It seems strange to think I’m writing the February blog already. Did we blink and miss January? It felt like it flew by and now here we are, February. We had planned to start off this month with a mini weekend away that had already been rescheduled but alas, it was postponed again much like most things and we try not to be disappointed. It’s only postponed not cancelled. Instead, we thought we’d make the most of things and had a weekend together as a family with nods to what we would have been doing on the mini break. Friday: pamper spa night with Italian. Saturday: games day with a ‘trip’ to a diner. Sunday: movie day with an indoor picnic which is a family favourite of ours. Monday: out and about on a walk amongst nature. For this, we headed to our local park which we haven’t visited in years. We haven’t been to many places outside the home during lockdown, so I was very much looking forward to taking my WHILL Model C for its first trip into town and the local park.
One of the major bonuses of the WHILL is that it’s so easy to transport. It takes mere minutes to disassemble into three pieces – the seat, the front plate and the battery section (if you’re counting the basket, four pieces, but I didn’t need the basket on this trip). It is so easy to pack into my car with no adjustments needed. Our car is just an ordinary car with no adaptions for a wheelchair never mind an adaption for your usual bigger electric wheelchairs. It was one of the criteria my new chair needed to tick when I was searching for my dream wheelchair which as you know, was back in the first lockdown when I discovered the WHILL (and it ticked every box!). With a full battery we were off!
Once we got to the park, we parked up and assembled the WHILL, again this only takes minutes. Top tip: when attaching the chair section, take the seat cushion off so you can easily see where to attach and then just remember that the cushions label sits on the top right-hand side - it’s easy to use it as a guide to make sure your cushion is sitting properly for the best comfort and support. I then had to cross a couple of roads which meant kerbs. The amazing thing about omni-wheels I’ve found is that an average size kerb is no problem. Of course, it’s better to use a dropped kerb where possible as its not only easier but better on the chair but if that isn’t an option, this chair can get me up over a kerb and onto the path with ease. Is there anything this chair cannot do? On approach to the park, I became concerned that I wasn’t going to make it through the gated entrance which has been around for many years and, therefore, quite narrow. I took it slow but when I got to the entrance I realised I would fit perfectly which I was so pleased about. If my chair had been any bigger like your standard electric wheelchairs then I’m not sure I would have done. I would have more than likely have had to go through the side entrance (not an uncommon scenario for wheelchairs users) so for once, it felt brilliant to be able to go through the front main entrance.
The park itself has typical mix of terrains between grit/gravel limestone paths, slabs and grassy sections that of course can sometimes be a little uneven, with some parts just a general dirt track. Thankfully, it wasn’t overly muddy as it had frozen the night before and was still rather cold (I realised this as I went through a puddle and heard the ice cracking underneath my wheels). As usual though, I didn’t have to worry about my chair not being able to handle any of the varying terrains, although the slabs were a particularly interesting ride in a funny way due to the sound they made when I drove over them. When I came to a small bridge, I decided to try out my reversing skills so I could face the right way for my sister to take a couple of photos. I find it so easy to reverse in this chair, with it being so light it is easy to manoeuvre and is pretty quick at it too. It was a great opportunity to get some practising in as going forward is simple enough but reversing, you’ve got to have a bit more spatial awareness (another thing this chair makes easier due to its smaller size).
All this being said, you are probably wondering why I am so dressed up in the images for a walk in the park. Don’t worry, I did wear a coat when not in front of the camera. I was dressed up as I thought I’d combine this breath of fresh air nature trip with a fundraiser I was doing with my agency, Zebedee called ‘A mile in my shoes’, with money going towards Zebedee’s non-profit charity and Mind to help with mental health outreach. We were coming together virtually to do something positive and help people who are finding the lockdown particularly challenging and isolating. As models, we thought it would be fun to add a little glamour to our ‘catwalk’ miles and if you know me, I don’t need any excuse to get dressed up! During lockdown, I will certainly grasp any opportunity to add a sense of normality which I think we all need doses off to keep us going. An incredible personal achievement though whilst taking part in this fundraiser was that the mile I completed, I did on my own. Not somebody pushing me, not having to rely on someone, it was me, I did it and do you know what? Independently wheeling that mile felt like completing a 10K! Being able to move independently is something I think a lot of people take for granted but for a long time I needed the help of someone else to get from A to B. Now, like when I was in that park, I had the ability to complete it myself and wow was that a feeling. I certainly have learnt to appreciate everything, but this is actually quite a big thing and an amazing move in an exciting direction. Because I haven’t been able to use my WHILL fully for the trips I thought I would have been able to take by now, like nipping down to London, each time I do get out for trips like this, no matter how long for, it just reinforces that this chair is the best purchase I’ve made and I cannot wait to be able to use it more when it’s safe to. It opens up so many doors (that is not a feature on this chair – yet anyway haha). The ability to get out in whatever form that may be during these days of lockdown, I appreciate even more so and enjoy so much. Do what makes you happy, what’s good for your soul, take care of you and plenty of it.