saving over an hour on the journey home, I had to put my anxieties to one side and just go with it and know, that if anything given Fridays’ incident, people would be more alert and hopefully helpful.

We soon arrived at London Paddington, not long had I stepped off the train with Fizz and stood to the side to gain my bearings than i was approached by a Policeman.  He introduced himself to me, explained who he was and asked me how he could help.

I explained  I was trying to get to the tube station to get across London, so he took me to a member of staff who worked for transport for London (TfL) who kindly walked me and Fizz through the crowds and straight to the right tube train.  He put us in the front carriage and radio’d through to a colleague at Oxford Circus.

And sure enough a lovely TfL staff member was waiting for me and Fizz.  She walked us through to the Victoria Line, where again she placed me and Fizz in the front carriage and radio’d ahead.

All of these journey’s were taking place late afternoon early evening on a Saturday, a day that is by its very nature a busy day.  But everyone I came into contact with was chatty, friendly and happy to offer help.

Maybe it was because of Friday’s attack, but everyone in London and especially on the Tube on Saturday seemed to be much more ‘together’ much less rushed and more friendly to those around them that weren’t ‘natives’ to this vast city.

Arriving at Victoria tube station, me and Fizz were greated by a fantastic TfL member of staff.  He not only guided us through the tube station, he also allowed us to ‘cut through’ locked gates and closed escalators to enable us to get through to the main Victoria Train station, where he was all ready to take me to my platform to get my train, before I said I would be having a break at the station, take Fizz out for some grass and get a much needed coffee.  He kindly walked us to the exit for the park and wished us safe travels.

The TfL staff and both police and transport police get a lot of ‘stick’ for just doing their jobs, they are not always praised for it.  I wanted to write this blog to show my appreciation.

I have always received great support from staff and police while travelling.  But Saturday was over and above what I had ever expected.  London police were out in force and clearly had a job to do.

The initial police office did not HAVE TO offer his help, but he did.

The TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead for assistance to wait for me, but he did.

The second TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead to Victoria, but again….. She did.

And just as the last member of TfL staff didn’t have to take me on a ‘shortcut’ or guide me right to my train platform….. He did (or rather would have had we not detoured to a grass spot!)

So, a journey that sounded horrendous was made so much more bearable by kindness and friendliness of strangers.  Because the support didn’t stop there.  Several times as Victoria train station I was asked by both staff and fellow travellers if I needed any help.

And even on our train home, one that due to my own mistake would see me and Fizz needing to change just one last time (I got on the Portsmouth train, instead of the Southampton train)  But with a simple step off one train and Havant and then almost straight back on another train (without the need to change platforms) I received so much support and offers of help.

I think it sometimes takes a horrible event, like that of Friday for people to come together and support those around them that may not find the journey as easy as them.

I would like to extend my thanks to all the men and women who helped me and others in and around London over the last few days.

 

…….. THANK YOU …….

 

 

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