Plymouth Aquarium: Turtle + fish = good times.

IMG_2955My Trip Advisor Review is here.

If you find it helpful – give me a helpful vote on my profile. Always good to know if it was useful ;-)

Want to visit an aquarium that’s got good access, good food and easy viewing – then this is the one for you.

If you’re looking for a ‘shark tunnel’ and want to touch stingrays – try somewhere else.

If you want a stuffed toy choice of every sea creature imaginable – the gift shop will appeal.

If you’re planning a Sharknado party – this is the place to stock up on all things shark.

If you want to wait 20 minutes for the Sea Turtle to wake up from it’s regular snooze and swim into view for a few minutes, then this challenge is for you.

Remember folks …. Fish are Friends …. and plastic bags kill our sea life. (Yes you will be told this several times on your way round :-p … although your stuffed toy may well be offered in a plastic bag to carry home).

No room at the Inn – well no bed to be precise.

About 9 months ago the dates for the Firework Championships were announced – so we quickly booked into the Holiday Inn, Plymouth. I’ve written a separate blog post on our holiday.

We had chosen the Holiday Inn based on personal and practical requirements. The location meant we could walk to see the fireworks, it had parking and was one of the few places to have air con (as I need to keep the air cool because of my ventilator mask which otherwise gets really hot and uncomfortable)

At the time of booking the only wheelchair accessible room available was one with a double bed.

Out of 211 rooms there are only 2 with wide doors etc and a larger bathroom for wheelchair users which is rather poor. The chances of getting a twin room in hotels with so few rooms are slim.

 

We made the wrong assumption

 

bed

 

When we have stayed at other similar places (Premier Inn, Travel Lodge and even other Holiday Inns etc) where we can only get a double bed, we have been offered a camp / folding bed or sofa bed.

I have to take my pressure relief mattresses, turning equipment that goes under the mattress etc and I use a ventilator – so sleeping in a double bed with my husband isn’t an option. However, he has to be next to me to make sure I’m ok and to help me during the night.

Just before we went I spoke to them on the phone to ask for the folding bed and was told they had a policy not to provide these. Also, if we wanted second room for a carer (which wasn’t adjoining through an internal door, so wouldn’t have been any good for us anyway) we’d have to pay for it.

 

 

Making it possible to stay for work or leisure

Hotels have to make ‘reasonable’ adjustment, under UK  equality law,  to enable disabled guests to use their services – including providing aids and equipment. I’m assuming this is why the portable bed is often provided for carers in other places.

Another example is that if a person can not use the bath they can request a bath lift at one of the major hotel chains. Another chain offers low beds that can be raised on blocks to suit different height requirements.  It can make the difference between going or not going on holiday.

Also, it’s not only holidays that are the problem,  I’ve been to many hotels in the past for business trips, attending conferences or running training events for my company – and it really made working life difficult.

Basically, affordable, portable equipment that can help a range of guests have a much better stay are one of the things they can do for customers.

An apology

Holiday Inn isn’t cheap, we didn’t want to pay double and we needed and wanted to sleep near each other. My husband didn’t want to sleep on the floor – so on principle we felt unwanted and cancelled – moving to the Future Inn.

Since then, we have had an apology from Holiday Inn after I made a complaint. The manager was very polite and wrote in detail about the facilities they do have and the training provided for staff. He also explained that they do have a policy of offering a free room for carers and will consider a portable bed.  I hope this is a real genuine consideration.

I would like them to understand that things like a portable bed would have made all the difference and is better than the other option of us taking a camp bed or my husband sleeping on the floor.

I suspect many other people are in the same boat as us (from what my friends have been saying) and I know some wheelchair users who sleep in their chairs because of the ‘bed’ problem. It’s hard finding accommodation when most hotels only make 1% of their rooms wheelchair accessible.

Access for people with mobility impairments is more than wide doors and a few grab rails – its also about giving accurate information so that people can decided where they want to spend there money. We need a higher proportion of accessible rooms to choose from – that have been designed in a way that will benefit a wider proportion of disabled guests – not just mobile wheelchair users who don’t need assistance.

 

Our trip to Plymouth for the British Firework Championships 2014

Fireworks

About 9 months ago the dates for the two nights of fireworks were released – so we quickly booked the two of us into a hotel in Plymouth. I’ve done a separate blog on why we had to cancel our original booking with Holiday Inn.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Kevin would have had to sleep on the floor as they didn’t have a temporary camp/sofa bed in the room like other places we have stayed – so we booked a room at the Future Inn.

Back to the Future?

Not quite – we won’t be going back to the Future Inn – for one reason which is particular to people like me who need a pressure relief mattress. You see, the Inn was lovely, staff were nice, we had two double beds, easy parking and a wet room / shower – yet once we had put my mattress on the bed it was too high to get on!

Incidentally, you couldn’t use a hoist neither as the bed plinth was wooden down to the carpet. Also, there was so much furniture in the room I couldn’t get to the bed without scraping my power chair along the bed on one side and the fixed table on the other. There was little room to turn – you went in forward and generally came out backwards.

So for our requirements we really struggled with Kevin having to lift me on the bed and then from the bed onto my mattress.  We rarely have this problem as in other places the beds have been lower – with the option to raise them on blocks in some places. This suits everyone – but this Inn have yet to understand the true meaning of ‘access for all’ or at least ‘most’!

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Top left – This is Sibel, my portable hair washing basin we take in case I can’t reach the sink or I’m too tired to shower. Top right – my new modified shower chair/toilet chair. Bottom left – the crazy small gap to get through to get to the side of the bed. Bottom right – the nice bed we destroyed to put my mattress and things on for me to use it.

On the plus side, we got to see how our modified toilet chair worked in practice and I was able to have a shower for the first time in about 5 years which was rather nice considering I only ever have a sink wash.

Fireworks Night 1

So no fireworks in the bedroom aside deep frustration …. but loads of them out on the Hoe. The first night we drove to the Park and Ride a few minutes up the road. We were dropped off in the town and walked nearly a mile, with the rest of the Pyro maniacs, onto the Hoe for the giant showdown.

There were thousands of people as we expected, a fun fair and the usual array of chip and donut vans. However, we didn’t anticipate on the fireworks being set off far below us on the water (we were basically on a cliff). Even at their highest they weren’t visible overhead- so you needed a clear line of sight to the sea.

Their were 3 displays each night. However, once the tall fat lady stood in front of me I couldn’t even see the sky! I stared at her rounded behind and saw nothing of the first set, about 40% of the second set leaning out the side of my chair around her chubby thighs and about 90% of the third set.

All in all, not so successful. We drove hundreds of miles to see a fat lady’s bum …. not what I had imagined! Incredibly frustrating.  Kevin took a video so I watched that instead.

Tomorrow we would try plan B – arrive hours early and pick a different viewing point.

On the up side, we stood next to a Chinese guy with a mental health problem who was muttering all sorts of random sentences for the duration, whilst doing throat singing and waving his arms in pure delight at the pops and bangs. He was having so much fun oohing and ahhhing in-between the mutterings that we were sucked up into the bubble of pure joy that was emanating from him. That was more magic than the fireworks.

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turtle

 

Earlier on in the day we went to the aquarium to get a fish fix – that was really good and they had good food. You can’t go wrong watching a turtle or jellyfish.  As is customary I took 200 blurry blue photos of fish and videoed the jellies.

It was nearly 2.30 by the time we got to bed, the queue to the park and ride was longer than anything you’ve ever seen at Disney.  So, we got in and the night ended with hubs throwing me onto the bed, quite literally.  ZZZzzzzz

Fireworks Night 2

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train2

After a day on the South Devon Railway (great access, friendly staff and a lovely journey), we put into action Plan B. We parked at the aquarium around 6pm to get a place in the multi-storey, went for dinner, then ambled round to the front of the aquarium where we had a great view of the fireworks. Away from the funfair, the crowds were less dense and more civilised! It was nice and quiet with the gentle hum of people wondering if it was ever going to start after a 30 minute technical glitch. There were 3 sets on night two – each company got the usual 10 minutes to show off what they could do.

harbour

I was sat next to a small child by the harbour railing. She was about six years old and stood as close as she could to my side and just stared silently and intensely at me for a whole 10 minutes during set 2 . Alas I was trying to watch the fireworks so there wasn’t the time for conversation. The thing was, I could feel her breathing down my neck and as I turned my head to see what she was doing we met virtually nose to nose. She still had a perplexed look on her face, clinging like a limpet to my armrest which started me laughing. I give her top marks for her endurance and finding me more amazing than the fireworks she was missing. Maybe she was a robot child or something – who knows.

So it was another late night and after more mountaineering we made it into bed.

Day 3

Going home day. A nice late checkout, we went home via a slight detour for Kevin to do some bridge spotting. Now, what he didn’t tell me was to get to the bottom of the Tamar bridge, at Saltash, to take a photo, involved the steepest road you’ve ever seen in your life – the sort you would normally go down on foot attached to a rope and harness. How anyone can live on that hill is beyond me.  This little escapade also meant driving over the bridge twice – with only a little barrier on the way back to stop you plummeting to your death. Lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

Our new pond for wildlife

Before

Our pond was home to frogs, toads, dragonflies, newts and even a baby grass snake. Then it sprang a leak and as the water disappeared so did the wildlife.

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After

I designed our new wildlife pond and apart from Spring plants it’s ready for critters to move in.

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I used an Atlantis fibreglass pond and the tumbled pebbles are paddle stones – welsh green slate of course. They look white in dry weather and turn green when wet. All the plants are high butterfly and insect attractors.

The large plum coloured slate stones have holes in them so I planted Lime Moss for maximum contrast. They are raised above the ground slightly so toads and bugs can discover them for a possible winter home.

Shrimp death sadness

On Thursday my Rilli (Red shrimp with transparent bands) known as Mrs Perfect, turned opaque within 24 hrs and died.

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The next day Munchkin died and Mr Spotty Legs is missing and presumed dead. One of my blue ones has gone terribly pale and I have only one mature Rilli left with lots of babies.

so what happened

It’s one of three things that leads to opaque shrimp, from what I’ve read. The colour is caused by tissue necrosis.

1) Sudden shock from a change in water conditions or injury.
2) bacterial infection
3) Fungus infection

My water parameters have been stable. I drip fed them rainwater last week over a few days which lowered the TDS but that is all. All were munching and browsing until they died. I’m ruling out sudden shock.

Bacterial infections tend to slow down shrimps and give them lack of appetite . No obvious signs of illness apart from the sudden opaque tissue.

So, without a microscope I’ll never know. I did another filtered rainwater change and will try dosing with API Melafix. It’s a natural treatment to help fight infections. General antibiotics can only be prescribed from a vet in the UK and would cost a fortune. In the USA you can get some over the counter :-(.

I’m also going to try Seachem Paraguard. This treats external parasites that might have led to shell damage and infections getting in. They won’t say whether it’s shrimp safe but some shrimp keepers use it ok and it breaks down after 24 hrs.

So wish me luck!

Reducing the cost of ‘disability’ – hands free drink invention.

It’s costly being a disabled person. Scope are running a campaign at the moment highlighting the costs people incur. Visit Scope UK: Extra Costs.

Here is how I saved myself a lot of money this week.

There are many types of costs but I’m looking at products and every day living items in this blog.

Day to day items that you need are often quite expensive and specialised – i.e. they are manufactured as ‘disability’ items.

This blog is about one such item – a system to enable someone to independently drink if they can’t move their arms or legs.

Here is an example of how disabled people like me (and their families) have to be usually quite creative in ‘doing it on the cheap’. It also shows you the mark up of items sold as ‘disability’ products that might be sold elsewhere for the general public.

So how do you reduce the costs of items that you need?

  • Be inventive
  • Make things yourself – up-cycle.
  • Make use of E-bay to source items or parts
  • Be prepared to spend many hours of research
  • Be creative
  • Know someone who’s good at making stuff or putting things together!

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Cost of product: Drinkup Travel Lite – £98.00 GBP ex VAT

Items – Clamp for wheelchair, flexible arm, bottle holder, CamelBak Bottle (choice of 2 colours) and bottle adapter (long straw). Also some adaptors, allen keys and clips plus instructions.

My kit – £33.19

Drink_bottleclampI sourced my own items from Amazon one afternoon. Free delivery.

xhorizon – Goosneck Clamp Flexible Kit

  • 1 Flexible arm (this holds the straw near my mouth).
  • £13.95
  • I had a choice of colour – so a bonus find.

CamelBak Bottle – my choice of size and an array of colours

  • Eddy Tritan (which features a loop to tie onto my chair)
  • £11.94

CamelBak Trinkadapter (the long straw part).

  • £7.30

 

Total cost of the same items (bar a few ‘ties’ to hold the bottle to my chair) = £33.19

Benefits

  • Saved £64.81
  • Wide choice of colours of all parts
  • Will benefit my husband having to hold a cup/straw to my lips every time I want a drink in the evening.
  • Works well (even when you can’t easily suck or bite to activate the straw)
  • Easy to clean and parts are affordable to replace.
  • Healthier living.

 

 

 

Dungeness RSPB reserve and lighthouse

Saturday was a scorcher – just right to visit Dungeness as it’s probably freezing any other time of the year.

First stop was the RSPB reserve.

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The entrance drive/path is horrifically bumpy if you have low muscle tone – and very long. We paid a grand total of £2 to get in (the soon to disappear concession rate) plus assistants go free. The visitor centre was rather nice with a gift shop and glass front overlooking the main water of the reserve. You could sit and use the telescope/binocular view finders to watch the comings and goings. Many different birds if you know what you are looking at.

I tried out my iPhone zoom lens to look over to the nuclear power station.

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We then had a wander around.

Paths are small shingle bumpy and hides are accessible (you can drive to them if you ask). Hides are great but not for arachnophobes like me. I managed to go inside a few. They did get stuffy in the heat and a bit dusty. This us the view from one.

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For me the best attraction was watching butterflies i’d never seen before.

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Next we drove down the road to Dungeness lighthouse.

What a weird place. Shingle, succulent cabbage type plants and the bumpiest board walk I’ve ever rolled across. I can quite honestly say I won’t ever be going back there. There are also these cabins / houses that are a cross between a dreary beach hut and a large garden shed, dotted around the grass shrub. The sort serial killers or zombies live in. A ‘shop’ was selling mystical gifts and there were a few boats.

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Converting my tank to rain water

With the huge storm last night I’ve been collecting rain water in buckets.

I need to lower the TDS and pH of my shrimp tank as it’s healthier for them. The rain had a pH of 6.2 and TDS of less than 20.

To acclimatise my shrimp I am trying the same technique as introducing new shrimp to tank water – dripping in the water through an enema bag at a rate of about 2-3 drops per second.

Today I took out water then drip added about 1/6th of my tank for its water change. Tomorrow I will do the same again.

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