Journal – January 2013 (Hereford Weekend)

After all the travelling to London over the previous couple of months, I’ve just been away again, but this time to Hereford with a friend. We went to see her partner – the same guy I went to see Jimmy Carr with last summer – as she didn’t want to travel up there alone. So I had a nice little weekend away, and I hope you enjoy reading about it!

Friday January 25, 2013

I’m visiting the Royal National College For The Blind (RNC) in Hereford this weekend with AB, to see her fiancé DB, as she invited me to go along with her. Of course, it would have been better for them to spend a weekend together without me around, but she needed some help and company for the travel, and I don’t mind going along, as it gives me a weekend away as well.

Yesterday was actually a day at home for me, giving Mum and I a chance to do a bit of shopping so she had stuff for the weekend. Then I went to AB’s in Exeter for the evening, meeting her and ST in The Clifton pub. The Globe, where we used to go, has changed hands now and become ‘arty farty’ apparently – while The Clifton has also changed hands and become a better place, so that’s their new meeting place for now. ST’s doing fine, and is going to be a maid of honour at AB’s wedding in May, unsurprisingly. AB herself is doing a horticulture course at St Loye’s College at the moment, which she seems to be quite enjoying. It’s good exercise and gets her out and about, and it’s probably easier for her to do a course that actually involves doing practical things, rather than lots of reading that many courses would involve.

Anyway, AB & I left Exeter this morning, travelling up to Hereford on the cheapest route we could find – a 2 hour trip up to Bristol by coach, then a short wait before getting another coach to Newport, which takes about 40 minutes, then another short wait before getting a 45-minute train ride to Hereford. So it wasn’t too long a journey – other routes we considered would have taken at least 8 or 9 hours and been much more expensive, so it’s just as well we went this way. AB had also told me about the Disabled Coachcard, which gives you a third off the fares like the Disabled Railcard does, as she already had one. So I had the time to order mine online and receive it in the post before we left. Could come in handy around London, as you can get coaches from there to pretty much anywhere. Anyway, there were no problems with our journey – there was plenty of snow in the fields around us as we went along, but nothing that affected the roads thankfully.

We got a taxi from Hereford station to Armitage House on the RNC campus, and DB came down to meet us. AB & I weren’t allowed in though, as told by quite a strict lady called Cheryl who neither DB or AB are fans of anyway. The rule, on weekdays at least, is that visitors aren’t allowed in before 5pm, which does seem a bit daft. DB tried to ask Cheryl to let AB at least drop some stuff off that she’d brought along for him, but she wouldn’t budge.

So instead, as we were all going off-site to stay anyway, including DB, he went upstairs and got the few things he needed. And he brought his guide dog Paula down too, who was very pleased to see AB in particular of course. Then we ordered a taxi – which took a while and a few phone calls to get to come, as the company seemed to mix us up with another order from the college to the station instead. But we eventually got it and went to the Albert Guest House, which is a B&B just a short distance away. It’s a nice place too – essentially a few adjacent houses on the street, with an entrance to the car park in the middle. It costs £75 per night for 2 nights, the 3 of us staying in a family room – i.e. a double bed and a single bed – with a TV, plus a small en-suite bathroom (with a shower, sink and toilet). It’s still a fairly small bedroom, even being a family room, and doesn’t have any wardrobes (just a desk by the single bed, and bedside tables by the double bed), but it’s big enough and comfortable enough for what we want.

Anyway, we went back to the college this evening, where we were able to get our visitor badges from Jess, the nice lady on duty, and chatted to her for a bit. Then we went to see another lady in one of the houses there, and while we chatted we also had a takeaway delivered. DB knew of one that did sirloin steak – which not many takeaways do that we know of – so I went on his recommendation, as did AB, while their friend had a kebab. The steak was really nice as well. We then went down to the bar for a drink, and sat in what they call the ‘quiet room’, away from the main area with the music and stuff. Then, after a little while, we briefly met a nurse called Rosemary that AB also gets on with, before heading back to the B&B.

Of course, I say I chatted in all this – as I didn’t know anyone beyond AB and DB there, much of the time was spent with AB & DB doing most of the talking. But it was interesting to hear them chatting about the college, which has obviously changed a fair amount over the years. Not that I have any clue what it was like in the past, but it’s clear changes to funding, staff, support, etc haven’t always been for the better.

DB, incidentally, is doing a business admin course, which will give him a useful qualification if he completes it. AB had also tried studying there a year or two ago as well, doing a sports coaching course, but dropped out because she wasn’t well enough, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that they’d squeezed what should be a year’s course into 6 months. She did talk to the college about being moved to a different course, but they couldn’t do it, apparently because they couldn’t get the funding unfortunately.

And talking of updates, my mate SM rang me while we were at the bar, not realising I wasn’t at home. He rang to ask me about Skype at first, because Windows Messenger is closing and moving everybody over to it, but he updated me on other things as well. As his parents have now accepted an offer on their house, where he was living, he’s started looking for a flat of his own in Guernsey, so it’ll be interesting to see if something good comes up that he wants and can afford the rent for. He also met Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson when she came over to do a talk for a group of disabled people, and enjoyed that very much, saying she was very friendly, knew what she was talking about and was very down to earth, which is certainly how she comes across in the media. I’ll speak to him again in a week or two I expect – we always speak near the start of the month to see how we’ve done on the Premium Bonds, and it’s a good time to catch up on things – so we’ll see if there’s any more news on his moving plans then.

Saturday January 26, 2013

We didn’t get around to having breakfast in the guest house today. I was going to, but AB & DB didn’t get ready in time, so we didn’t bother. Instead, we went into town, first looking for a pub called Yates that they liked to see if it opened early enough, which it didn’t. So we went to Morrisons instead, where we each had a bacon sandwich and a slice of Battenberg cake in the café there, then they did a little bit of shopping for toiletries for DB. Then we headed back to the college and sat in the common room in Armitage House for a little while, chatting, flicking through TV channels, and DB playing some funny Youtube clips on his iPhone of a radio phone prankster called Little Becky.

After that, we’d already agreed that I’d leave the two of them alone for a couple of hours or so, as they hadn’t seen each other since Christmas. Which I was only too happy to do, so I had a walk into town, where they have a really good, bustling shopping district, with plenty of decent shops. I had fish and chips in a place they’d both recommended, rightly so considering it tasted great, and I followed that up with a Toffee Crisp McFlurry in McDonald’s, which was nice too.

After that, I wasn’t too concerned about actually looking into the shops in town, so I headed back towards the college – so I didn’t wander too far off track and get lost – but turned off in one or two different directions instead. At one point I found the guest house without meaning to, which made it clear how close it was – though it was still easier to get a taxi between there and the college for all 3 of us. I then ended up walking up a long main road for a while – not heading anywhere in particular, and indeed I had no idea where I was going anyway. But it meant it was easy to turn around and find my way back when AB texted me to say I could come back. 

Once I had returned, we went back to the common room, where we met William, another student there who DB is friends with. It was interesting to discover that he comes from Newham, so I was able to have a good chat with him. He told me that the borough is one of the ‘Trailblazers’ piloting a new scheme for disabled people, and have been doing so for a couple of years now. It essentially means that, if you’re entitled to get certain types of support – such as Access To Work or the Disabled Facilities Grant – you get the ‘Right To Control’ over the funding. You’re told how much funding is available to you, and can then decide how it’s spent.

I watched a video about it on Youtube later which gave some examples. There was a guy who had 3 different support workers – one to help him do things in the morning, one to help him at work during the day, and one to help him with his finances such as bills and rent. By being given the Right To Control, however, he’s been able to choose just one support worker, i.e. the one he gets on best with, to provide all the support. Another example was an old lady who needed adaptations to her home now she was in a wheelchair, so she could have the bathroom and bedroom downstairs. Previously, the Council would have looked around and chosen the builders it could get the best deal from. Now, though, with her Right To Control, the lady was able to choose a firm of builders who she knew and trusted, having used them before, and by adding a bit of her savings into the fund as well, was able to get all the work done that she wanted. Consequently, now she can get about her home more easily, she doesn’t need quite as much support from her care worker as she did before, so she can be more independent. So it sounds like a really good idea, and the fact the Government extended the scheme shows they want it to work, so maybe we’ll be able to make use of it. It’d be nice to get Nan’s kitchen redone, for instance, to make it easier for Mum.

Anyway, after we’d chatted with William, I went with AB & DB to a restaurant called The Swan, a place DB’s been to before. The staff there are very nice – one of the women there already knows DB from previous visits, and one of the waitresses asked to stroke Paula, which DB was only too happy for her to do. The food was lovely too of course – I had steak and ale pie, followed by apple pie, all of which was delicious.

After that, we went back to the college and chatted with a couple of guys who were on shift in DB’s boarding house, and then went over to another house to chat with the nurse called Rosemary again. We went back to Armitage House after that, meeting William and another couple of DB’s friends, before heading back to the guest house.

Sunday January 27, 2013

As we were leaving the guest house today, the reception lady came over to us, to say that she’d forgotten we were staying for 2 nights, so needed to collect the other £75 before we went. Which made sense – she had only taken £75 when we arrived, but I had thought it was £75 per night rather than for both nights in total. So we did think that was a very good deal if it was the latter! She was perfectly nice about it anyway, as were we, so it wasn’t a problem at all, and I paid the balance when we checked out.

AB & I then made our way home after saying goodbye to DB. On our journey we had to wait in Newport and Bristol for 2 hours each time, but it gave us the chance to stretch our legs and have a wander around.

Newport’s shopping street was pretty much dead, the only assumption being that people were in church or something like that. We popped into Greggs and got 2 cakes each, as they were doing 4 for a special price, plus a Dr Pepper each. We intended to have them at the bus station while we waited, but as we walked along more we found a McDonald’s, where we went in to have a Coke each and use the toilet. So we didn’t need to eat the cakes or have the Dr Peppers in the end – I ended up taking them all home for myself, which is a bonus!

In Bristol, meanwhile, we went into a pub and had one of their roast dinners – mine being chicken breasts and AB’s involving gammon. In each case, the meat and roast potatoes were in a giant Yorkshire pudding, covered in a nice, rich gravy, and that was surrounded by mashed potato and vegetables. So that filled us up nicely before the final coach home. We got back to Exeter just before 6pm – at which point AB went off, as she wanted to go to church, and I went to the station to get the train home.

Then this evening I’ve just relaxed and caught up with a few things I recorded. I’ve been watching the Olympics Blu-ray as well recently, which has been a great selection of highlights, and watching the opening ceremony again was wonderful.

So that’s it, it’s been a nice weekend away. Probably one I didn’t need to go on, as AB & DB should have been alone for the weekend, and could have been if they hadn’t been so far away from each other, but I’m glad I got to have a mini-holiday nonetheless. I expect my next little excursion will be our next trip to London, but we haven’t made any plans as to when that will be yet. Probably won’t be too long, as I have to use a few more days up before the end of the financial year. But we’ll see what happens.

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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