The last post of 2018

As we are now rapidly approaching Christmas, just a week away as of writing this post, I have decided that this will be the last post of 2018. A year that I will be particularly happy to get rid of for reasons too numerous to mention. I will be giving myself a little break from blogging and will be back on 10th January 2019 which seems a date massively in the distance but in reality is a mere three weeks from the date this blog post is published.

 I haven’t taken this long of a break for many years but some times we all just need to be in the moment and self-care. I always get incredibly stressed around Christmas, it’s not something I massively enjoy as it’s built up to be this wonderful, magical thing but I actually find it quite a lonely time. Hubby gets very limited time off work and he’s back in the blink of an eye. This may sound a bit baa humbug to some but I am guessing I am not alone in feeling this way about Christmas, as in it promises much and delivers little.

I always get incredibly wound up in the run up to Christmas, I worry things won’t be perfect, all the glossy magazines and TV programmes sell the belief that if you aren’t making absolutely everything from scratch, food, decorations, wreaths etc then you are an abject failure. In the early years of being sick I would work incredibly hard trying to ensure Christmas was picture perfect. I would make the whole Christmas dinner from scratch, I would be utterly miserable and stressed out by the sheer enormity of the task and most of the time I was only cooking for two. When I am stressed I get snappy so the knock on effect was that hubby and I would spend the whole of the Christmas dinner cooking time sniping at each other and taking offence at every word uttered. It was no fun at all. The food was absolutely delicious but was it worth the sleepless nights ( I kid you not ) and the marital discord, no way.

When in 2016 Christmas was approaching and I was suffering from a CSF leak, the stress was even worse. There was no way I could spend 2 to 3 hours upright in the heat of the kitchen without it destroying the rest of the day. The CSf leak meant being upright induced the most horrific head pain that no pain relief would touch. I came to the conclusion that for once Christmas dinner cooked from scratch could take a running jump. There was no way I was destroying my health for the rest of the day for a meal that would take 20 – 30 minutes to consume. It didn’t make any sense to me at all. So hubby bought as much as he could pre-prepared  / frozen and we had just the gravy to make along with the carrots and sprouts. Ok it was never going to win a Michelin star but it was passable and when you are chronically sick or in chronic pain that is all you should be aiming for.

Perfection is a word that is bandied around by all of us but in reality perfection doesn’t exist and we shouldn’t all be wearing ourselves out trying to achieve a marketing concept. If your roast potatoes aren’t cooked in duck / goose fat who gives a shit? If your Yorkshire puddings are Aunt Bessie’s who cares? Who knows unless you tell them and my neighbours certainly won’t be rooting around in my bin trying to discover if I was the perfect hostess or not. The pressure we put upon ourselves to have the perfect Instagrammable Christmas is just silly!

Now the above probably makes me sound like I have my shit together and that I don’t get stressed about Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. This year I have just found something else to worry about. Believe me if there is something I can find to wind myself up over I will and do. I just don’t get stressed about Christmas Dinner – well I might a little bit as I have to work out the timings for everything and supervise Mr Myasthenia Kid in the kitchen whilst falling over two dogs who think any food in the kitchen is fair game and only being cooked for their enjoyment.

This year I have gone down a wildly different route for Christmas presents, as in due to my new-found skills I have made the majority of them for family and friends. Initially I felt very smug about the fact that I could utilise my skills this way and wrote out lists of gift ideas and set about working my way through making them. It has proved stressful and quite difficult at times as I have battled this trapped nerve in my neck. The issue this year has been that due to the fact I have made all the gifts or the majority of them, I have panicked that people will think I am cheap.

I have found since I started that people fall into two categories, category one – handmaid equals cheap, therefore you shouldn’t charge a lot of money for any item you make. Basically they want an artisan look for pence rather than the actual cost of producing an item or category two – a basic understanding or full understanding of the price of materials, skills involved and appreciation at the fact you have spent your spare time making them a unique and individual item. It surprises me how many people fall into the first category, when you buy cheap you are exploiting another human being. Maybe that human being lives on the other-side of the world and works for peanuts so that you can have your item at a rock bottom price? If you can live with that, that’s fine.

Because this is the first time for me making gifts I don’t know what category a lot of my friends and family fall into. I don’t know if they will be making snide comments about me being a cheap-skate or if they will like the items I have made. Due to this I have probably over gifted as I don’t want them feeling short-changed. In effect instead of spending an online choosing gifts that they may not want or need or maybe thrown away, I have managed to create days of work for myself ensuring everyone feels special due to the gifts I have made them.

So yet again as you see I have managed to find something to worry about. Thankfully it is just worry and not full-blown anxiety. My anxiety levels have dropped considerably from where they have been the rest of the year, this is my normal level of worry. And to be honest if I had bought gifts I would still be worried about what people thought of them and me . So nothing has changed really.

Thank you to everyone that has read my blog posts over the last ten years, can you believe this little blog has been going on and off for all that time? Thank you to my new readers who joined this year and have provided lovely feed back either as comments on my blog or on various social media platforms.

I’d like to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a Merry Christmas and to everyone else  happy holidays, happy Yule etc. Just enjoy the time you get to spend with loved ones be they friends or family.

See you in 2019.

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What are your aims with this appointment?

For a while now I have been moaning that my neck is sore / hurts / agony, take your pick. Last week I had blood tests to see if I was suffering from nutritional deficiencies and that is what was causing the numbness / pins and needles in my arms and face. Today I finally got to see a doctor. It was a long wait as with hubby’s hours it is easier if I can book an appointment on his day off, rather than have him come out of work and take me. It was actually getting the appointment to have my bloods taken that took the time to organise. It would appear Tuesday is a popular day. I then had to have the doctor’s appointment a week later. As luck would have it my neck actually wasn’t too sore today, the day I would finally see the doctor.


As this appointment was needed quickly ( although three weeks was three weeks too long really) I decided to take pot luck. I usually try to see the same doctor so there is some continuity of care and they have a basic idea of what is going on. However I was feeling very let down after my appointment in July where my neck pain was put down to stress. Now I was under a great deal of stress at the time mum had been diagnosed with cancer and there were other things going on in the background. So it would be an easy diagnosis to come to but even then I did come away from the appointment thinking I really should have been examined before this was written off as stress. It makes me worry that if I saw that doctor with chest pain that again it would be written off as stress when I could be having a heart attack. It’s not a nice situation to be in when you doubt your doctors clinical judgement. They are supposed to be the experts and be on your side, yet when you get written off as a basket case due to stress, it makes you not want to fight. Which is what I should have done because maybe I wouldn’t be in as much pain as I am now.


I will be the first to admit that yes I have been having some mental health struggles this year due to losing Willow and so many close friends and family in such a short space of time. I also went through a great deal of stress in the summer. I understand completely that mental health issues can manifest as physical issues. Yet the diagnosis of stress or anxiety or depression should only be given after an examination to check that there is nothing mechanically wrong. That didn’t happen during my appointment in July and I am angry about it. I am angry at myself for not asking the doctor why he or she felt that my symptoms of numb hands and neck pain didn’t warrant an examination. I understand that doctors especially gp’s are under enormous pressure, especially with health budgets being slashed, Don’t believe what the government tells you when it says its spending more in real terms its less money and our health service is drowning because of it. Just to make sure if this government stays in power when it suggests privatisation people will believe its the only thing to save our NHS and people like me will have no access to healthcare as we won’t be able to afford the insurance premiums. That’s my political rant over, I don’t do politics very often here but it needs said.


Anyway as usual I went off on a tangent, it makes me really angry when doctors are lazy and use a mental health diagnosis against a patient, which I feel is what happened to me in July. My notes say I am being treated for anxiety and depression, my mother has just been diagnosed with cancer so of course my physical symptoms are a manifestation of that. See how easy it is for a doctor to disregard real symptoms? The sad thing is people with anxiety and depression don’t have the energy to fight that kind of lazy doctoring. That was the position I was in then. I was happy to go along with what the doctor said because I trusted them. I am angry because they disregarded the Hippocratic oath of first do no harm. By brushing off my symptoms of stress they left me open to harm. I could have been suffering from a nutritional deficiency like B12 deficiency, a blood clot, vasculitis   a pinched nerve. However that doctor would never know as they were convinced it was stress and an increased dose of amiltriptyline would do the trick.


Today I was dreading my appointment, my mind was racing, was I going to be dismissed again as being stressed? Or would this doctor take the time to examine me?  I know doctors make mistakes and they are only human but a friend of mine almost died from meningitis after a doctor didn’t examine him. His wife found him unconscious in their home. If she hadn’t come home early from work he would have been dead. I had worked out through google and the fact that I have an ounce of common sense that the numb / pins and needles in my arms and face were being caused by a pinched nerve. Stress does not disappear when you put on a soft neck collar. Armed with this information plus the discharge notes from 2016 that contain the radiographers report from my MRI which says I have reversed cervical lordosis. I was ready to do battle and push for a diagnosis.


Why is it when you are prepared for a fight you never get one? Is it because you are giving off the don’t fuck with me vibes? I don’t know. This doctor examined me, so thoroughly that I have been in an awful lot of pain for the remainder of the day. I can’t complain about that at least this time I was taken seriously. However something they said really threw me, after they examined me they asked ” and what are your aims for this appointment?”. I have to say this really threw me, looking back now I wish I’d said ” well my aim is that I get a fucking diagnosis, after all you’re the doctor”. But I imagine that wouldn’t have gone down well and I may be looking for another healthcare provider if I had. But seriously what kind of question is that? That’s business speak and that has no place in an NHS doctors appointment. Why ask that question? Had I not had years of experience as a manager I may have found myself at a loss for words. Why do most people go to the doctors? To get help? Support? Advice? A diagnosis perhaps? Did they think I was going to say ” I want you to wave a magic wand and make my pain go away?” Did they think after years of dealing with doctors that I would have unrealistic expectations? I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I have learnt to expect nothing from a doctor other than a shoulder shrug at best. As you may be able to tell this question ” and what are your aims for this appointment” has really bloody annoyed me.


I was expecting at some point they were going to ask me to complete a PDP ( personal development plan) with SMART objectives Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Targets. Or maybe they would have me complete a Root Cause Analysis so we could get to the bottom of what was triggering my neck pain. You see I did 18 years of bullshit management speak. To my shame I taught this shit to up and coming managers in a previous life. It has no place in the NHS as I am a patient not a customer, it has no place in an appointment because all I expect in an appointment is for the doctor to do their job. I have no idea what you will suggest because I am not a mind reader, I thought perhaps you might say I need an X-ray or an MRI or maybe even physio but all I wanted from you was a plan. I don’t know what your other patients want from you but from this patient to you please stop asking that question or think of something else to say. I get that some patients may come in expecting top-notch state of the art care like they see on Holby City  / Greys Anatomy/ any other popular hospital drama and your job is to manage unrealistic expectations. I don’t and that question has really annoyed me ( no shit Rach, I can hear you all saying!).


Now some of you may think that I am over reacting to this innocent question but to me it was a loaded question. I don’t doubt that this doctor had my best interests at heart, they after all discovered that I have altered sensation in my left arm and areas of complete numbness, they also have given the diagnosis of a pinched nerve in my neck. Which was the same conclusion I had come to. To me the question could be one asked by someone trying to figure out what the bare minimum is that they will get away with providing . Call me cynical but after having to do battle with numerous doctors over the years I know that cost is coming into clinical decisions more and more. It can’t be helped when the purse strings have been tightened so much that even targets for patients with cancer are being missed by the majority of NHS hospitals. If  my aim was to have my pain reduced that’s a quick win as they could give me a prescription for pain meds, if I wanted a referral to a spinal surgeon then my expectations would have to be managed and ( as I know) physio would have to be tried first. As it is I want to avoid surgery on my neck at all costs. To me the risk are just too high, that unless I am completely incapacitated by pain,  it’s not an option I want to go for. 

Having seen a spinal surgeon before I know they like you to try all options before you go for surgery and I am happy with that. Physio treatment in 2014 or 2015 meant I avoided a spinal fusion. I know that without having jumped through that hoop any referral to see a surgeon would be rejected by the hospital because all non surgical routes had not been explored. 

I have declined using the NHS physio team as unfortunately they are utterly useless when it comes to dealing with people with EDS. The last NHS physio I saw was supposed to be an expert on the condition and I could have written what she knew about EDS could have been written on the back of a postage stamp. She became totally fixated on my wheelchair, so none of the exercises were there to help the problem I was seeing her for but more to get me walking rather than using a wheelchair. I use a wheelchair due to the fact I faint without warning which leave me at a serious risk for a head injury, I also dislocate my knees, hips, ankles and spine when I walk more than a few metres. I also develop bursitis in my hips if I walk too much ( too much being more than a few metres). I had to give up walking my dogs in 2008 as I kept waking up on Woodbury common bleeding not knowing what had happened to me and the dogs wandering down the path in front of me. Thankfully the doctor I saw today was horrified at this physios dangerous fixation and agreed with me that preventing head injury and pain was imperative. Someone who was supposed to be an expert in EDS and PoTs should have known that. Hence why I am incredibly sceptical as to who gave this physio the title of an EDS expert because I have more knowledge than they do.

So I am going back to the private physio I saw in 2014 and had fantastic results with. It is incredibly expensive but I am hopeful if anyone can help me avoid spinal surgery Jane will. I hate using private instead of the NHS but I am afraid NHS appointments are too rushed. I need longer than 15 minutes, I need someone who will work with me and will admit that they know nothing about the condition rather than pretend they are an expert. It also means I wont have to travel 30 minutes to an appointment which will exhaust me before I even get there. Or the unrealistic expectation that I can go three times a week, when I don’t have a driving licence and can’t manage public transport alone as my wheelchair is attendant pushed how am I supposed to get there? Because I am a paying customer there I am  treated in a much better way and they understand that there us a life outside of the health service something which some NHS staff struggle to understand. I am incredibly lucky that I am in the position where currently I can afford to pay for private treatment but it will still put a strain on my finances.

So I wonder what will be the next go to question at any future gp’s appointment? As long as it isn’t “and what do you want me to do about it?” I think I’ll cope!

Solitary confinement

I’m used to my own company, I am in fact quite a solitary character. I don’t need to be surrounded by other people, as I can entertain myself. However sometimes the loneliness of chronic illness really gets to me. I am having a wobble.

 

Mr Myasthenia Kid had two weeks off work (as annual holiday) in August, it’s the longest he’s taken as holiday in years. Normally he takes a week here and there throughout the year. Always holding some back in reserve in case he needs to take time off to look after me or take me to medical appointments. Usually by the end of his weeks holiday I am happy to send him back to work, as I have my own routine and ways I like to get stuff done. This time however I am finding hard to adjust to not having him home with me. We had a lovely two weeks together, laughing, talking and generally just being together and now the house just seems so empty and quiet. It’s been quite hard to g back to it just being me for long stretches at a time.

 

It is really hard to explain how empty the house seems, it’s not like he takes up lots of room or that he makes loads of noise. It’s just I got very used to his presence and having someone to talk to. When you are chronically sick and virtually housebound your world gets very small. You only see the people who can be bothered to make the time to see you. Being below retirement age all of my friends are working and have families of their own, so I am very grateful for the time I do get to spend with them . With the pace of life these days, it’s very easy to be forgotten about, out of sight out of mind. I found that back in 2008 when I left work, that all these people who I had known for 12 years who I believed were my friends, just disappeared. They think a quick comment on your Facebook page is a get out of jail free card, it doesn’t replace seeing someone in the flesh and having a conversation.

 

Most of my friendships are now online and I have made some truly wonderful friends. Particularly on Instagram amongst the crafting / sewing / creative community. I am lucky to have got sick in an age where to talk to someone I just have to open up my computer but it doesn’t replace the physical presence of another human being. I am grateful for the online friends I have but I would imagine they would agree that proper physical contact with other human beings trumps any other contact with the outside world.

 

I have always been quite a solitary character, my own company isn’t something that has ever daunted me. In fact there are days where I cherish the time I spend alone. I like being able to step back from the outside world but I also like to spend time in it or as close as I can. I like a balance of both but due to my health being so utterly rotten this year, I have barely seen anyone since the end of June. I have literally gone weeks and the only person I have spoken to is Jamie. Can any of you who aren’t chronically sick imagine what that is like, that the only contact you have with the outside world is with one person? It’s no ones fault, this isn’t a dig at any of my friends as it has been me doing the cancelling due to not being well enough. Is it any wonder now that after having two weeks of company I am finding going back to being alone so very difficult? I am grateful that we have the dogs but their conversational skills are very limited.

 

It’s hard to explain but my heart hurts with the loneliness and the missing Jay. I know he’s only 7 minutes up the road but the house is so quiet it  is deafening.

 

Every year around Christmas time there is always a campaign about loneliness and the elderly. Every year I want to scream at the TV it’s not just the elderly who are lonely in this country. There are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people whose lives are blighted by illness who see no one for weeks on end other than their caregivers or partners. It is assumed that if you are aged between 18-67 that you are in work but there are many of us who can’t work, who are housebound who are crying out for some company yet we are the forgotten ones. I don’t know if it is because people don’t understand chronic illness and can’t get their heads around the fact that there are working age people, who through no fault of their own do not have the social outlet of work and are just forgotten. It’s like we don’t exist.

 

I am extremely lucky I have friends who do come and visit me. I really appreciate those visits and I hate it when I have to cancel due to my health deciding to have a hissy fit. It takes a lot for me to cancel because I don’t know when they will be able to visit again. There are lots of people in my position who never see anyone. I know I am lucky, I am just sad this week as I am finding it so hard to adjust to Jamie being back at work.

 

I know given a few more days I will have got myself back into a routine and I will be used to being on my own again. I thank my lucky stars for my cyber friends who are so supportive and caring. Even though I am shit at messaging people because I am always in my own little bubble. I have an issue where I think of someone, say to myself “oh I must message them” and two weeks later I realise I haven’t. I’m currently struggling with what day of the week it is. Not because there has been a bank holiday it’s purely that I have no clue. To give you an example of how bad it is at the moment, I had no clue today was Thursday and was quite surprised when I started to get notifications on my blogs Facebook page. It was only when I looked I realised that my blog post for this week had been published. I tend to write them in advance and schedule them in to be published automatically. This morning I had no idea that it was Thursday. I do however know who the prime minister is and what year I was born! Just in case anyone is concerned about my mental status. It’s just the days are currently blurring into one.

I also know that the way I am feeling now is probably a reaction to all the stress I have been under lately. My mum has had some pretty major surgery that was needed out of the blue. Adrenaline has carried me through for weeks. Now things are starting to calm down, I have the time to spend analysing my feelings because during that time period it was just getting through that day that mattered. It was a frightening / stressful time. In a year of horribly stressful and sad events. I know I just need to get back into a routine and allow myself the period of adjustment instead of being so hard on myself that I am struggling to adapt.

 

This probably  seems quite a depressing read, I’m sorry. I have just really been surprised at the depth of feeling that Jays return to work has caused me. I don’t think in the nearly 22 years we have been together that I have ever missed him so much. Silly really as every night he is home, every morning he is here. Just at the moment being in the house alone seems a little like solitary confinement.

 

P.s Its over a week later and I am back into my old routine. I am enjoying the time I have to myself and have been really productive on the sewing front.  I have also had a visit from some friends which was really nice. Obviously I still miss Jay during the day but it’s not like the deep ache in my heart I had before. I  am much happier now that I have re-adjusted to the time spent alone.

 

My latest sewing projects

My mood is very up and down at the moment, the only thing that is keeping me sane and happy is my sewing. I am grateful that I still manage to find the joy in putting fabrics together for projects and making magic. To me sewing is a magical art in which I can lose myself. I am amazed at the things I create especially when you consider I celebrated my 6 month sewing anniversary on 7th April.

 

As I am all over the place I thought I would share with you some of my makes from the last few weeks. I can’t remember what I shared with you last – my memory is a bit dodgy from the new medications making me a little groggy in the mornings.

 

I bought myself a new sewing machine a Janome Atelier 5 – I love it. Yes it was expensive but it was bought with money I had inherited. I also worked out that if I banked the money from not smoking for the next 14 months it would also have paid for it. It is the best thing I have done, it is an absolute bloody work horse and oh my days making quilts has been so much easier.

 

 

I managed to hurt my back getting the beast (which is what I have nicknamed it )  through the house. So after setting it up I just sat and stroked it for about an hour. However I soon got to grips with it and used it to sew the binding onto to my first ever quilt.

 

 

I quickly started on a new quilt, which was another quilt as you go, which was a Rolling Stone design. I wanted to get this sewn / finished reasonably quickly as we were having new sofas delivered and I wanted a quilt for each sofa.

 

 

I managed to get quite a bit done but I didn’t complete it until after the sofas arrived. I was about two days out. As you can see Mollie and Frankie absolutely adore the new sofas

 

 

I also in between making the quilt and the sofas being delivered I made 6 baby bibs, for my friend Pam (who sadly passed away in January) whose daughter who had given birth to a beautiful daughter. I had promised Pam before she passed away that I would make something for the baby. The bibs were finished with Kam Snaps that were adjustable so will fit the baby for a while.

 

 

I managed to finish my Rolling Stone quilt towards the end of last week and I was very pleased with how it turned out. There are still a few mistakes in it but it is a vast improvement on the first quilt I made.

 

My next project has been something I have never done before which is foundation paper piecing. I have always been a little daunted by FPP but no longer! I have been making a pouffe for the lounge so that instead of Mr Myasthenia Kid putting his feet on the coffee table he can put his feet up on a pouffe. I am still working on it as I am waiting for some zips to arrive so that I can put a zip into the bottom of it so that the cover can be washed (with two mutts and Jay in the house things need to be washable). I have made a stuffed inner out of some stuffing I have had hanging around for a while and two bags full of fabric off cuts that I have collected over the last few weeks. I have also made a covered button to put on the top in the middle just to finish it off.

 

 

Over the next few days I will finish the pouffe and hopefully remember to post a photo on my blog. If I don’t it will be on my instagram account @rachelmorrismcgee or on my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/themyastheniakid.

 

I finished late yesterday afternoon…

Willow

In last weeks blog post I explained that I had been looking after two poorly dogs. Whilst Frankie had recovered from his illness, Willow took a turn for the worse during the night (Thursday into Friday) and we had to make the decision to let her go with dignity. This is probably one of the toughest blog posts I have had to write in a long time.

 

At the moment it is still too raw to go into much detail, I hope that you can understand that. She wasn’t just a dog to us, she was very much a part of our little family. Whilst Jay and I are obviously heart broken she leaves behind her mother Mollie and her brother Frankie. We are all trying to come to terms with a new normal in a world without Willow.

 

Rest in peace sweet girl, you were loved so completely by all of us.

 

Willow Warbler (Morris) 7th October 2006-15th December 2017

Willow

 

 

 

 

This will be my last post of 2017. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. xx

Winter Lurgy

I have come down with a winter bug and I am feeling pretty rank. Really hot, itchy sore throat, blocked nose and aching all over. So I am not up to writing a blog post this week, so you have my apologies. I should have written it earlier but was enjoying having a couple of reasonable days and left it until the last minute – Wednesday.

 

So instead of a post I will share a couple of photos with you that I have taken over the last  week.

All three dogs waiting for Jay to share his food with them.

Mollie sleeping with her new ball to stop the kids stealing it.

 

Our Dresser has been changed over for Christmas, to all our Xmas Emma Bridgewater Pottery.

We bought some tiny lights to put on the dresser which looks fab in the dark evenings.

I did manage to spend some time making som Star Christmas Tree Toppers. I have also managed to sell one which made me feel immensely proud.

A trip of a lifetime – the details, part 3

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.

 

Gloucester Services Selfie

 

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.

 

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.

 

Outside the factory

 

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.

 

The factory Cafe

 

There were six of us in our tour group and it took us a good hour to get around the whole building.

 

One of the slip casters

 

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

 

Factory Display

 

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.

 

Decorators station

 

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.

 

Pint Mug

 

Salt Pig

 

Jay’s Pint Mug

 

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

 

Storm Lanterns

 

Gold Christmas Carol Mugs

 

Christmas 1/2 pint mugs

 

Christmas Carol Plates

 

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.