The end of last week was taken up with preparation for Tilly's Brownie Pirate Camp, sprinkled with a visit from two student Doctors and a Performance Management Meeting for the Head Teacher of the girls' First School. Half way through the first meeting, one of the Students checked if Tilly actually uses a wheelchair as the description of her activities suggested she did not! A good sign! The Head Teacher of the First School is doing a fantastic job which made our job, as Governors, very easy and satisfying. Their inclusion of Tilly was exemplary, and set a very high standard for others to follow.
An advance party arrived on Friday to collect up Tilly's equipment for camp, leaving Tilly to travel with just with a suitcase and the 'all important' Suction Unit to rescue her from any respiratory crisis. An invaluable tool that we are never without. The threatened bad weather was building up as we boarded the coach and Tilly was delighted to find the designated wheelchair place towards the front of the vehicle instead of right at the back. With willing helpful hands from the Leaders we carefully moved Tilly over to a seat as a three hour journey was anticipated. Tilly was very chuffed, and I was heartened by the spontaneous, genuine support.
The driver need to go across country as the main roads were snarled up and we found ourselves twisting and winding through the blackness, rain beating hard against the windows. Tilly went green and I reached for the trusty suction unit and to my absolute horror, the battery was dead and the machine was useless. Memories of Tilly choking leading to an 'aspirated pneumonia' came flooding back. Tilly closed her eyes and I started to pray. Every minute seemed to last an anxious hour, and because of a fault on another coach, our three hour journey actually took six!
Our prayers were answered and we eventually arrived safely and were delivered to our beautiful accessible caravan during a lull in the storm. It was now approaching midnight and our beds were calling. Just time for one more 'Hamlet Cigar' moment when Tilly was unable to get into the accommodation. The ramped access did not include enough space for a wheelchair turn. With minute manoeuvres Tilly inched herself around and I lifted her chair over the step! The torrential rain had the good grace to hold off in time for us to shut the door and brace ourselves for the stormy night ahead.
Tilly and I shared our caravan with two delightful Brownies and Snowy Owl, a Leader. We were snug and cosy and quickly made ourselves at home. Whilst planning the next day we enjoyed hot chocolate and biscuits which was a great treat for the Brownies as it was now midnight! Once the girls were settled, Snowy Owl and I chinked on a sweet vermouth and lime that Rolf had secreted into my luggage! Promote that Man!
As the tempest raged and the caravan rocked like a ship being tossed on a stormy sea, I began to marvel at the incredible gift that the Guiding Association gives, and of all the work that they had put in to this trip. They give so much of themselves voluntarily and make such a difference to so many young people's lives. Quite remarkable and uplifting to see it in action. It felt good to be safe and warm with such a special people at the start of our exciting Brownie Adventure. Just hoped that we wouldn't actually break our mooring and be washed away.