Those of you who have been following me for some time will know one of my mantra to life is:
Have dog, will travel.
And with this mantra in place and a connection made through the power of Facebook, when a fun social event that would be followed up by an information and tech based learning event popped up; I found myself booking a hotel and myself for an evening with an Amy Whinehouse Tribute act.
The Facebook connection was that with the talented Molly, The founder and inspirational woman behind The Molly Watt Trust, along with the younger company of Molly Watt Ltd.
With my (relitively) recent hearing loss, I had used my ability to connect through Facebook to link with groups that supported those known as ‘deafblind’.
Having made contact with Molly at the beginning of my blogger journey, along with having a guide dog connection with her I had taken more of an interest in the work of The Molly Watt Trust and found myself naturally drawn toward them with my increasing issues around my sight and hearing loss.
So, when this weekend came up to join in on a ‘social’ and learning based opportuity arrived. I jumped at it.
THE PLANNING COMMENCED……
What type of journey would it take to get from my own home town to Maidenhead?
And from the station to the hotel?
The hotel that was hosting the dinner on the Friday and the Ushers day on the Saturday was on hotels.com, so I booked my room and set about not having to worry about travelling between venues.
The price was right and would save me additional travel; it was all falling into place …..
……. Or so I thought!
I was looking forward to the event and had everything in place, so now it was just a case of picking which shoes to pack to go with my dress.
After all, not having to go out of the hotel other than to allow Fizz to spend meant I could pack the hot pink heels without the worry of walking any great distance in them. Not because I can’t walk in heels. Rather I prefer to be in flat comfortable trainers if I am walking in an area I am not aware of, or in the dark, where I find more difficulty than I do if it were daylight.
Come September 15th my case was packed, my train ticket was collected and off with Fizz, we were on our way.
And then came the first of our hurdles…… Reading Railway Station!
This station is something from a futuristic movie; a large metallic, vast and somewhat oversized pedestrian gangway, which is accessed via long escalators (and multipul lifts) to enable you to walk safely away from the trains to any one of the stations many many platforms.
Yet without a clear indicator as to which train leaves from which platform. And more importantly because I am well aware I may have missed the obvious large screens giving this information I need I couldn’t find any members of staff!
I only managed to find staff on the actual platforms as and when a train arrived. Not ideal, as some of the staff I found actually arrived and were set to depart with the train….. So couldn’t direct me around the station.
It was ok though, I wasn’t going to let this get to me, I had managed to find Starbucks on my travels around the station, so when I found the platform and train I needed it was time to grab a nice coffee for me and a bowl of water for Fizz while we waited.
We (Fizz and I) arrived at Maidenhead and out came Google Maps.
It was at this point I realised my error.
The Thames Riviera Hotel (where the dinner and information day were occurring) was not The Thames Hotel I had in fact booked my room for the night!
They were so very close, just a short 5 minute walk along The Thames between the two, yet they were very different hotels.
This was when panic started to kick in.
How could I have made such a simple mistake?
How had I got it SO wrong?
A quick message in a Facebook group about the event and I was calmed. I could do this. I am a grown woman; who just happens to have an eye condition and hearing condition that may make life a little more of a challenge at times.
But I am strong and independent. Who just happened to have a blip. That was all it was…. a simple blip. I had come so far, the hotel was already paid for, it would be silly to turn around and go home now……. Right?
So, as I said before. On went Google Maps and off I went.
With hearing aids in place, I had to rely on holding my phone to hear the directions, while trying to keep out of the bright sunshine to roughly follow the blue line.
I didn’t even realise my first error with this.
Maidenhead Railway Station has 2 exits. And I found myself leaving via the small, unassuming exit.
The second error came when I misheard a direction.
While walking alongside busy traffic I was sure the direction had been to walk forward. Sadly, it hadn’t. It had been to turn right. And by the time I had realised my error, in true Google Maps programming, my route had been recalculated.
A walk that saw me walking along an almost non-existent path beside a dual-carriageway. Walking into a multi story car park attached to a local Sainsburys store to find a foot bridge to cross the aforementioned carriageway.
A footbridge that landed me by a leisure centre and bowling alley just as the rain started to get heavy.
I bit the bullet, I went into the bowling alley and collected the telephone number for a local taxi. Upon calling the firm, I explained my location and where I wanted to go, no problem a car could be with me within a few minutes. So I kindly mention I have my guide dog travelling with me; that was when suddenly a car would not be available for almost forty minutes.
So, I gave up on the idea of a taxi and returned to my trusted phone and four-pawed companion to find the hotel.
This was a journey that took us another twenty-five minutes and a desperate plea to my best friend for help and linking my location on Google Maps to his Google Maps; and an hour after we had left to station to walk the seventeen minutes to the hotel, we arrived.
Both Fizz and I were damp (actually that was an understatement)
The doorman at the hotel instantly took control.
He collected my case and walked us to our room.
He commented on my damp dog (which I instantly apologised for), which he would hear nothing about. He left us for only a few moments, before returning with an armful of towels. He explained that these towels were clean, yet had lost their crisp white finish, so were no longer used for the guests……. But would be absolutely perfect to rub down my soggy dog with and give her a comfortable soft bed to dry off on.
This was too much, I managed to thank him before closing the door and collapsing in tears on the floor. The anxiety of the day was taking its toll. But with a nudge from Fizz (I like to think as her ways of asking if I was ok.) I realised it was all going to be alright.
A conversation with my best friend put my mind at ease regards the hotel I was staying at and the hotel I was set to attend for dinner. A dinner for which I was going to wear hot pink heels, that I would not feel comfortable walking outside (For the reasons I mentioned above)
What was stopping me wearing my trainers on the walk, with my ‘pretty shoes’ in my bag? The answer….. Nothing.
This time, I not only looked on Google Maps for the direction, but I used Google Street View to actually walk the route virtually between the two hotels, a very straight five minute walk along the river, passing a park (perfect for spending Fizz) before crossing a large road to get to the hotel.
This time (although I would be walking in ‘twilight’) I was not leaving anything to chance! Although, I did feel like I was taking my and Fizz’s life in my hands by crossing the road infront of the hotel, a road that was also one of the large bridges across The Thames River.
The rest of the evening passed with a blur of fun, entertainment and enjoyment, of putting faces to names and adding new friends into my life to enrich it.
I did wear my trainers for the walk; quickly changing upon arriving at the RIGHT hotel! Switching them out again before leaving at the end of the evening. One of the benefits of going to an event with others who have sight issues, is that such incidents are easier to hide.
I returned to my hotel, for a very comfortable and refreshing sleep, ready to return after breakfast for the chance to chat, chance to learn and more importantly, chance to find support and similarities with others going through their sight and hearing loss journey.
The walk The Riviera Hotel to the railway station was minus the difficulties of the previous day. I even found the point where I had taken the wrong turn. The turn that had caused so much anxiety.
Although the train journey home wasn’t without an interesting twist either! That I found easier to write about at the time and you can read about it in The day we caught the train
So, for the weekend that could have easily found me returning home, I discovered just how, as a strong independent (somewhat stubborn) woman, I am also human. I make mistakes, but I also learned I am not to be so hard on myself.
This weekend did do one thing for me; it confirmed that I had to find a way of being able to channel my phone directly to my ears (as if I were able to wear headphones again) I am still £4,000 away from the ‘ideal’ ReSound hearing aids I am fundraising for. But there has to be an interim answer, isn’t there?