Its important with RA, or any other variation of it, that you learn to be ‘thick skinned’ because there are definitely going to be moments when you unwittingly find yourself in a ticklish situation – usually all of your own making !
I went to stay with my sister and decided to take a bath – nothing unusual in that right?   What I didn’t know was that she had recently had the bath resurfaced with what seemed like glass !  Only I didn’t notice until I got in and lowered myself into the water – after I had locked the door as I was in a strange house.  Come time to get out I carefully placed a flannel on both sides of the bath to supplement my poor grip and just fell back in, my feet slipping out from under me. What to do ?  I realised I could reach down to the bath mat, so I put that in the bath under my bum and feet and tried again.  Bigger slip, bigger splash !  So I let out the water in case that was adding to my problem – no, that made it worse and now to top it all I was getting cold.  At that moment I heard Pat (my husband) walk down the corridor, and as I was so frustrated I yelled for help! After I had explained that not only was I stuck in the bath, but the door was locked too, he just put his shoulder to it and barged in breaking the lock and got me out.  I must say he was very tactful about replacing the damage, but I felt awful for several days! I stick to showers now !
Definitely my most embarrassing moment of all was in The Hunter Valley, NSW where we had gone to sample the lovely wines with my daughter and her husband.  We had booked in to a cottage that was in a row of similar cottages, raised up on a wooden balcony with steps down to the car. In the melee of unpacking, etc I realised I had left my book in the car, so holding on to the bannister, I carefully descended the steps back down – watching where I put my feet so I wouldn’t slip.  Having got the book, up I went again watching my feet all the time and back in to the cottage. There on the sofa in the living room was a couple doing what couples do when alone and I actually walked right past them saying that they could have waited a bit – when I realised that it was not my daughter, but some complete strangers ……….I was in the wrong cottage !!  I then had to turn around apologising as best I could, walk back past them and go back and find the right cottage where everyone collapsed in gales of laughter. What was worse was that we met them again at breakfast, but they seemed to find it funny as well – thank goodness!

My favourite place is the beach so whilst staying at the Movenpick, Gammarth, Tunis after my knee replacement I got bored with sitting by the various pools and went off to find the beach.  It was quite a long slow walk through the gardens down to the sea and when I got there it was only to find that the decking had a drop of about a foot down to the sand.  That might not seem much to you, but to me it was like standing on a cliff ! With nothing to hold on to I didn’t dare risk it, when suddenly two nice young beach guards arrived and one either side, lifted me up and down to the sand. This was followed by them finding me an umbrella and a reclining seat and even a glass of water !  What was better that they watched out for me coming and going over the next days and repeated the operation without having to be asked. Gosh I love Tunisia and its people !
I have been stuck on many beaches as I always want to sit in the hot sand and then find it impossible to get up again. Boobs over feet is my war cry if I need to stand up and this is not always possible, so I need to seek the assistance of people passing by to give me a push or a pull. There is absolutely no need to feel embarrassed, they will either help you or they won’t, but to date I have been lucky and not engulfed by the incoming tide …..so far !

Wheelchairs and the like……

WHEELCHAIRS and the like …

I have discovered that there are all manner of wheelchairs throughout the world and due to my RA I find them a necessity when travelling – especially in airports ! I can walk, though slowly and not very far, In Gatwick you used to have to walk halfway to Ireland before getting on the plane, though they have recently shortened this distance. If you need a wheelchair when flying, do book it in advance and make sure it is booked for the way out and the way back! You will be asked a number of questions, such as can you make it up the aircraft steps or are you bringing your own wheelchair? As long as I am pushed from check-in to departure gate and possibly to the door/steps of the aircraft, I’m happy.
I can recall once arriving at Frankfurt Hahn on our way home to just being given a folded up wheelchair at check-in. Luckily Pat was there and able to push it, but several other disabled passengers had no one to help them and had to struggle through to the security check and departure hall clutching their wheelchairs ! In the departure hall, we could clearly see our plane just outside, so I folded my wheelchair up neatly and tried to go through the boarding gate only to be told by the stewardess that I needed a wheelchair! I pointed to the one I had and said I was quite capable of walking the 20 feet to the plane and up the stairs, but she refused to let me (or Pat, though I’m not sure why he was included) on board. She then summoned a sort of tilting cart with full body harnesses and strapped me into it. I was then formally wheeled the 20 feet to the plane steps and let go again, by which time all the overhead bins were full and Pat and I had to put our hand baggage on our laps and feet – not happy travellers at all ! Thank you Ryanair !
As a travel a lot on my own, I make a point of chatting to the poor person having to push me and give them a small tip if I can. They are, without exception, happy, cheerful people and have to come through all the pre-departure security with me. When the Shoe Bomber was caught and we all ended up having to remove our shoes in security, this originally gave me a problem as I have trouble putting my own shoes on and off. The trick is to travel in slip on shoes and bare feet ! Being a Bionic Woman with all my new hips, knees and feet, I certainly set all the alarm bells ringing ! This necessitates a full body check to see if I am armed as well ! What I really like is when they check the wheelchair too and I tell them it is their chair, not mine – all to no avail.
Some wheelchairs are comfortable, some are definitely not. Newer ones are made of hard plastic , really comfortable for my bad back and allow for your hand luggage to be put underneath. After the 2 and a half years it took me to recover from my botched knee operation, I could not have any hand luggage dumped on my lap, so it got put on my feet instead ! In Tunis one time, there were two wheelchairs to meet the plane and mine only had 3 wheels ! Undeterred the man pushing tilted it up on to its two back wheels and ran me down to arrivals – quite exciting really !
In Singapore the wheelchairs are motorised and you sit facing backwards clutching your hand luggage whilst the driver whizzes along at great speed weaving in and out of the other passengers hooting loudly ! Quite took my breath away!
I have more stories, but you will just have to wait till next week and the next blog for them…….!!

Tea-Time & The Rules of Flying!

There are many rules of flying, but the first is always pack some tea bags of a variety you enjoy.  Put these in your hand luggage as you main luggage will invariably go astray.  I travel quite a bit to the Middle East and the only tea you will find there is of the mint or flower variety.  Now whilst I occasionally enjoy and good glass of mint tea after dining.  I need, really need a morning cup of tea to start me functioning.  Another vital cup is during the afternoon, especially if you have come back from alternatively being fried by 50 degree heat whilst trying to find a cab or your hire car, and then being air-conditioned back to practically zero in each shopping mall you visit.  In many places in the Middle East you will be sat down quite suddenly in a shop and presented with a glass of tea.  If the choice is given, aim for the apple variety which is  quite drinkable and does not resemble cheap perfume in any way.  Most hotels will rush away when asked for ‘breakfast tea’ and come back brandishing a packet of Lipton’s tea which closely resembles dirty washing up water when milk is added and tastes much about the same.   Whereas your own little tea bag can be quietly stashed away in your bag and can  provide a taste of home whenever needed.  It is necessary to bear in mind that countries like Tunisia do not know what an electric kettle is and it may be necessary to purchase a miniature one from an expensive airline shop rather than spend several hours explaining the concept of an electric kettle to a bewildered receptionist.  Though having the ability to boil water may not be the las of your worries.  When I phoned room service in Tunis and asked for some milk to be sent up, they provided a large jug of boiling milk and I was still no nearer getting my cup of tea. Eventually a long walk to the local supermarket provided me with the wherewithal and I always carry a few passion pills (sweetners) as I am never sweet enough !