Storm Ciara threatens the party plans.

The final event in the birthday celebrations was for family. This is no mean feat; between the two of us we have around 54 people in our immediate family. So we often find that restricting these events to family only, works very well. A family party when the family are as plentiful as ours does place a serious amount of pressure on the organisers. You have to tread carefully since you don’t get to refresh the crowd that often obviously, unless there is a new partner (possible with some of the young crowd) or another baby has arrived (and they generally have no idea what’s going on anyway, as long as there is milk).

The party, if left to chance, could prove calamitous since there is a danger of creating a “Groundhog Day” with the same people always in attendance. This means that not all parties are attended and there is a danger that, with no preparation at all, no-one would come; this is social suicide for the family member hosting. It has become vitally important in these circumstances that a big hitter makes a commitment early on, according to Kevin Bridges anyway, and so in our family we have our very own big hitter- Marilyn. No party is complete without our funky, funny, adorable Marilyn. She works shifts so getting her to the party can be critical in terms of the timing of your event. And given the volume of people in the family, there are likely to be a few family parties in a year. No-one should underestimate the challenge of pulling this off as a straightforward gig, complacency is not an option.

Of late there has been a recent trend of fancy dress parties, usually the younger crowd drive this, so it has been 21st birthdays or birthdays at Halloween. eBay and Amazon, thankfully, accommodate such events and have enabled us to get our hands on pretty much any outfit for any occasion at cut price. People arrive in sharply coutured (albeit weird and wonderful) outfits. On the downside however we seem to have lost a bit of the creativity for outfits with the easy to access and disposable outfits, gone are the bunches of grapes from balloons kind of costume. Nevertheless, costume parties are a trend and one that required me to put a little thought into the planning of this party. If it was costume AND Marilyn could come then success was inevitable. Seeing as this was the big 60 birthday extravaganza and this combo was necessary, in addition for success to be ensured it needed to be an untried theme and so the sixties choice evolved.

What I hadn’t planned, given the intricate nature I have explained in pulling this party off, was that behind the scenes my sister and daughter were also planning the event. While well intentioned they have no idea of the nuances of such a big occasion in a family like this, nor the social implications. As a bit of a control freak and as my reputation as a hostess was at stake I didn’t want to renege as much control as they might have liked. I needn’t have worried and couldn’t have been more wrong. I assumed control of the food, (as Gayle says “you’re a feeder”) as my future reputation as a hostess may well hinge on this. Therefore I gained control of the food planning early on. This was a bit of a strategic coup, since once I had control of the food, the organising twosome saw it as a defeat and let me in on their plans. AWESOME as they were.

On the day before the party, a surveillance team were deployed to ensure I was not around. Conveniently celebrating a birthday with my friend ( after all other people were also having birthdays) I was out sufficiently long enough for three Gazebo’s and 1800 lights, bunting, chairs, tables, a juke box and cocktail bar all to appear on my patio area. I was actually moved, it looked stunning and my only regret is not taking pictures of all the hard work that went into this. It looked so inviting, so colourful and bright. I began to feel excitement stirring in my veins. Storm Ciara had other ideas. The lion’s wee brother dropped off a bright orange 60’s TV and we had other props that were strategically placed for optimal experience after all many would not recall the 60’s.

On Saturday morning the double-glazing in our bedroom had worked its magic and drowned out the fiercest of winds and rain overnight. But imagine my horror when I looked out to see half of the gazebo’s missing and brightly coloured bunting, napkins and cups scattered around the shrubs at the edge of the garden. Once outside it was worse, the sandbags holding the gazebo’s in place, were futile in the clutches of Ciara’s gusting winds, they jostled about like chicks looking to hide inside their mother’s wing. I raked around the street and surrounding woodland and recovered some of the missing gazebo, then I started to look at ways to ensure we didn’t lose any more. The weather forecast was not promising and drastic action was needed.

A bright spark led me to Hobby Craft where I bought 6 meters of Velcro, hoping this would ensure the flapping side panels resisted the winds and were kept in situ. That made little impact, I gathered large stones, boxes of tiles from the garage, concrete slabs, to no avail nothing could hold the three gazebo’s in place. Ciara was relentless and wining this battle – perhaps if I had invited her she might have given up just a little more. After 2 hours of battering against the elements and 20 minutes before my make-up appointment. I gave in and summoned the construction team back to remove them. Defeated I felt the party might be a disaster after all.

Following the transformational work of Fiona at Fabulous on my ageing and withered skin, I emerged luminous with the Mary Quant look, complete with beauty spot. The strong winds just managing to blow the wrinkles away. I returned home in time to see the gazebo’s, defeated by Ciara, laying desolate on the ground folded up and awaiting the imprisonments of the bags, no longer colourful and inviting but lacklustre and unwelcoming. The patio was remarkably bare.

Unstinted by this setback the organisers had taken over the house which had been transformed with the lights and bunting, the 60’s props and a VW Beetle photo booth erected in the snug. Photographs of me at various stages of life were peppered around the room along with balloons, banners and colourful ribbons. With 560 60’s tunes downloaded, snowballs with maraschino cherries, pork pie, cocktail sticks bearing sausages, cheese and pickles the scene was set for the party to get off the ground. As a final touch, and one of complete self-indulgence, I printed some old pictures with my name below and taped them to the Tennant’s lager cans in a fit of nostalgia, they never had a Tennant Girl with my name before. Now we can get this party started ………………………

For she’s yer mammy’s mammy

The problem with getting to 60 is that your try to find relatable women to work out how you might behave in this new decade. One woman who’s been the basis for my transformation into a ‘Granny’ is intrinsic to my own experiences of Granny’s in my past. I became a Granny at 50, my mother was 45 when I made her a Grandma so we have experienced, in our family at least, being a Granny at a relatively young age ( speaking contemporarily). But the only actual tangible experience of being a 60 something Granny, the provider of the framework for my future role, is the only one I had, my mum’s mum.

Jemima Henderson Mark was born in 1900, so when I was born she was 60. You can see why I’m drawing these comparisons as I approach the Golden Girls era. Obviously I don’t remember her when I was born, but my earliest memories do start when she was probably around 65years of age. I called her Grandma; I don’t know why that particular name was chosen but that is what she was to me and my sisters. I was not the first grandchild, so perhaps the first two had determined what we would call her. I know that my son named all his grandparents by different names while his words were still forming and the 14 or so grandkids that came after him followed suit. I myself have chosen Gran. I feel this reflects the sophistication of what I am trying to achieve as the older person in my grandchildren’s lives and tones down the ageist commentary that is commonly associated with status and responsibilities. My mother is GG (GreatGran) typically reflecting her personality, but more of that later.

At 60 my Grandma was deaf and wore a hearing aid. None of your minute concealed microscopic ear pieces, oh no this was a full on draw attention to your disability apparatus that, despite being stealthily coloured beige to blend with the skin ( if you were even beige in the first place) and therefore conceal it, was of monstrous proportions. This less than discrete apparatus, (Tena the brand of discrete was yet to be discovered- remember this was the 60’s) was operated through a clip on box designed to be worn on your dress like a brooch, however it measured about 6 inches by 2, and was the size of a small radio. It often dangled down in the creases of her bosom, which was ample and could swallow it up threatening to disappear forever. This box then connected to an ear piece, exactly the same as that used by the NHS today (things haven’t moved on much), by a slim but obvious lengthy wire. I know quite a lot about this hearing aid because it whistled constantly like R2D2 and you could not avoid looking at it as she fumbled with the volume to turn you up and it down. You couldn’t play hide and seek because you would hear it whistling giving away the hidey hole she had managed to squeeze herself into. It was constantly a source of inconvenience for her.

I experienced great sympathy for my Grandma, she seemed so vulnerable, probably due to the hearing aid, and she was so embarrassed about her disability, particularly if it whistled. When she went to Church she wouldn’t wear it because it threatened to squeal and she’d get embarrassed about that. Instead she’d go without the hearing aid and of course not hear a word that was preached, sung or whispered. I also knew she wore bloomers, but not the ‘Gone with the Wind Southern Belle’, style with ribbons and frills. In fact these were pre-Tena brushed cotton and elastic and beige that covered the leg from the hip to the knee. As a youngster I wondered if this was linked to the fact that my grandad had died in 1961 so she lived alone, and perhaps bloomers had sadly replaced the satin knickers that might have been worn if he was still alive. Or perhaps it was because there was no central heating and she just wanted to be warm. What ever the reason these memories were the realities, the very foundation for fearing my impending age.

On the other hand I often went to spend the night with her. I loved that. The big feather quilt puffed in pink satin squares floated on top of the bed, which was a big double. There was a stone water bottle that was filled with boiling water and laid into the bed about half an hour before you were due to bed down. On the fireplace you were guarded through the long chilly night by 2 magnificent Wally Dugs proudly asymmetrical at the fireplace ends, spooking the life out of me in the dark. The sleepover bed was a joy because I had a bedroom all to myself and didn’t need to share the bed with either of my sisters. A sleepover at Grandmas always meant smarties and dumpling with tanners in greaseproof paper and tomato soup for tea. I’d snuggle up along side her on her small two seater sofa and watch TV. In the 60’s that was a small square about 10ins x 10ins screen contained in a walnut cupboard. We watched the Titanic on that set and I broke my heart when it started to sink, going to the back of the TV to try and salvage a lifeboat or two. I remember she was worried that I’d get bad dreams from that experience so she sat beside me on the big comfy bed till I fell asleep.

My Grandma was a member of the Eastern Star, a female version of the masons. She had an orange sash, with brocade and embroidery, laced with golden tassels that swung in time with the music as she marched. I saw her walking with it on once, she wore it with pride and I thought how grand she looked in her smart coat and sash. In Lanarkshire you were generally one thing or the other, Protestant or Catholic. The pathway of my birth took me down the blue route. But she was not a bigot, her heart as big as a lion’s she embraced everyone whatever side they were on. When I was 7 while walking past Carfin Grotto on the way to her house, she took me in to show me Mary and all the other statues and grotto there. I loved that place and begged her to take me on a picnic there the next time I visited, its a memory that stuck with me when as an adult I made the decision to become Catholic. I know she’d have approved.

My Grandma’s brother, James, affectionately known as Shemi, came calling one night I was staying over. I knew when he arrived he’d been drinking, it was probably the half bottle of rum hanging out of his pocket that gave it away. Grandma loved her big brother and welcomed him into the sitting room where she provided a glass for each of them to share the rum. Before long, something I had never seen before was brought out from the depths of the hall cupboard. It was a fiddle and Shemi put on a green velvet coat covered with badges and ribbons and they started to Irish jig. It was a side I had never experienced of my Grandma and what a delight it was to see her so happy and playing her fiddle with such fun in her eyes. Just as well that hearing aid was lying in the bedroom, there were a few notes not quite what they needed to be with all that rum!

She died when I was 10 years old, I was devastated. I never knew pain like that before that moment. The loss was more than I could bear. Not the whistling hearing aid, or the bloomers, her grey wiry hair, her spectacles, the stone hot water bottle or the big comfy bed. The enduring thing I learnt from her was love; relationships and family were all you really need to help you develop your behaviour in this next phase of your life and as the song goes there is no way I’d shove that Granny off the bus. I hope my grandkids spare me that delight now I have my bus pass!

Deconstructing the Wardrobe when you are 60

As 60 approaches I am deconstructing my wardrobe. Looking to switch to the M&S Classic range in keeping with my age and infirmity. After all it’s a range I have yet to experience and the thrill is immeasurable. The problem with making space for this new range is I am such a hoarder and have outfits and shoes befitting a much younger woman. The good news is most still fit hence the bulging wardrobes, the bad news means it’s harder to throw away. And I’m moving increasingly in to flatties, hence I cannot justify retaining the 30-40 pairs of 6-7 inch stiletto heels, currently in boxes along the top shelf of my wardrobe, any longer. Apart from the fact I might fall off these heels,Granny’s teetering about on platforms and stilettos is not a look I am keen to develop.

I am including in this deconstruction, my jewellery. If clothes are hard to remove then jewellery, annotated with memories and sentimentality, means it’s unlikely that any of them will make the charity shops. Pride of place is my engagement ring minus the solitaire diamond. And the substitute rings never living up to the symbolism of the lost stone engagement ring but the Lion thought they might help. I can still remember the day I lost it, running a terry nappy under the hot tap to slough away the contents of my baby’s breakfast, the force of that water also carried the diamond with it, deep into the heart of the sewage system, never to be seen again. The deconstruction of this jewellery has resulted in it being strewn across the bedroom furniture for a week now and with each memory I am no closer to getting rid of any of it.

There are 32 pairs of shoes in boxes, this does not include the summer shoes in the storage box in the wardrobe and the winter shoes/boots littering the carpet at the foot of the wardrobe. Trying to look organised but nevertheless cluttering up the limited space and certainly not with the original neighbours. Now there are several reasons for this Imelda Marcos behaviour, none of which is blog worthy but nonetheless needs to be justified. I can hear you draw a sharp intake of breath at the sheer decadence of it, but I can assure you these were, to the last pair, absolutely essentialbuys. The oldest pair I have are 40 years old, bought for £9.99 in a long gone shop in the local Shopping Centre. The interesting thing, and I know the Economist readers among you will find this insight invaluable, you can ( and I have) 50 years later buy shoes for £9.99 from shops in the same Shopping Centre (Quiz, for instance). It is pretty clear to me that manufacturing in this area has not witnessed much in the way of economic growth, therefore I have made a significant contribution through these purchases to the economic development of my country.

Everyone knows that 2 of the three items you wear to a wedding need to match or coordinate. I’m not saying I had new shoes for every wedding, that is silly, but I did need to buy new ones for my children’s weddings. Although I could have gotten away with wellies, since I wore long frocks both times, and no one is likely to recall the shoes in any event. In fact I did wear the same shoes to each of their weddings and not an eyelid was batted. Between 2011 and 2018 I attended 12 weddings. There was an issue in so far as the guests were largely attending the same weddings as me, give or take a few independents and everyone knows women have the memory of an elephant when it comes to remembering what you are wearing. It was a chance I just could not take. The 2 out of 3 matching items rules accounts for at least 8 pairs of the 32 in boxes. And rules are rules.

By far the most extravagant pair of shoes was bought in NYC, on a visit with my daughter who spent most of our time there throwing up. She suffers from Hyperemesis Gravidarum; a condition of pregnancy our future Queen Kate also has apparently, and this awful illness meant most of our sightseeing was limited to toilets and washbasins. Nonetheless we did manage a trip to Bloomingdales where incidentally the toilets and washbasins are far superior to those of similar stores. I was seeking a pair of orange shoes. And after the helpful assistant brought me over 30 pairs. I left with the orange leather Michael Kors sandal, 7 inch stilettos safely in my grasp. I was filled with fear at the price I had paid, actively encouraged by my daughter who was exhausted by all the vomiting and had given up the will to live at the 22nd pair. She was agreeing to anything in the hope of moving onto the next washbasin, after all there were so many to see. After this purchase I was immediately gripped by the fear of bankruptcy which required me to consider how I would explain everything to the Lion. I absolved myself of all responsibility in this purchase convincing myself categorically that the purchase had been essential to my daughter escaping the shop floor and being able to throw up outside the store.

Despite their vintage status, the personal stories attached to each item and their enduring importance to the history and insight of fashion choices of the 20th century woman, most of these wonderful clothes, shoes and jewellery are going to end up in some charity shop at best or some clothes bin at worst. And it is that thought that is shouting at me to keep it for another 10 years at least. By the time I am 70 it should be much easier to throw it away since I won’t remember why I had it in the first place. There; decision made I am off to tidy up and put it all back in the drawer, boxes and wardrobe……………. and the Classic range can wait.

Nashville and the American Superhero. Chapter 10 Book of the Lion.

So how does a West Lothian lad come to be in Nashville Tennessee? Irrespective of the story we were so glad that he was there. Our sister-in-law’s big brother had many years earlier gone to St Andrew’s University and met a girl from the other side of the world. I don’t know much about their love story, but I do know that it was about love and he followed her there, they married and had three beautiful children. Had we never landed in the hospital in Atlanta, we might never have met them. And that would have been sad. Instead it was this American Superhero who offered us a warm hand of friendship that was made all the more meaningful because it was from family, something we so badly needed at this time of crisis, even when your family links are as tenuous as this.

It’s not even that we were in as much need as we had been when the crisis was at its height; when we were alone and isolated in Atlanta, or vulnerable on the Greyhound bus. It was because we were miles away from home, that the Lion was not out of the woods yet and there was an inherent need for tactile family connections. We were with a crowd of holiday hungry tourists, hell bent on fun and frolics that our unfortunate turn of events had disabled us from being able to take part. We had talked about and longed for a trip to Nashville, because we love our country music, finally we had arrived in our most wished for location and all we really wanted was a little bit of home. Isn’t life funny.

We checked in to downtown Nashville to our hotel with the other guests, a quick resume of what was important and what our trip entailed with the tour guide and we were able to head off to explore on our own.

Nashville is synonymous with country music every street, every hostelry is linked to its musical history, The Ryman Auditorium was the original Grand Ole Opry which offered us the imagined experience of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton all standing on that centre stage gazing out on the church like pews to audiences hungry for something different. The gospel songs that so underpinned their religious life were at the heart of this music which, with that all important influence, not only sated but justified their satanic lust for entertainment. Me and the Lion sat on the pews staring at the stage, the two of us alone with our memories, sitting in silence but filled with loud imagined performances of those famous names that had filled our early lives. Memories of the Lion’s Da in the kitchen mending and making to ‘Cold Cold Heart’, or my Mum and Dad’s parties and their radiogram loaded with well thumbed vinyl albums blasted out at parties, enticing a sing-a-long to ‘ You’re my Best Friend’ by Don Williams or DIVORCE by Tammy Wynette.

The Lion told me when he was little and living in Glasgow, family parties were common and since they were the only ones with a radiogram it was hoisted precariously down the close, balanced evenly on the babies pram and guided, wobbling across Glasgow to bring Country Greats to the rest of the family and be shared by those not able to afford a music player. But country music had changed and we now had our own favourites among the legends and we headed to Legends and the Stage to hear new country from Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Terri Clarke and Toby Keith. We were in music heaven and this was also complete with the four hours we spent in the Country Music Hall of Fame. A veritable trip down memory lane peppered with auditory treats when we opened a gold disc that stirred our hearts and minds to days gone by. We loved it, it was our dream venue what was not to like? In fact we loved it so much we have now been to Nashville five times and had a real life country star living in our home ( a blog for another day).

On day one of our two day stay in Nashville we were contacted by our American Superhero at the hotel. A message left at the desk suggested he would pick us up that evening to meet his family for dinner. The Lion was still struggling with intermittent pain, but like me equally excited to be linked with family to home. We waited in our lobby for someone we had never met before, not knowing what to expect, or what they might look like. About 6 o’clock we ventured outside to wait when a blue corvette pulled up alongside our hotel, we were seated near the door taking in the evening sunshine and eyed this beautiful car with envy. A lone man slid out of the low slung seat with all the style of a man confident with his life and location. He walked toward the hotel. Whether it was intuition or just simply the timing I was drawn to him and called out his name. He stopped, turning toward us with a smile exactly the same as his sisters and I knew he was our man. The Lion eased himself up from the chair as we ventured toward this family stranger so glad to have someone in common with him that we both loved and that had brought us together.

After our celebratory introductions he beckoned toward his beautiful car, roofless there was clearly no other way to travel in such glorious sunshine. But I noticed very subtly the Lion hesitated as the journey flashed before him and he contemplated how he might go about getting into such a low lying vehicle with his sore back. This seemed lost on our host, and reaffirmed that unless you have lived it and its happening to you its not really going to penetrate the conscious activity of others. It was not lost on me and I looked at the Lion sympathetically hoping he wouldn’t make a fuss and be able to make it into this fabulous carriage without upsetting our Hero, despite his back limiting injury…………………………….

Me and my Lion. Chapter 1 Book of the Lion

It’s our wedding anniversary today, 36 years ago we said I do. It was a whirlwind romance, exactly the kind of romance you would expect from this impulsive, risk-taking dreamer. He was cautious, hesitant and averse to any kind of risk, the perfect balance then! Despite its spontaneous origins and our polarised personalities our marriage has endured (or in his case been endured) and defied any logic or odds that, on this basis, it would have survived.

Living with me has seemed at times chaotic, capricious, erratic and even effervescent, No two days were the same and he soon realised that life as he once knew it was never going to be the predictable, stable and ordered way it had been. It all suggests it’s a miracle we are here at all. And to be honest, it’s only as I have gotten older and more introspective that I have actually realised this, and it makes me all the more grateful that we made it.

We met while I was working, helping out at a local youth club where he and his cronies were playing indoor football. I was immediately drawn to his smouldering good looks, despite the fact he had a moustache ( it was the 1980’s) Our eyes met across the kitchen server at the Lanthorn in August 1980 and we had our first date in April 1981. ‘Making your mind up’ won Eurovision the night we had our first kiss, after which I certainly had.

The blog title “life’s little dramas” was not a random selection and, it’s been well documented there, that total disaster lurks around every corner, and not only when it comes to holidays. There were so many other events in our marriage that were also predicated on the same dramatic foundation I wonder why we survived them?

During the 36 yrs we have had 5 house moves, none of which he wanted to make. I used all available tactics to ensure I could get what I wanted, Once he came home and there was a for sale sign being erected in the garden. I took him to see our potential second home by torchlight that evening. I persuaded him to move to our fourth house without having sold the third and we ended up bridging for over a year when the housing market crashed in the late 80’s. (Accept that wasn’t my finest decision) Our current home, which was in need of a major upgrade when we bought it, was the closest we have ever come to a divorce but its the one he loves the most and that has secured us financially.

To the onlookers this all might curl your toes, it provides the appearance of a very unequal arrangement; perhaps you see a browbeaten husband who kowtows to his wife’s every whim. Don’t make that mistake because beneath that placid, easy going nature there’s an inner lion. While he is clearly the hesitant one, his calm, considered and thoughtful approach emerges in just the right measure when necessary. He has learned, rather deftly it must be said, to keep me tamed without me even realising it was hapening. A subtle glance, the slight tightening of the lips, the total lack of any verbal response that he knows drives me crazy but buys him the exact amount of time for the impulse to dissipate and for my reflective brain to kick in.

Also in my defence, while my decisions on the surface convey an illusion of being haphazard and ill-considered, there was amidst it all a long term strategy for our future. To give us the best opportunities later in life, required risk, boldness and bravery. He acknowledges that if it was up to him we’d still be in our first home, change was never a welcome activity. And I’ve come to realise that my impulsive decision-making wasn’t the only thing that got us here. All the best partnerships have the right blend and antidotes fundamental to establishing and maintaining equilibrium. His hesitance, pain and even panic amid my endless determination and ambition has ensured we made it in one piece to our destination.

It may have started out as a whirlwind romance, with nothing but hopes and dreams to build on, has been the rollercoaster ride of our lives. But believe that someone has a plan for me and that it was not destiny, no He sent me exactly the man that I needed. Here is to the next 36 years (if we get them) and I cant wait to see what dramas life has for us and what my lion has to cope with next. Love ya❤️

The Usain Bolt of airside assistance. Chapter 25

I gingerly edged out of the buggy, the absence of the pre-ordered wheelchairs meant that we had to walk through the security system at Gatwick. In normal circumstances that’s fine but my pace at the moment is tortoise and we ain’t got that much time. The other passenger in the buggy however was much older, had heart failure and she was exhausted just getting out of the buggy. (Shame on you Gatwick). The driver stayed with her as my husband and I started to meander through the second set of security since being airside for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Theoretically we may have surreptitiously been targeted while contained in the safe custody of passenger assistance and had something slipped in our hand luggage. We may have been the unwitting bearer of unknown terrors between deplaning and waiting for a buggy to arrive. But as we are frequent flyers we acknowledged the need for security despite the rapidly reducing time to reach our flight. When we eventually made it to the belt other customers, who were obviously not frequent flyers and not the slightest bit aware of the rules or regulations for modern travelling, were ahead of us.

They were frantically searching their carry-on’s (that were big enough for the hold) for bottles of liquid, sharp objects and aerosols as if it was all new to them. Their ignorance nonetheless creating a sense of sheer frustration for those of us in the know and waiting to begin the security process. While I stood there patiently fuming, I was increasingly aware of my continuing bad karma that had directed me to the wrong queue. A quick glance behind us and I could see our elderly companion some way behind struggling to even make it to the line.

As we piled our minimal hand luggage into the plastic tray, I had to also remove shoes and jewellery whereas in Edinburgh, with assistance we were fast tracked and was not asked to do this. It took time with two crutches to achieve this. As in Edinburgh we were body scanned and swabbed just to be extra sure but we still managed to get through it within 10 minutes. However that only left 10 minutes until we departed. Our other companion was still being processed and, acutely aware of our plight, was notably more than a little stressed. Our buggy driver joined us advising he had organised wheelchairs which were waiting for us on the upper floor, he would then collect us at a place the buggy was accessible and take us onto the flight. Pardon me if I’m not entirely convinced this might happen as planned,

In the lift our poor companion, god bless her, continued to apologise claiming she was hindering us in our dash to make the flight. I tried to reassure her but she knew it anyway. She could hardly catch a breath, it was an awful situation we were now in thanks to the delays experienced in getting the much needed assistance in the first place. Thankfully when the lift arrived and the doors opened two wheelchairs and assistance staff were in situ, exquisite joy all round. All we had to do now was wait for the buggy. However it was clear the anxiety around our soon to depart flight was finally dawning on the assistance staff, and our woman took the initiative to take us directly to the gate herself. I have to admit that, considering the distance of this entire transition, we would never have made it to the flight on time on the crutches either.

It became apparent we had the Usain Bolt of the assistance team. we reached warp factor 50 as the wheelchair flew toward gate 21. Folk were jumping clear in fear of being mowed down like skittles. There was a considerable queue at the gate as it became obvious that boarding had commenced and almost completed. That was when Usain morphed into a bowling ball shouting “Coming Through” rattling through the jet stream of waiting passengers. Admirably and without fuss they all moved to the side and there we were tipped out of the chair and finally able to get onto our plane……………

Mobility matters. Chapter 24

Having taken the risk of going on holiday with an injury, I was seeking to explore the support for those with mobility issues. While at the same time experiencing the holiday from a completely different perspective than I am used to. It’s been an eye-opener and of course a drama.

When travelling it is always best to advise the insurance company and we have an annual plan. It was straightforward enough there were 4 simple questions to test whether you needed further assessment from medical practitioners. Bit like NHS 24; a triage system with the specific difference being that the call take is only trained in answering the phone. So the process is designed to get rid of the dross immediately. Did I have a terminal condition? Not that I was currently aware of, so NO. Has your Doctor advised you not to travel? Now that is an easy one because I have asked this repeatedly, I’m going with the senior professional as it adds weight; the Consultant suggested 6 weeks ago, ” should be fine”. Check two. Do you have any medical admissions or treatment planned while away? This was also easier since the misdiagnosis mean’t I couldnt have any, NO. And finally, the insurance get out of jail free card ” is there any reason you think you should not travel?” I’m thinking many reasons my holiday experience will be diluted; potential of DVTs, not really able to drink, sleep, dance, go excursions, but still I have answered NO despite this which should tell you how desperate I was to get out of here………

Next, I need to get my meds organised. An on-line repeat prescription all that was needed for my liquid Morphine. In fairness I wasn’t using it all that much now but ever the pragmatist, I felt there might be a risk of slips or further falls, so wanted to cover that eventuality because frankly nothing else covered that level of pain. All good, except the request prompts a call from my GP, checking of course I’m not addicted to it…..yet. But also because I might not be able to take it into the country. (Oh didn’t think of that one.) A website called HealthPro will provide the insight but my helpful GP, who having recently read the appalling debacle surrounding my injury and diagnosis was more than happy to do a little bit more and checked it out herself. Lo and behold right enough not able to take it into St Lucia. So she prescribed co-codamol instead and that served everyone’s need. I wouldn’t be an addict, nor arrested for narcotic importation and she had demonstrated the level of care we thought was lost in the NHS.

Feeling pretty organised I had also pre-booked some time ago mobility assistance through British Airways. There is a standard that is automatically associated with this brand so it was, I hoped, going to be well coordinated and seamlessly supportive in each part of the journey. In fairness to BA, they rely on the ground staff to deliver the service and ground staff are employed by the Airport, hence leadership and staff management are critical to how well the service might be delivered. Edinburgh were brilliant; excellent service, prompt, friendly staff, helpful, just the right level of intrusive questions and timely arrival at the gate. It was a scoosh at security and my husband was able to get me, albeit reluctantly to the duty free so I didn’t miss out.

Gatwick bit of a debacle; timely helpful disembarcation there and a very smart and competent coordinator who redeemed them somewhat. Guess what we had a quick turnaround between flights. (I know). While getting us off the plane (there were 3 of us needing this assistance) was easy, it seems getting back into the terminal then onto the next flight was not so straightforward. Our anticipated pre-booked connection wasn’t there, nor when this was queried was it planning to appear anytime soon. The coordinator despite her best efforts wasn’t able to assure us of anyone arriving in time to make our transfer.

I started to become a little stressed after 20 minutes when we were still airside and it was 30mins till our flight departed. It was another Florida moment. The coordinator advised the group that the connecting team were more likely to be transporting people already in the terminal, random requests brought tips and this was far more lucrative for them than fulfilling the pre-booked arrangements. Finally with 20 minutes to go we had a driver, but we still had to get to security. And of course you need to get out and walk through that or wait till they bring you a wheel chair.

It’s worth mentioning that we had a companion on the buggy, an older lady with heart failure travelling to Tampa but thankfully much later than our flight. She was unwittingly drawn into our little drama as we drew up at the security and there were no wheelchairs in sight………………….