We went to Alnwick Gardens yesterday, which was lovely. I hadn't been for about five years, and Mum and J hadn't been since shortly after it opened ten years ago. It's wonderful to see how it's developed and the plants have matured since our last visits, and it was so easy to get around because we hired a mobility scooter for me. We rang up the day before we went to book the scooter, and when we arrived they had it ready and waiting for us. They gave us a map of the grounds highlighting all the accessible routes, which is most of the gardens, and they even let the mobility scooter into the cafe and the shop. It was similar today when we went to Alnwick Castle - we rang up this morning to book the scooter, and they had it waiting for us at the car park when we arrived. We had a wander around the grounds, and watched some broomstick flying lessons (Alnwick Castle is, after all, Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films), read about the castle's history, and enjoyed the brighter-than-expected weather. When it came to going inside the castle I had to park the mobility scooter up at the door and go up the few steps to the entrance. I said to the curator at the door that I had mobility difficulties and he radioed upstairs to have someone waiting for me with a wheelchair up there. Mum and J were told to take the stairs like everyone else, but that they'd be met at the top, whilst I was taken through into the private quarters where the Duke, Duchess, and their family live. Obviously I didn't get a good look around, but I got a little peek while I was escorted to a lift. I have to say, it is the tiniest lift I have ever come across, and certainly not for the claustrophobic as you'd be hard pressed to get two adults in it. Anyway, it was a short ride and it did the job. I was met on the first floor by another curator (I'm not sure that's the right word ... perhaps it ought to be steward) who had a wheelchair and my parents with him. We had a good nosy around the part of the castle that's open to the public, getting slightly caught up in a guided tour, but it was very interesting so I didn't mind at all.
When we'd finished our little tour around the inside of the castle, I was taken back into the tiniest lift in the world, but then had to wait a little while until I could be escorted out of the private quarters downstairs because two other wheelchair users were coming down after me. I was given a seat while I waited, and while I sat there the duke came along to ask the curator/steward person something. This gave me the opportunity to thank him for allowing me into his home, and he thanked me for thanking him :o)
Just as happened yesterday when we were leaving the gardens, as we were leaving the castle today it started to rain. We made tracks back to the cottage and after dinner have had a quiet evening either reading or doing cross-stitch.
Tomorrow I get my new car. Yes, even while I'm away. As I'm only in Northumberland, the car bods said that they could deliver my new car to my holiday address! This is fantastic. So tomorrow, after the car's been delivered I'll be popping back home to pick up Taz, because up until now I've only had Wheelie (my attendant wheelchair) with me and Mum finds it incredibly hard work pushing me in it.
I am still so hugely mixed about my new car. I'm loving the thought of regaining the independence I've had in the past when I've been able to get out and about easily, and I'll be able to take Taz with me, but I'm hating what it represents - my increasing disability. It's perhaps made harder by my having loved MacTavish - my Meriva - and not really wanting to part with it. The Meriva is a great drive, and has some nice little luxuries. The Berlingo is a fun drive, from what I remember from the test drive, but is otherwise practical rather than luxurious. It will be good. It will be good. I have to keep telling myself and reminding myself of the positives ... but I could almost cry for the loss of my mobility. I won't, because I don't like to get all 'woe-is-me' about these things - it's boring and it doesn't change anything - but it does throw in my face the extent of my disability, and it can be difficult to think back on how life has changed over the years. Anyway, that'll be stuff for another post sometime, maybe.
Maybe I'll feel better about my new car when I've had a chance to drive it around a bit, which I will tomorrow when I go back to Newcastle to get Taz and then come back here to enjoy the last few days of holiday.