I am slowly starting to bounce back from our trip to Stoke-on-Trent last week. I can’t believe that a week has gone by already, last week was a peculiar week as in some sense it felt like a very long week and Monday the day of our trip seemed to disappear in a flash.
There was an awful lot of planning involved for our trip, medication supplies, drinks, snacks, directions, dog sitters (thank you Imogen) and just general stuff like making sure we had fuel! We got up a little after 3am on the Monday of our trip. Hubby went straight out with the dogs so that they would have a good run around before we left. We planned to be back home by 7pm that night so that they could have their evening walk also. This was going to be the longest amount of time that we had ever left them in someone else’s care and we were a little stressed out. What made it worse was that when we went to leave the house at 5.30am both Frankie and Willow kept attempting to escape and come with us. It really upset me to have to keep pushing them away from the front door. They are never normally bothered when we leave them. We have left them like this with Imogen on a couple of occasions. I don’t know what had unsettled them but it made leaving them very hard and I was riddled with guilt.
It was absolutely pitch dark and quite cold when we set off. There was barely any traffic and we made really good time. I had deliberately not drunk very much as otherwise we would have had to stop constantly. We made our first stop at around 7am at Gloucester services. The one that looks like the house where the Teletubbies live. I have to say the services were excellent for disabled access. There were also numerous family changing rooms for babies and young children so either mum or dad could change a nappy. In the disabled toilet I used there was also a shower, with a proper shower chair. There was also more than enough room for me to be able to turn my wheelchair around and be totally independent, rather than having to get hubby to rescue me and pull me out, as normally with disabled toilets there is just enough room to get you into the cubicle but there is no way you can turn your chair around and get back out again without assistance. Another good thing about the toilet was that it was gender neutral. This is a major issue when I go anywhere that if the disabled toilets are within the gender specific bathrooms I really struggle. Manually moving my wheelchair can cause my shoulders to dislocate, it is also extremely tiring. So if I am having a rough day I don’t want to have to navigate a disabled toilet alone because Mr Myasthenia Kid can’t come with me.
We made really good time all the way up until just outside of Birmingham, for the rest of the journey we didn’t get above more than 40 miles per hour if that. It was so bad at one point I was starting to panic that we weren’t going to get to the Emma Bridgewater Factory until after the tour we had booked to go on had started. There are some major works taking place on the M6 and then once through them we hit road works in Stoke-on-Trent. After panicking that we had taken a wrong turn in Stoke-on-Trent we pulled up in a disabled spot right outside the factory gates at 9.50am. The relief was palpable, we were going to make the tour and we were going to be able to do the day as we had planned.
The only downer about the day was being approached by a religious nut just outside the factory gate.
She had watched as Jay aka Mr Myasthenia Kid had got my wheelchair out and wheeled me in front of the sign (where everyone has their photo taken). She then proceeded to thrust a leaflet into my hand. I gave it a quick glance, realised that it was nothing to do with the Emma Bridgewater Factory and that is was highly offensive codswallop purporting that disabled people etc could be cured through the power of prayer. It also claimed that I was disabled through not having a strong enough belief in God. I was absolutely livid that she had deliberately targeted me, she made no attempt to give her disgusting leaflet to my husband. Had we been anywhere but outside the factory the place that I had wanted to go for at least a year, I would have told her to swiftly fuck off. I believe in religious freedom but the courtesy must be extended to me to allow me to live my life without your beliefs foisted upon me. Especially when they were that bloody vile. I gave her back her leaflet and just said “no thank you” through gritted teeth. One fruitcake was not going to ruin my day.
The only access issue I found with the Factory were the doors, a lot of times I couldn’t get through them unaided due to the width of my wheelchair and possibly Mr Myasthenia Kids poor driving skills. This wasn’t a problem as the staff were absolutely marvelous and would come and help without being asked and obviously I wasn’t unaccompanied where that may have caused me a few issues. What we have to remember is that the factory dates back to around the mid 1800’s. To do a major revamp on the factory would mean to lose a lot of the character of the place. It isn’t needed when you have so many people, including fellow visitors there to help you out. Everywhere else in the factory was really well thought out, no stairs just ramps, lovely and flat.
There were six of us in our tour group and it took us a good hour to get around the whole building.
The first place we visited was where the slip (clay mixed with water) is poured into the casts. All the people working in here were really nice and would bring things over for me to have a look at as due to the wheelchair my view was obstructed on occasion. Our Tour Guide Jane was also really good, answering all my questions and showing me things that I wouldn’t have got to see without her making a special effort. All the staff no matter where we were in the building were unfailing polite and would stop and chat about what they were doing. I did feel very sorry for them as there are numerous tours a day, with some very large groups, at times they must feel like animals in the Zoo.
All the way around the factory there were shelves of earlier Emma Bridgewater pieces which was really lovely to see, along with displays of new designs
We saw every single aspect of the pottery factory and it was incredibly interesting. You really don’t realise how many pairs of hands your mug or plate might have gone through. We saw the Fettlers, the kiln workers and the decorators to name just a fraction of the team.
The tour took about 70 minutes and I would love to do it again as there was so much information to take in and due to the excitement of being there etc I haven’t remembered an awful lot which is disappointing!
After the tour I had booked us into the Pottery Cafe. This is where you get to try your hand at decorating your own pieces. There are a range of different bits and pieces that you can choose from to decorate from egg cups to gallon teapots. I was incredibly lucky and found a Salt Pig which are as rare as rocking horse poop as the factory no longer produce them. It wasn’t even on the price list in the cafe. I also decorated a pint mug and Jay decorated a pint mug. The staff come over and take you through everything, how to correct mistakes, how to choose the ceramic paint colour and how to apply the paint onto sponges if you are using them. Each table is set up with a tablecloth, a mug full of paintbrushes and bowls of water, pencils and little sanding blocks to erase stray bits of paint should it happen. Here are the items we painted and they should be back with us by 27th November. I can hardly wait to see how they have turned out. Emma Bridgewater won’t be offering us a job decorating her products anytime soon.
We spent around 90 minutes in the Pottery Cafe and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We both have a newfound appreciation for the level of skill needed to decorate spongeware. It must be very nerve-wracking for the staff the first time they have to do a personalisation. I tried a bit of writing on the bottom of my salt pig, just R & J 30-10-17 and it was awful! The letters are always so crisp on a personalised mug I’d love to know their secret.
After our decorating exploits we hit the shop, we were literally like kids in a candy store. We had saved up some money, plus both sides of our family had given us cash for our birthday and Christmas presents. It was both of our birthdays last week. So we had a crazy amount of dosh to spend, it will probably never ever happen again but it was nice to be able to spend the money on stuff we wanted and not have to worry about how much it was.
Our haul included
We also picked up some bargains in the seconds outlet. Once we were all shopped out we went for afternoon tea in the cafe. This was also where I met a friend and her husband for the first time in real life! That was an extra special bonus. Thank you for coming to see us xx
By 3pm both Jay and I were really starting to tire and we had a long journey home. Stoke-on-Trent through to the other side of Birmingham was an absolute nightmare. Thankfully we only had one stop on the way home, which was a quick toilet break and fuel for the car. After Gloucester the traffic was very light, we had been dreading the homebound journey as we felt we could get caught up in rush hour traffic somewhere along the way. We finally made it home at 7pm, the dogs were taken out and then we just collapsed into bed. It has taken me until the end of last week to get any energy and brain function back. I am still getting tired much earlier in the day but it was so worth it. I can’t wait to go back some day.