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Cornwall Vanlife adventure

Cornwall Vanlife adventure

What can I say about this adventure? Epic! Amazing! The best! All of these are great ways of describing the Cornwall Vanlife Adventure. 

100’s of miles of fantastic roads and views. A glorious mix of of the countryside meeting the coast. We found little coves to go surfing and stopped in fantastic, almost postcard towns and fishing harbours.

Amazing Food

We ate amazing foods and enjoyed a range of different coffees. The surf was epic and the waters was clear but a little cold.  People travel miles for something we have right here on our door step. 

“Albert the van” ran like a dream and didn’t miss a beat. Some of the hill we had to climb was a bit of a challenge but he made it up there in one peace, that’s all that matters.

Great Ap’s to help

We used apps such as “park for night” to find places to park up. We used google to find “National Trust” sights. As members we can often find a free place to park near the coast to get some surf and it great for a day out.

All in all the trip was amazing. hit the link to our Instagram page to see the rest of our picks, but honestly guys i could either sit here and tell you all about our trip or i can just add the pics. 

A few images of the trip

Balance and Breath – Esther Nagle

Introduction

I have met a lot of people over the years, Some have been motivational and inspirational, others have just worked hard to get where they are. recently i met an amazing women called Esther. 

Esther is motivational with out a doubt. Her story is inspirational to anyone who has had to fight addiction. And it is safe to say she has had to work very hard to get where she is now. 

Alcohol, Drugs and addiction. 

Esther, A 20 year alcoholic with drug addictions and a life of hiding from her troubles. Her mother would describe her life as interesting. Others would call her a failed mother and a drunk. 

From a professional I.T and web designer to a drinker who has lost control over life. Esther’s journey is full pressures and worked related stress as well as a difficult home life. Esther found a way out! It was not the recommended way out but it was the route she took. A long path that would mould her life in a very negative and distructive way.

20 years of alcohol and drug abuse followed. Taking apart Esther’s career, confidence, respect and self esteem. All these factors then put esther into a whirl wind of self abuse.

Her career was infact in a strong place there was no reason why she could not have made it very lucrative. However Esther broke down and walked away from the things she seemed to no longer be able to control.

So what is the defined difference of an alcoholic and a drinker. As Esther told me it is a problem when it becomes a problem. it is a point where moderation become an issue. does the alcohol intake interfere with the ability to manage your life? For Esther alcohol became her priority over everything else. 

After trying the Sober October challenge,and failing miserably,  Esther had still at this point not realised that she had a real issue with Alcohol.

Yoga

Esther eventually turned to Yoga where she started to find a very deep inner peace. As well as being skilled in I.T Esther was also a qualified teacher. Putting the two together who knew at this time that her life would take a very different turn.

Controlled by drink for 20 years Esther only really started to make the consequential  decision to stop drinking in January 2014 when she signed to train as a yoga teacher. Not straight away but this was the start, even thought at the time Esther was not fully aware.

Self studying as part of the course Esther would write down her issues and her life connections started to really make sense. Her issues where starting to  stand out to her. Clarity became a thing.

oOthe 12th of October of that year Esther had woken with one of the worst hangovers she had ever experienced, her body was starting to build an intolerance to alcohol. After so many years of being depended on alcohol, her body was infact not used to large quantities of alcohol in its system. 

The realisation of not only had Esther wasted years of her life, she had also realised she was destroying her body. That was the point!, Right there! she decided to put alcohol to bed. 

The Closet

Once the alcohol control had been released the new challenge began. Esther took to drink to run away from the reality. she had not been a good mother at this point even though she was there to teach them and keep them safe. Here was the point where she  had to now deal with all the things she had hid away in the closet. 

Esther needed to deal with so much and even now 4 years later she is still facing and having to deal with those issues. She told me that it is still an issue and it still take alot of work. Loving yourself is the hardest thing to do and takes a lot of work.

Esther had to deal with guilt, and shame. She had to cope with the effect her life choices had made on those around her. Alcohol was just a tool to hide from the issues that up to this point she had not wanted to face. 

Esther still has good days and bad days. With the help of Meditation, Yoga and breathing she has learned to control her emotions. Noticing direct behaviour changes in her children. Her business has started to take her to new places and she has even written a book. 

Esther’s story is honest and raw. The time I spent with her was so inspirational and humbling at the same time. The interview was easy flowing and Esther gave us a real insight into her life. 

I cant thank Esther enough for the time we spent together and I hope you enjoy the show as much as I have enjoyed making it. And I hope you get as much out of it as I have. Thank you Esther and good luck for your ongoing journey. you are a strong women with a challenge ahead. You will reach your Summit. 

Links 

FaceBook – Here 

Email –  [email protected]

Website – Here

Esther’s book – Bent back into Shape

For more information about guest slots please contact me via our contacts page 

Listen to “Balance and breath with Esther Nagle” on Spreaker.

Jamie Gane

Jamie Gane and I met around a year ago through a mutual friend and since then I have followed him as he progressed further on in his journey.

I find his story incredible. When i first thought about the “Guest Spot” project i knew i needed to get Jamie involved. He has shown me so much about adaption and over coming. Adding this to my already adaptive way of thinking has made me very much a “go getter”

I recently got together with Jamie who agreed to have a chat with me and tell abit more about his condition and his Journey!

Early Days

Jamie, your a lower limb amputatee that never seems to get held back. And its fair to say you dont let it slow down either.

For so many this is a massive inspiration, if you dont mind telling us, What actually happened?


 I developed a condition at the age of 9 which initially affected both feet.  After multiple operations, the pain condition became worse and developed into a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Due to this condition, I was unable to use my right foot at all – I wasn’t able to place any pressure on my foot or wear shoes or socks.

If I was to go out in the rain or wind, I would need to quickly get back inside as it was too much for my foot. This ultimately lead me to becoming a full-time wheelchair user. 

And how old was you when your life changed?

At about the age of 16, a doctor spoke briefly about amputation as a passing comment. Despite his swift talk, I was adamant to investigate the potential of amputation.

As a young person, I had already undergone 25+ surgeries and was ready to remove the pain. Despite this, it took me 6 years to find a surgeon that was willing to amputate my foot.

Eventually it was done in 2016 and in June 2017, I received my first prosthetic leg and started walking for the first time in 14 years. 

Prospective

For many people reading this, having your leg amputated would seem a negative life changing event. But in some cases taking the plunge to have a limb amputated could infact be a positive move forward! would you agree with this?


Absolutely! Amputation, for me, gave me the chance to be free, a chance to live without pain.

Even waking up post-surgery, I immediately felt so much better and my concentration levels started to increase.

I found myself coming off of medication and life started to have a purpose. 


Tell us a bit about your initial build up to having surgery, I mean it must have been a terrifying time for you but at the same time there must have been an element of excitement?


All the way up to the day of surgery, I was very excited about the procedure (as excited as anyone can be about an operation anyway).

I was nervous that it would not remove the pain however I was ready to start the next journey of my life.

Post Op

 
So Jamie I want to take you back to those first moments! you have had surgery and you have now woken up with a below-knee amputation!how did you first feel about your new situation?


I started to feel completely different even in the first few days – my pain was gone and I started to think about how I was going to live my life.

I had fought so hard to have my amputation that I didn’t realise how much energy I used thinking about the operation itself.

Once it was gone, I had a new space in my head to start thinking about new possibilities. 

Sport

 I see that you are an international competitor in judo. And I believe you have managed to bag a few silver medals aswell. Well done! what got you into judo in the first place?

Started Judo at quite a young age however when my disability started to escalate, I had to stop.

I think with any sport, if you have the passion there, you will return. Once I had my amputation and that had healed, I was ready to go again and start Judo. 


Now I currently play Squash, like you in my chosen sport I am the only squash player in the world with a lower limb disability of my kind.

My goal when I first started was to compete against able bodied players. since then I have played in local competitions.

Moved on and started playing in club leagues and in April I will be playing in the European masters. do you think you would ever be in a position where you could compete in an able bodied category?

Don’t worry, you aren’t the only squash player in the world with a lower limb disability – I know plenty of lower limb amputees who play. 

Thats awesome maybe we need to get together and arrange our own League.

 All of my international competitions are against those without any physical disabilities.

I am not allowed to compete in Judo with a prosthetic leg so I simply have to hop around the mat and try to trip people up.

Would love to get into more disability-focused sports such as sprinting. 

 I would love to see Judo to be made into a Paralympic sport. It currently has a visually-impaired classification however I would love to see this expanded into Physical disabilities. 

I think it is so important to be able to inspire others with disabilities and open their eyes into what is achievable.

Certainly think there is a need for it. 

Tough Mudder


Lets move on to Tough Mudder! you are an Ambassador for the competition, and a little birdie told me that you have infact completed more courses than any other adaptive athlete! Am I right? 


Um….sort of… That is certainly true in the UK. Worldwide, there is another amputee who has completed over 100 Tough Mudder courses  however I have completed more courses than him as an adaptive athlete (he was able-bodied before his amputation). 

How many courses have you completed? 

52 to this date. I have 3 more to complete by the end of this year. 

How did you get into tough mudder?

Initially, I completed my first Tough Mudder with a friend of mine while I was a wheelchair user.

I loved the atmosphere, the teamwork and the challenge and I was certainly keen to come back for more.  

How does your amputation effect you in this gruelling sport?


You’re dealing with very uneven terrain, which is very difficult to run on often for an able-bodied runner.

Without an ankle to support me, it places a lot of pressure on my knee and hip so completing multiple courses can be very difficult and recovering between runs is very essential.

I’m always having to make alterations to my prosthetic and having to wait for different sockets or liners to be made for me to continue.

My prosthetic certainly takes a bashing so it’s important for me to have a great team behind me to support my sport.

Jamie you are clearly very active! do you think this helped you in your journey from amputation to now?

I think it has – it’s given me something to strive for and a reason to continue 

Tokyo 2020

Lets talk abit about 2020! Tokyo! is this still your long standing dream? 

Actually not so much anymore.

Unfortunately, I had lots of issues with my recovery when I had my amputation.

The initial planned amputation was cancelled just 10 minutes before the procedure and subsequently my recovery was put back about a year, meaning that 2020 was/is just not simply achievable.

 Having said that, I think that it’s now far more important for me to enjoy my sport and at the moment, I couldn’t wish for anything more. 

Thats a massive shame! what sport was you looking to compete in? 

I was looking to compete in discus, javelin and shotput.

Well never say never! i think we will be seeing you in the Olympics one day for sure!

Funding

how is funding coming along?

Just this year, I very kindly recieved the support of a sponsor, Essity, who have been fantastic at helping me achieve my goals.  

That awesome! If people want to support and get involved how can they do this?

Please get in touch with me through my website: www.jamiegane.com 

Social media pages under Jamie Gane Adaptive Athlete (Facebook and Instagram).

To support my sport, I am a motivational speaker and often work with schools, colleges and organisations.

So please get in contact if you’d like to hear my story in more detail. 

Inspiration

Inspiration! I often get told how I am inspirational!

To be honest its those comments that kind of keep me doing what I am doing!

But I am also inspired by people around me.

People like you!

Thank You!

who are your inspirations and why?

It sounds strange but I am actually very inspired by other adaptive individuals who are just cracking on with their own lives.

They don’t need to be athletes or advocates but they are simply keeping their head down and enjoying life. 

I have to admit I agree 100%.

Sometimes life itself is the challenge.

Some people just stick their back into it no moaning and get on with what life throws at them.

Coming Up

 I believe you have a few events coming up in the next few weeks! tell us abit about these?

In a months time, I have the largest event of the season – World’s Toughest Mudder.

This is a 24 hour endurance race in the US where you run for 24 hours straight with obstacles. It is certainly going to be a challenge!

Well Jamie Can I offer you a massive good luck!

As Well As All That


Jamie as well as all this training, working, blogging and competing you also run a very active social media platform and website!

If people want to follow and keep up to date how would they be able to do this?

Through Instagram (@jamieganeadaptiveathlete),

Facebook (www.facebook.com/jamieganethrower 

My website (www.jamiegane.com)

Jamie, we all know that having any form of disability comes with its own struggles.

What final words of encouragement would you tell anyone who is either starting their journey or finding their path?

I always say…Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.

Keep your head down, crack on but also appreciate where you are.

Appreciate the moment and the small moments you have of peace and really embrace them. 

Finally

Jamie J want to thank you for offering me a bit of your time to let us see the world from your eyes.

I look forward to keeping up to date with your future adventures,

I will be keeping a keen eye out for you in Olympics in the future thats for sure!

good luck


Hills views and amazing places

Coed Parc -y- Van

My weekend adventure of just 4 days with Hills views and amazing places started at Coed Parc -y- Van, just off Van Rd in Caerphilly. Honestly the road was called Van road and I was parked there in my Camper Van. Irony. 

The reason why I was parked there was i had a game of squash to play on the Saturday morning and i had Basketball training in the afternoon. It was close, Safe and comfortable. 

I lost at Squash but as I always say “I win as soon as I pick up a racket and play a game”. Only 3 years ago this was not a possibility for me and here I am playing in a local league.

As leagues go I also Play wheelchair basketball and for me this is an opportunity to train and play with some great guys. Normally training involves a bit of Bball and a lot of  the micky being taken out of me. This we was no different. Ahhh the joys of being around friends who look at you as their equal. Dont worry I also give as good as I get.

Once training was over I hit the road and what an epic trip! Lots of Hills, Plenty of Views and some amazing places.

Next stop Brecon 

I absolutely love this place! The town (or should I say city) is charming with character and beauty on every turn. Unfortunately and of course it was Sunday so most of the places were closed. Still a great place to stroll with little care and the added bonus of nowhere to be.

I met a guy from Georgia! He was friendly.  We chatted for a bit as we walked in the same direction, basic stuff, Nice day! Lovely weather! That sort of thing. I wondered why he was here? What was his story? But our chat was friendly but brief. It ended with a wave and fairwell. I still wonder though what was his story.

A few shops was in fact open and Wondered down this side street that opened up into a kind of square.

Sat at the entrance was this homeless chap! Sat on the floor near to Mountain Warehouse. He was just Begging for loose change. I noticed how he was ignored. People walked past as if he was a ghost. They didn’t even look at him let alone acknowledge him.   

I found this sad, I mean dont get me wrong, Yes! He is human and that should never be forgotten. But we are all only a few steps from being him. On the street with nothing. Even the rich can loose it all! A lesson we should never forget. A lesson that every single person that walked past him should realise that our life as we know it is fragile.

Take a listen to my Podcast show where I Talk about this chap in more detail. I also have a strong message in the show as well. Maybe you will gain some value and/or prospective. A message of how we should never take what we have for granted.

 

Listen to “#8 Your one step away from nothing” on Spreaker.
Lanwrda

Right on the river Cothi and a little park up just off the main road was my next destination. Again the Hills views and amazing places was plentiful. Not a bad place to sleep for the night in fairness. Out the way, sort of in the trees and i still had 4G to watch a bit of YouTube.

The drive though was the part here worth talking about. Right threw the Brecon Beacons. Mountains, Vallies and loads of open space.

Gave me room to think as I drove. Also makes you wonder how small you really are! Here I was driving along a road, in a big wight van, and yet I was completely insignificant. No one knew I was there. Even when I parked up no one knew anything about it.

We all go through life thinking we have a purpose. Or trying to find that purpose. Its not until you are in a massive valley where you can see as far as the eye will allow you, do you realise that you are actually no more than a little ant in a very big colony. 

I guess every ant has its role to play though!

DOLAUCOTHI GOLD MINE

A beautiful place set in fantastic scenery offering, free Car park and National Trust members entrance. You can pay! Prices are on the website

Amazing staff, Fantastic views, Wide open space and plenty to do and see. As you can tell I love open space. we live in a congested world at times.

The tour of the mines was amazing. However, not great if you are wheelchair bound. There is still plenty to see though and the staff seem to try and accommodate where they can. I was on crutches so besides the steps upto the mine the day was fairly accessible.

I recorded a podcast of my time there so have a listen below.

Listen to “Dolaugothi estate and gold mines” on Spreaker.
Lan-non

Yep this is a Place. Its right on the west coast. There is a little car park there that is about 10 feet from the sea. A pebble beach. and the sounds of crashing waves.

what a place to just park up and grab some food while watching the sun set. absolutely beautiful! 

Llanerchaeron

OMG I can not even start to say how much I enjoyed it here.

What an amazing place with stunning gardens and grounds, the house is modest but it has its own charm.

wheelchair friendly to a point but there are steps so these areas would cause issues. Manly in the house though, once outside it is chippings so use a freewheel if you have one. Again having a good day I was on crutches and I could really enjoy what this place had to offer. 

Hit the link to go to the website.

After I had wondered around the house reading all about the history, the people who had lived there over the years and taking in the marvel of the place I headed into the gardens and just let myself get lost.

I found the vegetable garden and had a little natter to one of the gardeners. She was cool and clearly loved her job. Its not really a job there though more of an extended hobby that pays the bills. Although they may not see it that way.

The wall garden. The flower garden. just so much to see. I confess I ate one of the tomatoes growing in the green house! It was just so red and tasty looking! I couldn’t help it!

I strolled around the farm. Made a few friends with the animals. I got to sit by the lake for some time. two of the grounds team walked past and one said to the other. 

“Thats the fullest I seen the lake in a few months.”

Never thought about it. We had all that dry weather, then all that rain. Here i was sitting in the Autumn sun with a soft breeze and soaking up the view. One I would not have had if we had not had all that rain!

 I done a little podcast of my visit so again have a listen hope you enjoy.

Have a listen to my Podcast all about my visit.

Listen to “Llanerchaeron” on Spreaker.
Final point

All in all I had a good 4 day Trip. It didn’t cost me much. A bit of fuel and I had time to relax. Learn. I took in history and let my imagination wonder. Absolutely amazing! And lets not forget the Hills views and amazing places.

I literally Cant wait now until my next adventure 

March Travel – U.K by van

The travel journey starts

January and February was made up of building the Van. In March travel began. U.K by van was a go. All together I went to 17 different towns and cities and enjoyed the experiences of 20 different places. Yep I get around and why the hell not.

I climbed Snowdon, with its snow covered Summit and rapid change in weather conditions. Hard work and cold but absolutely awesome. Stayed by the sea and slept to the sound of crashing waves, Dont get to say that every day. However to get to these places I also drove along some of the most amazing roads around offering some of the most amazing views possible. Yeah yeah its all been amazing but I have had a few break downs along the way, some character making others have tested my love for this van to the limits. Yeah still love her though.

Best part

Enjoying time with my nephew, sharing special moments with my girlfriend along the route, and enjoying some down time on my own to sit and think. Exactly what made March so great and definitely why I built this van in the first place. U.K by van is definitely the way to see it.

First trip out and off to Woking

Ooooo so excited! the van was almost done and ready for it maiden voyage. Location was woking for a basket ball game. Got loaded up and set off on my travel’s. Bedding in, clothes sorted, food packed and water loaded. I was good to go.

My first trip out was some what funny and expensive. More expencive that funny but now looking back at it some stuff just cant be made up.

I had a Wheelchair basketball game on the Sunday so thought i would go up on the Saturday night. It snowed and I am an idiot! the game got called off due to the weather and i am now snowed in on the side of the road in Woking.

Okay not exactly snowed in as such but there was about 10 inches of snow on the van and it was bloody freezing. Lesson 1.) I need a heater and possibly a onesie.

The journey back was interesting. This is where a mix of cold weather snow and stupidity all meet. Not leaving out the fact that before i even set off in the first place i had locked my keys in the van in Tesco carpark and had to call out the GreenFlag to come and let me back in my own van. I should have really stopped there.

Driving the M4 in snow is no fun, tiring and very interesting. Well the speed of other drivers and the stupidity they show with acts of sheer madness is the interesting part.

the services

Stopping at the services is another very expensive mistake. Yes i went over the 2 hours rule and got fined £100 although I did fall asleep! With my lights on! And the van wouldn’t then start sooooo…. Had to call out GreenFlag again. But not before wondering off to try and find a set of jump leads. I even visited a 24 hour break down service centre behind the services that was bloody SHUT!! honestly WTF..

Oh yeah lets not forget the little short cut I took that seen me fall knee deep in sewage. Not just any sewage but that fatty horrible stuff that seems to come out of chip fries, mix in some water or in my case snow and there is no denying it….. absolutely horrendous.

When the guy from GreenFlag arrived and after he diagnosed my battery as completely dead even he commented on the awful smell in the area. Was rather amused when i told him my tale of adventure in the snow.

He did get me on my way and I did make him a coffee so actually it was not so bad after all. then on the way out some guy drove out of the fuel station and slammed into the side of me. Yep that really did happen and by this point i was wishing i had stayed at home.

the next day

After a good night sleep and rest I purchased a new battery. £145 later, add that to the fine for going over 2 hours at the services, £100 and with fuel and food; looking ata nearly £300 trip.

lessons
  1. I needed a heater as the van gets cold.
  2. Something to cover the front window to offer privacy.
  3. Dont leave the lights on.
  4. Dont stay in the services for longer than two hours.
Good points
  1. The bed was comfortable.
  2. She drove well, even in snow.
  3. The cooker worked well.
  4. The van stayed dry.

Not so much U.K by van, more like park van up and get wallet out. Thankfully this did not put me off and my next adventure was soon upon me.

A week away with my nephew

I had been promising my nephew a road trip as soon as the van was finished and it was a promise I kept. How do you keep an overactive 15 year old entertained in a van? Easy teach him to cook! Coffee and breakfast every morning! WINNER!

We climbed Snowdon just after the snow. It started off hot and as we got higher it got hotter by the foot. The views where something else. I have climbed this mountain several times. I had completed the 3 peaks challenge twice. The problem with a challenge is it timed so you never really stop and just appreciate the place.

We watched a herd of mountain goats go about their business, tried to sneak up really close but they aint stupid and soon moved away from us. Some of the view are just breath taking. I believe that when you climb any mountain its not a case of beating the mountain its a case of if the mountain allows you to pass.

Just after the pass the remaining snow was getting thicker. Out came the cramp-ons to help with grip underfoot. These are basically spikes that you wear on your feet but at first site they look like something out of fifty shade of grey. Once on they are an absolute god send. Although i still managed to fall on my arse. And more than once.

The summit was completely white and thick with snow. The Walk up took us through snow drifts up to my shoulder. The experience was just awesome, here I was with my nephew. Two of us working together looking after each other. I was teaching him a few skill of mountaineering. Showing him how quickly it could turn and he was there absorbing everything. Smiles all round.

Dol Idris parking

Free parking over night with toilets and great views. Not much else needs to be said. my U.K by van adventure is full of these little gems.

Next up Cader Idris

Now this is a mountain that never lets me pass with ease. I have attempted this climb many times. Once I even sat on the grass and cried because the pain was so bad I didn’t think I would get off. Once you summit it makes it all worth the effort.

When my nephew and I attempted this climb the weather was against us. We first climbed the never ending steps through this forest. Heavy rain made things a bit miserable. We emerged through and into sun. Then we was greeted with natures humour by sending bellows of snow our way.

Unfortunately we made the correct decision to climb back off, some risks are just not worth it. First lesson I ever learnt about mountains is to know your limits. Worst thing was we where only 95 feet from the summit.

Yeah it sucked but it will be there another day.

Molifor Farm Beach Park

I dont need to say much here. My U.K by van next overnight stop was just fantastic. Sleeping with the sound of the sea cashing against the beach. peaceful and tranquil. Perfection! And no Signal. My nephew had to read!!

And then there are the regular places

What a month! amazing time and some fantastic experiences. Some great new places explored and some good old regular hangouts. Glastonbury is always a favourite of mine. A place where you can just be yourself. everyone seems to get along. great places for food and just very unique. Ogmore is another place. Very close to my heart with great memories of days out with my parents as a child. Tinern Abbey always gives me a great closeness to my late father and sometime i will simply drive down there, park up and have a brew. Why not I am after all in a campervan.

Stepping towards Campervan-Life

The goal “Life Changes”

I have been dreaming of the freedom of a Campervan-life for years. The idea of being able to go where I like when I like.

Of course that’s not always the case! Yes I work. People often tend to think that as I am in a wheelchair I instantly get everything for free. That is not the case.

Up until recently it is no secret now, I was married, owned my own home, had a car on finance and had bills and Direct Debits up to my eyeballs. I am sure most people can relate to this, the life of imprisonment by your own made responsibilities. Well that soon all changed when my wife left and I got divorced. The house has been sold and suddenly i have a lot less bills and things holding me down. Again there are people out there that will relate to this situation as well, the moment you stop and realise that all of a sudden you are stood there and you just cant remember who the bloody hell you are.

Needless to say its been tough. I have had a lot of change. Not all for the good but also not all for the bad either. I have found that for the first time in years my bills are minimal, my outgoings are low and I have the opportunity to free up some of the time in my life to follow my dream.

step one find a van

first step was to find a van! I honestly thought this would be easy. however I know “NOTHING” about vans. The options are never-ending. Different sizes! all sorts of makes. And as for cost, that’s just an open ended cheque.

I decided to write a list of what I wanted and needed. The list got bigger the more I thought about it, then I looked into other people’s vans for inspiration. Places like Pin-interest, Instagram and the many Facebook groups and pages.

My List
  • A fixed Bed
  • a sink
  • cooker
  • storage for food,
  • somewhere to prepare food
  • A place for clothes, and some things.
  • wheelchair storage
  • Tools
  • a woodburner
  • shelves
  • table to eat
  • chairs to sit at
  • rustic look
  • good engine
  • low mileage preferred
  • It needs to be clean ‘ish’
  • Can I stand in the van
  • Bodywork in ok condition
  • Side window
  • rear window
  • heating

Layout was going to be tricky. Getting in all the bits I want. A fixed bed. with storage under it to fit two wheel chairs. Storage for clothes and food. Somewhere for tools. I needed to look at my options for cooking as I didnt really what to fit gas. I have been looking at my choices for heating, What do I go for that is reasonably priced? and this is currently still a question i have to answer.

The Van I purchased step one completed

First I purchased a medium wheel based ford transit for £800, an absolute bargain. I was just waiting for everything to tie together when One day the guy I bought it off gave me a call.
He had just had a LDV convoy 400 in. It was longer, had only done 30,000 miles, was all in all in good condition and pretty much good to go.
It was a few hundred more but worth the money. looking at the van and for some unknown reason I fell in love with it straight away, she really is a bit of an ugly duckling but at the same time retro and cool. She was perfect!!

The Strip out

Stripping out all the insides was great Fun. Taking the old bus back to its shell and giving it a bit of TLC.
I found rust and lots of it. New steps were needed and the cab was soaking. The seats came out first then the cab liner. the Dash was a mess and damaged.
A cheap makeshift bulk head and all the wall boards were removed. The floor boards were lifted and the extent of the rust was apparent. Not to mention I had a fern bush growing under the front seat.

With a wire brush attached to my drill I was able to clean off all the light stuff. A grinder got rid of all the deeper rot and reviled a few holes in places they shouldnt have been.
Left with an empty shell and some welding to do it was soon decided a good idea to fit better seats. There was a rather exciting moment when a mate told me of a set of BMW seats he had out of a 5 series. (in leather). Well the seats where still in the BMW and the car was a scrap. The seats where green! These needed to be cleaned and then cleaned again and then modified to fit..

Welding and building.

Welding is an art form and not a skill I have at the ready but what I did have, a Mike. Starting in the back and rebuilding the wheel arches, big chunks of the floor and spot welding the smaller holes in no time at all the rear of the van was good to go.
With plates everywhere but the holes gone I could get back in to the next stage of building.

The front was where Mike really showed off his skills. The passenger seat was fine it had room to position and the new seat was only a single compared to the bench seat that came out.
The driver seat was a bit more tricky. with it being wider than the original, having a hand brake in the way and a step to think about it all had to sit centre.
Mike built a new step and amended the position of the hand brake. Took a few hours and a bit of steel but once painted you would never know.

Base painting

I was advised to treat the whole floor with Zinc182 and glad I did. It offers a protection layer that is water-resistant. I remember painting it on and thinking that the van looked almost new when I finished.
Top Tip do it on a dry day with plenty of air flow.

Insulation

Here is an area where I made a few mistakes but soon learned by my errors. first off I did it on a day I had nothing else to do. Then realised I still had to do the welding so ended up creating a massive fire risk.
I also done the roof and struggled my arse off with my girlfriend in assistance only to find that I couldn’t fit the timber tidy as it was in the way so had to strip it all out again and pack it behind the timber as I went.
Foolishly I thought 1 roll would be enough, I was mistaken and 5 rolls later I had used the lot. I don’t know the right or wrong way to be honest I know there are loads of different materials you can use, I went for loft insulation. It worked for me!!

Timber clad

I really wanted a timber look. I wanted a feel of my father in the van. Dad was a carpenter and loved working with wood. I was never very good at DIY and in fact it was a bit of a standing joke at exactly how bad I was.
I knew I was going to test myself but that was the idea so I kind of just cracked on.

The main issue I had was angles. The curve of the roof from side to side was obvious. The bow from the front to the back! not so!

I ended up cladding up the side so far and the making the roof flat and cladding up to the side peaces. This lost the bow in the corner and I made a nice little lighting feature out of it.
The Banding idea was something I really wanted. It covered the joints I had not done very well on and it gave the van a bit of character that i instantly fell in love with.

Pine is a very light timber and yes I could have kept it however I wanted rustic not new. To get the effect I wanted  the timber had to be scorched with a blowtorch and then stained to dull it down.  Deb was the blowtorch Queen.

The after effect was absolutely gorgeous and I couldn’t have been happier.

Internal Fittings

So here I was the body of the van, completed! The cladding internal shell was ready to be fitted to and now i had to somehow fit my list of wants and needs into the space that I had created.

The bed

The most important feature, and the storage underneath was going to be fundamental in the success of the concept. So that was where I started. Once that was in place i had ticked off the bed, the clothes storage and the wheelchair storage.

work top area

Next on the list was somewhere to cook, wash and prepare food. As well as the idea of storing food I needed to think about the gas bottle and water storage. Now at the beginning of this project I didn’t really want to fit gas. To be fair I researched a lot of options but gas was by far my best choice, so gas it was.

I built the unit off the side of the bed, Framed against the side wall and anchored into the floor it formed a strong and sturdy framework ready to clad the same as the roof to tie it all in nicely. With in the unit I created a space for the battery as well, a nice little bonus.

Once the doors where on and the timber was treated the same as the roof the look was awesome and exactly what I was looking for. A bit rough in areas and almost square it created a timber based rustic unit that covered off most of the wants and needs except the wood burner. This unfortunately was not to be but as time has gone on I think it was the right choice for my van.

seating

The seating area gave me the opportunity to create two great storage boxes that could double up as seats, also it is a requirement for the DVLA so in they went. A simple design and one that was perfect. My tool box was created on one side and on the other lives the BBQ, a spare camping cooker (you never know) and a few extra bits that needed a space.

The over head Cab

This caused me some real headaches! the shape was horrible with loads of angles. My skills where just not cut out for this. I sat for a bit, did a bit then sat for a bit more. Didn’t like it so ripped it out and started again. Again I didn’t like it and out it came. Lots more sitting and in the end with a bit more help from the trusted Mike the idea was born to simply spray the inside black and use storage boxes to create the best use of the space. Why didn’t I just do that in the first place?

The Cab Header was taken out of a scrap box van and cut down to fit, this really finished off the look perfectly, gave a soft finish but still in keeping with the rustic look. I even fitted a retro light in the cab. Around the rough edges I used the banding to tie everything in together. The corner sections where the overhead met the side walls I created a beam like look using up some of the scraps and off cuts. Once the door was fitted and the wood made to blend in all the effort was worth it.

Electrics / Gas

Originally I was completely intimidated by electrical systems for Vans. Some of the drawings on-line was so complicated and terrifying that I really didn’t think I was up to the task.

Lots of Youtube videos, plenty of research and loads of asking advice the concept was actually made very easy to me by a friend who specialises in auto electrics. I  wont lie, I can’t advise you how to do it, that would be wrong but i simply kept it simple. My switch panel came with all the fuses built-in. Everything goes into the panel and is isolated there. Idea is “keep it simple” my whole van is run on 12v so again no other added complications. I have a 240 cable in the back of the van for camp site use and that has 4 sockets on it so again nice and easy.

My lights are all LED and low voltage, Have two sets on centre lights and some reading lights by the bed. All fused! along side that i have some LED strip lights that run along the corners offering me a great mood light effect.

With 6 USB charge ports and 3 12v sockets I have plenty to choose from. These run my cool box, charges my phone and for music i use a pulse speaker with a usb charger.

Now for the Gas……. the area I really did not want to go anywhere near. Then I found a two burner hob. Instantly simple and as safe as houses. One gas bottle, one meter of gas pipe, two ring connectors and a regulator. Job Done!!

Are we happy?

Completely, absolutely and with out a doubt. The van has already offered me freedom to go places. I am experiencing new people all the time. Time, something I can now enjoy. and do I recommend this for others? In a heart beat.

For me this was not only a dream, it became a journey. I wanted to test myself find out who I was. I met someone on the way who shared in this vision. We became connected with the van helping us along in a positive way. A bad day at work now just motivates us to get in the van and escape the holdings of life. Most of all now I am inspired to be who I want to be wherever that maybe and whenever I decide to do it. This van is more than just four wheels, it’s the key to escape the holding that reality forces on to us and with that comes freedom.

 

Bath – Roman history and amazing buildings

Bath

Famous for it Roman baths. Magnificent to say the least but understated for it architecture and history. Bath really is a very special place.

I really fancied a little trip to this fantastic historic town but it has been a while and I find that whenever I seem to go back to a place I always find something new. maybe its because I am getting older and all of a sudden my tastes are changing. Who knows?

Bath Abbey

We visited Bath Abbey and what a place. the pictures just don’t do it credit. Sitting in the pews and looking up at the magnificent stain glass window was just blinding. The shear skill and art that had clearly gone into the making of this monument is just breath taking. Trust me if you are in Bat you need to go and see it and appreciate it magnificence.

The building itself although shadowed by its master window, is something quite amazing as well.  The work and stone masonry that has stood the test of time is a tribute to the the old ways.

a bit of history

Bath Abbey, former Benededictine monastery is part of the Anglican church. First founded in the 7th century it was recognised as Bath Abbey in the 10 century and still know as that today.

There was major restoration work was carried out by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the 1860s. It is one of the largest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in the West Country.

It unbelievably seats 1200 people and is still very much used today for ceremonies, concerts and lectures. Its congregation numbers are in the hundreds, and annual visitors to this amazing place reachers numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

The choir also performs in the abbey and if you are lucky enough to witness this, i hear it it is something quiet amazing.

The Town

Everywhere you look you are surrounded by a mix of modern day life and historic buildings. With the street performers entertaining the crowds.

The masses of history wherever you look. There is literally so much to see that neither your brain or concentration can absorb it all in one go.

We stopped for coffee and cake down by the river and for a few hours i could have not imagined being in a more fantastic place.

Cheddar – cliffs rocks and beauty

Cheddar

So the weather is a little drizzling and yet you still need some fresh air. What a better place to go than the quaint and beautiful town of Cheddar.

It been years since I have been and I can honestly say I had forgotten just how beautiful this little town actually is.
The shops are all very unique and quaint. Little craft shops and art shops. The cafe’s here are also very different.

We stopped for a Bite to eat right on the stream. The views were fantastic and the staff where just so friendly. Every window had its own little picture of beauty.

So peaceful

The whole town is very quiet and peaceful, the passing crowds where mainly walkers who had been out and about exploring. All with their walking boot on and back packs. Made me a little jealous that I had not been up in the hills exploring myself. Maybe next time!

I think when I get my little van this may have to be a spot I stop at for a few days and take in the surroundings. Go for a walk or should I say a Jamie style walk.

A bit of history

The Cheddar Yeo is the stream that runs through the town and the water is crystal clear. In fact it makes up some of the feed for the local water supply. Honestly I can see why, cleaned through the rocks and reeds the water is simply amazing.

I was very surprised to find out that it in fact the stream comes down from the Mendip Hills. Part of one of Britain’s biggest underwater river systems fed by the water through the limestone rocks.
The village itself has a long history and was once a very important centre to both the Romans and the Saxons. If you look closely you can still see the signs of long ago pasts.

Cheese

It’s also no surprise that it is a village famous for its cheese but believe it or not the cheese is still made and still matured in the caves around the area.
Cheddar offers a great deal for all ages from the gorge, the hills and right through to the history tour. Something else I will need to do next time.

Literally loved it here, a few hours of peace and tranquillity. And still loads more for me to do on my return. a nice little adventure to add to my blog

The value of life is worth more than the the value of success.

So am in a success or failure?

Success is not determined by those around us but by our own self worth.

Recently a very dear friend and work colleague passed away. In-fact he was the inspiration to this blog.

He was kind! Gentle! He always made time for everyone! Nothing was considered a task! A true gentleman in every way and definitely a man I am going to miss.

He was younger than I, and we often spoke about what makes a person successful. I would talk to him about my current situation and also about my future dreams of a motorhome. I threw several ideas his way and stood eager for his response. Never critical! Always well thought out and perfectly delivered. Usually presented with an explanation or an example of his point.

Definitely one of my mentors! A man of quality and an example for others such as myself to follow. Rest in peace mate and thank you for the friendship and time we had spent together, and thank you most of all for helping me to clear my mind when i needed it most.

So where has my thoughts taken me?

Well simple! What is success? What is the idea of being able to say you are successful. And what is the purpose of life?

I am 36 years old I have served in the armed forces, I have worked as a funeral director. Run my own business for several years. I am married I have a lovely car, beautiful stuff and own my own home. Am I successful?

Currently I am getting divorced. I am selling my home! Sold almost all of my stuff. Looking to get rid of my car and I now live back home with my mother! Am I a failure?

Let’s start from the beginning.

Am I a success? Can I be considered as successful? When I became a minimalist I learnt the power of living life without the restraint of possessions. I always considered myself successful. I mean, I had a nice car, home and lots of lovely possessions.

As I started going through my divorce I realised that these where insignificant. I started to become more and more of a minimalist each step of the way. Now I have very few object possessions. Somehow now actually feel even more successful.

I now live freely without the lust for the next thing. I am free of the temptation to try and buy happiness through possessions.

Free mind!!

Recently I took up meditation. I started to feel my mind was as full as my home and this also needed concentration. I could say I started to actively clear out my thoughts. Put things in to a simple context.

The best thing I ever started was to take time to myself. Meditation relaxes the body. Puts you into a state of harmony with your thoughts.
The brain after all needs time to heal and rest the same as any other muscle in the body.

I have been single now for 9 months. Single as in no longer with my wife. It’s been a massive journey of discovery. I loved my wife with all my heart and I think I probably always will love her in one way or another. We shared 8 great years together and I don’t regret a single day of it. However in any relationship you have to compromise.

You change a little bit here and a little bit there. Over the years you think you are the same person but in reality you aren’t. Throw in a life changer like disability and you can’t even begin to imagine the changes and sacrifices you make.

I should imagine that when my wife and I become her and me instead of an us she must have felt a little like I do. Who am I? Where am I? What do I do now?

Dating

I attempted the dating sites! Not my cup of tea and honestly the rejections get difficult. I would message a woman and over and over again I was faced with the no replies! You run out of witty comments and open one liners.

Once you get a reply you start a conversation. You talk about likes and dislikes, you try and find a common ground or something to build upon. I would then explain I am disabled and that would end that conversation. No reply or explaining just deleted and often blocked.

It’s hard going and soul destroying. I was left feeling like a reject and disheartened. I met a few lovely people don’t get me wrong. We are growing and building what we have into amazing friendships. In fact these people are becoming an incredibly important part of my life. If that is all i was destined to get then i consider myself very lucky.

So every grey cloud has a silver lining.

Living with mamma Mac
So 36 years old and back home with my mother! That has to be considered a failure! Right?
Wrong! I am getting the opportunity to get to know my mother again. We eat together, we talk, we spend time together. I am sharing a great moment with a woman who is strong and amazing, I could not be happier.

There is a reality that my mum won’t be around forever. I know I will miss her terribly. My love for my mother is with every atom of my human body and this time! right now! This is something I will treasure for the rest of my living days.

so where has this mind journey left me.

Well this all started after the passing of a very dear man in my life. I was left wondering if my own life was on track! am I or am I not successful.

My conclusion is that only I will ever really know. Success is in the eye of the one travelling on that journey! Wherever that  may be.

Many things in your life matter,but only one thing matters absolutely.

It matters  weather you succeed or fail in the eyes of the world. It matters if you are healthy or not healthy, It matters weather you are educated or not educated, Rich or poor — it certainly makes a difference in your life. Yes, all these things matter, relatively speaking, but they don’t matter absolutely. there is something that matters more than any of those things and that is finding the essence of who you are beyond that short-lived entity, that short-lived personalised sense of self.

You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realising who you are at the deepest level.

 

 

Usk – The town of bloom

usk – the town of bloom

It’s strange really when I sit down and think of it. Usk is the town of bloom known to many. It’s won awards for it splendid flower parades. There appears to be a community spirit around the place with the recent “great Usk Bike Off” and everyone is getting involved. But all this is amazing in itself but nothing amazes me more than the fact I have never actually visited this quaint little town before.

I have driven through it loads of times and in fact it is a matter of 20 minutes from my house. Yet, I have never been here and enjoyed all that it has to offer.
It has some very quaint shops.

I went into one shop and it was jammed from floor to ceiling with basic brick ‘N’ brak. It amazed me how he sold anything. Clearly does alright with what he is doing though or he would have closed along time ago. The walk ways where so narrow I could hardly walk up and down.
I did however enjoy the whole concept of the place.

Living up to its name

Usk is very cute and lives up to it’s name of the town in bloom. Everywhere you look there are flowers.
Every garden is beautiful and full of colours. Even the fish and chip shop looks like it should be on the cover of chocolate box.

I visited the museum. What a treat! What a jewel in the crown for USK. In this picturesque town is a cave of history and heritage. The museum is run completely by volunteers.
Housed in an ancient malt barn the Museum has 5000+ exhibits. I was informed that these items had been collected by local enthusiasts over the past 50 years. A true monument to the work of country people in the Welsh Borders. Some of the museum peaces date back to Victorian times. Displays range from the smallest hand-tools and household items through to large agricultural machinery and vintage tractors.

I read on a plaque that the museum portrays rural life in Monmouthshire covering a period of approximately 100 years. As a registered charity and run entirely by volunteers with an addition the museum contains the Usk Visitor Centre with local information and guides together with advice and guidance about the area.
If you do go then this is a must stop location even if it is just to wonder around its history.

Loads to see and do

With a short walk to the castle there is a fair amount to do and see here. I cant believe it’s taken me this long to actually visit this lovely place.
Sadly the castle was closed but I did enjoy a pack of fish and chips in the grounds. Basking under the sun and chilling in my own world of peace and harmony. Definitely need to go back for a second trip and this time hopefully the castle will be open to.

Imprisoned in your thoughts – freedom comes from within. 

The Mind can hold you ransom

I want you to think about the your life and your mind! As humans we develop a prison! The walls are our thoughts and our freedom can only come from within. We are imprisoned in our thoughts. Why?

Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made, personalised sense of self that is conditioned by the past.

The mind is a powerful tool and yet a double edged sword that we offer to much power to. It can create some of the most beautiful thoughts, feeling and emotions known to man.
The control it has over each and every one of us. We are built to be happy and enjoy our experiences. When we smile this fuels our inner happiness.
Think back to how you felt the last time you laughed! Really laughed, gut loaded and deep. Remember that moment and remember that feeling.

That is the feeling we are built for and yet……..

The other side of our mind! So powerful it can make worlds come together. Yet so intense it can bring your sheer existence crashing down around you. The negative emotions it can create the power and control that it uses to drag you in to the darkness.

We allow this to happen. Why? How?  We look at our inner anxieties to route the path we decide to travel. Our options are endless, we simply need to take stock of our choices.

I once read:-

This one moment – now – is the only thing you can never escape from, the one constant factor in your life. No matter what happens, no matter how much your life changes, one thing is certain: it’s always now.
When you make friends with the present moment, you feel at home no matter where you are. When you don’t feel at home in the now no matter where you go, you will carry unease with you

The past that seems to rule our now is gone and leaves no trace except what we keep in our-self. However we seem to find the need to hold it close. To us it is not important if it is negative or positive. We still make a conscious decision to hold on to the past as tight as possible.

The future has not yet happened! Yet we use the past to map out every possible scenario! This path is rarely a scenario of happiness and joy.

When I became a minimalist I looked at my life in several areas.

My belongings, my mind and those around me!!

Each element both created a positive and a negative.
My mind is definitely the hardest thing to clear. The biggest challenge to face trying to understand and reconfigure. I have tried very hard to clear out the negatives!

I have failed several times and the power they hold over me is very real. It is OK to fail. It is OK to struggle. The path to success and happiness is littered in failing and set backs. Each failing and every set back makes us stronger and more powerful on our mountain climb to success.

Do you really need to mentally label every sense, perception and experience? Do you really need to have a reactive like:dislike relationship with life where you are in almost continuous conflict with situations and people? Or is that just a deep-seated mental habit that can be broken? Not by doing anything, but by allowing this moment to be as it is.

Tintern Adventures

Tintern Abbey

Ever since I was a boy Tintern Abbey has been a popular run out location in the car. Many a picnic or walk along the river with my family. However as strangely as it sounds I have never actually been in side the Abbey itself. It has to be said all these years I have viewed from a far and I have missed out. The d

A little history

The Abbey was first founded in 1131 by Walter Fitz Richard of Clare. Walter Fitz Richard was an Anglo-Norman lord. the Abbey was then later destroyed by Henry the 8th.

My Tintern Abbey EXPERIENCE

The grounds are very special, it is so clear of the history that once surrounded this amazing place. Everywhere you look near the Abbey shows strong connections. There is a scare of time once bustling with life but now stands in ruins.

The structure shadows over you and offer’s a real sense of calm. Looking around it is still almost clear to see the touches of life that once inhabited this mighty structure. You can almost imagine what it would have been like to live here.

Entrance if you are disabled is free for both yourself and your career. I was amazed at how accessible the grounds where as long as you where relatively capable in a wheelchair.  Although I was able to use my crutches on my visit I would have been very happy to have taken my wheelchair.

You could still visualise the kitchens and the rooms off of this area. There was clear signs of the drainage system that once held its own as the most advanced drainage system of its time. If you looked hard enough you could see the last remaining traces of the medieval glass in the windows high up in the abbey’s inner walls. but you have to look hard.

An amazing place and with the right imagination you can happily experience life in  a very different time.

The white monk cafe

Now here is the place to go if you want cosy, reasonable and you are looking for good service. the Staff are all lovely and in fact I think beautiful would be a better description. I enjoyed a bit of banter with them as I was suffering with a hangover but the waitress made me smile and for me that is what counts.

The food was fantastic and the White Monks Hot chocolate was amazing. To be honest the biggest glass of water they had went down rather well in my current state.

The building itself holds some strong connections to the Abbey and there are plenty of features that show this. The mix of tables and chairs gives this cosy little room a real sense of warmth. Very well laid out Space and very welcoming.

The church of st mary the virgin

Up on the hill-side over looking the Abbey is an old church. If you look into the trees you can just see the bell tower. The church was once rebuilt in 1866 but then was destroyed by fire in 1973.

The features of the church still stands tall and proud but the last few years has seen mother nature take back what was once hers. I looked around the yard at some of the most amazing tombs. Standing landmarks from hundreds of years ago. I was very surprised to find graves there as recent as 2015.

This little treasure is very understated. stood high above the beautiful abbey it is hidden in the abbeys massive shadow. I am so glad that I decided to venture up to it. if nothing else the views where also absolutely amazing.

summary of the day

I love spending time out and about with my mother. We are and have always been very close. My Mum has always shown me that honesty is a strong quality but also sometimes life is way to short to spend it stuck in one place.

Day Out In Hay-On-Wye With Mama Mac.

Sundays are for road trips

What are Sundays for? Day trips, family time and maybe lunch out. Today I had all those things. A Day out with my Mother (Mama Mac). Hay-on-wye was our Sunday destination.

Since my Dad passed away in March 2016 life has been very different for my mother. Since my wife left in January this year I have also felt the burden of time on my own. There is nothing like the silence of your own company. Don’t get me wrong I love my own company, but after a while it is deafening. Today my mother and I decided to team up and hit the road. Go and see something different. Have a spot of food and a natter.

Hay-on-wye!

A very quaint country town. Hay-on-wye situated deep in the Welsh hills of Powys. Surrounded be stretched views and engulfed in history. Cute little shops and commonly known as the “town of books”. Hay-on-wye has a lot to offer. I have been here before but for some reason it was like it was my first time. We first hit a lovely little coffee shop called Cafe Hay.  What a lovely little place very clean, well presented and a great cup of coffee. If you go it’s not far from the car park so really hits the spot as a first stop.

Books, Books and Books!

They call Hay-on-wye the “town of books” and I can definitely see why!

Book shops are everywhere but book stalls are on every corner. Little sheds or lean too’s with shelves of books and an honesty box.

Mama Mac who loves a good read had a good nose around those! Most of them was like £1 for a hard back book or 50p for a soft back. So if you are a book-worm and out in the area stop and have a look they are there in mass.

Hay Castle

We stumble across Hay castle by accident. At first we didn’t know what it was. The building is completely run down the grounds are left un-maintained and all in all looking very sorry for itself.

But underneath all that it is a fantastic piece of history that is currently being rebuilt. I don’t really need a reason to come back to this gorgeous little town but the development of Hay Castle is something I am very excited about. I have followed them on FaceBook so will definitely be keeping a close eye on the progress.

Shops

If you are anything like me you will hate shopping! I do however love the little unusual shops that you don’t get on the high street. Hay-on-wye had loads of these little shops selling odd little items that you don’t see every day.

One little shop that absolutely stood out was a place called OtherWorldz. I loved this shop. the layout was so cool. The decor was fantastic and the overall atmosphere was rather magical. The lady that worked there was so sweet and chatty I even forced her to have a selfie with me.

The owner was in the shop next door called Satori. Also a really nice guy.  There was loads of magical stuff in his two shops. Jewellery, Crystals, Incense, Candles and Windchimes. I really want to take my friend Lewis to this shop he will love it.

My final thoughts

This town can be described as cute, as beautiful and very special. From start to finish I kept coming across more and more cool shops and lovely corners. Most of the town is wheelchair accessible however it’s not all easy as there are a lot of hills and several shops have steps. I think this is a common issue with old towns like this but for me I have always understood that it can’t really be helped as most of the properties are listed.

But over all if you are looking for a peaceful place to go  then this has to be one to put on the list.

Open-mind To Minimalist Living

What is minimalist living?

Minimalist living seems to create two very different opinions. The main concept is to live. Not to be suppressed by possessions and be free of the clutter both physical and mental.

Some say that they like there stuff to much. Others love the concept of no clutter. I feel clutter causes stress. Clutter takes away the ability to sit and not be crowded in your surroundings. A clean environment offers you the chance to have a clean mind.

The minimalists

I watched a show on Netflix called The Minimalists. The show inspired me to want to try and live a clearer life, free from the unwanted clutter.  I came to realise the pressure of the want. The want for the next best thing. I realised how we are pressured by marketing and general conception that what we need to have lot of stuff. We are convinced that it is stuff that marks our success in life. The show showed me that in fact happiness in the true measure of success and it is something we can all work towards in our own way.

My minimalist journey

I started to clear out my home after my marriage broke down. This difficult task offered me the chance to create my own space. I could have my home how I wanted it. The feeling was energetic and I quickly felt free. Firstly I cleared out the kitchen and got rid of all the stuff I have not used or intended on using. I cleaned every cupboard and organised my belongings to make it easier to use. Sorted out the bathroom and I had clear and free space. I then simply moved from room to room doing the same thing and before I knew it my house was completely clutter free.

 

Once the house was done i moved onto my life

Once the house was completely minimal I realised that I had to much space. I have decided that I dont want to keep the house anymore! There are to many memories there to much mind clutter! I needed to have a sort out of my emotions as well as my stuff.

So I have decided on moving into a relatives house for a bit to get myself on my feet. Give my mind some free space to think.  I have thought about following my dream of buying a motor-home. Then I thought well if I had a motor-home maybe I could get rid of the car. And then the true reality of a life long dream hit me!!! Why don’t I just live in the motor-home!! It’s a perfect solution. Cheep, as minimalist as it gets and I can go wherever I want.

The motor-home

At first i was Fuelled by my new found ambition.  Full steam ahead with the plans. Of course! I have been faced with two very different opinions. Of course I have! On one side, I am completely crazy. On the other side my idea is amazing.

Let’s go back to crazy first!

I currently work full time and every penny I get is taken into the cost of the bills. No little luxuries! No free cash! Just bills and paying for food and fuel. So I spend my life earning just enough money to go to work and eat. I am trapped in a job I don’t really like! Feel captured like a caged animal in a world made up of two computer screens and a telephone headset.

I drive a car that basically works as a tool to get me back and forth work to pay for a house that is fundamentally half of my ex wife’s. I have all the normal debt and nothing to spare at the end. Let’s hope my boiler don’t break down.

So I ask you is it not crazy to live this life for the next 40 years? Running on the spot to simply pay bills? Never seeing anything more the two sets of four walls!

now let’s look at the amazing opportunity.

Living a life of little responsibility. Enjoying seeing some of the most beautiful parts of the world. Never having to worry about being home for work on Mondy. No dead lines! Not governed by targets! No real rules except your own. Taking time, having a clear mind. Living life your way at your pace and being free to roam and explore.

For me the life of a full timer is definitely for me. Yes I am worried about the life changing choices. Getting rid of my STUFF was in fact the easy bit. Essentially turning my back on normality and creating uniqueness is the dream.

I plan on writing a book. Get more creative with my poetry. Take up photography and simply being free.

So why?

With simplicity and minimalism your requirements are rapidly reduced. Your expectations are fewer and your decisions are less complex. You are free to think! I have now moved out of the house. De-cluttered my mind and my stuff. I now have what I need. Everything I own has a purpose. My mind feels free from the stress of perception and expectation. Will I travel full time? Will just travel part time? Who knows! What i do know is my life will be simpler and less congested leaving space to concentrate on me!

 

Muggi – The safest cup holder around

My Muggi Review

How has Muggi made a difference to me?

As a wheelchair user one thing I do struggle with is cups of boiling hot water. Carrying multiple cups at the same time! carrying even one cup and something else, like biscuits is a bit tricky.

For many this simple task is an everyday event but for me it can be an impossible chore. I have attempted to try several ideas. To be honest I have either got to do several trips or ask for help. Hot tea in one hand and the risk of wearing it getting from A to B is normal.

in work

The area I was struggling with was in work. I work as part of a team and we do have a tea rota. The team I work with are fantastic and treat me no different to anyone else. Yes they are well aware of my odd restriction and in fairness never ever raised any comments. If I never made a cup of tea they would understand! for me it was a simple task that I wanted to be involved in!

I have never been beaten by anything and it was frustrating that I couldn’t do it. Recently the company’s health and safety department decided that they would review how cups of boiling water was being carried around the office.

The company purchased  1000 muggi’ and this for me this was an absolute revelation. It meant that I could now take part in the tea run. Ok there is a catch! Due to health and safety in work I am unfortunately not aloud to carry the cups on my lap with tea in them. However I can now carry all the empties to the kitchen! wash them! fill them! however then one of the guys just carries them back to the desks. So much better and very simple.

At home

At home it’s another story. This simple design makes carrying so much easier. No more risk of spilling.  I get a sense of pleasure when I can roll in with the teas. However as I recently discovered it works great with a few beers and also a bottle of wine and two glasses.

I know for many reading this you may ask! How is something so simple as making tea such a big deal? It’s about the simple things that make the difference. This is better than any tray. The cups are secure. There is a lip so nothing can spill and it fits nice and solid on your lap.

This really is a fantastic wheelchair must.  I would love to see how someone with poor grip would benefit I think it’s design would assist in that area two. I think the Muggi has really hit the unintentional mark.

Muggi Specifications

• Muggi is designed and manufactured in the UK from a lightweight but super tough Polypropylene.

• It is available in a range of colours including Blue, Red, Grey, Purple, Green, Pink and recycled Black.

• It securely holds most shapes and sizes of mugs, cups and wine bottles and will catch any unwanted spillages, BUT it also features four non-slip rubber feet, finger and thumb holds!

• Can be produced in virtually any colour for orders over 1000 units.

Dimensions

• Width 200mm

• Depth 200mm

• Height 70mm

• Each cup holder diameter 89mm

Honestly trying it is believing it.

My Honest Smartcrutch Review 

Smartcrutch

I first came across Smartcrutch at Naidex the mobility show in Birmingham.

Instantly impressed by the look and design. Tried them out and really fancied putting them through their paces.

Most people think crutches are simply sticks to help you walk, to be honest you would be right, however! Crutches have come along way in design and practical use over the years.

I have a set from early days that are adjustable NHS issue and they do the job. Except the fact that you clink every time you take a step. I was then issued with a solid every day set. Made to measure! These where great but came with the normal issues that you get for prolonged use. Pressure pains in your wrists mainly.

over looked on everyday crutches

Let’s look at a few of the things that are over looked on everyday crutches. The elbow cuff is normally made of moulded plastic that can be a little rough. Jumpers tend to get snagged and soon ruined by this.

The hand grip is normally also made of hard plastic and anyone who uses them for a period of time will get that red painful palm where you are basically pushing down on the grip.

The rubber feet that you only ever get full floor coverage when the crutches are completely straight, use these on tiled floors like super markets and they can be lethal.

The main point to note

Crutches are really designed for a short period of time. Crutches are not designed to take your full weight. The main idea is to assist with balance not to replace it.

I tend to take most things and turn it on its head. For example a wheelchair, cut off the front end add a 3rd wheel and climb a mountain with it. not its purpose.

When smartcrutch asked me to review their product I assured them that I would push it to the limits.

So whats my verdict

Everyday use they are great. Covering the initial issues every box has been ticked. The elbow support is strong smooth and padded so you don’t get the issue with snagging and most of the support is through the elbow rather than the wrist.

The hand grip is a soft comfortable rubber that has plenty of give. The elbow section adjusts so that you can effectively use them solely with the elbow taking the pressure off your wrist all together.

Even though they are fully adjustable you don’t get the clinking as they are a good fit and well-built.

To me the magic is in the feet. Being flexible they offer a constant platform and grip to the ground so slippery surfaces are not so much of an issue and as a result shopping is a lot easier and I feel much more secure.

The adjustable elbow support means that once they are at a 90 degree you are completely supported through your elbow, not your wrist while your forearm is held firm and secure. This does however take some getting used to.

Now for the best bit

So as always once I had used these for everyday use I wanted to take them out of their comfort zone.

Squash is an active sport and one I enjoy. It keeps me fit and healthy but I used to fall over a lot as the floor is a slippery surface. My normal NHS crutches didn’t offer me a good solid platform to lean into.

The smartcrutch has really improved this area and is a massive assistance on court. The look is stylish , comfort is amazing and overall usability is awesome.

Next was to try them off-road. Here is where these awesome crutches find their slight but not complete weaknesses. On damp grass they don’t really hold well. On loose dusty surface they tend to lose a little grip.

Now here they do shine, on relatively uneven rocky surfaces the flexibility in the feet seemed to work fairly well. The adjustable elbow joint means you can place a lot of your weight through the crutches but only if they grip the ground. I have not yet used them on ice but I fear the result would not be ideal.

few words of IMPROVEMENTS

I really am not going to take anything away from this product the conditions i put them through are not what they are designed for.

In my opinion however it would not be difficult to adapt them to be a fantastic all-rounder. It would be all in the feet!

If I could have one improvement on this product it would have to be the addition of off-road feet. As an adventure lover I am never more alive than when I am off the beaten track and up a mountain.

There is so much potential for the Smartcrutch to be used as off-road with the design of feet that could be used on grass or in mud maybe even snow or better still sand. I think smartcrutch are missing this vital sector.

final few words

These crutches are a fantastic all round product that like everything will suit some more than others. I have definitely pushed them and tested them to the current limits and i am very impressed.

I think that they still have so much more to give and really look forward to the future of this product.

Well done smartcrutch now let’s talk off-road.

www.smartcrutch.com

Do I have to have a custom built wheelchair 

Do I have a custom-built wheelchair

Imagine this as a scenario! You are going about your life as anyone else would and something dramatically changes!

No warning and no time to plan! You end up in hospital! No clue what has happened! You know something is wrong ! But you don’t know what!

For many people going into a chair that is the exact experience. Let’s be honest who sits down and thinks I am just going to keep a few thousand aside in my bank just in case I need to redevelop my life around a disability.

I know I never! If you are reading this chances are you didn’t either. So initial shock has passed and along come the next stage.

Planning
  • What to do now,?
  • what do I need?

It’s all perfectly expected, and a natural fear of the unknown is common. Here in the U.K. We get the privilege of the NHS It is a privilege! Because in many countries this is not the case.

So you now know you need a wheelchair and you need one soon. An absolute need to live the best life possible. Something light enough to manoeuvre around in and don’t forget getting in and out the car.

Your new wheelchair is not just an item that gets you from A to B it is now apart of you. Annoyingly it also becomes your new descriptive characteristic. So yes it’s an important purchase.

Cost
  • So what do they cost?

Well honestly a few grand to be on the safe side. They are custom-built to your needs and everything down to the wheels is an added extra.

  • The big question is do you have to buy new?

Well for me that was not an option! If I had my way I would buy the Carbon Black, it’s amazing, light, sexy and expensive. If I was completely honest I would have struggled to go for a lower end spec chair from Bromkin, RGK or maybe Quickie.

So I turned to the internet and to be exact EBay. I knew my measurements and what I was looking for. The big things you need to know is leg, hip, and seat size.

If you look at chairs that are fully adjustable you will be on a winner. It is a case of spending the time and making sure you are happy. Don’t forget to ask other people what they think. You are not just buying a wheelchair you are buying the one thing you will use everyday and all day so it has to be right.

So you purchase a chair for a fraction of the cost and you may want to just put a personal touch to it! Your options are endless with some new casters that cost a few pound from a skate store or eBay. Kids scooter wheels are normally perfect.

Maybe you want to give a whole new style and refurbish it, look at sites like Pimp my chair they do all sorts from nice straps to complete back and cushion . But at the same time you may not need to do anything and it may be perfect with a few settings adjustments.

This option may also leave you a fund for accessories like the FreeWheel. I purchased a fantastic Kuschall wheelchair that I have had for three years and believe me I have put it through its paces including taking it down flights of stairs.

I have upgraded the wheels to spinergy, replaced the casters and lowered the back rest but initially all I done was tweak the settings to fit.

By going second-hand I saved an absolute fortune and would recommend you shop around before shelling out loads of cash if you can’t afford to. Since then I have now purchased a second chair that I used just around the house, again cheap and cheerful but does the job.

I know for many the importance of a custom fitted chair is unquestionably vital but for some it is just not in the budget and it’s those people like me that find the journey the biggest struggle.

Disability- lifestyles and life changes. 

disability lifestyles and life changes.

There are several types of people suffering with disability, those born with a disability, those who suffer from an injury and those who suffer from an illness.

If you weren’t born with a disability as many aren’t, it can be a struggle learning to adapt and enjoy your new lifestyle. This will lead to times of frustration, sadness, and despair. It shouldn’t have to, you are the one in control and you do have the power to succeed. I get it! Yes! This is Easier said than done. Yes! We all struggle. Yes! It is perfectly natural however it’s important to find your new way of living. Your task is finding a way to make ‘you’ happy.

Coping with your emotions

It’s hard and even more so if an injury or illness is keeping you from doing the things you enjoy. You will start experiencing a profound impact on your emotional and mental health.

For many people there is the offer of counsellors to help them sort through their emotions. Some like myself this is not necessarily on offer so I turned to friends and mentor programs. Programs like what is offered by the BackUp Trust.

Truth is you just need to find people to talk through your feelings with. It helps if they have a grasped understanding of your situation. There are loads of foundations and organisations that can help in this area for example Limb Power help with individuals that have lost a limb or have limb impediments. I have recently been a guest at the Katie piper foundation. They support burn and scaring survivors. The foundation and the patrons are fantastic and supportive.

I was very lucky as I met people through sport and those people introduced me to other people. I joined my local baseball team. (Archers Wheelchair Basketball) This helped loads, my journey from there has been positive and now I am in a position where I can offer others a bit of support.

Through sport I found confidence and from confidence I found will power. Before I knew it I was back in the saddle, I was planning adventures and deciding what I wanted to do next.

limitations

Your limits can be a massive issue. Your body’s new limits is something you will need to explore and also experiment with. This is the area however that will make you angry and at times irritable. You can gain a lot of benefits from working with physical or occupational therapists to help you find new ways of doing things. Effectively using your body to its best potential will be how you overcome the limitations presented to you. For all of us the hardest thing to beat is our own frustration.

Be patient with yourself it will come in time. We all try we all fail but if you don’t try then you have failed before you begin.

Coping financially

Now this is the area of real pressure. It comes with its own issues and I have often stated that no one plans this life changing event. Often a recently new disability will keep you from working. This could possibly be long or short-term so you are effectively already starting on the back foot.

I know here in the U.K. You can seek benefit support and in other countries there are other such assistance. The application process can be lengthily and often complicated. You may even get rejected on the first attempt but the hard work is worth the effort. Remember two things:-

  1. You need this initial support and never be too proud to ask for help. One of the biggest mistakes that many people do in my opinion is to fund the new unexpected out goings on credit cards or loans. This is the voice of experience.
  2. Financial hardship is common, you are not the first. Sometimes the sudden lack of income can put massive pressure on an already pressured situation. You don’t have to face this alone and you can visit well run organisations such as Citizens advice or stepchange to seek financial guidance.
Finding new passions and hobbies

Hobbies will be very healthy, your life may have changed due to disability but your life style doesn’t need to. If you are unable to keep working in your current job try seeking a further education.

Sometimes hobbies have to change. I was a runner before my wheelchair but I found new activities such as wheelchair basketball, Handcycleling,  wheelchair rugby,  wheelchair squash and of course I became a blogger.

It is absolutely vital that you find new ways to enjoy life. There are plenty of hobbies and activities you can do. All you need to do is just be willing to explore your boundaries. Step outside the box.

It is hard to adapt but trust me you will find away. When I developed my disability so many people told me what I couldn’t do but all I could think about was “but why not?” So I decided to try to find a way to do these things for me that became my hobby! And I love it…

The journey from where I started to the place I am now has been long, painful and frustrating. I have had to overcome, push my limits and rediscover who I now am. People would say it’s not about the chair you are the same old you. No I am not I am a new me. I laid the able version of me to rest and embraced the version of me that has a disability and decided that if this was the cards I was dealt then I am playing them my way. Keep hope, keep faith and look to those around you for the support you need. You can do it and you will…

Living life outside the box.

Living life outside the box.

When I first fell ill I never for a second thought my life would end up where it is today. I have managed to achieve so many amazing things. Meet so many amazing people and try so many fantastic activities. All because I am willing to ‘Step outside the box’ I have often been asked why do I try to do the crazy things I do…. Am I not worried I am going to hurt myself?

They say you must be crazy!! you need to take it easy!! you need to be careful!!
Then its, what sort of things have you done?

Once I tell people I climbed Pen y Fan in a wheelchair.

I was the second person ever to do it! People seem shocked. Yet I know wheelchair users that have climbed Snowdon not once but three times. That person is not only a close friend of mine but is part of my driving inspiration. He always seems to be there when I need him no matter what is happening in his own life. His climb up Snowdon inspired me but his character is what makes me consider him a friend.

I tell people I play basketball! That I played wheelchair rugby for Wales! That I cycled a marathon! I have completed the Carten100.

People say “ OMG that’s amazing” Maybe it is maybe it’s not. Either way these where great times in my life.

People listen to me and my short stories!

They tell me I am inspiring! It still knocks me back, just a few minutes ago I was being told I was crazy. I never know how to react. It feels good knowing that you have given people a shove in the right direction.

I have thought about it and I have realised that in fact the only reason I am inspiring is because I have been inspired. Inspired by those around me. With out that support from friends and family I would not do half the things I do now.

I do what I do,

Because there is so much that I can’t do so I replace it with the things that I can. If it looks like I can’t, well that just makes me more determined to at least try.

I like to fail, it means I get to try again next time. I love to succeed it means I get to try something else.

I am happy for people to tell me I am inspirational but not because I am in a wheelchair but because I am so much more than that. I am just a simple guy, stepping out of the box and living life the bast way I know how.

My talk with St Cadoc’s church ladies. Raglan

When I was asked by Beverly Jones of Awaken Life Coaching to talk in front of a group of ladies, in St Cadoc’s church and where they are all older ladies. I admit I was a little worried. These where a group of ladies that have lived through a world war. Seen and experienced things I could not begin to understand. And here I am with a story of my life. How could I even begin to offer them anything of any value.

I decided to open up my talk with a poem, something I wrote, something that had dear meaning to me. Very quickly I realised that my audience was engaged, so i continued with my talk feeling a lot more relaxed and comfortable.

I told the story of waking up one day and my life had changed for ever, I talked about loss and about how I had to learn to cope. I spoke about the path I had travelled on my journey and the exciting things I had experienced along the way.

These ladies where relating to me each in their own way, they where listening intently to what I had to say and I felt a real vibe of interest in the room. The setting was St Cadoc’s church Raglan  with the large church organ behind to set the scene.  It accrued to me exactly how fantastic this was, so prudent, I was a single man tiny in form engulfed in the architecture of this absolutely stunning building. Lit by the light coming in from the massive stain glass windows towered by the stone walls and watched by this incredible church organ. And yet here I was making a difference to people’s lives. simply by communicating and sharing my experiences with others. This was an amazing experience.

I spoke about my journey through medical investigations, tests and examinations, heads started to nod and a reaction of familiarity showed in the ladies faces. It dawned on me that these ladies had been on similar journey as I had. Of course they had! why did i even think for a second they would not understand the feeling of ignorance you get from doctors at times. The pain and frustrations of once being capable and suddenly you realise you are not so able. Each and every person in that room had a story, each story special and full. everyone there had experienced so much and seen so much and yet they offered me the grace of appreciating what I had to say.

I spoke about jumping out of aeroplanes and a sea of smiles shined back at me. I told the story of challenge 2015 and the interest grew stronger, these amazing ladies where so captured by my stories and tales of craziness, every joke I cracked was welcomed with laughs and interaction between each other, the best part was that all the way through they never took their eyes off me and that was extremely refreshing. (not one single mobile in the room)

I was so please when i finished and was showered with applause and congratulations, the questions flowed that I was happy to respond to. I explained what exactly a blog was, for some reason this was by far one of my finest moments of the past few years.

I have done many talks and I can honestly say that this was one of my favourites. I worried about what value I could offer these amazing ladies, I hope I achieved what I set out to do. However the fact they ended up offering me the grace of their time fulling with pride. The experience left me feeling very humble but really buzzing all at the same time.

This right here is what I need in life. This moment is the drug I am addicted to. This is what I want for myself. The moment you sit in front of a group of people share your time and story and leave with the feeling you have added value to the lives of other people is worth more that anything in the world. I would like to thank the ladies of St Cadoc’s church Raglan group for the most amazing evening and an experience I will hold very dear for a long time.  Thank you xxx