Wednesday 24 May 2017

Genny in the Orchids

Yesterday I visited a beautiful area north of St Ouen's Pond looking at wild orchids

This area is part of a wider wetland area designated as an SSI (site of special interest) and owned and managed by the National Trust for Jersey. I have not been able to visit this site for about 8 years and yesterdays visit was a walk down memory lane

In 1990 I worked for the NT as the first ever countryside ranger in Jersey and managing these areas was my favourite job. It was great to see how the area had changed in the intervening 20+ years. The orchids you can see on either side of the path form a riot of colour every year in May and have increased in abundance through the conservation management I helped to instigate. Where these plants were restricted to a core area with only odd blooms in other parts of the site, the orchids are now spread around the northern perimeter of the pond in an area historically too wet to farm and previously overgrown by the reeds seen in the right of the photo

What a joy to explore these areas again. Tomorrow I will attempt to access the southern side of the site


So I didn't make the southern side - it was behind a gate, a "Do Not Enter" sign and being grazed by a herd of cows. I gave it a miss and instead slipping across the road and onto the adjacent beach and did a long run across the sands. I have always wanted to travel the length of this bay, its number 1 on my tick list for Genny but I may start with a bus to the far end
I crossed about 3 miles of beach avoiding the odd soft sandy patches that labour Genny. I watched the battery indicator drop throughout this journey uncertain of how far I would make. At any point I could have called a taxi or begged a lift but having never actually run Genny completely out of juice I persisted

From where I was in the picture above I continued a further 3 or 4 miles to my home, then messed around till completely flattening the batteries. Genny died 3 meters from my door after a lot of bleeping and flashing of lights on the display. slumping forward onto the footrest it was easy to dismount in a controlled manor

I have seen in the Genny manual that it suggests running batteries out completely if there are issues with the battery level indicator so I was keen to see the outcome. I have since drawn and measured the route I took and have determined it to be 25.5 miles (41 km), not accounting for the vertical element - impressive eh?

Saturday 4 February 2017

Antiguan Review

Travelling to the Caribbean island of Antigua on my Genny Mobility wheelchair was a fantastic experience. Using it gave me independence and the freedom to do what I wanted

There was an amount of planning required like needing to ensure accommodation was suitable and I had to organise travel to and from the airports but these are things everyone has to do

I had 2 weeks in a ground floor AirBNB apartment that had improvised ramps made to mount the one step access required. I had a garden, terrace, kitchen/lounge area, bedroom and a jetty out onto the Caribbean. With a boat I would have had it all

It was easy to navigate to shops, cafés, beaches and many tourist attractions. Generally I needed to leave my wheels at the door but that works for me. People were delighted to interact with me cruising around on my funky wheels and I was the centre of attention with the local children and many others

The roads and pavements were generally poor so on occasion I needed to backtrack as there was no way off a pavement end. The tropical weather means mega-downpours require storm drains, deep channels and gutters by the sides of the roads. Nights were trickier as judging step heights and avoiding potholes was harder and in addition I felt more vulnerable in the traffic. The local rum consumption, both mine and others probably didn't help

The whole trip was relatively easy right the way from Jersey through to Antigua. My journey started carrying a backpack hooked to the back of the chair seat and a small but heavy suitcase on my lap. I need to cross a short rough track to where the taxi collected me - destination airport

Leaving Genny at the airport gate I can board the plane and recover my chair in Gatwick for the next leg. I had arranged a lift at Antigua airport involving a pickup truck (see earlier post) but I could have managed with a local taxi although I would have needed to rally some strong assistance and done some tipping

Genny met all of the challenges I gave it including soft sand, seriously steep hills, rough tracks and load carrying - shopping, beach trips etc. I had no breakages, flat tyres, or mechanical faults, my only issues were loosing a wheel-nut and the allen screws on the seat back coming loose. Both of these issues I was able to sort locally

I will retain many treasured memories of this trip particularly swimming with the turtles, the beautiful scenery and hanging out with my children and other friends

The airports need convincing that Genny is air-worthy and I have developed a travel kit that include: laminated printed instructions; a pair of inserts that stop the legs from deploying accidentally and a small see-through box that protects the switches from being tampered with (see following image)

I am in discussions with Genny UK about reducing the period of time the switches take to turn off as loading crews will not put anything ‘live' in an aircraft hold. This has previously resulted in me delaying a flight and I see no advantage to these lights staying on for the quoted 7 mins. I imagine a firmware update could do the trick to everyone's advantage

Using this machine in a culture where disability is more apparent (less oppressed) was extremely enlightening for me. Everyone was interested in both me and my funky wheels and within 24 hours I was on first name basis with many ‘less able’ people, various street vendors and all the local characters. In Antigua I am less of an invalid just someone else coping with the issues of life, at least with the Antiguans. I was brave to do this trip but bigger and bolder because of it

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Antiguan Bungalows

Like some parts of India the basic unit of accommodation in Antigua is the bungalow. They are often small and brightly painted, can be made from wood or blocks and normally have a small veranda. They are usually topped with a tin roof

There is something very appealing about the design of these houses and many are charming in there uniqueness. In the warmer climate the veranda is used like a conservatory might be on a European house and is often a hangout in the heat of the day

Sunday 29 January 2017

Galleon Beach

Galleon Beach is my favorite hangout in Antigua. It formes part of the English Harbour area that is UNESCO listed and a National Park. It's a stunning little bay in the south of the island and mostly deserted at the moment although there is a tasty looking resort right on the beach

I park my wheels at the entrance to the bay and it's less than 25m to the sea

As the crow flies it's 1.5km from where I am staying but the actual trip is quite extreme and ends in a hill that is the limit of what I feel comfortable with on Genny. As with anywhere hot and sunny tarmac melts and cracks. The final descent is about 500m of dead steep white-knuckle terror. Maybe that is what keeps the crowds at bay. The obvious approach would be by water taxi

Over the last couple of days on every swim I have encountered Green turtles. These lovely creatures feed on the sea grass that grows throughout the bay. They seem happy to ignore me as long as I keep a distance and I can get quite close when they surface to breathe.

I feel I have an affinity with these animals ever since I read 'Turtle Diary' by Russell Hoban

Thursday 26 January 2017

Today we went sailing

Today I abandoned Genny on the dock to set sail on the "J" class yacht "Hanuman"

Hanuman is a 2009 recreation of the 1937 classic Endeavour II. These yachts were originally built for America's cup racing and she will be racing again in the 35th cup races in Bermuda May 2017

Shirley Heights

Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery. Fantastic views over English and Falmouth Harbours. Once again great loos - what has this blog become?

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard is the poshest bit of English Harbour. It is also by far the most charming

As with all the marinas it is gated but there are shops and restaurants so everyone who looks like they gonna spend money are welcome

The area is a large inlet capable of sheltering many boats and surrounded by mangroves. Nelson chose this area as the main hub for the British during there "exploit the Carrabean" phase

This LINK should show you a map of the area

This is where all the beautiful people are - great loos though :-)

Thursday 19 January 2017


4:30 am start and a taxi to the airport for the 7:00 flight. On time landing at Gatwick -2 degrees and they had transferred my wheels to the connecting flight. That was not the plan so I refused to leave the assistance trolley till I got Genny back. It finally arrived but with both my carefully crafted taillights smashed off. They would be retrievable but later with the aid of hot glue and a soldering iron

I was now running late for my flight to Antigua so set to max speed I scorched the north terminal, security and gate 568 at full speed. It is such a contradiction seeing the disabled guy burning rubber in a pedestrian area. Yesterday in a rush to catch a bus I overtook a cyclist in lycra going up a steep hill - so cool, bet he was secretly raging.

8 hours 20 mins on the Antigua flight- I took advantage of all the free alcohol and watched the Johnny Worricker trilogy with Bill Nighy, Rachel Weisz, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Winnable Ryder and Michael Gambon on my tablet.

It is tiresome looking at that tiny seat-back screen watching the progress map - Love the way the auto-correct changed Winola to Winnable makes her sound like a prise.

This flight is freezing. I left home in the dark to a frosty start wearing thermals, an old thick Tk-Max wool jumper with holes in it, a summer jacket and thermal long John's. The plan was to ditch the surplus in Gatwick for the exotic trip as there is no room in my tiny luggage to keep it for the return. I'm still in the thermals and jumper having only jettisoned the wooly hat. We are about ½ way there now on the tiny map travelling at 807km/h and -56c degrees outside temperature time for episode 3 “Salting the Battlefield”

Hurray - just arrrived at last with Emily to collect me in style eh?

Genny has a new home in the sunshine

More tomorrow after supper with Emily, rum and "ting" and a long overdue sleep xxx

Friday 9 December 2016

Grand opening

Today I happened on the opening of the new accessible ramp from the car park at Red Houses. I have been watching the progress of this for the last few weeks and was delighted to see them removing the traffic cones to open it. Never one to miss an opportunity I offered my services as the celebrity at the inaugural opening – had to supply my own fanfare though

Thursday 1 December 2016


Day out in London just mooching and seeing where I can go

 Genny had always fancied the wobbley bridge

Next adventure is Antigua in January