Sunday, 15 September 2013

Swindon Shenanigans

I went on the Victa family weekend from 23-26 August, only I didn’t go with my family, as an over 18 I was able to attend alone. As always with Victa events, I had an incredible time, surviving on minimal sleep and laughing for 4 days straight!

When arriving at the PGL centre where we would be staying, I knew instantly that it would be a challenge to find my way around the place. The venue is very large so it can cater for literally hundreds of people and felt quite maze like in its layout. It wasn’t too daunting though, as everybody was in the same situation and I knew I had friends willing to help out.

Somehow I managed to arrive last to my room meaning I had to settle for the top bunk. I don’t mind the top bunk too much, but without fail I’ll wake up in the night needing to spend a penny, so climbing up and down the ladder when half asleep is always a risky business!

Meal time reminded me of a school canteen where you had to queue up, get your own tray and select from the limited options. However, once I had collared someone to carry my tray for me (balancing a tray in one hand and controlling a Guide Dog who decided he didn’t fancy working for the entire weekend was never going to work,) I discovered the food wasn’t really too bad.

In the evening we had a welcome meeting before being split into our groups for ice breaker activities. There was a bar on site that sold very reasonably priced drinks so most people levitated there afterwards.

Activities started at 9 sharp. My group were on the low ropes to begin. I guess it was ok, it was basically a variety of tyres, beams, nets etc the sort of thing you find in a good park and you had to navigate your way over, under and through. Of course I managed to do the majority with ease. Next was rock climbing, as most people know one of my favourite activities. I asked one of my competitive friends if he fancied racing me, I honestly thought I would have a good chance of winning despite him being partially sighted and male. Unfortunately, I got beaten and demanded a rematch allowing me to have a 7 second head start to make it fairer. I felt the pressure, as I frantically raced to the top and managed to just beat him! I love racing!

In the afternoon our first activity was fencing. This was something I had never tried before and Calvin found quite distressing, as he clearly thought I was being killed. Initially it was pretty good fun, we didn’t really listen to the instructor and just tried to stab each other as much as possible! It was quite entertaining fighting a guy who thought he couldn’t hit me back because I was female! His loss! To finish the day we did zip wire. Calvin naturally wanted to run alongside me as I shot through the air! I felt sorry for whoever had to hold him!

Even though all of the information said to bring old clothes, spare clothes, spare trainers for wet activities, I never considered for a second that I would actually be getting wet! I still thought as I made my way to raft building that morning I would be able to get away with it. I left Calvin in the room, as I definitely didn’t want a wet dog! It was raining, which immediately made staying dry impossible. After constructing the most secure raft I was assured we wouldn’t fall in. I wasn’t taking any risks though and refused to get on. When one of my friends literally picked me up and plonked me on the raft kicking and screaming of course, I wished for a split second that I weighed a hundred stones so I could still have my feet safely on dry land. I’m not a strong swimmer hence not being good with water and despite having a life jacket when the instructor pointed out that the water would reach my shoulders I was freaking out. It was going to be ok mind, as we wouldn’t get wet as the raft nervously bobbed on the water. One of the volunteers thought it funny to splash us from the side. I got wet. He then decided to capsize the raft, I held on for dear life as everyone else toppled into the water. However, the second time I fell in, went under and when I tried to push up in a major panic, I found the raft was blocking my exit! It felt like an age that I was drowning for, although it was probably only a few seconds. I emerged and was chucked into the instructor’s canoe in order to recover from my ordeal. Typical! As some time passed I was waiting on the side. One of my friend’s said he’d guide me and the beep guided me into the water! I was far from impressed! On reflection after my near death experience I am glad that I did do it, as traumatic as it was. I used my hair dryer to dry my trainers too, so all was fine!

In the afternoon the sun came out. Aero ball was the first activity where you jump on a trampoline and try and shoot a ball into a hoop. I decided to skip this one with my detached retina, jumping isn’t the best for my eyes. Vertical challenge ended the day, which I really enjoyed, I guess because it involved climbing. A rickety ladder, tyres, beams and a cargo net got you to the top. I was a little paranoid, as the same friend who I raced rock climbing and plonked me on the raft thought it would be funny to fiddle with my harness straps making me get it checked a million times first! Calvin cried the whole time I was climbing, which made me wonder if he knew something I didn’t and at any moment I would plunge to my death. It was all good though!

The final night was a bit of a blur. A friend gave me a tube of Smarties to consume. I don’t eat chocolate much these days being a dedicated athlete and all, so I think they made me a little hyper. I broke all staying up records and didn’t go to bed until 4am. I have no idea how I functioned the next day!

I really didn’t bring enough clothes. I had no idea we had activities on the final morning. The first one was trapeze. I went first in the group, too tired to protest otherwise and when I reached the top and held the bar I expected to fall to the ground. Yet to my surprise nothing happened! I just swung there. I got told to let go and again I thought I would fall to the floor, however, I was just held in the air. That was it! I couldn’t believe I had woken up for that! The last activity was the giant swing. To mine and the girl’s amusement who I went on with because she is bigger than me, the swing had a see-saw effect, I was sort of hanging in the air on my side whilst she was lower down. I pulled the cord to release us and my stomach did somersaults as we whizzed through the air, the wind whipping at our faces. It was fun! A fun finish to a fun filled weekend!

Thanks to Victa, all of the volunteers and all of my lovely blinkie friends!