Jan. 10th, 2017 09:16 pm
davidgillon: Illo of Oracle in her manual chair in long white dress with short red hair and glasses (wheelchair)
Finally back from Durham, normal service will be resumed as soon as I'm caught up with stuff.

No disasters with passenger assistance on the trains this time, but the accessible loo was out of action for the entire nearly three hour trip from Darlington to Kings Cross. I plan on gently needling Virgin East Coast about it on Twitter tomorrow. It gives a whole new meaning to #NoGoBritain ;)

And doubly troubling as lack of accessible loos was a headline story barely a week ago.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
[personal profile] sovay was asking if there were any shots of Durham cathedral being created from fountains dueing the Kynren performance, I knew I'd seen a pic last night, but couldn't find it again, which turns out to be because it's on a youtube clip - not great quality (people had been told not to use cameras and phones), but it'll give you an idea. The arches are about the 30 second mark, and if you watch through to the jousting, I was sitting directly in front of the target they're tilting at:

(Clip of a Kynren performance, showing various scenes from among the crowd).

The gothic arches are a repeating theme, the fireworks are set up to create similar shapes (the fireworks were superb, being integrated into the imagery rather than just the usual big bang)and the volunteers are known as Archers. And they repeat in the landscape.

Shot of the 11 gothic arches of Bishop Auckland Viiaduct towering over the valley of the Wear

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

The advert, not actual Kynren footage

Footage and interviews from the press preview night, which is when the rest of my family saw it. That first interview is a proper Bishop accent!

I'm just back from three weeks in Bishop Auckland, my home town, but before I left I saw Kynren at the weekend, as an early birthday present from my sister. It's based on the Puy de Fou shows in France, which have developed into a theme park, and is being funded by my home town's local city fund manager turned philanphropist, who bought Auckland Castle (until then the seat of the Bishop of Durham) a few years ago. Reportedly there's been £35m invested to get it up and running, and that's well believable, because it knocks any son et lumiere I've seen before into a cocked hat. They've head-hunted the directorial staff from both Puy de Fou and the London Olympics Opening Ceremony, but the cast themselves are local volunteers, including my sister, who is variously playing Roman slaves, medieval peasants, miner's widows and Canadian Mounties, all in the same performance.

The showground lies in a loop of the Wear below Auckland Castle, in the shadows of the viaduct (from which the production company, Eleven Arches, takes its name) and is centred on an artificial lake, with significant parts of the show actually taking place on the lake. In front of that is the field where most of the action takes place, and rising from the back of the lake is a stone terrace, which becomes the backdrop when 'Auckland Castle' rises from it. From the back the seating looks like a wooden fortress, but from the front it's 8,000 steeply ranked seats which give a good view over the staging. As a wheelchair user I was in row A, actually in front of row A, which was great for seeing everything on the field, but one or two things on the lake were slightly obscured by the low angle. To be honest I'd still take the proximity and the slightly blocked vision if given the choice of a higher seat.

The show started at 8:30PM, which was full dark at the start of September, and that's apparently better for the spectacle. My brother in law was with me as my wheelchair user +1 and he said it was definitely better in full darkness than the dusk he'd first seen it in.

Anyway, Kynren. There's a linking narrative involving a young boy named Arthur, who boots his football through the pre-war Bishop's window and is rewarded with a lesson in British history, which in 90 minutes covered:

Joseph of Arimethea and the Holy Grail - complete with tree emerging from the lake

Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

The Roman Withdrawal from England - with four horse chariot, Roman cavalry, legionaries, slave wagon.

St Cuthbert and the coming of Christianity to the North. The Lindisfarne Gospel.

The Viking raids, the wandering of St Cuthbert’s remains and the founding of Durham Cathedral - they built a cathedral from fountains, I was awestruck, so was everyone else.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge - Arthur gets the crucial role in the story the Viking on the Bridge

The Battle of Hastings, Harold and William - which features a crewed Norman ship emerging from the lake

Medieval Life and Tourney - complete with sheep, goats and geese, and with knights tilting at targets no more than 15 feet in front of you if you're in the wheelchair row

Battles against the Scots - flaming drumsticks!

Henry VIII and the Field of the Cloth of Gold

Queen Elizabeth and William Shakespeare meet at Auckland Castle - this is apparently historically attested, blew my mind!

The Civil War and the execution of Charles I

The coming of the railways - from Bishop Auckland to the world! (The Stockton and Darlington railway was built to service the Bishop Auckland coalfields). Complete with working Locomotion.

Mining disasters - very poignant, especially as many of the cast and audience will be descendants of miners, our family certainly is.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

WWI and the Christmas Truce - I may have had a tear in my eye here

The Durham Miner's Gala - first time I've seen the Charleston done in wellies

WWII, Arthur goes to war.

And all wrapped up with a curtain call and Land of Hope and Glory, during which my sister cunningly positioned herself in exactly the right spot for us to spot her.

It is non-stop, often with four or more layers of activities happening at once - track, field, lake, terrace. My brother-in-law kept prompting me which way to look.

It absolutely peed down all day, including during the performance, but it was so good it really didn't matter. Though I did have to practically hose down my chair the next day to get rid of the yellow dust that it had picked up from the chippings used on the paths. Car parking would have been good, properly laid out disabled spaces in a dedicated car park, but the car park volunteers were telling people to ignore the markings and park closer to the next car (someone said something about part of another car park being flooded). Advantage of knowing someone in the cast was the feedback that this is a problem for disabled people, especially wheelchair users, and the gaps between cars are there for a reason, was on the official system by Sunday lunchtime.

There've been some stories about the car parks being jammed until midnight, but we managed to get back to the car, out of the site and be in the pub by 10:20, complete with my sister, who'd had to do a quick change and find us.

There's a handful of almost sold-out performances left this year, Fridays and Saturdays 'til September 17th, but they're already planning for next summer. It's pricey, but if you get the chance, go, you won't regret it.

davidgillon: Me, in a glider cockpit in France (Gliding)
Sitting in my sister's garden in the sun, just lazing and catching up.

Life is hard ;)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I did mean to comment on my visit hime, but it sort of slipped me by after I commented on the alarums and excursions of the trip there and back.

The family seem well, my mother (who is 76) is still ridiculously active, spending at least 5 hours a day with my father at the nursing home and sometimes much more, though hopefully longer hours are going to be less common based on a few changes in arrangements that were being put in place while I was there. My sister was taking what advantage she could of the summer break. while still spending some time at school most days. She was also relieved to have Ofsted (schools inspectorate) off her back, having just been assessed on the Religious Ed she was brought into the school to overhaul, and passing with largely flying colours. We managed to have a couple of family meals while I was up there, including a gorgeous Sunday lunch with a huge pile of meat on your plate for the princely sum of £7!

I was slightly amused when my mother expected me to wheel back and forth to the Home, I might have made it back, but going it's a mile uphill with kerb cuts and driveways every 20 metres. I had a look in Google Earth when I got home and there actually isn't that much total change in elevation, but it's humps and bumps and significant enough you feel it when walking, never mind pushing. We settled on going by car (if my sister was available) or taxi, and my walking back using my sticks after spending an hour visiting. I managed five visits in the six days I was there, with Dad having a hospital appointment on the day I missed. Unfortunately he slept completely through my final visit.

Dad's physically well, within the limitations of the stroke. He's been driving everyone nuts by repeately managing to dismantle the side of the chair they have for him, which usually results in him falling out. How he manages it no one quite seems to know, so they resorted to screwing the sides on while I was up there. Cognitively he's mixed, he hadn't seen me since New Year, but his face lit up the moment I walked in, but there were days he struggled for my name. His speech is still badly affected, I pretty much had to rely on my mother and sister to interpret, and they say even they have to just nod along at times, but some of the comments he makes show that he's well aware of his surroundings and thinking about what things mean for other people, not just himself. He's still sleeping an awful lot, which unfortunately means he's not seen as suitable for rehab at the moment.

I'm much happier having seen the Home as well, no matter it's had positive reviews from both my mother and sister. I knew roughly where it was, next to the church we used to attend, but it's on the other side of it to where I thought, which means it's sat right on the extreme corner of town, with a 270 degree elevated view out over the valley of the Wear, giving absolutely gorgeous views. I'm told there are 54 residents, but probably didn't see more than about 20 (there's an Alzheimer's ward on the upper floors), he seems to be one of very few male residents, but my mother's close enough in age to get on very well with many of the female residents. Facilities seem fine, I've stayed in hotel rooms comparable to the one Dad has (though apparently his is larger than most due to the wheelchair), there are two nice lounges (one with bar!) and a large dining room - my mother is eating there as well as Dad and she says the food is more than adequate - from her description Dad is certainly getting through plenty of it! And all the staff go out of their way to talk to Dad whenever they pass. Of course there's a price to all of this, £600 a week, which is eye-watering, but fortunately he qualifies for full funding from the Council due to his degree of disability.

I'm probably going back up in September for a week or two, and I do feel slightly guilty for not being there to help all of the time, but just those few days were enough to tell me that I probably couldn't keep up a daily visit schedule without worsening my own situation, so it's probably just as well I'm still down here.
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
Courtesy of <user name=nanila>, in honor of my new wheels. I'll admit my first reaction was 'Argh, W? What starts with W?'

Something I hate: Westminster. and politics which has become all about who can be seen to be harshest, not who can help the most people.

Something I love: Wheels!
Seriously, even though the delivered wheelchair is massively inappropriate (a heavy chair for someone who specifically needs it because their shoulders are giving out? a chair that flexes massively if it hits anything thicker than a sheet of paper for someone with pelvic issues?), this promises to be potentially life-changing. I've gradually drawn back from doing anything that requires me to be on my feet (which is pretty much everything outside the house), because there's too much discomfort involved for it to be compatible with enjoying myself, and having wheels promises to change that. There's a meme dominant in the non-disabled population that opting to use a wheelchair when you can walk is 'giving up', whereas in fact the truth is it's massively liberating and I wish I'd done this 10 years ago (if not 20!).

Also: Writing! Not doing enough of this at the moment because I've got so much going on family and healthwise, but I was so happy during the summer when I was writing regularly - I hit something like 300,000 words over last year, pretty much all of it before September. I need to get back to this.

Somewhere I’ve been:  Weardale.
Cheating slightly as this is where I come from, my home town, Bishop Auckland, is the market town at the bottom of the dale.  But I adore the ride up the dale from there, heading up through places like Witton Park (where I went to junior School), Witton Le Wear, Wolsingham, Frosterley, Stanhope, Ireshopeburn, Wearhead and Cowshill. There's a gradual transition from glorious farmland at the base of the dale, to steep-sided hill farms, and then to gorgeously bleak moorland on the high tops.

Somewhere I’d like to go:  Washington DC.
Not specifically for Washington itself, there are other US cities I'm much more eager to see, Seattle especially, but I'm a massive aviation nerd and Washington has the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, together with its annex, the Stephen F Udvar-Hazy Center, out at Washington Dulles.

A film I like:  Where Eagles Dare,
where things never stop happening, and there's always another layer of plotting enmeshed inside the truth you think you know. Richard Harris, A very young Clint Eastwood,  the fight on the cable-car, the car chase between be-snow-ploughed bus and half the German army. Possibly the quintessential WWII spy/commando movie.

Someone I know:  Wobblin' Wilma, which is the screen name a friend used on the BBC's old Ouch message board. Gloriously snarky at times, but also massively, sensibly helpful and a major voice in my maturing as a disabled person.

A book I adore: The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett. 
The Queen of the Fairies has stolen Tiffany Aching's brother, but Tiffany's her grandmother's granddaughter, which means she's a witch, and she's got an iron frying pan and isn't afraid to use it, and, oh yes, she has the Mac Nac Feegle. (Crivens!)

If anyone wants a letter....

davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I'm finally back home, despite the best efforts of the British weather to stop me - got to the station this morning  to be told the local train I was supposed to catch through to Darlington where I pick up the East Coast Main Line had been cancelled due to something on the line near Middlesbrough after last night's gales 'and we're trying to arrange a bus'. Fortunately the guy on duty came out to tell us this before I actually got out of my brother-in-law's car, so he hadn't driven off into the distance, and even more fortunately was in a position to drive me through to Darlington. In fact I was actually on the platform at Darlington a good ten minutes earlier than I would have been if I'd caught the local train. (If I'd turned up on time rather than 20 minutes early there wouldn't have been enough time to drive to Darlington and still catch my train, so yay for neurodiverse travel anxiety!) The rest of the journey was trouble free except for a three minute delay outside Thirsk 'due to a signalling mistake'. Signalling mistake? On the East Coast Main Line? Not guaranteed to fill me full of confidence!

With being hospitalized and then heading north for Christmas/to recuperate I've spent precisely four and a half days at home since the paramedics scooped me off my bathroom floor on the 9th of December. Being here and on my own feels weird!

Going Dark

Sep. 10th, 2014 05:20 pm
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
I'm headed up to my folks in south west Durham tomorrow (Thursday) for a couple of weeks, which is something of an internet dead zone, so any chance I get to get online is likely to be intermittent and probably not conducive to DWing. So if I go suddenly silent that's from stepping back out of the 21stC, not anything dire.

Plans while I'm up there:
Celebrate my birthday with family
Sit down for some serious editing work on my work-in-progress urban fantasy, which needs to lose around a third of its wordcount.
Catch up on some of the books sitting waiting to be read on my kindle

Hopefully to be avoided:
Family, especially sister dearest, pitching a paddy over my asking for a referral to wheelchair services.


davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
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