(Hi guys, I’m very behind on my blogging as the last couple of weeks have been very ‘boom and bust’ with my energy. I’ve pushed myself and broken myself so this post has been written in my head for some time, but actually siting up in front of the computer to type it has just been beyond my reach.)
3 weekends ago I went camping for the first time in 2 years. My tent had been calling to me, my body had been yearning to get outside, breathe in that fresh dewy early morning camp air that I missed so terribly. Even whilst in hospital last year I was eyeing up the green space outside my window daydreaming about pitching my tent on it and getting a couple of nights sleep under the stars, convinced it would cure all that ailed me.
I haven’t always been a natural camper, when I first joined Scouting as an Assistant Cub Leader, I rocked up to my first camp since I left Guides (an experience I bloody hated) with my cheap £10 totally-only-designed-for-indoor-sleepovers sleeping bag from Tesco and lasted about 2 hours, shivering and needing a wee before I went and slept indoors. I gradually bought more shoddy equipment, acting as if I knew what I was doing, but really I didn’t, yet starting to love being outdoors. I even started doing it for pleasure outside of Scouting, although I was still buying rubbish equipment, it’s taken me nearly 10 years to realise buying quality means buying once, and it means comfort and staying warm enough not to wake up needing a wee every 5 minutes! There was a particularly amusing period when I insisted my cheap as chips 2 man tent was perfectly big enough for my double airbed (it was, as long as I didn’t plan on closing the door!)
As I slowly got more and more disabled, I bought equipment that suited my needs, starting off with needing a tent I could stand up in, rather than crawl and perform a Houdini routine to get dressed. I ended up with a pop up tent that was perfect for me, albeit having certain knack to get it down, if I was still mobile I could do it in seconds but now I have to shout bizarre instructions from the sidelines!
I then invested in a little step stool that I used as way of getting to the ground once I was using sticks. So I would lower myself into my camp chair, to the stool, then to the ground and in reverse to get up. I’d long given up on the air beds, they’re not actually warm as they just leave cold air circulating underneath you, often deflating overnight, and as they don’t provide any structural support, you need a good set of legs to get up. I’d replaced the air bed with a good quality thermarest which was infinitely warmer. Once that was no longer possible I invested in a camp bed, with my trusty thermarest on top for insulation and comfort.
This time around was going to be more challenging though. The last time I camped I could walk a little bit, so didn’t need a chair inside the tent. I had to think a little creatively and my first idea was to pitch the tent with a little slack, and basically run over it to get in, but getting around the campsite was going to be a huge challenge in itself, wheelchairs and grass don’t mix, so I hired a powerchair to give me more independence and ease my physical tiredness. (It also gave a great opportunity for a costume for the Comicon theme 😁)
So, my Kuschall manual chair went inside the tent when my lovely friends pitched it for me, and the powerchair was taken away to a building to be charged overnight (they also don’t like being left out in the damp). I used my banana board to transfer between chairs and onto the camp bed, and in the morning, my power chair was collected by one of the many volunteers waiting to have a play in it.
If I needed the toilet in the night, I relied on my trusty whiz relief (like softer version of the shewee) and it’s clever bag system, which worked quite well for my 6am call of nature. Although it’s principle design is to allow women to pee standing up, it also works sitting down on the edge of something, I’ve even used it in stationary traffic in the driver’s seat on the M1 with my coat over my lap!
So, with my various workarounds I was able to get back under canvas and it did me the world of good. I only went to a camp down the road, which I know has a fully accessible bathroom, which I could have come home from if I wasn’t coping, and it was only for 1 night, but it was one glorious night that made me feel alive again, even if just for one day.