Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Red Arrows.

Phew! Training has been going well but the poor weather has meant more gym work and sessions on the rollers. It's been tough but I'm determined to do well this season so I'm really pushing myself hard to prepare for my first race of the season at Silverwood next month.

Training apart I had the great privilege of being invited to meet the Red Arrows so I set off with my husband Norman and son Tim on Sunday morning. The journey didn't get off to a very good start because there was a replacement bus service from Harlow to Stanstead due to the never ending engineering works that seem to happen every weekend. I couldn't get on the coach so the staff at Harlow had to order a taxi to take me on the first part of my journey. We had to wait almost an hour at Stanstead before catching the train to Peterborough but the station staff were brilliant and really helpful. We had breakfast in the airport terminal before returning down to the train station where a ramp was waiting to get me on the train and I was put in a lovely, spacious wheelchair space.

How different was our experience at Peterborough! We had to wait an hour here as well but the station staff were their usual grumpy and rude selves. They left us to our own devices and we managed to find a space in the waiting room. We had to catch a train to Newark Northgate and when it arrived the grumpy staff member told us to wait with him, then made us hurry along the platform because he had been standing in the wrong place. There was no wheelchair space available so we were jammed into a very crowded area just inside the door, being told not to worry because it was only a 30 minute journey! The only consolation was that I was glad to leave the rude Peterborough staff behind. I have travelled through that station many times over the past 10 years and my experience has always been a negative one. They have no idea how to deal with disabled people and I can easily vote them the worst station staff in England!

At Newark we had to wait another twenty minutes in the freezing cold but at least the staff there were friendly and helpful and we completed the last stage of our journey to Lincoln with no problems.

We had decided to treat ourselves and stayed in a 'posh' hotel next to the cathedral. We had a quick look around but it was pouring down with rain and none of the restaurants near us had wheelchair access. We had a late lunch in one that my husband had to haul me up a step to get into but the food was nice so it was okay. Mind you, Lincoln is very hilly so we were very limited in our travels.

We had dinner in the hotel which was lovely then turned in for an early night after watching a bit of tv.

We had a delicious breakfast of fresh Lincolnshire produce and it was lovely to taste real fresh food for a change.

It was snowing when we got into our taxi for the short ride out to RAF Scampton where the Red Arrows are based. We had a brilliant time and were treated like royalty. An engineer took us into the hangar and explained everything about the planes and how they work. Then we went to the crew briefing where the Squadron Commander explained what the crew would be doing that morning. It was fascinating stuff and Tim was really enjoying it all.

We went outside and watched the planes taking off before being driven to the control tower where we watched the Arrows go through their routine. It was excellent,breathtaking stuff, and we took loads of photo's. We then had our photo taken beside the plane with the crew when the planes had landed before going back inside to watch the crew being debriefed.

We had an excellent lunch of chicken curry and the crew mixed with their visitors, signed autographs and posed for pictures. They are lovely people and Tim was thrilled with his autographed poster and toy plane. We all had a great time and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone involved for giving us such a memorable experience.

The journey home was okay, apart from at Peterborough where we had to change and a staff member just ointed at the platform we needed and walked off, leaving Norman to push me up and down the steep ramps with me having to balance our luggage on my knees. However, even their ignorance couldn't detract from a great day that we'll never forget.

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