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Open Features: What to do When You Are Bored – Part 2

Linda McLean continues her inspiring account of going on a camping holiday in France with two friends in wheelchairs.

To read more of Linda’s words please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=linda+mclean

The Expedition

Then both Phil and Roddy thought it would be interesting to see the “wet” caves in the region. I duly read up about them, found that they were very cold, and that the boat trip lasted an hour. There was no mention of the depth.

So we arrived, with lots of extra clothing, unloaded, and got the guys out. I was regarded with some disbelief when I tried to book them on the tour.

“It is very difficult!” I was warned. “There are a lot of steps.”

“How many?” I wanted to know.

“We’ve never counted. Hundreds.”

Ah. What did they want to do? I wondered.

“Give it a bash!” was the answer. (As if I didn’t know!)

Going down was not a problem. We could leave the chairs at the top, and Phil was able to swing his legs clear of any approaching step. So, with one arm round my neck, and the other on the railing we ran down the stairs – and I saw what they meant by difficult. This was going to be tough going the other way!

Getting into the boat was also tricky, but manageable. The commentary was only in French, so I spent the next hour interpreting.

I headed back up for Roddy, but someone had watched my performance, and decided that they could do likewise with him. So that was easy.

However, it was one of the hardest things I have done getting back up. If you know the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, it felt like an upside down version of that. Using the same method as I had going down, I could have sworn when I was only halfway up that this was further than we had come on the descent. I struggled on, very glad that the same person that saw Roddy down was taking responsibility for getting him back up. He had been bright enough to enlist help, though, and had formed a fireman’s chair.

After all this, some refreshment was called for and we all went into a local hostelry. The guys wanted beer, and I wanted a white wine with blackcurrant – a Kir.

I duly went up to the bar and ordered, “Deux bieres et un Kir, s’il vous plait.” I was given two beers and a spoon!
( Cuilliere.)

The American

The campsite we were staying on was very like the Highlands of Scotland very quiet and sedate, with lovely scenery. When, on a particular morning, an American came roaring up in a sports car and informed the owner that he had: “Just flown into Bordeaux, and hired myself a car, a tent and a woman!” the news went round like wildfire.

Of course, with our position next to the toilet block, she had to bounce her way past our tent frequently, and I could watch the guys’ eyes glaze over and the jaws drop of my friends. Whatever activity was being pursued was abandoned for that short while – until she re-emerged and bounced back again. For some reason this whole event was marked by a deep sigh from the guys when it was finished – but there was always next time.

This was the strangest thing I have ever encountered on a campsite. They did not seek to socialise with anybody, nor did anybody approach them. They were left in splendid isolation, which is perhaps, what they wanted!


Another incident that happened is worth recording. One day, as we were seated by the tent, some British people came and started talking to us. They were very kind, and we started the general sort of chinwag that happens on holiday. Eventually, they asked the question of the men, “Do you, er, um, manage to do any work at home?”

Roddy proudly replied, quick as a flash, “Oh, yes. I open the matchboxes and Phil fills them!”

They had responded with, “Ah! Very good!” before they had time to think. The conversation only went in fits and starts after that. They scuttled off embarrassed.

I am still unsure about this incident, while I understand the frustrations of someone like Roddy. Born with polio, he had fought to be treated as normal all his life, and achieved staying in normal schooling when it was almost unheard of because neither he nor his mother would take no for an answer.

He then spent his university years being carried up and down stairs to the Study. This obviously meant that he had to wait until one of his peers was ready to go, and similarly on the way back down.

On his graduation, he felt that everything had been worthwhile, and joined a law firm. As he increased in experience, he found however, that they would not make him a partner because “it would not look good.”

When we complain about Equal Opportunities today, I remember how much this chap gave, how hard he tried, and how unresponsive we were as a Society.


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