From fair weather walking to bum shuffling

You can’t beat getting outdoors for a bit of fair weather walking. I like canal paths. They’re mostly flat, easy to access and you can walk for miles. Don’t launch yourself down any slopes though. I tried it already.At least A&E wasn’t too busy.  I swapped jokes with my buddy and we passed the time between triage, blood tests and x-rays. The nurse dropped her bombshell but the news didn’t really sink in. Words like “immobilisation” “back-cast” and “anti-coagulation injections” left me blank so I just listened politely.

Before long I was hopping off on my new set of crutches with “… whatever you do, don’t put that foot on the ground” ringing in my ears. I was baffled, bewildered and wobbling about all over the place.

Breaking your leg just above the ankle hurts. It hurts a lot. I’ve left out the bit between the ‘gravel slope’ and getting to A&E on purpose.

Home alone with my phone, a bottle of water, the TV controls, painkillers and my foot stuck out front on a cushion, the words “what the hell am I going to do?” rattled through my brain.

Well, two months on and I’m back on two feet. So here are some tips in case the same thing happens to you.Bum shuffling: Get used to it. Crutches are down-right dangerous even on the flat. You’ll get to a step or flight of stairs and be stumped. My ace husband made tray for my pot leg to help the shuffle go even smoother – like it?

Knicker flicking: There’s a knack to getting dressed and undressed that involves flicking your smalls into the air and catching them before they hit the floor. You have to avoid dropping anything on the floor because you can’t reach it without tongs. Tongs, the sort you flick bacon over with, are essential.Wine capping: Carrying stuff, especially drinks is really tricky. Find a plastic lid that fits your wine glass early on – it’s very important. You don’t want to drink your wine stuck in the kitchen because that’s just weird, unless you’re at a party. If you can’t find a lid that fits, the hell with it, just drink the bottle.Toe flossing: Not being smelly is a challenge when you can’t have a bath or shower so work out how to stay clean. Make sure what you need is within reach. If you need help, ask for it because no-one can read your mind, even if you think they can.Wheelchair ironing!?: I was lucky; we got one second hand (a wheelchair not an iron) and it was brilliant. Also, the big supermarkets have battery powered scooters. Just bear in mind that some go faster than others and don’t always stop just when you want them to. Take it from me.Toe warming: Wriggle your toes. They get cold though when you’re watching watch TV so warm them up. My mother-in-law will knit you a bobby hat for them or you can borrow mine.

Do whatever it takes to feel better; sleep, catch up with friends, read, listen to the radio, watch cricket. Your broken bone won’t stay broken but, when it all gets too much…

…swear loudly and launch your crutches across the room –  you’ll definitely feel better then!

LAB Wellbeing

A flyer about a new LAB course lands in my in-box and this statement catches my attention: “…aimed at adults who can self-identify with mild to moderate mental health and wellbeing problems.”

The course is a pilot at the Simpson Memorial Hall and is being run by Chris Higham and Sarah Jones from the Proper Job Theatre Company.I’ve been on a LAB course before. They grab you because they combine being inventive, interesting and challenging with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

I arrange to go along and find out a bit more.

“We help build emotional resilience” Chris explains. “Look at how you view yourself and introduce the idea that you can better yourself if you want to.”“Sounds great, but how?” I ask.

“At the start, everyone sets themselves a task or challenge. It might be something they want to do more of or less of, something new or something they want to change. It can be anything really but it has to be something they can complete by Friday.

If your dream is to get fit and run a marathon you might want to set your challenge to a jog around the block as a first step. It has to be something you can do within the week. Everyone’s target is different but usually it’s physical or mental health that people on the course want to improve.”

“Well, I want to lose a stone!” I butt in.

“Ok, but bring it right down, make it sizeable, so rather than have a massive goal that you fail, it becomes something you can achieve instead.”

He’s got me thinking. I decide to join up and meet the rest of the group. Like everyone else I feel a bit awkward at first, we exchange the usual polite niceties but then it’s straight in.By mid-week we’re chatting away like old friends. Our efforts are displayed around the room; sheets showing SMART objectives, a problem solving cycle, Challenge by Choice diagram, a working agreement and lots of collages.

Chris and Sarah are both brilliant at what they do and capture everyone’s interest effortlessly.

Sessions begin with a physical activity, nothing onerous but enough to wake your body and brain up. These are followed by a series of either team tasks where you work together, individual creative activities or mental problems and quizzes to resolve.They’re not all easy, some really stretch you, some are just a good laugh. Discussions are held throughout when the group reflects on what they might have done differently etc., and each day ends with a brief time to relax.The week closes with a chance to share the challenge we’d each set ourselves. All of them were achieved. Not big strides maybe but steps in the right direction.

A dollop of self belief and I left feeling good.

For more details about LAB Wellbeing and the LAB Project, including future course dates and who to contact, please visit the Proper Job Theatre Company website.

Elsewhere on Another Music there are lots of activities and links to local groups that you might find useful or interesting. The local library, the council, the noticeboard at the supermarket all have information about what’s going on nearby and how you can join in.

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Cameras, caterpillars and cake

We met up at the Little Lavender Community Hub and kicked off the event with a brew and a slice of cake. I went for the vegetarian option. It was the best carrot cake I’d EVER tasted.

The ‘we’ is a small group of people on a Nature Photography Walk with photographer Rich Bunce. No-one’s met before but we have two things in common, we like walking and we like taking photos.Our route starts at Wrigley Head Bridge, takes us along the Rochdale canal near Failsworth, under the Metrolink bridge, over the lock and down on to Moston Brook. Then we pick up the path through the undergrowth and follow it along the edge of the brook until we’re back at Wrigley Head.

“Just before you take a shot, pause a moment and think. Would it be better from a different angle or is this the best? Does that make sense?” We nod at Rich and each other.

“Do you just delete photos that haven’t worked out as well as you’d thought? Instead take a moment to work out why and next time they might be better.” We nod at Rich and each other.

“Ever taken what you thought was the perfect scene but didn’t notice the plastic bag flapping in the tree in the background?” I nearly shouted “I know what they are. They’re witches knickers!” but nodded instead.Our cameras range from a top of the range digital SLR, to handy compacts to mobile phones. You don’t need anything fancy; it’s what you do with it that matters.

As we stroll along Rich stops now and then to explain something and the group gathers round to peer at laminated examples from his rucksack. He talks about making the most of nature’s shapes, lighting, reflections, backgrounds, colour and the impact of simplistic views. We hang on his every word. He sets us challenges along the way.

It all makes perfect sense and we get busy, clicking our cameras at everything, literally everything we see, trees, plants, spiders webs, paths, bridges, caterpillars and each other.Now and then other walkers go by in groups, nodding and exchanging a smile as they pass. I wondered who they were and wondered if they wondered what we were doing. I found out they were Co-op employees on a charity walk (the Hope Challenge). They were cheerful and made a good day even better.

Back at the Little Lavender Community Hub Cafe Rich got a well-deserved round of applause and we had a quick chat before he had to leave. I’d assumed he was one of a team.

“No it’s just me” he said. “I get about though. Do various photography sessions, walks and workshops in Yorkshire, Manchester, Leeds and even London. I held one once while I was on a family holiday. Once was enough!”

When I asked him what his biggest challenge was his answer surprised me. “Marketing” he said. “It’s so important but takes up a lot of time.” I’ve seen his website and I reckon he’s spent that time pretty well.As for time, we’d had a brilliant one, loved every minute and learnt loads. The weather was kind, we’d taken hundreds of photos…and not one with ‘witches knickers’ in the background.

A big thank you to the Moston Brook Project for organising the event and the Manchester Festival of Ageing for the grant to make it possible.

To find out about other events around Moston Brook check out their Facebook page.

Details of other activities and photo walks with Rich Bunce can be found on his website.