Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just because.

It’s strange how we adapt to our situations in life and I’ve learnt to do things that are out of reach for me in tandem with someone who can. I still can’t see myself riding a bicycle for two but going skiing or jumping out of a perfectly serviceable plane is entirely different.
A few weeks ago I mentioned to Tim that we should go skydiving, and he said, “If you can find a company that will take you then we’ll go”.
It took me less than five minutes to Google skydiving in Switzerland and top of the list was the name ‘Skydive Switzerland’. I clicked on the link, found the telephone number and started dialling the number immediately before realizing that I was calling Interlaken, which is Swiss-German. French is still not my greatest, but German just doesn't happen. Fortunately, I spoke to Elliot, who just happened to be British and he assured me that a tandem skydive was possible. I handed the number to Tim saying that I would fall in line with his arrangements.
Our main concern was the weather and once the date was set, we kept an eye on the forecasts for the Interlaken area.
Yesterday dawned, and it was very Grey and miserable and by nine o'clock there wasn't much change. But then Tim’s phone rang and the jump master gave the okay for the jump and Tim, Miriam and I piled into the car and headed for Interlaken.
Two hours later, small patches of blue started to show through the Grey and our spirits began to lift. Another 15 minutes and the Sun was streaming through broken clouds, and all the Grey came to life.
We had time to kill and Tim took a turning and off we went going nowhere in particular to see what we could see.

All too soon it was time to turn back and head for the airfield and present ourselves for a serious adrenalin rush. We met up with Elliot and I was introduced to Hans my tandem jumper and…everyone else’s names elude me. Talk about short term memory loss, sorry guys.

Okay, getting dressed up for a parachute jump is not the easiest in a wheelchair but many hands make light work and having some strong guys around didn't go amiss. It wasn't long before I was trussed up like the proverbial chicken heading for the oven, except that I was heading for -15 and not 180 for one hour. I know that duct tape is all-important for repairs and holding things together but as a piece of skydiving equipment?…… I'll say no more.

Getting into the plane was a piece of cake. I was simply manhandled like a sack of potatoes but with care. A push here and a shove there and I was half sitting between Hans’ legs and on his lap. A few minor adjustments and some tightening of my harness and Hans and I were one. A little more duct tape kept my arms secured too my chest, all we had to do now was to wait until we reached 4000 m.
The view over Interlaken was stunning and as we climbed higher, the vista opened up. Pictures will be forthcoming in a few days.

Hans opened the door, the noise and cold air rushed in, goggles steamed up for a few seconds and then cleared. The big picture hits right between the eyes and I see a large expanse of big blue sky. My legs were manoeuvred onto the step outside the door and Hans’ legs were on either side of me. Jeepers, I’ve just put my trust and life in the hands of Hans whom I met just half-an-hour ago.
I heard the words, “Let’s go”, and Hans pushed off from the step……


There’s just an instant that you hang in space and then gravity beckons, grabs hold and then pulls like a herd of wild horses in full flight. The air rushes past like a raging river and there are eddies and whirls that buffet you. We spin left and then right and I try to keep my head up for the camera that I know is right in front of me… “Damn! Left the duct tape on the plane”. The Boy Scout motto is so not funny right now.
The headlong rush ends with suddenness and there’s that same instant of hanging in space and then gravity again calls but with a gentle voice this time. The peace hits you, it’s so quiet, so calm and so nothing and yet, so everything. We spiral a couple of times and the 360 degree view is awesome and I see both lakes and the town of Interlaken.

Hans touched us down on our derrières with the tenderness of a soft kiss on a maiden’s hand, kind of felt but not felt and life recommences back on Terra Firma.

This is one envelope that I’m going to push again but I’m going to have to pay for this one first. I’m thinking 2 days may be 3.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Of Dinosaurs and other old things...

I have been battling for the last few weeks to update my blog and it’s not through lack of activity but is more due to the fact that my laptop is tired. T-Rex and my laptop have something in common but if I didn’t know better, I’d say my laptop had something wrong with its immune system and has got multiple something…
It can’t multitask anymore, open more than one window and everything freezes. Speaking to my voice program is like talking to a brick wall, unresponsive and sullen and then we won’t talk about typing. I’m on a one finger mission and I keep miss hitting, miss-spelling and missing the point of the words.
Enough said, watch this space……

At the end of November I will jump, oops sorry, wrong word. I will allow the slipstream to pull me out of a perfectly good airplane a few Kms up above the two lakes of Interlaken.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Room without a view.

I’ve moved from my 2nd floor room down to the ground floor into a studio. It’s a slightly bigger room with the added bonus of a kitchen which includes a fridge. Now I have ice for my whisky and space to keep some beer. Oh, and yes, there’s a bit of space for other essentials…
I also get a small garden which I don’t have to maintain so all I have to do is watch the grass grow. Then there’s the all important fence that one meets a neighbour at for a beer at the end of the day. It just so happens that Tim, the maintenance manager, is my neighbour. The staff here just give a shake of the head, a South African and an American who buck the system and prefer to do things our way.
The down side to moving is losing my window with a view but dangling bare feet on the grass makes up for it as does having a door to the outside.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weathering the challenge.

The weather lately has been a challenge. Every time I’ve wanted a run outside, Mother Nature has looked on with a glint in her eye and a touch of naughtiness in her hand. I’d be just about ready to go down stairs and there’d be a smattering of rain against the window or I’d just get outside and I’d feel the down draught that precedes the rain or even get a few drops before the downpour. It’s one thing already being out and about and getting caught in the rain and that’s happened on a number of occasions but there’s no way I start out in the rain.
Yesterday was blue skies and it wasn’t too hot and not long after lunch I hit the road and I made my way to a local motorcycle meeting place. Normally on a Saturday, 20 or so bikers meet up for coffee and fun and I get to see some great bikes. Not so yesterday, there were only a couple of bikes and I didn’t even slow down and took the road to San Prex for a lakeside stroll.

An hour or so along the lake was good for the soul but I, accidently-on-purpose, forgot to stay in the shade and I paid for that later. All too soon it was time to head back and as my battery was way below half I didn’t want to leave too late.
An hour later and I was almost back home when Natalie called, “Let’s meet in San Prex for coffee” she said.
‘Too late, you snooze you loose” I said.
But we decided to meet and go for a drink locally. Went up my favourite shortcut but stayed on all 4 wheels, yeah I know, boring. Have to behave sometimes.
Then I checked my battery. On one bar out of ten….
Daring the edge again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Surreal summer

This is so not funny. The last few weeks have not been pleasant with temperatures in the high 20s. I’ve become a limp noodle with various parts not working and my motivation at a low point. Last Saturday was particularly hot and I watched the clouds building over the Alps in the early evening. At about 8, the storm hit and within a couple of lightening strikes we had a power failure. My first power outage in Switzerland and I’ve been here a little more than a year. I think back to 2007 and Eskom in SA and all the planned power cuts countrywide. Of course I’m prepared here, I have lights with me permanently and it’s a flick of the switch on my armrest.
Sunday dawned and I’d had enough of being inside and hot and limp when I could just as easily be hot and limp outside. I called up Natalie and we arranged to meet at 3.
2.30 arrived and I escaped the confines of the house and drove straight into a brick wall of heat. I very nearly turned round. There was no shade until I turned into Natalie’s road and by then my arms and legs were already burning so trees and bushes along the road were very welcome.
I met up with Natalie and we took off to find some ice-cream. As soon as we turned out of her road the shade became patchy and I started weaving from one side of the road to the other chasing the shade. Then we were in the forest and there was instant coolness.
From down by the lake a tantalizing aroma wafted through the trees, you can’t beat the smell of meat cooking on hot coals. I was tempted to find a way down and go introduce myself but been there, and done that, to no avail and so had to make do with a cup of soft serve from MacDonald’s.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dare the edge.

I learnt the true meaning of that saying today. There wasn’t much happening and there was no one around or available for a walk or a bike ride so I was ambling around with no particular direction or destination. Went looking for a cold beer but the restaurant was closed and then I spotted a dirt track that looked inviting.
Straight away I encountered a problem and if I’d listened to that nagging killjoy in the back of my mind I would have turned around gone to Buchillon. But no, I’m a big brave cowboy who doesn’t act like a wuss, especially in front of his horse…
There was a fairly large kerb to get over from the road to the track and I attacked it head on. I’d been over a larger kerb and some of the bumps in the forest were way bigger. I committed myself and then found that my perception of depth definitely was not working. As I went over the kerb I found a serious drop and I gritted my teeth as my chair lurched into the void and then came down with a jolt. Then, the back wheels followed suit and I found myself on a bucking bronco and then the front wheels dug in…
We all know the following statement from science class. ‘For each and every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’
Need I say more?
I found myself half out of my chair draped over the right armrest with my face up close and personal with the track. My head is lower than my feet and I’m now very stuck with little core muscle to bring me back upright. I try every which way to get back up hoping that no one will see me and then 5 mins later I’m hoping that someone will come past as I’m well and truly stuck. I couldn’t even get to my cell phone…would have been an interesting call for help.
Fortunately a cyclist came past eventually and I called out for some help and was soon back in the drivers seat.
I should have turned round there and then.
Yeah right! I shake the cobwebs away and set off along the track which starts to descend at a steep rate and about a third of the way down was another kerb. I slacken off the power and start to slide sideways.
There was no way I was going to turn around until I reached the bottom and I resigned myself to the fact that I’d either make it down or I’d part company with my chair and have a severely bruised ego amongst other things. Three kerbs later and sliding with little steering control I finished up on a level piece of ground with the track meandering through some trees. So, being of inquisitive nature I followed the track and eventually came out next to a river. I followed the river for a bit and came to a clearing where I could sit and ponder on life’s many mysteries including how the heck I was going to get back up the hill without mishap.
All too soon it was time to make tracks and I began to doodle my way along the track to the start of the incline. Now I have to start playing with my centre of gravity and put more weight on the front but not too much as to loose traction on the rear wheels. Had to play around as I found myself going backwards a couple of times with wheels spinning. Not such a nice feeling. The three kerbs were not fun, I had this feeling of toppling over backwards and I had the urge to stop the bus and get off. But I resisted the urge and kept the chair moving, bucking and throwing up stones right to the top. At the top, I negotiated the first kerb with more finesse and went on my merry way without a care in the world.
Dare the edge. Easy huh?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the road again.

Sat 22 May
After more than two weeks of inclement weather, blue skies are welcome back with open arms. I arranged to meet up with Deb in the afternoon so that we could go for a walk.
It is strange how the simplest things in life can give a great amount of pleasure. I’m normally out and about on my own or with Miriam or Natalie on their bicycles and chatting as we go isn’t really an option, riding abreast is not ideal.
Deb arrived with puppy in tow and we set off for our walk and pretty soon we were off the beaten track. Deb was walking next to me chatting as we went, her hand resting on the arm of my chair. Just that conversation whilst walking made my day and we walked like that for a couple of kilometres.
Eventually we arrived at a newly refurbished restaurant on the edge of the forest. The sound of a bottle of beer opening was calling… And then I tried to enter. Swiss efficiency seemed to have slipped up somewhat. The complete interior had been refurbished and made wheelchair friendly. The only problem was that I couldn’t get into the restaurant because of a set of steps. Someone had a blonde moment here.
It wasn’t a problem as a chair was brought outside for Deb and I always have my own chair with me. In a few moments we were enjoying an ice cold beer in the sun whilst the owner and a couple of patrons were discussing ramps and a wheelchair entrance. I’ll give it a week and then go back and see if I can get in.

Sun 23 May
Another fantastic day, bright blue skies and clear air. I met up with Natalie after lunch and we decided to go somewhere different.
So, it was off to Rolle a few kilometres away and of course, with Natalie around, a main road is something I have to put up with. Hey! I even went through my first police road block… I remember I used to be in those too in a past life.
We didn’t get to Rolle, it was too hot and the sun was burning and so we stopped at a place called Perroy and found a waterside café with a bit of shade. A long cool glass of lemonade was perfect.
All too soon it was time to head back and being late afternoon the road was even busier. Time to dare the edge.
An hour later I was back in Buchillon seeing Natalie to her door. Another 15 mins I was back at home and then the 2 days caught up with me. Fatigue washed over me and I had to take things very slowly. Also, after 2 days in the sun I had my first tan in years.
Overdosing on Vitamin D!!

Natalie, always ready for a bike ride.

Mon 24 May.
There is nothing like a sucker for punishment. Great day again. Had a good night’s sleep and I was raring to go. After lunch I took a slow ride to nowhere, went through the shady forest and took a few pictures.
Was back home for supper and then took off again and went to McDonald’s for a Sprite. Kinda wandered back home after 9 with the sun in my eyes. Note to self…take sun glasses with in the evening….

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ferraris, football and footloose...

Saturday midday, I was sitting contemplating what to do and where to go and did I really want to do it on my own? Seems that I’ve been in a rut these last few weeks and most days have been routine and a little mundane with little spontaneity on my behalf.
Then, Deb called and asked if I could meet her in Etoy village proper at the football field. My reply was noncommittal, if Deb saw me then great, if not she shouldn’t worry. I put the phone down and decided there and then to seize the opportunity and go somewhere different on my own and without full knowledge of where I was going. Within a few minutes I was ready to go, I grabbed my mobile and hit the road.
Saturdays are really busy days and the road was full of traffic and I was ambling along minding my own business when I heard the growl of a powerful motor behind me. I pulled to the right and then the growl was in my ear and from the corner of my eye I caught sight of a red monster, and then I was left with 4 rather large exhaust pipes disappearing down the road. Hey, same colour as my chair and the real deal to boot. The driver must have picked up on the colour of my chair because he pulled over a bit further on and revved the motor a few times. Serious music to my ears and as I went passed him I made my own growl. Not half as good as the real thing but not bad for a chair. I got a smile and the shake of the head and my chair has been acknowledged.
After a 15 minute drive through some pretty busy roads I arrived just on the outskirts of the village of Etoy but still didn’t know where the football field was. I called Deb to see how lost I was and then spotted a sign with a football on it.
Kind of figured where to go.

Sunday, and Nathalie called to say she was going for a ride on her bicycle and would I like to go along. No hesitation on my part, I need to run my chair in and iron out the wrinkles and I was out of the house in a flash.
I met Nathalie in the centre of Buchillon and we took the road to St-Prex. 3 kms later we entered the village. It was fairly quiet and there wasn’t much traffic around, there were more bicycles and pedestrians than cars. We went another two or so kilometres and then right there in front of me was the way to the lake. Of course I had left my camera behind but there was a short pathway along the shore, a small yacht mole and a pavement café. There were 5 or 6 scuba divers at the water’s edge and a couple of boats further out.
Nathalie decided that she wanted to go further on and I was cool with that. Just turning into another road changed all that. It went from quiet and slow, to noisy and fast, in an instant and I found myself on a main road with traffic zooming by at 70kmph and there was no bicycle lane. So now I really am going where I probably shouldn’t although technically I’m classed as a bicycle and where a bike goes, so can I.
I’m not a nervous driver but I am aware of the fact that motorbikes are often not seen by drivers and I’m on something smaller than a motorbike and a bit less manoeuvrable in the bigger picture.
I lasted about 2kms and then chickened out. Enough playing Capt Kirk and the quest for new worlds, a cup of hot chocolate was calling. Did a 180 and got out of there back to a more sane and comfortable village road.
Found a coffee shop owned and run by a chocolatier and had a large mug of home made hot chocolate.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Do pigs fly?

Okay, so the time has come for me to use my voice recognition program full-time. My hands and fingers are now, almost useless to type with. I find that I can manage one or two sentences, and then I start missing keys. That's one of the reasons why I haven't written in the last few weeks, another reason is that I can’t keep writing about the same trip that I do, either to the coffee shop or through the forest. I need to look further afield.
I did the forest thing with Deb a couple of weekends ago, I did the ‘where power chairs shouldn't venture’ stunt and drove through the middle of the forest. I only got stuck once, and having Deb on hand it was a breeze. Of course, having a puppy along for the walk and Deb’s mom, Penny, tested my concentration. Wouldn't do to drive over the puppy…... Just goes to show that males can do more than two things at once.

And so my new power chair arrived this week. It arrived on Tuesday all new and shiny Ferrari red. Totally awesome!! With headlights, indicators and hazard lights and seriously comfortable seat I am now going for coffee in style and comfort.
Whole new learning curve again, the controls are so responsive and I have to lighten my touch, the seat is higher and getting on and off takes a bit of getting used to and I have to remember to lower the seat before sitting at the table. Already started to bruise my knees and send things tumbling…
Took it for a spin but behaved myself, stuck to the road and stayed as slow as I could.
Yeah, right, and pigs can fly….

Monday, March 29, 2010

A sheepish story...

Weather’s changing and spring is in the air. Went out the other day, no hat, no gloves and no jersey. Okay so I had a jacket on, I’m not completely nuts. But just getting out without having to get dressed up was cool. One of these days I can see that I can do away with shoes and socks and just keep sandals on.
I’ve seen a novel way of keeping the verge grass trimmed. The other day I saw a guy stringing up some wire along the verge and then herding 20 or so Sheep behind the wire. Then he hooked up the wire to an electric box. Every day he came and moved or enlarged the area allowing the Sheep to move along the verge trimming all the grass.
Can imagine that happening in SA…within minutes the Sheep would go missing followed by the wire and anything else lying around and then the Town council would probably have a field day with health bylaws etc, etc, etc.
Not much of a carbon footprint left behind from this way of trimming the grass.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fear factor.

I have suddenly discovered what fear is and it’s certainly not pretty. I’ve faced it a few times in my life and I’ve ignored it, haven’t realised it or just plain looked it in the eye.
At 10 years old or there about, I took my bicycle across a railway line over a gorge except that the bridge had gone years before and all that survived was the two iron lines…… Got into trouble for that one.
In the early 80s I sailed through the tail end of a cyclone in a 40000ton ship and can remember watching the angle of the roll which touched on 45 degrees…. A consignment of coke bottles was reduced to pretty much nothing.
Mid 80s I was in a helicopter a few hundred meters up when we lost some critical hydraulics…… We used the Mormon church garden as an emergency landing pad.
Late 80s I was scuba diving and just happened to come face to face with a ragged tooth shark…
Been there, done that and I earned my T-shirt.

Miriam took me up the road to another home which has a heated pool. She wanted to get me in water to exercise my limbs and see how I walked in water.
We’ll laugh the walking off. It just doesn’t happen, I manage better on crutches which also doesn’t happen as it’s so tiring.
So it was just exercise mode. Last time I was in a pool I was like a block of wood, stiff and unyielding. This time, pretty much the same but it was difficult to float. Then Miriam held my legs up so I could at least look like I was floating.
Miriam started to manipulate my legs and my centre of gravity shifted and my head went under……
I do not have full use of arms or legs and I couldn’t get my head back up above the water and I started to panic and I took in water. Not a pretty sight.
Throwing my T-shirt away and I don’t know if I’m going to get back in the pool...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cabin fever...

Cabin fever, cabin fever, cabin fever……
In the last couple of weeks I haven’t been able to get out and about. The weather has been against me, rain, snow, wind and temperature. The day starts out great but soon turns to sour lemon and the frustration grows. Then a day like Tuesday comes along. Tuesday had a hint of summer, blue skies, clear air and a sprinkling of warmth. Warm enough to not put gloves on, warm enough to leave the jacket open.
A couple of hours outside was just what the doctor ordered and the cabin fever recedes. We’ll see what the rest of the week brings.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Foiled again.

The lake is still just out of reach, so not funny.
Monday I ducked out and went roll about, went through Buchillon and found a little lane that I hadn’t been down before. Didn’t worry me that there was a sign that said ‘Private’, could bluff my way out of that. Miriam was in front of me as well although it was my idea to go look.
Tar road became dirt track and this chair does not like dirt. Like riding a bucking bronco and I had to take care not to get bounced into the manicured hedge. I came round a corner and found my way blocked by a parked car just meters from the lake. But as usual, in front of the car was the normal set of stairs to the waters edge.
Foiled again.
Tuesday night, a fair amount of snow fell and it was a winter wonderland outside my window on Wednesday.
3 O’clock and I was out on the road and there was a nip in the air and I could feel my face starting to go numb, it got slightly worse as I powered my way around. I’m getting so used to my chair and swapping between pavements, bicycle lanes and roads has become second nature although Murphy loves to throw a spanner out occasionally. He was in top form as I went through the forest. For once there was a lot of snow in the forest, the branches were loaded with it and there was a stiff breeze. Every tree that I went under, had a field day and dumped snow on me. Then there was the tree that aimed… and I had snow down my neck. Had about a kilometre of running the gauntlet.
The hot chocolate was most welcome at the coffee shop.
So too are the longer days welcome, just the other week it was dark by 4.30. Now, it’s still light a 6.30.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Carbon footprint.

The weekend was a washout, Natalie with an injury started the downward spiral. Sunday came and I could feel something wasn’t right and I just stayed quiet and chilled for most of the day. Monday, I could barely get out of bed and taking a shower, I just sat under the water and then I had to get dressed. Total wipe out. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday just didn’t happen, didn’t even turn the laptop on, total lack of motivation, it was an effort to lift my arm up, it was an effort to think and I could have lovingly curled up and drawn the blinds in my head and shut the world out. Instead I put the DVD player on and watched film after film and forced a bit of interest…
Thursday came and whatever it was, had shifted and as after a storm, the sun came shining through.
Atheana, thank you for listening, thank you for understanding.

Thursday afternoon and I’m fretting to get out, I needed to get out of my warm comfort zone and feel the wind in my hair. Hey! My hair is getting long and it blows around a bit now unless Miriam shoves my beanie over my head. She messes up my hair style every time…
Did the long way through the forest route. Serene, tranquil, mind blowing silence. I can never get over how awesome it is to drive through here, any blues you have get left behind.
Arrived at my dirt path and the first part was a sea of mud. Came out of it sideways with wheels spinning and mud spraying all over. Just couldn’t help myself.
Don’t know about my carbon footprint or how large it is but my mud footprint follows me everywhere….

Sunday, January 31, 2010

There are no monsters under my bed.

This was written in September 09 before I started this blog and I came across it today.

There are no monsters under my bed. I say that with conviction, I actually looked and didn’t see any. I was transferring from my bed to the wheel chair and got myself too close to the edge of the bed. I felt myself start to slip off the edge and before I could stop, began the slow slide over the last ridge of the mattress. I’ve heard of flying by the seat of your pants but this was so not cool and there was no flying involved. It was more of a controlled crash landing with no emphasis on the word controlled.
I let the dust clear and assessed the situation from floor level. My wheel chair was tantalisingly close it was just a case of stand up and Bob’s your uncle. Bob was not my uncle this morning, I doubt he ever will be. No matter how I arranged my legs I couldn’t find the right position to get up, and we won’t talk about the lack of strength first thing in the morning.
I know I’m a stubborn bugger and I don’t ask for help easily, I wasn’t brought up to be a wussy but I had to give in to self reasoning. Either I exhaust myself right there and then or, push the damn button hanging on round my neck and get a nurse to come help me up. Say no more.
So now I have a few peaceful moments to myself and I decided to take the opportunity to check for monsters under my bed. I mean, you never can be too sure that there’s nothing under there.
Hey! I watched ‘Monsters inc’.

I went out and about yesterday. Not that I haven’t been out before but it’s always been on my way somewhere. I’ve been trying to find a pair of shoes for winter and up until now haven’t had much luck. The shoes have to accommodate the AFOs that I wear and also must be easy to put on. I learnt recently that tying shoe laces is very nearly impossible for me. Talk about a frustrating exercise with fingers that just don’t cooperate. When holding a pen to write, I picked up the trick of looking at my hand as I write. I didn’t believe that trick until I had to do a psychological test and had to write and draw with both hands.
When I first looked for shoes I thought nothing of getting lace ups until I was asked to tie them. I stared down at my hands and achieved absolutely nothing. I even gave myself a good talking to in front of the shop assistant who looked at me with a degree of perplexity. The saying ‘mad dogs and Englishmen comes to mind’ and I wondered how long before he called the men in white coats.
Any way, yesterday I decided to go to the shop that supplied me with the AFOs. I bought my present shoes there. Miriam kindly offered to take me as she wanted my AFOs to be checked over and kind of refurbished. Of course we won’t talk about the price of said shoes but at the end of the day I have a quality pair of shoes that are comfortable and not too difficult to slip on.
On our way back we drove along the lake shore, it’s a seriously scenic drive with vineyards and orchards along the way with glimpses of water just meters away, waterfront properties with boats close by and some serious cars. An Aston Martin DB9 came growling past and then howled away, that sound just sets the heart racing. Miriam didn’t get it but then again, she’s a girl and cars aren’t her thing.
We came into the town of Rolle, apart from being on the lake there’s two things I know about Rolle. 1 there’s an ice-cream shop that’s well known and 2 there’s a chocolatier that makes awesome chocolate… I’ve had both.
We decided to go for some coffee down at the lake, found a parking and set off in search of a lakeside café.
It was so peaceful and tranquil along the lake and although there were lots of people around you didn’t hear them. There were people dotted around, reading, swimming, working on laptops, taking the dog for a walk or running or on bicycles. There’s an abundance of bird life from water fowl to ducks to sparrows to something that sounds and looks like a sea gull. I need to get a book on local birds as Miriam was asking me about them, give me an SA bird and I’ll probably know what it is but these one’s, no ways. I know what a duck is and pointed that out to Miriam. She gave me a look and said “I know that”.
“But”, I said “The colourful one is the male, all of us males stand out”. I received another look and my wheel chair edged closer to the lake…
I decided to keep quiet.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Personal art show.

Saturday was a day with a difference. Natalie, one of the caregivers here, phoned and invited me for coffee. By 3 I was ready as Natalie arrived and I took a step backwards, sorry, my chair rolled back. The uniforms here do not do justice to a lady’s figure.
So we ended up at the same coffee shop when I was with Deb, the same one that has a huge furniture store attached to it. It wasn’t long before we each had cups of hot chocolate in front of us. After a substantial chat we decided to explore the ground floor and see what specials were up for grabs. Upon our strolling we came across a display of original paintings and a good supply of prints.
Natalie was going through the prints and every so often would hold one up for me to see. Then she though out of the box and decided that I should have the opportunity to see them all. Natalie then arranged my own little display and went through every print and each time I said yes to a print she then placed it where I could see it. Eventually there were around 30 prints arranged in a semicircle around me. Shoppers walking past stopped to look and make a comment or two, staff members ignored us and we continued to have a bit of fun.
Next week we’ll descend on a store just up the road and see what we can get up to…

Today, seven days later, I received a call from Natalie. She won’t be round as she has injured her leg and will going for an operation on Monday. The store we were going to visit will just have to wait our attention.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The fast and the not so furious.

So I have two power chairs here with me, kind of crowds my room a bit. Miriam wanted to know what it was like to drive one and she wanted proof as to which one was fastest. Say no more.
Now there are two of us outside in the snow on power chairs and I know when Ross reads this he’s going to wish that he was here. We made our way carefully over the sidewalks covered in snow and slush, have to say here that Miriam is a learner driver and she has to get used to the controls.
As soon as we got to a quiet part of the road Miriam pulled up and waited for me to line up with her. Then, it was ready, steady, go, and Miriam took off. I gave her a few seconds and followed and promptly overtook her. We did this a couple of times and then I gave Miriam a long lead time and when she was about 10m ahead gave chase. These chairs are like chalk and cheese, I overtook Miriam and left her like she was standing.
Today, the road through the forest. Tomorrow, the grand prix circuit.

Friday 15th saw Jean-François back to pick up the demo chair and enquire as to my comments.
It is such a pleasure to deal with a professional, the answers to my concerns and problems were quick and all the solutions were neatly stated and my preferences were noted. All I have to wait for is the favourable answer from social service. As with any government department there is a waiting period so now we wait.

Monday was a brilliant affair with bright blue skies, a huge glowing sun hanging and radiating and most of the snow and ice melted. The sidewalks that I crossed over gingerly last week I could now take a full speed again. It was warm enough to leave things like gloves off and not worry about zipping coats up.
Deb arrived to take me to lunch, instead of the norm of taking my manual chair and driving elsewhere we stuck in Etoy. Strangely enough it’s the first time Deb has seen me in action in my chair and she had to remember that it was electric and I didn’t need a push.
It was after lunch that I saw the realisation on her face that she could go anywhere in the shop and I could make my own way at my own speed. Then the game was on and Deb learned the strength of her index finger. She’d call me and crook her finger and saunter off and find a display to look at. Naturally we have the same taste in furniture
Then Deb got clever and found small gaps to go through and I’d find myself having to back up without knocking things off shelves, go the long way round and wait for the comment.
And I love you too Deb.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Living on the edge.

I’m not about to let a path covered in snow get me down or not allow me usage. I was back at my short cut after another snow fall and there was about an inch of dry powdery snow on the path. Miriam cycled up the bank ever so nonchalantly and I followed shortly with the saying “Coffee or bust” flashing in my head. I drove over the spot with the mud bath, heard the ice crack but got across without loosing face. Then it was up the bank, all I could hear was the soft squeak of dry snow on my tires and then I was at the top.
Two days later, I did it again.
Easy huh.

Friday afternoon saw social service back at the home with an alternative power chair for me to try out. I’m so used to the one I’ve been using, I’ve got used to all the quirks that I’m suddenly all at sea with this new one. It’s funny how we adapt to our situations and have a routine for getting unresponsive or little responsive limbs to go where we want them to go. Then when we have a shakeup to that routine and it’s a whole new learning curve. This new chair is bigger, taller and has a whole pile of gadgets added to it supposedly to help me either now or at some later stage and the front wheels are much bigger.
Getting in and out of the chair unaided proves a challenge from the start and adjustments are going to have to be made if this chair becomes mine. Straight away I find it’s more comfortable and it has suspension that works. Now comes the part where I get to drive it and I do my thing around my room and corridor, straight away I find that I have to do a 3point turn where I’d normally just spin round. Getting through a door way or into the lift is a little tricky as there’s not much lee way. Too think that I have a driver’s licence that allows me to drive an articulated vehicle…
Then I got to try it out on the road.
I’m so used to a bumpy ride and it took a while to sink in that I wasn’t bouncing on every bump. The controls are very sensitive and I have to turn corners with care until my hands adjust to the quick response.
As for speed, this chair is a lot faster and I’m not complaining but again I have to learn the quirks, like letting go of the control at speed locks the wheels up. Been there, done that, whilst I was going down hill. I gracefully slid over some snow into the kerb and sat there rocking gently as a voice behind me made a comment……
Got to my favourite pathway now covered in a good amount of snow and ice, didn’t bat an eyelid going up. Now I’m styling.
I did find one annoying problem. The driving controls are too far forwards and I have to sit at an unnatural angle to be able to drive, got to address that.

Monday 11th after more snow on the weekend I took to the road again, still sitting at a funny angle but hey! I like being outside. I need to seriously find a new route to anywhere for hot chocolate although with this chair my usual way whizzes past in a blur.
Coming back, the bicycle lane was a white blanket and it squeaked and crackled as I drove over it and then I came to the sidewalk. I didn’t think twice and just turned onto it and suddenly found myself drifting sideways with the drop off the kerb coming up fast and oncoming traffic in my face. At least I know my heart works as it leaped into my throat. I backed up and tried again at a much lower speed, could feel the back wheels wanting to slide out.
Negotiated two sidewalks like that.
Told Miriam that I like living on the edge…