Great expectations! It’s one of my (many) problems - I always expect too much. Mr B tells me that the fact that I am an Eternal Optimist inevitably sets me up for disappointment. Whereas he, being a Sensible Pragmatist
(though I would say he verges on the Doubting Pessimist) means he is never put out, in the way that I am, when things don’t really go to plan.
So our much
anticipated mini-break, our first holiday together for six years, was not exactly all we thought it would be. I am not planning to go into details - suffice to say that my challenges included the unexpected and expensive need to hire a power caddy which, in
the end, was hardly used; the fact that we were not able to take part in any of the excursions which would have done wonders for Mr B’s holiday experience; buzzers sounding off all night like in hospital; and the lack of promised laundry facilities.
And yet, and yet...Isn’t it amazing the way the expected turns into the unexpected when you are least, well, expecting it?
For example, on Tuesday Mr B and I were driven to a specialist shop to have a power caddy fitted to his wheelchair, for which we were required to pay out a somewhat stonking £120. It’s
only money, I told myself. Unconvincingly. But on the way to the shop I spied, just across the road from our holiday centre, some truly magnificent ruins. It was Netley Abbey, our driver, the ever-obliging Dai, explained - important information which I filed
away in my brain under the heading “Must Investigate.”
Which in turn led me to spend a truly fascinating couple of hours wandering around the magnificent
abbey the following afternoon, imagining the days when it was a busy monastery, home to the Abbot of Netley and his monks until Henry VIII decided to do away with All Such Things. It later became a mansion house before falling into disrepair; it might have
been completely dismantled long ago had a worker not been killed in the course of the demolition works. I don’t know who the Poor Unfortunate was but he unwittingly saved a National Treasure by his death. Which was hardly fair on him, you know, but later
Jane Austen was inspired by Netley Abbey to write her novel Northanger Abbey which I remember studying for my O Level English. So turns the world.
That led me
the following day to spend a happy hour in a park called the Cricket Field where not one, but around a dozen of those beautiful “Lest We Forget” benches had been installed. There were even two placed in the children’s playground which I thought
was particularly inspired. “Who are those men, Mummy?” I can hear the little ones ask, “And what are those bright red flowers?”
all, how fortunate I was to spend the best part of five days with so many amazingly upbeat people, of all ages and all disabilities, many of them disabled from birth but splendidly, inspiringly, refusing to give into any limitations. Oh, the stories they told
me! Most of all I heard how their holidays there - many returned time after time - were, for them, like Coming Home. “The people here are like my family, my friends,” one told me, “They are my Community.”
On three of the four evenings we were there, the entertainment was brilliant but on the third evening, it was less so. It didn’t help that the previous night we had been entertained by a Freddie
Mercury Tribute Act which was always going to be hard to follow. On a trip to the facilities, I found - and, being me, joined - a raucous crowd in the TV room where each person was trying to outdo the rest with unfavourable reviews of the act underway in the
entertainment area. I reported back that the singer was in the middle of a song called “Is It Too Late to Say I’m Sorry?” I am pleased to say that I brought the house down. Which was more than that evening’s entertainers managed...
On our final evening, a performance by Mel, billed as Miss Mercury (she lives in my home town and went to the same school as My Boy about the same time) but she was quite
prepared to stray from her brief in the interests of giving us all a good time. That included a couple of party pieces which had us all rocking in the aisles. As I looked around the room, jam-packed with wheelchairs of all sizes, and people intent on having
the best of times, it felt like being part of a community, the very best type of community where everyone cares about everyone else, understands as nobody without a disability could, their hopes, their fears, their challenges and disappointments.
It felt like the very best of privileges to be - for a few days - part of their gang...