I haven’t had a holiday for two years and there’s nothing on the horizon, but to be honest I’m happy at home on my smallholding. When you have land and animals there’s not the same desire to ‘get away’. My therapist, however, had two weeks in Crete. Whenever my therapists have had time off I’ve always had the intention of putting in more hours of my own therapy work, and this time was no different, but as always this never seems to happen. I end up going into holiday mode and doing less of my own work than when I have a therapist working on me for three hours a day. Never mind, we all need a break even if I don’t need a holiday.
My therapist’s trip to Crete coincided nicely with the summer’s big project getting into full swing, so I spent two weeks immersed in building the Goose Barn. I’ve kept geese for about twelve years, but they’ve always lived in a sectioned off part of my garden shed or log shed. The goose shed was on the original plans for my garden that I drew up in the year 2000 and the concrete base went down in 2001. The main structural timbers I salvaged in 2002, from some big chicken sheds that were demolished at an old farm down the road, and have had safely stored in my garden ever since, and the concrete blocks that the timber walls sit upon I collected a few years ago from the grounds of a local house that was bequeathed to the charity that owns the cottage I live in. This goose accommodation has been a long time coming and I was only really spurred into getting it built by a friend of mine who wanted to get involved with my goose husbandry and keep a goose to fatten up for Christmas.
By the time my therapist went away, the concrete blocks were laid, detailing the outline of the walls, and the main frames were constructed ready for erection. I had to buy timber for the cross members and cladding, which didn’t come cheap, and this had been delivered, so all was ready to get stuck in. My friend who was involved had to fit building sessions in between his shifts at work which suited me just fine. However strong I am getting, I have to accept my limitations; take things easy when I need to and rest when I need to. We also had an extra hand to help get the main frames in place and braced up and then again to fit the roofing sheets.
Despite my physical disability, I have always enjoyed physical work. I find it invigorating and uplifting, but when you are seriously disabled, as a paraplegic, it is extremely difficult to undertake physical activity in a manner that is conducive to strengthening the body. The danger is always that in struggling to do tasks you build imbalances into the system and further ingrain the changes. It is, however, important to stay active and so a balance must always be struck. Having lived with damaged legs for eight years before breaking my back, I learnt to operate within my limits and this experience served me well when it came to much more serious disability.
Considering the extent of the depletion of my body, physical work in the early years, and there was plenty of it building a home and a life out of a run down cottage, overgrown garden and unkempt field, was little more than a damage limitation exercise. Through my therapy work I have always made sure that my physical condition continues to improve and I couldn’t, and can’t, allow anything to impede this progress. Jobs in the past were not so much uplifting to the body as uplifting to my spirits, and we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of raising your spirits. As the years have gone by I have got stronger, but this is never a straight forward linear progression. There are always problems arising from the exposure of new weaknesses that take time, and sometimes a long time, to strengthen, but this is always a natural process that must be worked through and not a step backwards. Last years project was to rebuild the side wall of my workshop and this came at a time when we exposed a serious weakness in my left shoulder. I struggled and woke up several mornings feeling so stiff that I had to consider whether it was worth completing the job. After all I had achieved, over the years, in building a home, I became more worried than ever that my efforts may impede the progress of my rehabilitation. However, I kept my spirits up, soldiered on and got the job done. I took time to rest and once completed I put extra time and effort into therapy work and no real harm was done. By comparison this year has been very different.
For the first time since becoming a paraplegic, I have regained so much intrinsic capacity to my body that, physical work, if undertaken carefully and thoughtfully, is inputting into the system in a positive manner. Over the two weeks, I was putting in hard working days of physical construction work and yet waking up in the morning and feeling good about the previous days exertions. No aches or stiffness or any tell tale signs that I might have been overdoing it. We had lined up some more geese to join mine in the new accommodation and so I had a deadline to meet which piled on the pressure. I always had siesta, not an English tradition but it has been a good hot summer and I needed a couple of hours rest if I was to last the day, but days were getting longer and one night I didn’t finish until nearly midnight.
The barn building holiday officially came to an end when my therapist returned to work and it was back to therapy in the mornings, but there was still some work left to do and a few more days to meet the deadline. I got it finished in time and now have a good gaggle of geese grazing out in the field. By the end I was very tired and definitely ready to concentrate on putting in the therapy hours once again, but I have to say that never did I feel I pushed myself too far and was very pleased with just how much I could comfortably put myself into physical work. It would be wrong to think that physical work is now the way forward and I must point out that progress can only really be made through continuing my ABR Therapy endeavours. It is, however, good to know that the therapy is paying off and that I’m growing that much stronger.
The goose barn is by far the most impressive structure I have ever built and all it needs now is a rocking chair under the overhanging roof so I can sit out there, whatever the weather, and read my book in the presence of wonderful, graceful creatures. What is more, there’ll be meat for Christmas and plenty of eggs next spring.