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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Adam Hills: The last leg of the year

Right. Adam Hill’s last leg of the year is on tonight. I was at the recording and he made an embarrassingly funny joke about my hair on camera…half hoping they’ve edited it out…half hoping i will be on channel 4 dying, having josh stick up for me!

Either way, please watch it. Simply because the last leg, Adam, Alex and Josh have done so much this year to allow the world to realise that well…it is ok! It’s ok to giggle at stuff that’s a bit different, it’s ok to laugh at the team gb rugby guy who’s face landed in his opponent’s lap. It’s ok to have silly stories. It’s ok to punch someone in a wheelchair if they’re a knob. It’s ok to be an Olympian, Paralympian, hairdresser, teacher, dentist, instructor, waiter, petrol station attendant…basically it’s ok to be you. No, it’s great and amazing to be you. And also, this show made me feel that it’s more than ok to be proud to be British. We showed the world that we don’t half know how to put on a show, hold about 5 national parties and get together through a difficult, depressing economic time through smiles, laughter, flag waving and rain, lot’s of it. So…who can say they’re not a superhuman for being true and the best of themselves they can be? Thank you 2012, you allowed us all to do ourselves proud!
If you’re reading this give yourself a pat on the back for ANYTHING you have achieved. It could be something everyone knows about, something no one but you knows about about, it could be anything…!
Much love...and yes, now nanna's gone i can get to work on laura May's last leg of the year. :)

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Taken time of from running round...look what i did on Christmas eve/Boxing day!

It's pretty much an owl sanctuary and is also pretty much the first "thing" i've ever knit! Now, my friends are all "busy" with year is creeping nearer and i promise to do my Last leg blog before then, and before Adam Hills last leg is broadcast on 30th December.

Hope everyone's having a great Christmas!

Laura :) x

Friday, 21 December 2012 was supposed to be the last time this year...

London 6-9th December
For the final part of my self-planned birthday celebrations I dragged Mum down to see Viva Forever! (the spice girls musical) and American Idiot the musical (for the final time...honest!) In London.
My attempt at wheelchair hip photography!
We had a good few days, wandering around a place i spend far too much time in, enjoying the Christmas lights and decorations...and of course, we had to go to the imperial war museum.

We met up with my cousin who i've probably not seen in around 7 years and walked "The Laura May tour of London". yes, it exists...I did my usual spiel around parliament square and Portcullis house, over  Westminster Bridge and then to the museum itself! There was a really cool/inspirational exhibition on bravery with individual stories of how some people, have had moments where they've gone with their guts, against orders/the norm and done what's right that in the long run has saved thousands of people's lives. Then there was a not so happy, but important and informative exhibition on the holocaust. That feeling that you first feel properly when you're about 15, sat in a history classroom, crept back again...frustrated anger. It just kills you inside to think how powerful human beings are, how we have the amazing ability to use what's inside us for good but also for evil. It makes you want to punch yourself in the face and say "do good, not bad!" As, we're also naive, believers of "them", society, scary, big and extreme ideas that can easily flip and cause mass destruction.

So...the following day we met up with our friend Katie and went to the  Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum. While waiting to go in, we wandered around the main gallery and i couldn't help but chuckle slightly at the mentality of a lot of humanity. There was a  "fashion design" area where you use the renaissance section as inspiration to design your own costume...which, is pretty cool. I'm rubbish at drawing but i'm a history geek and i like clothes. The woman, who i believe i a top designer/lecturer said to me, "are you a textiles student?" I giggled, "no." " art student? design?" I could't help but smile. "Na, i'm going to do a degree in outdoor education." she actually burst out laughing, probably at how daft she felt. apparently my blue hair suggests "art student"...i thought it suggested..."yep, that's Laura!" Now, she meant no offence by this, and i take none by it. But it just shows how the world loves putting people in boxes, does't it? You can't like politics but want to work outdoors, you can't be a massive Green Day fan and appreciate shakespeare. You can't be totally inspired by historical leaders and movements of the past and not want to do a degree in History...Well I can, and you'll find a lot of my friends and a lot of the world like lots of things. It's school, though i experienced it as college...that pass on the mindset, "if you like this, then you must therefore do this!" I like a lot of things, i do a lt of things but i have specific sections and things that i allow to take over my life...i.e. adaptive adventure/disability stuff. I sometimes worry, that it's wrong for this to b my life now,'s what i care about so...
Anyway, my interesting italian-inspired by old steps jumper picture got hung up, i found the costume exhibition really interesting (if not  a bit of a squeeze) from a drama perspective in how much colours and certain items of closing are paramount into fitting into the context of the film...
We then headed over to the science museum where i got over excited by the agricultural section, and the "who am i?" area, in which i tried and failed to become a man...and then got  a little lost on a straight road, attempting to walk 3 miles to American Idiot the musical.
We ended up just getting the bus.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Frank Turner

Frank Turner!

The half-arsed folk punk english country singer was bloody brilliant! Initially we got put into some really rubbish seats...i went to the loo, bought my t-shirt, re-appeared and Rose informed me that the guy with one leg had asked to be moved upstairs. So i flicked my fringe and i got, arguably the bets seat in the house...balcony, looking straight at him!
It was incredible, i sang every song and was prevented from jumping into the crowd....!
We met him (obviously)...there is no point in going to see one of your favourite people and not trying to meet them...that's just crazy. So we waited and waited and waited in the cold and he appeared.
We had a chat about kayaking and i got  a hug...dunno how we ended up talking about what i'm up to but he was like "that's wicked do it! why do you do so much stuff?" i went "well you write songs about doing what you want to do!" "oh ye..sorry about that!"
...good giggles. :)

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Idiots, mountains and Frank: Part 1 - Kendal Mountain festival.

I am now 19!

*waits for singing*

So...i've been a little busy.

Kendal Mountain Festival
My kayak instructor messaged me a few weeks ago to let me know that a speaker I would probably find interesting was going to be at the Kendal mountain festival...some guy called Josh Dueck. I didn't need to read the brief he'd copy and pasted me as i obviously knew who he was.
He's a Canadian winter paralympic gold medalist skier with a spinal cord injury, who's heart lies in developing free skiing and making it accessible for people regardless of "disability".
I rolled over excitedly into the kitchen to tell Mum "we are going!" with a slight murmured "but" at the end...
Mum: When is it?
Me: Saturday...
Mum: Ok then. Anything else on that day?
Me: Erm...American idiot the musical in Manchester at 7:30pm.

Now at this point I expected Mum to go mad and tell me to stop trying to do 20 things all at once. But this time, she nodded and asked what time the film/talk would be. It was at 10am and she was ok with coming with me to that up in Kendal which is just over an hours drive...then coming back down to Chorley and driving down to Manchester for American idiot. I was half in shock, half relieved that Mum really does get my passion for skiing/adaptive adventure sports and ambitions and excited that she'd be sharing a "proper Laura May day!"and would also get to see and have a taste of the world i bizarrely seem to belong to!

When we arrived at Kendal (early for once!) we found ourselves going on a little stroll across town...finally found the dojo which was the venue that the talk would take place. A lovely huge, massive tarmac hill waiting for us and then a maze of tents selling skis and bike frames...Mum and I must have walked through this tent about 3 times before we finally found our way in, picked up our tickets and actually got in our places!

I also met up with karen Darke as it is crazy the amount of people who have asked me whether i know her because i remind them a lot of her in my attitude towards life. apparently i'm very "can-do" about things. We had a brief little chat about things i'm looking into, and also the fact she did a post-grad degree at the university of Cumbria, seeing as now i'm looking at doing an undergraduate degree there too...more to come further down!

Josh and Mike Douglas did a "conversation" as they put it, about the film they made a few months back called "The freedom Chair".

It was amazing! Mum was crying...and she doesn't cry at stuff..but she said she could feel and smell thesnow as well as relate to Josh's story and the clever way they made the film and spoke about their experiences and how they thought and spoke about consideration for the people who you care about and who care for you. With all the things i get up to and still being quite young, a lot of people overlook the people around me and just see me as "amazing" while my dad quietly worries and my Mum smiles, lets me get on with it but...still worries! Although listening, seeing and speaking to Josh has really inspired me to keep going on the path i am pursuing and creating, it's also reminded me to consider the people around me and remember that when they are slightly concerned for me, it's not because they want to stop me from doing anything but it's because they want to understand why and how i'll do it. Sometimes, they don't even want to know too much...!

I spoke to Josh and also let him know about my plans and what I'm doing and like all the Canadians i've been in contact with he was really open and excited about what i want to do and even offered to give me a hand with things once i get over there.

So after annoying the Kendal adaptive ski guys for a while, as i remembered seeing Alan in hospital, Mum and I dashed across town to visit the University of Cumbria in their yurt (it was so cute!) to enquire about some of their outdoor i've been planning things recently and now i know what path i want to sketch out...the outdoor leadership course Cumbria seems to be right for me, not just as a "degree" but for other reasons such as a stepping stone into moving out, meeting other like-minded people, testing new ideas and concepts out in a safe environment in the lakes for three years! Even more that i can't be bothered or remember to list right now!
So picture this: A girl in shorts, thick tights and a hoody (basicaly half dressed to be in the outdoors, half dressed to be attending a Green Day concert) turns up to the university of Cumbria's yurt at the Kendal mountain festival saying, "I'd like to do you outdoor leadership course..."
Initial reaction: erm...
Before i had to go through any awkward explanations I just said: Ok, i do skiing, climbing, kayaking and i believe in this amazing new adventure sport called "mountain tricking"...
Through conversation i said a little more about what i do and the positive, open minded lecturer really thought that something could be done to get me on this something is being done.
And hopefully, and i'll keep updating, by next September i'll be starting my outdoor leadership degree...a little different to how this "blog" began, don't you think? It all started with the hope of studying English at Oxford! Which just shows...a lot can change in a year!

More to come...American idiot the musical and the amazing Frank Turner. This was all in the space of one weekend..I met St. Jimmy on saturday and got a hug off Frank Turner on Monday...crazy!

Friday, 16 November 2012

A tiny post about BackUp for Children in Need.

This is my facebook status but for my twitter followers...

Right seriously dudes. Back up and especially the bit of back up I work with closely, their youth services, gets funding from children in need and believe me I am proof as a participant and now as a volunteer of the amazing positive impact this charity has on children, their friends and families lives. The course I led for under 13s this summer and services surrounding it are funded by many generous pe
ople and thanks to children in need hopefully more people will be made aware of both spinal cord injury and also the amazing lives us crazy (and increasingly normal...honest!) lot lead thanks to back up. So If you're thinking of giving any tonight please do for me, coz this is probably the one thing in the world that is really in my heart (other than Angus and political satire, green day and david Tennant) . It has had a massive impact on my life choices and way I live my life. I wanna work in bloody outdoor therapeutic education because of it for crying out loud! Give them money so back up can continue to support amazing kids, coz believe me the ones I've met, will continue to meet and hopefully had a good impact on along the way, are simply amazing. :)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Positive news story about the perception of beauty...

Sometimes I have little blog posts about accepting, embracing and being proud of who you are. Just caught the news and there was a great story on Granada Reports about a girl who received horrific burns when she was young and is now 21 and pursuing a career in modelling. The photos that are taking really capture true beauty.
It's important to not see pieces of you that are different as faults, but as a part of you that makes you who you are.
Enjoy. :)

A video of the story

Friday, 9 November 2012

"It's fine!" - When old buildings and steps get in my way...

I've started some weekly work experience for North West Labour. It's all pretty exciting at the moment as there's both the Police Crime commissioner elections and Manchester central By-election. I'm helping out and shadowing Simon Greenhalgh who's the regional communications officer and there's a lot of quite high profile visits going on, so I'm really seeing things from quite a fast-paced point of view.

This Monday just gone Yvette cooper payed a visit to a charity in Manchester called "Reclaim"in the Portland building (127) in Manchester. Jumped in the car, made the short drive into Manchester...jumped out of the car. We mistakenly went into 125...(embarrassing) where there was perfectly fine wheelchair access to the reception. So we came out, headed over to 127 where we were met by some lovely, pretty, old, stoney steep steps...about 6.
In reality, i could be carried up and that is what we were going to do. However, the guy sat at reception said that they weren't insured in case anything happened and wouldn't allow it.
So I was stuck outside.
I went back to the office and did some paper work, which was fine but annoying and frustrating. It wasn't simon or anyone's fault. It was the people who owned the building who I'm sure are very good at saying "we can't adapt the entrance because it's a listed building etc, etc, etc..."
As I was sat outside this particular building, grinning (because that's what I do) i noticed the poignant "brunt wood" symbol on the glass doors.
This made me grin a little more.
Not in a sinister way just a "only me" way.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about going for a diploma in journalism. News associates in Manchester do a 5 month course...i enquired, was going to go for it but found out that bruntwood, who also own their 111 Picadilly building said they couldn't permanently make it wheelchair accessible because of the design/age of building.

Now I know that this particular company doesn't have anything personal against wheelchair users or people with disabilities. Like most places (because, let's face it, most places are inaccessible) they just don't think, maybe  a little lazy, maybe can't be bothered or think that wheelchair users live fully independent lives and need to get places.
A few of you may know or may have guessed i'm a political history geek who loves old buildings...i love visiting them. I can understand to a point the whole "protection" thing but let's be honest here...we live in a very historical country full of old and fully functioning buildings. So i care, but in situations like this i full on couldn't care less about all this "listed" rubbish...I just want to get to the places i need to get and do what i need to do.

You do know it was a tiny factor of why I made the decision not to go to uni?

I liked all the old and pretty places...history, english and politics courses tend to take place in places like that. I don't mind pushing through, wind, rain and snow up huge hills covered in mud...but not to attend a little lecture while carrying books and notes about. Yes, if i really wanted...I would have done, but as we all know It's not what I truly wanted. But do you see how it has a major effect on major life decisions?
It has a major effect on every day experiences and it's so frustrating.

For now, i won't be doing my diploma as other routes of true happiness have opened up...and missing out on shadowing the Yvette Cooper visit was  a bummer...but this sort of thing happens every day. It's crazy that i'm used to it. And everyone always says "this is should fight..." but having to fight everyday for everything things means you never actually get anything done.

And you wonder why i smile and brush it off and find ways around things?
I'm all for adapting to your environment and I do that, but in order to adapt and live fully...others need to adapt their man-made environments for me!

Friday, 2 November 2012

NCS: Outdoor adventure week in Scotland...

I turned up at the Bolton Lads and Girls Club a few weeks ago, dressed for physio for a "chat" about becoming a volunteer and helping with outdoor activities. I'm pleased to say that my application was accepted and next week I'll be having my boundaries training so I can start my role as an "outdoor adventure volunteer". While we were chatting however, ideas sparked in people's heads and before I knew it I was enrolling to be a participant on NCS. (National Citizens Service) I've heard bits and bobs about it since it began around a year ago. From what I'd initially heard about through the press, I'd had an array of negative/positive thoughts on how it's giving kids who don't appreciate the world in the way some of us do the pretty much free opportunity (£30) to spend a week doing outdoor activities that i'd happily pay £££'s for...I've heard a few stories too. A few of my friends are outdoor instructors and they've not had fantastic experiences with some groups but still encouraged me to try and volunteer or be a participant...(it was way back in the summer when I had these "suggestions") I pretty much shrugged it off at the time...I didn't really know what I'd be doing now or where I'd be heading...then a few weeks ago the opportunity flew in my face and I just knew i needed to take it, especially as I've found that I actually want to pursue all this outdoor adventure lark...

This is me being a role model...of fun of course!

Although I'd be a participant, I'd pretty much be a volunteer only my CRB hadn't come through so I still had to follow the rules of a participant...make sense? It'd be a 5 day residential at the Belmont Centre in Meigle near Dundee. About 120 16/17 olds would be going up from Bolton from all types of backgrounds and for different reasons, along with a group of young people with learning difficulties. I had to cancel a few things I had planned....but just knew...that I needed to do this. Not because it'd be an excuse to be doing what I do best but also because It'd be me doing it alone. I wouldn't have my Back Up bubble or Calvert comfort blanket (as i like to call them) I'd have to do more things for myself, constantly explain and make people aware of spinal cord injury, share more ideas with the instructors about how to do things and well...have the confidence to actually do something without the reassurance of my usual people...!

I went, as I go everywhere, with an open mind.
I'm glad I did. I'm so used to the Back Up mentality of people being prepared to encourage each other with the openness and willingness to see something that may be perceived as tiny, as an achievement. Not many able bodied 16/17 year olds on half term really think like that. Ok, that sounds mean and generalising but that is one thing I learnt last week...that maybe I do appreciate things a lot more than people who are perceived to "have it all" do. It made a part of me a little sad that not everyone can enjoy the world in the way I and so many others do but it also reassured me in my acceptance of the fact that different things make different people happy and that's ok. But the group I was with, as a whole and  despite initial challenges and difficulties, I think got a lot out of the week...maybe, when I see  them tomorrow to carry on our project, things may have sank in about what they achieved as the week went on.

I'd say a little proud highlight was our hill the end of the walk, you come to a quarry that is beautiful but in order to get there you have to climb quite a few large steps in woodland. Going up, the instructors and other leaders carried me, but coming down the steps, the whole group helped to carry me down and it as a genuine process of communication and teamwork. We didn't really talk too much about it afterwards but at the end of week review, it was mentioned and I think as a modest team, we were all maybe a little shocked and proud of what we can do when you work together.

As the week went on, I realised just how comfortable I am in this setting, and I was right, without Back Up. I was worried that thoughts and feeling I've had for a few years have been romanticised by the fact that I've just achieved so much thanks to that charity, but this week made me see that my ambitions of going into outdoor education and adventure aren't some silly dream because I made a big impact on a  few, it's me. It's what I want to do.

Me and my Back Up under 13's course group I co-led this summer
down at Calvert Trust, Exmoor.

The day that this all really fell into place was the final day of activities when Chris (one of our leaders) and myself decided to go rock climbing with the independence group who were the group of young people with learning difficulties. As the week had gone on, my love of adapting things had grown even more..I'd had to be open and honest with instructors and try different things and when we got them right I was able to achieve so much. This was the same with the people of various abilities. Some could or only wanted to do "very little" and some wanted to and were able to do a lot. Either way, this group got so much out of working as a team, encouraging one another and having a go while the instructors and leaders worked together to adapt equipment and activities for them. I loved helping out with this and I must say, my first go at climbing outdoors (you know properly, since my injury...not protesting up trees like i used to at primary school!) was pretty immense!
Think I was doing a spot of gardening..

I was extra careful however, as the harness wasn't designed for people with no feeling/sit down all day and I didn't want to end up on bed rest because of an extra ten minutes of climbing, but I got halfway which is pretty cool!

I'll be honest though...there was this play area...and i could have sworn I've dreamt about it! When we'd all finished climbing, the leaders and myself really encouraged everyone to go and have a go on the erm...we did!

I discovered that those "disabled" swings are pretty well damn swingy! And without sounding like some kind of weirdo, I genuinely haven't felt the feeling of swinging for 7 doesn't matter how old you get, it's the best feeling in the world! It then turned into a "let's see what we can get Laura on" hour and i ended up on round-a-bouts, fell off the zip-wire, discovered that you can't have a fireman's lift when you've got two rods in your back and almost fell off this bizarre see-saw invention! Coming back in the little mini-bus on that day, there was just a genuine buzz of happiness and pride of what everyone had achieved and enjoyed and once again, I was glad I'd made the decision to go on that little adventure...I met a few people and made some new connections that will lead to some more!

The morning of the best day that was Thursday, i remembered that i needed to get in touch with my parents and Back Up to sort out a few plans for that weekend's volunteer emails came through as well, so i ran through them as quick as I could, sat on a car park in the middle of scotland in between an audi and a Land Rover...(that was the best place for signal!)...and an email from Vancouer Adaptive snow Sports came through asking me if i still wanted to go over and volunteer this season...i replied that i did...and well, that's the next adventure that truly is forming...

Trike time? Bikes, bums and waiting for bureaucrats...

I received my trike the other day...been out on it once, but had to spend one day staying off my bum as i've burnt it (again!) on my FES bike...don't want to end up on bed rest. Most especially with the life I now lead.
Can you see the head? The birth of my trike!

I can feel my body is getting tougher and stronger now I no longer spend all day, every day slaving away writing pointless essays. (Ok, ok, I will always be proud of my Black Nationalism coursework and James Callaghan essay!) I no longer feel lethargic, de-motivated and I'm really enjoying and embracing autumn. I don't think I've been able to enjoy the golden leaves falling in my fringe since before I started school.

My skiing is improving too! Had my 7th ski lesson yesterday. Garlands most definitely are God, but I keep leaning and stacking it when i turn..but hey, i'm getting them turns on a steep gradient in a sport I never tried or knew much about until very recently. When I get over to Canada I'll really be able to work on it for hopefully more than an hour once a week.

I'm just waiting for the opening of the application process for the international experience Canada visa to open so I can apply, set things in motion and head over to volunteer with VASS. My aim is to go over early January and stay for the rest of the ski season..but visas take 6-8 weeks to come through and it's 8 weeks this week till the beginning of January so may be a little later.
I'm still looking for a place to stay but laurie is being really helpful in putting my details out there to see if anyone has the facilities and room for me to stay with them.
The only extra difficulties with travelling alone and being in a chair is just little practicalities that would cause a bit of nuisance even if I stayed in Chorley for the rest of my life (And let's face it, that is something I could never do!) If you break goals down into chunks, you can do it. Coloplast deliver and have their own branches in Canada so i can pee happily! I'll speak to my GP about medication...might have to sort some sort of physio out, I can still receive DLA for  a short period of time which will be very helpful while I'm still getting on my feet. I just need to think about kit and what will be out there for me, what I should take and what I should buy...I'm thinking of buying a Prasch while I'm out there.

Damnnn it's raning now...still going out with people like my Mum in my trike reasons! Might drag people to Delamere this sunday to get some proper practice in!

I'm having a swimming assessment hopefully will be come  confident swimmer pretty soon too!

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wheelchairs and snow...marriage made in hell? Maybe not anymore...

From feet, to trays, to wheels, to bigger wheels, to blades?
For any of my readers who don't know, snow and wheelchairs can often be a match made in hell (though that wouldn't be very helpful as your both tyres and snow would melt!)
The first few winters after my injury felt like a long steady torture of ill health and depression, sat at my bedroom window, trying and failing to revise, yearning to just run around and play in the snow...
My negative memories and feelings didn't help...the day before I'd gone into hospital for my operation I'd played out in the snow, and for 4/5 years I just couldn't cope with the idea of going out in it and when I tried, I just got stuck...

Until 2010...which was when I started to see my wheelchair as this cool thing that gets me around...(This was way before i'd even thought of skiing, I was still all studious and attempting to get an A* in History at GCSE (which i'm still proud of btw) back then...) and Dad dug out a tray he uses for gardening and that's how i got around that snow week...
It was a little awkward when i was forgotten and
stranded in the middle of my street..
Now, I'm a little more of a wheelchair geek and I love wheels...a little too much.
...Extra wheels...
I've now got a "freewheel" that I haven't yet had the pleasure to use in the snow. Apparently however, with the correct large wheel tyres it's pretty good...(my snow tyres are currently on order...)
I'd recommend anyone who can afford or has the guts to ask for someone to fundraise £375 buys a freewheel. I got mine through Gerald Simonds in the UK, but it originates from the US. I use it all the time and i's got me many places...
It got me onto the giant's causeway...yes, I had to be
carried off, but that's because...have you ever been there?
you'll get my drift!

It's also fantastic for everyday use more than anything, not just Laura May-loony adventures. If I go for a push at night (especially these dark ones) I put it on so I can push quickly and with the confidence, knowing that I'm not going to fly out because my caster got caught on a tiny stone.
So I'm looking forward to trying it out on the snow either over here or when I go over to vancouver in January...
That's another thing, It's compact and easy to travel with. You just attach it to the back of your chair as it comes with all the equipment needed.

A video showing the freewheel in action             >>>>>>>

...Bigger wheels...
So from freewheels that are great camping, in fields at festivals, walking your dog and getting over everyday obstacles to my new baby...
My mountain trike.
I only got it yesterday but this is literally a mountain bike...but a wheelchair and when I get in it...i'm on a bike. It's weird, I will give it it's own beautiful, personalised blogpost...but that's apparently amazing in the snow too. Though I doubt I'll get it over to Vancouver in hand luggage and it's not £375 but it is worth £3995 and I really want to see it develop as a sport and oh the trails...anyway, sorry...sidetracked...but yes, mountain trikes...check them out...
I've recently taken up skiing and I'm loving learning how to slide and not fall or lose my teeth on the lifts at the Chillfactore...
Anyway, I've been talking to a few people and recently at some kind of motability show in Dusseldorf...these lovely little wheelchair attachments called "wheelblades". The design of them seems similar  to your outriggers that you use when mono-skiing. I don't know anyone who's tried them but what I've seen looks pretty epic, I'd love to try them! Not sure I need them however with all my beautiful baby wheels...but hey, when you get kids trying to be cool, or old men walking their dogs saying "you need to attach some skis to that thing!" if you're going down a huge least you can answer back and say, "ye, don't worry, they're at home!"
Wheelblades website
Though...if you've seen where I live...if it did snow, I'd love to just monoski down my street!

Hope this helps...just thought i'd let you all know of my little journey from feet, depression, getting stuck to...rolling and sliding quite happily in the snow. :)

Final 2 days of Granada: wrapped up!

The final two days of work experience at Granada were definitely mixed...

I'm going to wrap them both up as this is turning into a bit of a saga and putting me way behind in publishing other stuff i've been up to!

I was humped by a staffordshire bull terrier. (He was so cute and crazy but wasn't put into the final edit which i still think is an outrage!)
It was really fun being out on the road all the way to westHoughton with Ralph who i salute for carrying me up a flight of stairs in a 3 storey town house and spending at least 2 hours picking on me and threatening to steal bits of titanium off my chair!

It was a bit awkward when we got back however...this truly was work experience within broadcast journalism (an ever changing industry) in 2012...
6 redundancies were announced that dinner time, so i felt really awkward being the work experience girl and completely baffled as to why the people who i'd seen were most busy had lost their jobs...
Apparently the format of local news is changing and instead of being a full on news programme, it's trying to be more short and snappy like a website. So skills to me at least, are appearing to be splattered out the door and then dust pan and brushed back up and handed out to a handful reporters who are expected to produce pieces of work that years of experience, skills and many hands have been used to produce. It doesn't seem fair to both sides, those that are keeping their jobs and those that are losing...and will the audience really benefit from this huge revamp?
It'll be interesting to see the effects when everything falls, emphasis on the word "falls" there, into action...

I'll be honest, it felt weird. I'd been there less than a week and yet i'd worked everyone and the whole place out. The warm banter, the dynamics of everyone and the building frustration of how it's all about to change...with me, thrown into the middle of it all.
I didn't really have much to do in the morning, so I flicked through the papers and planned a few things for our disabled access story and then after lunch...
I was rescued from feeling a little lost and little low by the lovely Jo Blythe. To be honest, we did just chat and drink coffee a lot, but i learnt so much about the weather too! I'd never approached Fred for any work experience-related-type stuff as I'd assumed throughout the week that i should just stick with reporters. The guys in graphics even said to me, "Ye, you were monopolised on Monday by Matt O'donoghue!"Maybe it was a good thing? Either way, ever since I was little I've been interested in how we find out what the weathers like and how it all gets fed onto our TV screens...and on Friday afternoon I learnt just that! I listened in on the phone call from the met office, found out that Granada actually film weather reports for (memories fading now) about 3 regions and got to giggle in the studio at Jo accidentally saying the word "sex" instead of "sec" old am i?
Oh, come on. It is funny.
She did have to re-do the entire report because of my slight smirk...
ooo I also stopped in the corridor and got talking about how beautifully shot countryfile is...and all the while was thinking yep, my love of the outdoors and bizarre skills I have with the media will help me in many ways...not just as a journalist...
I watched Granada reports one final time in the gallery and probably made Rob Smith put on a few pounds as my miniature heroes were right next to his desk. Riggers said I'd been a "big presence" in the newsroom...funny that, I thought i was just a large annoyance...I headed to the car park, handed in my pass and headed off home from a week of ups downs and complete unexpected normalised madness at Granada.

So what now?
Am I going to rush off, get my diploma to be recognised as a journalist and begin a career in journalism?
Am I going to take a "gap year"?
For crying out loud, no. I hate labels. I'm living life and I know that if i wanted and when i wanted I have the ability to become a journalist; observing and reporting....but for now, I want to do some doing. I want to travel, I want to meet people, I want to work with people. I want to work within outdoor adventure and build up my skiing skills to become an instructor and I just want to soak it all up, doing, not just observing. In the future I may roll to that and then to other things...but for now, what I'm doing, improving my own skills and meeting incredible people with amazing ideas that are similar to mine and pursuing them is what I want to do. I all to aware of the media and the power it has, that's why I'm staying alive and learning from it and using it in an ethical and healthy way to get to where I want to be and promote some of the new, innovative and exciting adventures i'm beginning to get up to. That's what I learnt about that week. I learnt about the sheer power  and respect the media has. It's all about talking and asking and communicating and being  a little bit cheeky in order to be the first to find out...well that's exactly the same way in which you go about becoming the "first one to do"'s not an "ego" thing. It's a heart pounding, gut following, forget about what the world thinks and just do it thing. So that's what I'm going to do. Don't worry, I'm not going to disappear or go off the radar...the media is very similar to mother nature and they work best together.
Let's get these amazing adventures and discoveries of mine and the fantastic people around me on the map!

So...from now on, you'll find on this blog accounts of me getting out there and just well, going for it!
Not that I've not always done that anyway...

Emmy The Great - War - cover

I also do a little bit of guitaring in my spare time...Emmy the Great is amazing. Excuse the quietness of my singing, it's  a stark contrast to my personality...or is it? na, it's called being paralysed from the chest down my dears....;)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Final 3 days of work experience: Wednesday!

I've been a naughty I've been doing stuff and not had the time to sit, think and write.

The latter 3 days of my work experience were very different to the first two. I'd been thrown in straight in at the deep end with Matt, but on Wednesday he was due to go up and work on a documentary so I'd lost my can't really be a shadow without something to shadow, can you?


Matt introduced me to Elaine, saying we'd be a match made in heaven! Like all the other reporters she was great and listened to where I've been, what I'm doing and where I'm at for the moment. My week was during the "floods" so she was placed onto a story somewhere up near Fleetwood about Residents refusing to pay council tax. I'd have been more than happy to go up, but the producers decided I should stay back and work on my own story to do with disabled access with Mel, when she came in...

so Elaine rolled away and I waited.
...and waited.
Then after around half an hour it was realised that it was Mel's day off.
So I felt a bit lost.

Rob, the producer had grown into quite a good little mentor and he showed me how to find stories, scouring through local and national newspapers. A story might be really interesting, but is it the type of story that would be good visually?
Anna then spoke to me after dinner (or lunch as people seem to call it nowadays) and asked me to do some planning towards the story about disabled access.
Hungry for soemthing interesting to do, i logged onto ye olde Facebook and made a status...

No one noticed the slight spelling mistake at first...
Mini access rant/point
I got  a good response and some good discussions about different places from different people. Jan was particularly helpful in telling me about Farmageddon near Ormskirk that despite boasting national awards in tourism, it still remains inaccessible to wheelchair users like myself. When asked whether it could be adapted for chair users the excuse, as always is "health and safety"...pathetic. Just saying. Anyway, we didn't go ahead with this, but thought I'd mention it. Yes, the most important and news worthy places are those of essential use such as train stations, public buildings and shops. But in all honesty, as a younger teenager...places like Farmageddon and other "fun" attractions being inaccessible had a major impact upon my social life. Birthday parties are held in places like that, and a lot of the time people don't bother people don't get invited. It's only been as I've got older and "led" friendship groups, have I gained the courage to ask and organise and go places. It's frustrating to not be able to take advantage and have fun in local places where "normal" people go to have fun...but I cam ski, kayak, climb mountains and be "so inspirational" but not get scared in Ormskirk!

Anyway...back to main experience blogging!
I decided to correct my minor spelling mistake of the word "public" and within 3 seconds i received a phone call off what sounded like some kind of air compresser. It was Ste Unsworth.
In between laughs, and struggling to breath he managed the word "pubic."
But after his moment. (He has a lot of them) he told me about his nightmare of train/bus journey he used to have to take to get to get to College last year simply because Hindley train station is inaccessible.
In order to get to Bolton from Hindley, most people get the train:
HIndley -> Bolton.
In order to get from Hindley to Bolton University, Set had to...
Get the bus from Hindley to Wigan.
Then the train from Wigan to Bolton, doubling back on himself!
This allowed us to a bit more research into public transport with Ed mentioning that London Tonight had done a report on public transport and it'd be quite cool do a report that's things started to move with that...and things still are.
(I'll update you all on that in a later blog, we've done some filming, but still have more to come!)

So despite the early frustration, Wednesday was a productive and interesting day. I saw how stories are formed from ideas and a bit of inspiration, as well as looking for ones that are already there!

When Elaine returned, she also told me that she'd been greeted by not so much water and a bit of improvising with sandbags had to take place.

Sandbags, as Fred assured the gallery during the lunchtime bulletin, really do prevent flooding!

Thursday's blog will follow as soon as I can tear myself away from rolling around everywhere...

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Work experience: Day 2

You know how I said it rained on Monday?

It rained again on Tuesday.
...And I mean rain.
Torrential downpours, sideways, non-stop.

Waterproofed up and ready for the elements I set out a good deal earlier. I was just about on time and turning into Granada, when I got a text from Matt telling me he was already on the road to the Vigil for the murdered police women. This was due to begin at 10am and down at the Hattersley Estate. 
Tim the Tom-Tom (bless 'I'm!) got re-told where to go and we were off. It was a pretty straight forward journey that led me to going round a round-a-bout twice (what's new?) that then found me rolling past the street where the crime took place and into an abandoned pub car-park.

Police were everywhere. Vans, cars, walking officers...I had a scene from Billy Elliot in my head, only there was no picket line to be crossed and I was a little lost.
Rang up Matt, who was in the middle of scoffing a McDonald's breakfast, when I decided I best use the restaurants amenities and grab a toilet stop and drink as didn't want to run off, knocking on bungalow doors in the middle of a moment's silence!

I only wanted a Tropicana!
The world's press and policemen seemed to have gravitated towards that very McDonald's just as I was in the loo and I found myself stuck in a queue...when I'd finally got back in my car I also went round another round-a-bout, saw the procession, panicked and left at the wrong exit! Luckily I was saved by my Sat Nav but couldn't find anywhere to park in the torrential rain. There were just so many cars and I had kerbs and slippy wheels from never ending rain to think about...
Finally found a space what felt like miles away from it all, but at least I could get out.
It was all pretty much a race against time now. Rain still slamming it down. The procession making it's way closer. Matt pushed me to the sport where they'd set up and we were literally ready just in the nick of time...

The rain eased a little.
I had another one of those "seeing things from the other side" moments. The cameras must irritate people, especially at times like this. But the cameras are needed. If they weren't used, no one would know anything.
We hurried behind the procession and headed over to where the small stage was set up, There was an extremely steep hill that I'd be reluctant to tackle even in dry weather. A man attempted to help me down, but I slipped as my bag had fell in front of my wheels. He was trying way too hard to keep me in my chair and didn't hear me say "My bag, I'm slipping because of my bag that's tripping me up!" I managed to survive that moment of embarrassment and near tarmac mountaineering accident, to look to find that my lot had disappeared!

My confused face and position grabbed quite a bit of attention. Before I could get my bearings, two policemen were carrying me up some concrete steps and placing me in front of the police line, ready for the service.
The heavens opened, yet again!
I sat waiting for what felt like hours for something to begin. 
The picture of Fiona Bone fell over, the stage looked like it was about to give way and collapse any second...then as I turned to look at the line of police officers, I saw one of them faint.
The atmosphere, with a little help from the weather, was grim.
Elsie, a local resident said  a lovely piece to the crowd while the police officer said a few things that made me cringe and remember a fe whinges I'd learnt the day before, "contempt of court."
All the while, I was becoming increasingly conscious of the looming camera lens straight across from me that was panning the crowd. This then made me even more conscious of my bright blue rain coat and green wheelchair that most certainly contrasts with the smart black uniform of the police...
I was right to be conscious.

I was apparently on sky news and ITN...great! Of all the times and places to end up on national TV, this most certainly wasn't one that I was hoping for.

When people finally started moving, and I was quite contently acclimatised to the south pole, I managed to scramble through the crowd and follow Matt getting camera shots of the crowd and their reactions. Again, it can look and must feel intrusive, but it's the news.
I got mistaken for a member of the local community yet again, but by Key103 this time.

As the crowds began to thin and we'd had a few interviews, my lightness of body weight yet again played to my advantage and i managed to dry off and keep a little warm while Matt hair dried his shoes in the van.
It was pretty cool to see how pictures get fed through to the newsroom and to other channels and vise versa.

I paddled to my car and headed back to the newsroom.
We grabbed some food and i saw how lunch bulletin package was put together and then had to head back to the Hattersly estate for Matt to do his "as live" piece to camera. In hindsight, it does seem crazy, the amount of running around to different locations that is done in order to create the 6pm news package. But at the same time you can see how it is needed to be presentable and pull the story together.
I parked down a hill in a slightly awkward place. Simply because the police had pretty much taken up the whole main road. My amazing skills of holding the brolly over the camera were...almost needed!

After that ten minute job for a ten second moment of TV and re-fill of petrol, it was back to Granada to put together the tea-time package!
It was around 4pm by now so traffic in the city centre was getting to the stage where it was sending my dysreflexic...

We were back in the newsroom by 5, the package was put together by 6 and I watched Granada Reports in the newsroom. Had a giggle at some of the tweets that get sent in...some of them really do make me question humanity!

Another full, soggy and sweetly productive day of work experience!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Work experience at Granada Reports: Day one.

I spent the week of the 24th-28th September shadowing Matt O'Donoghue (for half of it at least) at Granada Reports. Here's what I learned and what I got up to!

Day One

Rain. Rain. 
Did I mention, it rained?

Set out really early only to find that all possible routes to get to Manchester from good ol' Chorley were at a complete standstill. I tend to only drive their at a leisurely pace to the chill factore!
I finally arrived in the Granada car park at around 9:15. (I'd been aiming to get there for 8:30...not good being late on your first day!) Matt was there to greet me, armed with an ITV brolly and the knowledge of pushing me up mountains!

Thrown in at the deep end, we waddled our way over to Court to watch the Dale Cregan case.
I set off all of the security scanners, couldn't get my chair into the press area in court, so had to sit in what looked like the public gallery.
It was very interesting to see things from a press point of view, not as a girl suing the NHS. My previous experiences with the British Judiciary system, for a while, left me with quite  a bad attitude towards the press. During the knitty-gritty part of my trial that dealt with "who's fault it was" i learned that too much press coverage and digging can have an affect upon the entire case. So now I was looking at things from the eyes of an apprentice, 2 years ago I would have glared at. But perspectives change, and the perspective I now carry was confirmed and given confidence with what followed.
In that short space of time I spent in court, I discovered the legal issue of "contempt of court" which, as a journalist, leads to you ending up in court again, only in front a jury! I also experienced how good broadcast journalists  respect this legal issue and the snowball effect it had upon this story and the entire day...

We headed back over to Granada, jeans and chair quite contently soaked. I got my pass from the front desk that allowed me to access pretty much everywhere, then we headed up the newsroom.
TV's everywhere. 
Desks everywhere.
Apple macs everywhere.
Apparently I looked shell shocked, but in all honesty I was just extremely intrigued by it all, a.k.a nosy.
A natural skill I've learnt is key in journalism.
Why wasn't my Nanna ever one then?

With pretty much nothing to report apart from the bare, boring facts of dates, times and appearances. Matt was concerned of what had already been published by the Granada and ITV news websites, knowing that anything close to contempt of court, put his entire career on the line. It also, however meant he had little to report and was at a complete loss of what to fill the what "should" be the main story for Granada Reports with.

Not to worry though!
After introducing me to the newsroom staff (though this happened continuously throughout the week) Matt introduced me to the editing software and how he puts a story together. I was quite impressed. As a kid I used to love editing (this probably wasn't legal) Doctor who music videos (i know!) and other bits and bobs and had no idea that as a still had to do all of this!

Then a bit of an odd-shaped bomb shell hit.

Matt found out he was presenting Granada Reports as Rob Smith was ill.
Not the most amazing news for Matt who had to rush home and grab his foundation...but pretty cool for me, to take a look at how presenting works!

I watched the lunchtime bulletin in the gallery which was coo-ol!
Always wanted to go in a know ever since being a kid watching "behind-the-scenes" on CBBC.

Shadowing did feel a little like stalking...

I watched Lucy and Matt rehearse in the studio and was surprised by how all cameras are remote controlled (so old school in my brain!) then went up to the gallery for the exciting bit...Granada Reports!

When you're at home, you take so many aspects of the news for granted...after last week, I really don't and look at EVERYTHING really closely. From camera angles, to supers. They all are created and add up to make a product at 6pm that people round the north west rely on and enjoy.
And that on my first day, is what I found really satisfying.

You go in at 8:30am (hopefully) with a few rough ideas but no real idea of what    your day is going to be find your way, get there, do your story and by 6:30pm you've got a product.
The next day is the same...but because of that, the next day is never the same!

So i tottled off home, excited, telling my Mum, Dad and Angus (fluffly white thing we call our dog) about everything I'd seen and done, while Matt had to stay behind and do the late-night bulletin.
A long, eventful day for Matt to say the least.

It certainly raised a few eyebrows!
(No joke intended to offend any broadcast journalist's eyebrows...honest!)

...more to come...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Be a superhuman.

It’s amazing to see “people overcoming so many barriers!”
-Spectator of the Paralympic marathon, interviewed by BBC news.

I was really struggling to find a way of starting this, but I just found it!

I don’t have hard evidence, stats or figures. But I do experience life every day as a paraplegic. As a human being, I am constantly observing and feeling my own and the world’s perception of myself.

So what?

Well something’s changed.

If that woman was asked 11 days ago what she was most looking forward to seeing during the Paralympics, I have a very strong feeling she would have said something along
the lines of;
“It’ll be amazing to see so many people overcome their disability!”
See the difference?
That’s what the Paralympics have

I’m one of those “disabled people” who is always out and about living, as I want to. My wonky spine and lack of leg movement are a part of me and sometimes they create barriers. And that’s the thing, it’s the barriers I overcome, not my disability; I embrace that.
But I’m just one girl who floats around making people smile and think differently. Yes, the world is my stage but not everybody wants or has tickets to see me.
The Paralympics on the other hand, is a massive stage. And thanks to the last 10 days, now everyone wants a ticket and everyone’s got one!

Ellie Simmonds is now known as a fish in our house. Mum and I have also renamed wheelchair track racing as “caravan racing!” Because when them things go over, they go over! I’m obsessed with wheelchairs and how they work as it is. The technology and in depth analysis and arguing about “them bloody blades!” has been immense.
The Paralympics have sparked thoughts, questions and conversations.

Thankfully, as a ready-response to what our brains and mouths have been doing over these games, a new platform in the form of Adam Hills’ last leg has been there for us.
Watching that show has not only caused me to have yet another public crush on yet another comedian (that smile!), but it’s also allowed all of us to have a laugh, question and just feel the true spirit of the Paralympics and what it’s like to live with a disability.
It’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s great! It’s just living.
You don’t have to pretend, you don’t have to hide. You just have to get out there and be you. You might want to be the next Weir-wolf or you might not. But from watching the Paralympics you most definitely can see that you can:
Embrace who you are.
Overcome the obstacles in front of you.
And most importantly, be whoever you want to be.

Sometimes you have to be the one to take the first step.
The Paralympics wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for one man going against what everyone told him.

Don’t be scared, be absolutely terrified.

Be a superhuman.

Go go go go gerrrrrrd it!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Straight from the heart: Break downs, jobs and directions...

Last night I just broke down in tears. I keep saying I want to go into media, it's not necessarily journalism but I thought I'd take a look at the qualification I've been recommended to go for if I want to...I cried...I couldn't do it, not right now. Everything just overwhelmed me. I want to travel. I'm most happy when I'm wandering around the world discovering places and learning things from that. I'm most unhappy, inside worrying about what I'm going to do to make some money to keep my funds up. That's the truth.
After probably over an hour crying my eyes out over this keyboard Mum came in and found me crying and I just completely opened up, even though I'm open anyway, I'm usually open on a complete high which usually makes Mum quiet and thoughtful looking. She doesn't like to give me praise because so many people give it me and she keeps me grounded but last night it was needed. I was totally at rock bottom.
The problem is, I always get told "you're amazing, so inspirational, you'll go far!" Ok...helpful, go far doing what?
For a while now I've had the words "media" in my brain...actually, it's been there a long time and I know that it is something I want to go into. But I've always been a bit wobbly when It comes to journalism...
For a long time after my injury, as I've probably mentioned, I tried to replace a lot of the things I used to do and things I thought I no longer could do with stuff like writing and academia. For a while that worked but it's got to the point where "writing" has turned into a chore rather than a passion or outlet, like it used to be. Now I'm discovering I can do all the things I loved doing as a kid only in a different more grown up way.
But's there "media"...I looked up the diploma I've been recommended to look at in order to become a journalist. I burst out crying.
I just did, as soon as I read all of the writing involved. I know I'm writing now! But all of the exams...
The truth is. I do love the media. I love investigating, I love and I'm fascinated by the power it has. But I love the talking to people, the presenting over the writing of articles...I think maybe it's presenting I'll go into? I'm not sure. But I don't think it'll be right now. The media training and hopefully possible work I'll be doing with the media thanks to Back Up, during the paralympics will give me the chance to experience different aspects of it. But right now...last night, I knew exactly what made me feel happy doing...

So I told my Mum a story that I've never told anyone before.
It's one of those memories that's always stuck in my head.
I would have been about 10. I was playing on the park as usual, on my bike...and there was this girl (who i still sort of know) in a wheelchair that went to my old school who used to come on the park with her sister and watch us climb and ride bikes. I used to go over and talk to her. This particular day I remember riding over to the river where she was sat and her telling me how she loved looking at the trees and hearing the river through them. I can remember thinking "I wish I could make her feel what we all feel" as in the feeling of adventure and freedom. i didn't really know or understand how I could...but it was was there...whatever it was.
And it's stuck with me through all the stuff I've done over the years. There was a point, a very long point where I thought I'd never be adventurous or travel or do the things I dreamed of and realised I loved when I was little. Like our meandering around Scotland in the summer of 2003.
So this summer at when I group led my first ever Back Up course at Exmoor, helping the under 13s with spinal cord injury jump into kayaks, encouraging them to abseil and get up that climbing wall and all sorts...I realised I could still do it. My odd feeling last year weren't just weird dreams, they were and are actual real ambitions. Right now I am most happiest outdoors, helping people particularly with disabilities do stuff they never thought they'd be able to.
So that's what I want to spend my near future doing.
Yes, It might be a bit different and a bit daring for a girl in a wheelchair herself to do it.
But I've come to realise that you can't live life following someone else's path. You've got to form your own and have the guts and drive to jump out of the box. I'm doing it in a tiny way anyway by not going to university like most people who get AAB at A level. But university...I can't think of anything worse for me. It'd be a cover up, like a lot of things throughout these past 7 years have been, some without me even realising.
So I found out today that the chill factore only half away from my house do adaptive skiing...I've been contacting adaptive ski resorts in Canada and America for volunteer positions in the office so I can spend my spare time learning to ski (as it's something i've never been able to fit in with school) I was getting  a little anxious about that fact that I have no experience and I'd be a total clutz at something, somewhere I want to volunteer at...whereas now, i can hopefully spend the time and less than a quarter of the money I'd spend on a miserable year at university on learning to ski before I actually go out to a resort and even If i am at first volunteering in the office, i could train to be an instructor a lot quicker.
So thanks to the break down of last night. Things are looking up and I know my Mum's behind me in all of  this, she knows it's me. It always has been. Just, I know people get confused sometimes with the way my parents act as they never give me praise, but it's because everyone else does and they don't want to put me on a pedastool or push me in a direction that i may find is wrong for me.
She says I've got guts.
I have.
And that I've got to go for it.
Travel. Be outdoors. Meet people. Help people.
I'll bring it back and in some way I know it'll work.