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Happy new year everyone! I cannot believe how fast January is moving. My little sister is also 23 today – Happy Birthday Claire Bear 🙂

Following on from my last post about the drastic changes I made in 2011 and my general hopes for 2012; it is fair to say I hit a brick wall. Many people say that when you have been pushing yourself for a long time that it can be a bad idea to stop. My body certainly has told me off and I have been suffering as a result, but this was a good thing nonetheless.

I decided from Friday 23rd December to take a couple of weeks out. I realised every thought process I had was on evaluating my projects, trying to plan new ones and grafting through all of the tasks still to be completed. It was time to shut down and switch off. Of course being Christmas I was not able to just rest and sleep. As mum and dad are divorced we spent Christmas day with dad, step family and also saw my grandparents for grandpa’s 80th birthday! Boxing day me and my sister were at mums and hung out with the step family on this side of the big tree. With my 2 nieces (5 years and the other 6 months old) Christmas was extra special.

On the 27th I went with my sisters boyfriend, Justin, to watch Spurs. This was great as getting a home ticket at White Hart Lane is almost impossible. So, with Norwich nearby mums house (ish) I drove us up. Plus my step dad and brothers were in the box there too. A good lads day out. You can see some of the pitch side footage of the great view we had below. By all means get in touch if you want to know how disability tickets work at football matches.

After the football and before New Years, the exhaustion really hit me. I felt tired as soon as I was hoisted in my chair in the morning and just sat there whilst various friends popped in for tea. I hate this lack of energy but it does seem typical for me in the colder/darker winter months. By New years eve I felt a bit stronger and mum, step dad, sister, Justin and a friend called Gio came back to London with me. We headed to my favourite local part of London called Stoke Newington. We had Mexican food, cocktails and saw the New year in with random people, music and good times.

As my girlfriend Claire was coming down on the Monday and she was happy to help with my care too; the gang stayed until Claire arrived. New years day mum treated us all to theatre tickets for Shrek which was surprisingly cool. Overall it was just so nice to not think of work, to see everyone, have quality time with family and rest a bit too.

Claire arrived after her 6 hour journey and we had plans for museums, theatres, bar, restaurants, parks – the whole lot. Soon after she arrived I got a touch of flu with temperatures and all of that jazz. I think as I had my flu jab in November that kicked in and lessened the effect soon after, but man I felt rough. This again was a sign I had been overdoing it. So Claire and I stayed in, ate great food, talked loads and still managed to make the best of an unfortunate situation. She really is an amazing girl and I’m hopeful to go and see her next week in Scotland. As you read on you will see why it is in doubt.

On Friday 6th January Claire was due to go home. She hoisted me into my wheelchair with plenty of time for me to drive her in the car to Kings Cross. Here I was to also collect my PA who was starting their shift at the same time. I turned my wheelchair on and of all unfortunate incidents it would not work. Claire did her best to ‘fix’ it but it was an electronics problem beyond us. So, I said if she could push me to the car, she could make the train and my PA and I would sort the chair later. After some struggling (my chairs bloody heavy) we made it to the car. We enlisted the help of a neighbour to secure the chair into the lockdown system. As I hit the relevant buttons the car would not start either! Time was getting tight. I double checked my PA was on route and then took the decision to send Claire for a taxi. After no cabs would stop I said she should walk to the tube and do her best for the train, otherwise she wouldn’t get back home for her work. Of all crazy situations, she had to lug big bags across London whilst I sat in my car like a lemon for an hour (still bunged up) and waited for my PA to arrive.

All is well that ends well, but talk about drama and trauma. I have had to stall getting back on with work because of all the arrangements required to fix everything. My car had its battery replaced by the RAC on the day. My wheelchair is still broken now. In the end I drove to Mill Hills Independent Living company (before going to Amnesty International to chair this event) and they have sent my control box away whilst I am still being pushed in this lump of metal. It is so frustrating, especially when I cannot turn my head, to not be able to get from A to B and position myself. Charing the event was very hard as a result of this.

Nonetheless I know if I hadn’t of rested I worry how ill I might of been. Also I had the inner strength after a rest to deal with these dramas. I would say that I have learnt to be very resilient, find an inner strength when I want to give up, I worry about the things I can change and ignore the things I can’t.

Having seen the most important people in my life, got my health back up nearer 100% (for January) and slowly getting my foundations solidified; I am turning my attentions back to work. The clarity I now hold is huge. In taking a step back I can see what last year meant, can see what I want and need to do this year, and feel energised to deliver. My next post will share these plans: both the projects I will run about disability issues and the personal activities I hope to do.

In the meantime I urge you to always rest when your body is struggling, allow your brain time away from problems to find the solutions easier, and never ever ever let the bastards get you down.

You can and will get where you want to go to, just believe!

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My plan was to do a little video following xmas, and prior to the new year. Having drank lots of vodka xmas eve in the infamous http://www.musicboxstives.co.uk/ and eaten so much food since, I am not feeling tip top today. The video shall still be done, just not now 🙂 The xmas period was lovely with family and we saw a pantomime for the first time in years boxing day http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/en/RoyalDerngateTheatres/en/Home/WhatsOn/JackTheBeanstalk. Nuff said!

So, while I have some down time, I have 2 cool bits of news and a request for help with the Olympics. Firstly, following my meeting Professor Dubawitz at the JTSMA conference, my article was published in his international journal last week, cool hey. Then after many shares and tweets for my ILF article within the disability world; http://thethirdestate.net/2010/12/how-abolishing-the-ilf-will-affect-real-people/ and http://falseeconomy.org.uk/cuts/testimony/what-will-replace-the-independent-living-fund-the-dread-kicks-in spread this important news. Its been nice to see my writing reach newer audiences and raise awareness on these passionate issues and views.

Finally please read the below and pass on to anyone who can help. I hope you had a great xmas time too and are as ready as I am for 2011, its gonna be a big one!

From a contact I made recently for London 2012:

As part of our process we will be conducting user testing for the website, and we very much hope to include a wheelchair user as one of the testers for this. However, we are finding it very difficult to find a wheelchair user who is available on January 6th, and who preferably has an interest in sport.

We require someone who is:

– Available to attend on January 6th 2011, at a facility in Central London.

– A wheelchair user

– Regularly travels in London

– Has an interest in sport, or who has attended sporting events in London.

The session itself will simply consist of us asking them their opinion about a prototype web site. There are no wrong answers, and anything they can tell us will be valuable. They will receive £30 on the day for their hour’s time.

If you think you may be able to help, please let me know as soon as you can. If you are able to suggest this to a number of people who may be interested, it may be easiest to direct them straight to the short survey at the following link, which will help us confirm that they are suitable:

http://www.surveymk.com/s/VGBRC3N

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Well xmas is almost here! I am very excited now. I must say the ‘fresh and care-free’ feeling I had post USA has definitely dissipated though. So what have I been up to lately?  Its hard to believe it was only 3 weeks ago I returned from my trip. Blog wise, its been great to have shared the memories of such an amazing journey and hopefully pass on some learnings of disability travel. Then of course there was the ILF announcement. Thanks for all of your Retweets and sharing of my blog on this. It felt so important to share the real consequences of such a decision.

In terms of why that feel-good-factor has twindled relates to the time of year. We all would prefer to hibernate mid-winter and with all the xmas frenzy we all would like to curl up with some mulled wine and a few chocolates. However, we have been hit by an extremely cold snap too draining us that little bit more. Add into the mix my susceptibility for chest infections and the practical issues of wheelchairs and snow, I am not quite the chilled dude I was 3 weeks ago.

Since the holiday has been great, but I have just gone into safe mode, to coin a computer related phrase. In an attempt to not get ill again (and even before the cold snap), I ensured I ate well, slept lots and stayed warm. Overall I have been settling back into work after my while away. We had the fundraising and Scope xmas party on consecutive days, 2 weeks ago. For fundraising we went to a nice bar in Camden. For the Scope wide party, we had ‘Scope’s got talent’, where 6 acts from the charity fought for the coveted title judged by the CEO, 2 directors and our cool receptionist. This was followed by some more drinks and a nice catch up with people from other departments. I was in bed by 11 both nights! What happened to that party animal I was in my younger days?

Then, this Saturday just gone, my friend Matt (@smegfirk) whom I travelled on the school bus with many moons ago visited. We had a nice catch up before Rico, Chrissi, Steffen and Flo arrived – aka ze germans. They barely made it through the snow with their total journey taking 12 hours. Due to my cars special hand controls (video link – http://martynsibley.com/the-car) not fairing too well in snow, I have been car-less. Also with a good inch or so of the white stuff I have not even been able to get my wheelchair along the pavement on my road. It is housing association owned and has not been gritted. So Saturday we stayed in for singstar action with Matt (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqis2vzoPNE) and Sunday for a pro evolution soccer marathon on the Playstation 3. We also tucked some amazing German bratwurst sausages.

I managed to get a taxi to work Monday but over 2 hours late! The company are a nightmare for taking a booking, charging a fee and then not allocating a driver. I think this was the point I felt a little stressed as I hate being late for anything. Furthermore I had been stuck in all weekend because of the snow. So since this I have been taking the ‘whatever will be will be’ attitude. The guys left yesterday morning and it was great to see them, despite our limitations of activities. I know next time they come in warmer climates we will do more around London.

So I finish work tomorrow and am heading back to St.Ives for a nice family Christmas. Fingers crossed the transport routes will allow, as I have no carers in London for the festive break lol. I’m sure all will be fine and once I have enjoyed a few days rest, quality time with friends/family and a chance to look back on a great year, I will feel recharged to go again. My next blog will be more of generic 2010 recap. Believe me there’s been a lot too!

Merry Christmas to you all 🙂