FESTIVALS: The safest place to take drugs?

Are festivals the safest place to take drugs?

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Before reading this it is important that you understand I am not in anyway encouraging any kind of drug or substance use. The safest way to use drugs is not to use them at all. But we know you do or if you don’t you will be given the option. We feel by giving facts and advise on how to keep safe more people will stay safe.

Please also note that Angel gardens staff are not allowed to take any substance while working in the space. this is directed at the festival public.

Its that time of year when worried parents wave off their perfect teens and watch with terror as they set off to their first festival.. knowing damn well that as they turn the corner to their rite of passage that they will be partying like they did themselves 20 odd years ago!

Its every parents nightmare! we were all young and we all know how likely it is our children will be around drugs at some point in their lives. We can’t stop them from experimenting, partying and going mad but likewise we cant stop worrying either.

The biggest fear is that they do what we did!

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Festival Drug Culture

There is no point pretending that drug use isn’t a huge part of the festival culture, and young people often partake for the first time in the festival environment.

Me and my team have worked the festival scene for over a decade and have seen every possible drug related situation.

Only last week at Glastonbury my staff found themselves looking after a very distressing and frightening situation with a young girl who was in a life threatening situation. read Angel Matt’s account of it here. It was a prime example of how the festival team of professionals came together and saved a young woman’s life.

It got us talking about how safe a space it really was for young people when It came to experimenting with drug taking.

As a parent of teens and as a festival worker and producer I still believe that festivals are the safest places to take drugs for young people.

Share this with your teens and read yourselves.


Here are 10 ways to use drugs at a festival in the safest way .

  1. You can ask for help.

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Unlike in the outside world a festival site is set up with its own systems to help anyone in need. Wether you are having a particular bad trip or experience or you simply find yourself having a panic attack, specialist welfare teams come as standard.

Welfare areas are separate to medical and security/policing areas, so people feel more able to approach them safely.

Comfortable and welcoming spaces allow for people to simply lay down in a quiet space for a while as well as been manned by trained and experienced councillors and welfare experts.

Welfare teams have seen and heard it all before and know how to handle a distressed festival goer, they know when to call for medical help, when a simple rest is needed or when a simple chat and cup of tea will help.

Often young people who are inexperienced in taking drugs can be overwhelmed and frightened, knowing there is a safe place to go and admit to their predicament without worrying about judgment or arrest is really helpful.

2. You can ask for information

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You can ask for information about drugs and find out the stuff you cant ask anyone else.

More and more festivals are bringing in drug advisory areas to festivals to enable young people to ask the questions they may not feel they can ask among their peers and professionals.

Just finding out what certain drugs are called and what they do to you can help young people make good safe decisions when starting out in their party life.

If there isn’t a specialised area for this, welfare teams will often be able to help.

3. You can test that what you are taking is safe.

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Many festival professionals are calling out to festivals to pay for teams to start offering free drug testing on site too. Checking substances are safe to take is a huge deal and cuts out tons of risk for young people.

Last year we were at an event where a bad batch of ketamine had turned the first night of the festival in to a scene from a war film.

On delivering yet another vunerable young woman to welfare the staff member informed me, that if only the festival would pay for testing they could find the bad stuff and  so many young people would be saved from such bad experiences.

This year we saw a rise in free testing.. we hope this will become standard we think its the responsibility of festival organisers to keep their customers safe.

4. You can ask for medical help without fear of arrest.

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The policing of festivals is very different to on the ‘streets’ where anyone found using or possessing drugs can face arrest. This can stop people seeking medical help when they need it and puts them at risk.

Security and police at festivals are more interested the dealers, not the takers.

You probably won’t get arrested at Glastonbury for smoking a joint in public but you may have to watch your back if you are selling ‘sweeties’ to everyone who passes by! With so much drug use on site, policing tends to remain with the bigger fish! So don’t EVER let the fear of arrest stop you seeking help.

Medical teams are ready to treat people suffering from bad effects relating to drug taking, they have on site facilities and easy access to outside services if you need them .

As they are already on site, stewards, security and other professionals  are able to radio for medical help in seconds and they don’t have far to go to find you. Much quicker than getting emergency services to you.

Most festivals ask you not to call 999 in an emergancy as it causes chaos and takes so long, events have all emergency services on site and will be there in minutes… if they need to get you to hospital they will be able to take you themselves or call the emergency services directly to come get you.

5. You have specialist teams and your people keeping an eye on you

8a9f2aa6a1831acc27a37bc6355cf939Should you need help and can’t get to it, because you are just far too wasted, people are watching.

Security and stewards are there to look after festival goers and are trained and instructed to keep an eye out for those needing help.

There are very few places that aren’t in public view on a festival site, even in the dark. Also its not just stewards and security who are watching, festivals have loads of staff running around with radios and they all take note of what is going on.

6- You have your new festival community looking out for you too.images-12

Don’t forget that you are part of a community at a festival, they are great for bringing like minded people together and it’s not like being in the street.. Folks don’t just walk past you if your in trouble.

Different genres at events and different music and crowds tend to bring similar ages and accepting groups together. This allows great community spirit and peer support should you find your self in drug and drink fuelled trouble. Our experience shows that folks in trouble are brought to the attention of staff very quickly.

7- You don’t Have to take drugs or drink.

Vintage_Photo_Labor_Day_Weekend_Camping_Watermelon_Party-1Festivals are brilliant for bringing like minded people together and mostly people respect each other and their decisions.

It is absolutely fine not to partake in taking or drinking.

The most maturity you can show is to know your limits and not to do anything you don’t really want to do.

8- Spiking and date Rape drugs

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There is no doubt spiking happens, many festivals offer testing kits for your drinks or you can buy them on line before you go.  Try here  for a good starting point.

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Most people don’t want to share their drugs with strangers but it does happen. Take special care to not take a swig from anyones bottle of vodka or accept a drink from anyone… if you witness anyone popping anything into a drink either tell that person or approach a staff member.

All the above points are there for you should you find yourself in a position where you are feeling like you have taken something and you don’t know what it is… feel safe to approach them.

So called Date rape drugs are rare at festivals as so many people are watching. ( see point 5) but if you see anyone looking vulnerable with a member of the opposite sex then flag it up immediately with a staff memeber.

9. It’s ok and safe to be honest

YLF_072It’s important to be honest, if you do know what you have taken and you are feeling unwell or vulnerable, it’s crucial you tell the professionals exactly what you have taken  so they can help you.

As said above you are safe to do this without judgment, don’t be tempted to say you have been spiked because you don’t feel you can admit what your choice of drug was.

10- Follow your own advice and do your bit.

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To be safe everyone needs to work together, so watch out for others need help, looking vulnerable or just generally over doing it.

Stay with your friends and look after each other.

Flag up anything that worries you about someone to staff

Do everything you need to do listed above to keep you and everyone safe.

Ask yourself if you really want to to do this? don’t feel pressure and don’t pressure others.

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Please note this blog does not in anyway encourage drug or substance use in any way. The safest way to take drugs is not to take them.

But if you do then this is here to advise.

Note all festivals have different systems in place, please check with each event on booking tickets.

How Wonderful Life Is, While You’re In The World… by (Angel) Matt Yates

Guest Blogger fellow festival Angel , ‘Bruver from anuva Muva’ and friend Matt Yates writes about his experience at Glastonbury last week with his guitar and hero’s cape.

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.It’s been

a habit of mine for many a year to always keep a plectrum on me and a guitar to hand. If people ask why, I joke that there may be an emergency similar to that in many films where the pilot has collapsed and someone shouts out to the passengers “Can anybody fly a plane?!”, or in my case, “Can anyone play guitar?!”, at which point I would step up for my ‘hero moment’. It is of course a joke, I couldn’t for the life of me think of any emergencies where such action would be needed, much as festivals have taught me to accept and welcome the unpredictable.

It’s the Monday morning at Glastonbury, around 7am, and I’m having a last cup of tea in Angel Gardens with fellow crew member Tara, silently chiding myself for having fallen asleep around midnight, and only resurfacing around 3.30 to find that most of my friends were turning in. As crew it’s a long festival for us, we were all in by the Sunday beforehand to setup. By the time the gates open to the public we’re half way through, and with the heat at the beginning of the week we were all fairly exhausted. We sat watching the glorious morning sun rise higher as the revellers still going made their way to the stone circle, silhouetted against the rays. We were chatting to the Green Crafts stewards, offering water to anyone who looked in need and enjoying our nightcap.

The peace and serenity then gave way to chaos. We heard shouts, commotion and hysterical screams as we saw a blur of security wrestling with someone, chased by various teenagers and stewards. My initial assumption was that there must have been some fight or scuffle. Tara and I both rose to our feet to see what we could do to help. It then became clear this was something far worse.

As the people crashed into our space the person at the centre of things went completely limp and was placed on the grass. Her friends were screaming and crying, we fed the exhausted lead of the security team water, whilst she explained to us that the girl on the floor had taken a mixture of Ketamine and hallucinogens and was having seizures. Within a short space of time the young girl was thrashing around uncontrollably, screaming, standing up, before collapsing again. The security were trying to get her friends to talk to her or sing songs in the hope that in the fleeting moments where she was able to identify her surroundings, things might appear as normal and recognisable as possible. The girl continued to shift in and out of consciousness, medics arrived, and at some point I heard Tara saying “Matt plays guitar” and I was then asked to play. I dived into the Bell Tent, grabbed a guitar and fished out a plectrum. And I gigged.

The whole experience was harrowing. The girl continued to fall in and out of consciousness, and would occasionally stand up and partially absorb her surroundings before lapsing into another seizure, at one point lying face down in the grass kicking the ground with a speed and ferocity which was frightening to witness: she kicked so hard the sole came off one of her boots. An Ambulance arrived. Her friends thought she was dying in front of them.

I have a set of songs in my head that I play lots, if I can’t think on the hoof of what to sing: Wonderwall, To Make You Feel My Love, Three Little Birds, I Can’t Help Falling I Love With You, things like that. In the middle of Your Song, she was conscious and standing and looking into my eyes, and I stared back into hers, seeing them filled with agony, with a life or death fear; a terror, a torture. I have never seen eyes so scared. Some truths sound like they’re lies, and this is one: having got near the end of the chorus, she latched on to the last line, and sang back to me “How wonderful life is, while you’re in the world”. She was back in our world, and for us all around her that was a truly wonderful thing.

I think that was the last time that I saw her conscious.

The medics decided the time was right to place the girl into the ambulance, and I watched them carry her limp body away, blood streaming from her nose.

We sat consoling her grief stricken friends with the Green Crafts stewards, offering water and cups of tea and reassurance. The whole thing had lasted around half an hour I think, time sort of stood still. Someone asked security if they’d seen something this bad before, they shrugged, and replied “Yes”.

I am grateful for the following things:

I am most of all grateful to have heard that the girl is alive and recovering from what must have been unimaginable trauma.

I am grateful to fate that she was rescued by the Security Team who were exceptional in exceptional circumstances. They have probably saved her life.

I am grateful her friends stayed with her.

I am grateful for the support given by the Green Crafts stewards to her distraught friends.

I am grateful for the community of Green Crafts, that it was a safe space, that the Stone Masons allowed us to borrow their cups for brewing up.

I am grateful to have friends like Tara, who was in the thick of things before I’d even reacted. We have each other’s backs. With Wings on.

I am grateful to have been useful.

“Can anyone fly a plane?!”

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Marauding into Summer 2017

After an accident last year we lost our beloved caravan Lola! We were devastated when the insurers told us she had to be scrapped and even more gutted when they offered us half of its value!

So much so I couldn’t bring myself to look at new caravans for the family to do the festival season this year.

But Mr O forced me to look at one or two on ebay and before I knew it I was falling in love with lots of vintage and lovely old ladies. We had spent our savings on a super posh van with Lola and she had all the mood cons… shower, hot water, blowers and more… Mr O hadn’t wanted me to revamp her up too much either and although we did make her ours we were limited to what we did with her.  After all that fuss we lost her anyway and we had had old vans that had lasted longer.. vintage was the way to go this year.. oh and she had to be cheep!

after loosing out on a few we found a bargain van, she was going for about £300 at the time and we could see why she was so cheap, she looked clean and although a bit unloved she had potential for me to let me creative juices flow.

WE had a bid and unbelievably won her for £400!!!! amazing if she wasn’t a dud of course.

Day 1 Mr O picked he up on Saturday and arrived back home with her for lunch time. I had bought some cupboard paint and some bits and bats to get working on her, we figured we could maybe sell her straight on and find something we loved a bit more.

Within a few hours, I had painted the cupboards and Mr o had fit a new water pump in her, already she had potential. We decided to take out he bathroom and fit a log burner. The loo was a bog standard ( I know) portapotty and we could always fit one in the van or in a toilet tent, the sink only had hot water so we figured we might as well use the kitchen sink and use the space to create a lovely stove area to make the van super cosy.

Day 2; Sunday: I stapled some pom pom trim around the edges of the cupboards and stapled some £3.99 battery powered fairly lights all around making sure the switches and battery packs were by the door for when we walked in. The van does have electric but only from a hook up, we don’t always have this in a feild so Mr O set to putting in an extra battery and the solar panels that we had taken off Lola.. we now have electric without a hook up!

I nipped into town and spend about £70 of bits and bats to make her cosy, blankets and quilt covers, little ornaments, plates and cups etc .. she was starting to feel more like ours.

Day 3: I had ordered some bits from Amazon which arrived today, some tile transfers to cover the old tiles, some stick backed plastic to cover the grotty melamine tables. With a few hours fitting this in the van she suddenly started feeling like home.

Day 4 is still to come, we are cleaning up an old log burner and I have ordered a new flue pipe for it for £20 , we will go up through the sky light in the bathroom and create a chimney. I have some heat resistant paint to paint the old bathroom and rill attach a pull out dryer for clothes and socks. We will remove the door of the bathroom to stand the burner in and hopefully create some cut out panels in the walls and fid some wonder trellis grids to let the warm air our into the caravan.

By day 2 we had named her.. like with animals it meant we were attached… Molly is part of the family already and cost us less that £500! bargain!

WE have ordered some decals for the outside, she is two tone green with an orange stripe. We figured just getting rid of the orange stripe and adding a blue or white one will tidy her up.

We will add her name and some info of the business on the back.. then we should be set!

 

 

 

 

Keeping it cool with A Florida Surprise

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Williams ‘Disney savings tin’ Live on ITV

FLORIDA WITH AN ED FAMILY.

Two weeks last saturday we had a very exciting thing happen. We went LIVE on prime time TV as we were part of a surprise for our son William.

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The moment of our surprise 

to us in our home and surprised our boy as he sat on the sofa with a trip for four to Florida! all expenses paid!!! WOW!!! people actually win this stuff! See our story here.

The only thing was we only had 48 hours to get ready to go!!! Visas, money, passports, packing… you name it… we had a day to get sorted!!!

One of things I wanted to do was to contact Diana at the ED society. William was diagnosed with ED just about 3 years ago and since his diagnosis we hadn’t been anywhere really hot. We had always travelled to tropical places and unknown to us we were doing lots of the things we needed to do to keep William Safe already, but it is always good to get more advise.

Ectodermal Dysplasia

ED, Ectodermal Dysplasia is a very rare genetic condition that effects many things such as hair, nails and teeth. But most importantly it effects the ability to sweat. This is more serioueds_logo_small.jpgs that you might think, and before you say ”’ ooh I wish I didn’t sweat, I bet you save a fortune in deodorant!’ well yeah thats true… but its quite a serious condition and is a huge issue for anyone especially a child.

We don’t only sweat to keep cool, we sweat when we sleep and when we are ill. How many times have you gone to bed feeling awful and that you might be getting a cold, you go to bet to ‘Sleep it off’ and as if by magic you feel better in the morning. The very concept of ‘sleeping it off’ really should be ‘sweating it off’ our bodies use sweating as a way to cleanse us of infection, virus and more, we don’t even notice it really but you will notice when you wake up in the night drenched after a cold or flu!

We get clammy when we have an infection or virus and of course we sweat buckets when we exercise and find ourselves in hot environments.

For a person with ED their bodies have to find other ways to do this, William may get a rapid heartbeat or be super short of breath if he gets a bug or simply overheats.. and believe me he gets EVERY bug going!!! ( he doesn’t sweat it out over night like us) He gets tired very easily as his body is working super hard to keep cool and the body pain he suffers can be unbearable. The biggest challenge is of course keeping him cool in hot environments. This blog is how we coped in Florida walking around Disney in 100 degrees of tropical heat with a boy ( and his dad) neither of who sweat! ( for more info about ED look here)

So… Dianna had talked to me when we spent time in Rome and she said how we could support William and Keith by using Disabled services throughout all areas. I had never considered classing William (and his dad) as disabled as we have always coped, but the more I spoke about it the more I realised how much we could be helped.

The first thing we did was get a letter from The ED society, This explained that Both Keith and William had this condition and that they needed extra support though any disabled sources provided. I put this in my bag and though I would only use this in Disney World but actually used it more than I thought.

Here is how we got on….

Airport.

We found Gatwick pretty quiet and to be honest, as prize winners we did feel very special and like VIP’s.

There are plenty of seats in the airport and its nice and cool. We were greeted with a party in the Virgin Lounge. (I believe you get access to this lounge if you book a Disney Holiday through Virgin. )

The Lounge was clean and bright and had lots of seating with complimentary drinks and helpful staff.

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Inside the lounge 

I would imagine it to be a bit noisy and busy on a normal day and do think we may make use of the free drinks and then go find a quiet corner in the airport departure lounge.

The Flight

We flew with Virgin Atlantic, now I know we were on this amazing prize but the basics still applied to us. Mostly that 9 hours is a long time on a plane!IMG_0193 but the Virgin staff really made it easy for everyone. Drinks are free and they are happy to keep providing you with water and such. They are friendly and you don’t feel like you are pestering. I know we have always flown with Thompson fLy and the staff are somiserable and you really know they don’t want to help… so you stay away from asking for anything.. not good when you need to ensure your family are catered for.

The seats have good leg room and they allow you to roam around the plane for a stretch. The plane is kept cool and there are good blowers in the roof that you can aim on each other to give a bit of extra temp control.

Arriving in The States

After a 9 hour flight to America we bumbled off the plane with the other passengers, as we sleepily found our way to the passport control we saw the huge lines of queues. We joined the end and william sat on the floor exhausted and pale. Keith was struggling too and I looked around seeing if there was a bench or something they could sit on while I kept our place in the queue. As I looked around I was the sign, ‘Disabled or Special assistance queue’ could we use that? we had a disability and we were going to be using a similar service in Disney.

I mentioned it to Keith and he expressed concerns, we weren’t in a wheel chair and didn’t look disabled.. would they question us? We had the letter in our bag and we did need support, we decided to go for it.

We guilty walked into the queue that only had two families ( in wheelchairs) and one with a little boy who seemed to have a learning disability.  No-one battered an eyelid and we went through the line smoothly and found ourselves on the air conditioned coach, everyone calm, waiting for the rest of the party to join us. Realistically we still had to wait the same time but the difference was we waited in a better environment.

Transfers

Disney had teamed up with Virgin and Itv to provide our hotel and transfers so we were shuttled to the hotel on one of their coaches. Staff were brilliant and the driver welcoming. The bus was fully air conditioned and had seat belts.

Water was available on request and there was a loo. As anyone with an ED child knows… a loo close by is very important!!!! ( all that water)

Parks

There are 6 parks on the complex all are really different and offer different vibes and activities. You can get into all these with your Park Hopper ticket/wristband.

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Epcot by night

Magic Kingdom: The original and most magical… Castles and princesses, parade and Mickey! bloody packed always and is huge!!!

Epcot: A slower paced park with more educational attractions. ( don’t forget every attraction in Disney world is bloody brilliant…) don’t shy away from this park because it hasn’t got the roller coasters and thrills… we actually find it’s our favourite. You need a full day ( if not two) to enjoy this fully

Hollywood Studios: All about films and blockbusters. some rides and loads of attractions and activities, smaller than the others but full to the brim of starwars, Mickey and cartoons.

Animal Kingdom: A slower pace like Epcot but all the attractions are excellent and awe inspiring. the live animal attractions are great and its obvious Disney take good care of their live stock!

Blizzard Beach/Typhoon Lagoon: Both are water parks but nothing like you would imagine… you feel like you have stepped into another world… shallow pools, lazy rivers and kids pool their will never believe… all themed and super wonderful.

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Exploring the posh cars at Epcot in the Test Track area.

Everything and I mean EVERYTHING in Disney world is fantastic! You never go on something and think it was rubbish! This time we didn’t go on a single roller coaster and enjoyed family rides that suited us all ( Kitty is three and William 12) honestly it is all mind blowing…

If you have a full 2 weeks you can take things slower and do every inch of the parks, maybe even do a few days finding Mickey ( a treasure hunt searching for hidden Mickey images) If you have a short time you can plan and select what you want to do.

Our Time in the Parks

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Busy Gates… use the disability assistant gate!

Our first day was a hot one and we made sure william had a swim and shower before we set out into the parks, we had water and William and Keith both wore hats and light clothing. As we arrived at Hollywood Studios it was super busy at the ticket gates. We decided to use the disability care assistantance gate and we were through in minutes.

As we got inside I sat the family on a bench and went to the Guest Services office to get our Disability Pass.

The lady came over to where the guys were sitting and set up the scheme on a hand held tablet. She took a photo of William and he tapped his electronic wrist band on the screen.

She explained how we could go to the front of a line and ask for DAS, they would then tap Williams wristband and a photo of him would come up on their screen, they would then offer us a time to return as a family. This would stay inn place the whole time of our stay.

The time given would reflect the length of the queue, so if the queue was an hour, we would be given a time to return in an hour. This helped us accept the help more as we weren’t pushing in, just not standing in the queue to save our place.

The lady was great and really made us feel welcome and supported, she didn’t question our request our condition and just got on with explaining what to do around the parks.

IMG_6393So we tried it…. we went to the first ride and the queue was an hour long, we went to the front of the queue and they happily gave us a time to return. As we walked away I heard a beep on my phone, the return time had automatically updated on my Disney app….

The Disney App and Wristbands

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Kitty wasn’t so sure… but the photo came straight back to my phone!

This is new! last time we came here, we had a card and that was it..

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Fancy wristbands that do everything!

…now we were all given fancy wristbands. These wristbands did lots of things: they opened our room door, scanned it to get into the parks, you could charge everything to your room from all over the park and you used it to scan as you entered a ride.
It all ties up to a Disney app which we all had on our phone. This app had our booking on so showed our hotel, let us book fast passes in advance, showed us what times our fast passes and DAS return times where and also sent pictures to our phone that they took on the rides.

It was all a bit clever and although I heard people saying it was all a bit BIG BROTHER…but I liked it… I don’t have anything to hide and I loved how

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The Disney app Keeps all you information in one place

everything was at my finger tips. I could literally go into the park with nothing but the kids ( although we needed to take in fans, water, share T-shirts, Calpol and suncream.. life of an ED family!!)

We found all the photo booths had been taken out of the end of the rides and instead photos would magically appear on your phone to look at . You could buy them directly from the app and charge them to your card.

Fast passes and DAS

By using Fast passes that we booked the day before and The DAS system we didn’t have to queue once. It took a bit of working out, but I could do this from our room as I lay in bed the night before.

As you return to your ride at the right time, you simply scan your wristband on the Mickey sign and it pings and lights blue letting you in. No-one knows if you are ‘disabled’ or if you have a ‘fast pass’ and this allows for you to feel comfortable that you are been assisted and not getting special treatment.

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Getting our DAS return time for the Buzz Lightyear ride.. can you spot us?

Keeping cool in the parks.

There was no doubt we landed in a bloody heat wave! a heat wave in Florida!!!! it was hot! and as we were only there for 5 days were were out the first day without having time to acclimatise to the heat.

Although we found loads of ways to keep cool we still had a some very HOT moments

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A hot moment…

But there are ways to keep cool….

Water

Disney have water fountains all over the park that are free to use, you can fill your bottles and cups with them and you don’t have to buy expensive bottles of water ( about $3 a bottle £2.40 ) although Disney don’t stop you from taking in your own food and drink which makes a change from UK theme parks who like to ensure you buy their over prized items.

Cool Spots

Everything is air conditioned!! shops, inside rides, queues, toilets… you never find yourself too far away from a cool place. Although we found ourselves with sore throats and sniffles because of the dry air and huge difference in temperatures. ( ED people often have a lack of or over production of various bodily fluids so bunged up noses and are throats are always a familiar face.. so this will probably irritate you if you have the condition.. take saline etc) We could live with that.. there is nothing more wonderful than stepping onto an air conditioned bus after a long day at the parks.

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a tired boy needing some shade

The hotel room was air conditioned too and we were able to adjust this accordingly. I found this out after waking up the first night shivering.

There were ice buckets in all the rooms too and a great communal  ice machine central to each complex of rooms( no more that 2 mins walk) They provide plastic bags to so you can fill it with ice and take it out with you.

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Ice buckets 

Water Play

There are lots of places with water too in the Parks, little play areas and splash areas, all free , inside the parks and great to stop and play for a while ( and cool down ) while waiting for your return time for a ride.

No-one feels too old in Disneyworld so even William and Keith were happy to play in the splashes.

One of the things we always have bought in Florida are the fans and refillable cups. They are super helpful for keeping everyone hydrated and cool. ( see below in ‘other things’)

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One of the many water play areas.

Evenings

Parks don’t close till late ( 9pm out of season and up to 1am in the height of summer) obviously it is cooler on an evening. So if you want to take the day easy you can enter the park at 3pm and still have a full day ahead of you. Please don’t do what we did the first time we went and get so excited we ended up spending 16 hours in the park and made ourselves so exhausted we had to spend two days in our hotel room! The your time and enjoy what you choose to do in full.

If you stay in a Disney Hotel you get the bonus of ‘extra magical hours’this gives you two extra hours without the public crowds. (Either morning 8-10 am or evening 9-11pm ( low season or 11-1am high season). Even with the thousands of hotels rooms on the complex the queues and crowds are really reduced at these times so its worth doing.

Other ideas

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Fan Sprays were great 

These spray fans are brilliant, they are like a cleaning spray bottle and instead of just a spray they have a battery operated fan too. You see kids walking around with them round their necks spraying them selves and fanning themselves as they go. there are plenty of places selling them and plenty of places to fill them too. we have used the ones we bought here 10 years ago for year here in the uk and on other holidays.. a perfect ED product.

The refillable cups are great too, they cost about $14

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Refillable cups can be filled all over the complex

dollars and are the kind of cups that keep a drink cool. There is a little chip in the bottom which is read as you place on the base of a soda fountain, you can fill it up anywhere around the complex, all eateries have them in all the parks and hotels.

They have ice machines and a selection of drinks, from water to energy drinks! even coffee and tea!.. keep an eye on the kids though… I found william hovering over the energy drink tap!!!!  But they are fab… you are never far from a cafe/takeaway or similar and you can use for as long as you stay on the complex.

Hotel

It is super expensive at the moment at Disney World, The dollar is not what it was and we found it twice as expensive as it was five years ago. We were lucky enough to have a stay in a mid range Disney hotel ( Caribbean Beach Hotel)

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The Caribbean beach Hotel

which really helped us make the most of our short stay.  But…. we worked out the costs for us to do this as a family and it would have been huge. Our Prize was worth around 12K we think ( two adults and two kids for 5 days) … we have always managed to do it for about 5k (for 6 of us for two weeks). There is no doubt it is something you need to save up for..However there are good reasons to stay on site in a Hotel if you can afford it……

The hotels are HUGE so don’t expect to feel special! saying that, staff are always up for helping. They are super clean and very very well thought out. Lots of activities for kids and adults, boat rides, fishing and Disney character appearances. I suppose if you stayed for 2 weeks you would make most of the facilities but we really wanted to enjoy the parks.

We found the best thing was how easy and quick it was to get back and forwards to the parks. Buses run frequently and are all air conditioned. It takes around 10 mins to get anywhere on the complex and buses come at the latest every 10 mins. Knowing you can get back quickly and cooly was a real comfort.

When you stay in a hotel off site ( a third of the price) or a villa, you will be driving. You need to pay $20 to park! and the carparks are huge. But its all planned out well, you park and get on a little train to the park entrance. I think it takes between 20-30 mins to actually get from parking the car to getting inside…, but it is doable and easy.

The busses stop at all parts of the hotel so you don’t have to walk to get to the stop. ( the hotel complex had 10 areas all hosting around 200 rooms in blocks) They are free and you don’t need to show a pass or anything. The driver tells you where they are stopping and you never feel rushed. Drivers are trained to help wheelchair users on and off the busses.

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Waiting for a bus in the shade 

The hotels have great aircon both in the rooms and other areas such as food halls and shops. You can escape easily. You can change this inside your room so you aren’t freezing all night.

The hotel pool was lovely, there were smaller pools in the middle of every block of rooms and a main larger pool in the main part of the hotel. Towels were provided and there was lots of shade. The staff are great and would sort out shade if everywhere was full.

The main part of the hotel had a large food hall, you could fill your cups up here from free and there was loads of ice for the taking. Water dispensers offer free water.

There are a number of shops that sell basic groceries and large bottles of Water. We bought a large bottle to fill our bottles up daily. ( the water fountains in the parks are free but do have a chemical taste to them)

We didn’t need any medical support but there is a medical centre on site.

You are allowed to use the facilities of any of the Hotels on site, so there is lots of choice of restaurants and pools.

Swimming.

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Swimming to keep cool

Disney world has two amazing water parks that are free with your tickets, you can get the free bus to them and they are brilliant for keeping cool and having fun.

They are huge so you won’t have any trouble finding shaded areas and safe areas depending on your Childs ability to swim.

The lazy river can be found at both parks and is a wonderful creating river that roams around the whole site. You grab one of the hundreds of inflatable rings and bob along until you feel like getting off.

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Well managed pools with shallow edges and free towels 

As with the other parks some of the queues are long for the slides and there are no fast passes available. we found the staff really helpful and they allowed us to skip the line.

Conclusion

I know Disneyland in Florida looks to be a very confusing and hard work holiday. But we were only there for 5 days and we had figured out all the new bits and bats within a few hours.

Don’t be afraid of visiting with an ED family. It is one of the best places you can go and rest assured everything will be perfect.

There are very few places that customer care is 100% en-point! It is perfect and you will not find anything to complain about except for the cost of things and maybe the crowds!!!

We have visited both Disney World in Florida (4 times) and Disney Land in Paris ( 3 times) and I really do believe it is cheaper to go to Florida for a fortnight than it is to go to Paris for a week! Really… look in to it.

We had a wonderful prize and it was a once in a lifetime trip with the all the bells and whistles you could ask for but on a normal holiday there are cheaper ways to do it.

Look at villas and car hire as well as other flight operators. If you can afford a Disney Hotel it is much easier and will save you lots of time and energy.  But this isn’t the only option.

I hope this has been helpful… we are back home and I still can’t believe it happened! but it did and we are still high on the magical memories we have!

A Saturday night in front of the TV. Part 1

It was a cosy Saturday evening and we had plonked ourselves in front of the Tv with our kids after a day of gardening and jobs. A usual event in our house, to sit down together and watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. It is one of the only programs we all sit down and watch as a family.

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As we watched we made the usual comments about how it was so great to see the age old format that we watched as kids, curtsy of Morcambe and Wise and The Two Ronnies. We laughed at the cheesy puns and silly pranks and loved watching normal families as they were supposed in their homes.

At the end they showed a video of the prize they were giving out to 200 people over the series. A holiday in Florida! wow how lovely that would be. It set us off talking about how we were so ready for some sunshine and how we hadn’t had a sunny holiday for a good 4 years now, we had worked so hard lately and really would love a break. We were planning a camping trip over easter, so we settled with that.

Then it said they had a few more seats left on the plane and you could nominate someone by sending an email. I didn’t think about it again until on the Monday I was cleaning and came across the savings tin that Kitty and William had been putting money in religiously for our next Disney trip. I quietly mulled over the prize and though, why not apply… someone has to win and our kids really needed some fun.

So I did….. I wrote the email and explained about the tin and about who we were. I clicked send and forgot all about it until a message pinged back in inbox. They wanted more information could they call me…

Over the next four days I spoke to producers, researchers, I sent the tin down to the studios and filled in form and form, contract after contract! They still wouldn’t say if we would defiantly be a winner but the plan was laid out.

They would come to our house on saturday and set up a secret camera in the tv, William would have to leave the house while they did it so not to suspect. They would flash to us live in our living room and surprise William by showing his savings tin and telling his he was going to Florida.

It wasn’t until Saturday morning when the producer turned up at our door that we really thought this could happen. I managed to get William out of the house to his friends and we ran around like crazy people as we set up the house for them to film. All the time we were getting ready for our friends 40th Birthday Party in the next city, I was planning and running it for him and had to go and set it all up ready. So I was running around like a loon and the day passed in a flash.

7pm came and we had got ourselves ready to go to Matts party, we called william down and told him we were going as soon as we had watched the show so he needed to be ready. William wanted to play a game on the Xbox so we lied and told him his uncle Neil would be on the show and we wanted to watch.. so he sat with us excit3edly.

All the time, the producers and sound man were hidden in our bedroom! The producer kept texting me.. ‘Move to one side’ ‘ don’t let Kitty touch the tv’ ‘tell Libby to move out of shot’ ( the prize was only for 4 , so the girls weren’t able to come with us!!!’

Then it happened… the tin flashed on screen held by Dec, the camera came on us and we were live to 8 million people! Thank god I had had time to vacuum the floor! William’s face was a picture! he was in total shock and sat with his mouth wide open looking at me for confirmation! before we knew it, it was over, we were booking a taxi and leaving to the Party….

Bizarre….. William was in shock and couldn’t believe what was happening… we were too… as we walked into the party we just carried on as normal, no-one saw it as they were all at the party.. so no-one knew. The only reminder was the beeping of our mobiles and our friends and family text and messaged us with total excitement.

Our facebook page, email and text messages were full of our friends and family who were just so excited for us, work friends and clients emailed us and we felt very very loved!

When we left the party, we came home with some friends and we watched the show for the first time. It was so very exiting and it kind of started to feel real… all I needed to do know was get ready to go to Florida in just under 48 hours!

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How Freudian theory predicts a civil war after Trump and Brexit. 

I Written the morning Trump won the election .

I woke up this morning to snow! If the snow had been sun I could have easily mistakes to the month as June! The same feeling of disparity and disappointment hung in the air just as it did as we woke up at the Glastonbury festival to find us leaving Europe in June. 

But as always I got thinking….When I was at university studying psychotherapy,  I was very interested in Freudian theory. Most of all the writing of Totem and Taboo. I got to thinking how it is SOOOO relevant in the world right now as we battle racism and purism… stay with me….

Don’t worry I’m not gonna get all clever and start quoting Freud and expecting you to know what I’m on about.. so here is the theory in a nut shell ….

There was a story about a brother who was cross with his dad, so cross he wanted to kill him! ( extreme I know)  but knew it was wrong to kill your own dad! ( dur… you don’t say)  HE WAS MAD but he didn’t and had no intention of killing his dad… cos it was wrong! 

But over time his brothers also fell out with their dad and after numerous chats where they moaned together about their dad, it turned out that they all wanted to kill him ! Cripes! They talked it through and they agreed that if they all wanted to kill him it can’t have been wrong! 

Anyway …the point was that as soon as the group all wanted to kill him it became ok, their moral code kind of changed and they  could justify killing their dad!  after all everyone else wanted to do it too!!! So they couldn’t be wrong and it wasn’t their fault! 

So they killed the dad! 

The point of the theory is that on their own they’d never have done it! They’d never have found the self justification to allow them to go ahead and Killed daddy! 

But as a group, where they all felt the same , it gave them strength, not just physically but emotionally and morally ! Their feelings of hate towards him were validated  by the others and it gave them permission to join in the dirty deed! Without guilt! 


So why is this relevant now? Well Angry , frightened and upset people  are very unpredictable as we know,  so as soon as they are blessed with the realisation that they are not alone in their powerful feelings and they are not wrong , they are able to feel strengthened by the knowledge they are not alone and MUST BE RIGHT! 

This realisation gives people permission to openly show their anger and behave in ways that alone the couldn’t have done so  easily and safely. We don’t need to look so far to see many examples of this! 

Think about bullies? Never so strong when they are without their gang , football hooligans rarely fight alone, kids at school rarely misbehave without others playing along with them….

I think about Brexit and now with Trump… as soon as folks with such angry and passionate thoughts and feelings ‘win’ a voice they start to behave openly in a way they never did before. 

All of a sudden those with racist and sexist or whatever other ‘ists are relevant have been told that they are not alone! In fact they are in a majority! They are safe to speak out.. they have strength as a group to act in a way they could never do on their own! 


We have seen a huge rise in openly racist attacks in the uk since the Brexit victory gave them a voice and now with Trump taking the wheel,  we are seeing the same and more.. racism, sexism, body shaming, greed and aggression to ‘outsiders’ has be given the green light!  There is a certain giddiness to express something which was previously frowned upon.

People have been told ( indirectly) they are in their right to hate and abuse! And it is only going to spread across the globe… all those who realise they have a band of like minded brothers will draw strength from them and act! 

As half of the country here and across the pond furiously feel the ‘opposite’ of these ‘winners’ and totally mourn the loss of humanity and as our anger and fear will grow, together  too we will too come together to fight. Will we ( the anti Trump and pro Europe and free movement) join our brothers (and sisters) and act in a way we could never do on our own? 

What permission will we give ourselves as a group to protect our beliefs? Just like them? Just like the Freudian brothers? How far will our fear and numbers take us? 

Splitting countries and nations into two camps of such very opposite sides of the coin is a very dangerous thing, we have created two strong groups of now powerful opposite voices… 

So what , where and when will they agree to kill ? 

Who or what will be the father? 

Which group will decide to act first? 

Maybe the now openly expressed hatred towards muslims, Mexicans, Jewish, polish, refugees, inegrants…( oh the list goes on….)that is now freely acted upon by the Trupexit brotherhood will create the justification for these oppressed  communities to join together in a mutual brotherhood too? 

Will the oppressed join the fight within their group  strength based on anger and fear? Ironically becoming more dangerous that they were ever accused of being in the first place!!!!!

 Their joint strength allowing and justifying attack?

What about gay men and women? Will they find their collective inner Freudian brotherhood too? 

Will they find strength and justification to loose their moral code and attack too? 


What about women? 

We’ve seen women joining together already.

Will they find their inner Freudian brotherhood too? 

Will they justifying attack as a group ?

Will they behave in a way as a group they would never behave in alone? 

As recent shows of democracy has stood in the form of two sides of the coin… polar opposites to each other. 

Right or left

In or out

Controlled or free

Catholic or Protestant 

United or City

Yorkshire or Lancashire

Rich or poor

Girl or boy

Black or white

Trump or Clinton

Etc 

Etc

Etc

So are  two groups of angry frightened Freudian botherhoods forming? 

How many other brotherhoods are within them? 

As anger grows and the brotherhoods strengthen through fear and despair,  it is only a matter of time before our actions spill over into the streets and we all kill our fathers. 

As we fight against our own community, brothers and sisters, families and friends we will believe it’s ok, because we are not alone.. we have strength to do what alone we could never carry out. After all There is no I in team! 

This year has divided the world.. 

I have no answers or crystal ball but as Freud illustrated, a  group of people with likeminded anger have a voice and it’s not just a voice… it’s a desperate wail ! …  they will be heard and seen and it won’t be pretty !

When in Rome

IMG_3841.jpgLast February I had the most random of emails. It was an email from the ED society asking us if we would like to go to Rome on behalf of the Uk society to meet the Pope with other ED families from across the world! Well that doesn’t happen very often does it???

Needless to say we jumped at the chance. To be honest I didn’t quiet believe it would happen and I don’t think anyone else we told believed us either…. I mean meet the pope? us ? really?

As the trip came closer we started receiving emails from the organiser of the trip in Italy, we were to all stay in a large hotel on the outskirts of Rome and there would be various social events happening. It all began to feel very real.

A month before we were due to depart I had an even more random email, I really didn’t think the former could be beaten but I was wrong. We were asked to bring a gift to present to the Pope. Yes… I know…. what on earth does one give to the most holiest man on earth? After much discussion and support I finally worked out what I as going to take..  Rev Shelagh ( our family vicar and friend) had advised how His holiness was very passionate about reaching out to those in need particularly at the time he was reaching out to the refugees.  I wanted to think about giving something symbolic and relevant to us as a family, having a link to the results of war as well as placing a human face to it.

I have an old case full of my grandfathers old letters, books and papers from his time fighting in the second world war and one of the items that came to my mind was his soldier book. The tiny leather bound book has a page at the front where he wrote out the lords prayer. The writing is beautiful and albeit faint it shows how important his faith was during this dangerous part of his life. I copied the page and printed it out, framing it with a photo of Grandad as young man and one of William, I am an artist by trade so it was a pleasure to create a lovely piece of art work with my family heirlooms.

I was having to travel alone with William ( 11) and Kitty (3) I am pretty good at travelling and I am always the lead when we go anywhere as a family. But Id never travelled abroad with the children with out my husband and we had never really split up as a family either. I was going to miss them all terribly and I was so sad they couldn’t join us on such an important life event for us.

(We are a large family, I married my husband 23 years ago and we have since have four children: Libby (18) not an ED carrier and was busy working, Grace ( 16) an Ed carrier but has just started at Leeds College of Art and it was too soon to take time off. Keith of course need to stay at home to look after them while I took William an ED carier and Kitty who we suspect is a carrier also.)

IMG_3713.jpgSo the day came, The gift packed, the clothes ironed and stowed in my case, we set off to the airport. Landing in Rome we trundled excitedly though the terminal and straight out through security with no problem ( the joys of hand luggage) we jumped in our organised private transfer and enjoyed our ( rather hair raising journey) to the hotel.

The hotel, The Church Village, was a real contradiction in terms. The reception building was modern and bright, but the outside was typically Italian. Simple and reminding me of a youth hostel. I soon realised it was a hotel for pilgrims, a simple accommodation especially for those travelling to worship at papal mass. This brought home  the enormity of the trip and I really think William picked up on it too.

After a quick drop off of our bags, we set off to the bus stop. We were catching the bus into the centre to meet the other ED families at the vatican museum. As we arrived at the meeting place we saw a family who’s children obviously had the ED traits. We hadn’t even been to any of the gatherings with the ED group and therefore hadn’t come across anyone like us. It was quite a heart stopping moment as we approached them but within a few minutes we had been introduced to around 5 or 6 other families from around the world, all with ED and all excited to be on this trip of a life time.

We entered the museum and had a long wait while the tickets and passes were sorted out. It seems the Italians don’t have the same approach to organisation as us Brits, and although the end aim is always reached there tends to be some chaos and waiting around first. This turned out to be an on going theme of the week but it was endearing and kind of added to the atmosphere .

As we were waiting in the busy reception area, William started to flag. It had been a long day already, we had only flown in in the morning and now the hour and half wait was starting to take its toll. I made an executive decition to take William and Kitty back to the  Hotel and rest. After all we had a very big day tomorrow and we needed to ensure we had all our energy. Apparently the families had a wonderful time at the museum and we are still gutted we missed the Sistine chapel , but hey… we were going to see the pope  in the morning!.

We arrived back at the hotel, we grabbed a bowl of pasta in the reception, I had a beer and we bought ice creams to take back to the room. The kids showered and I managed to find an english cartoons channel for them to watch while I got everything ready for morning.

As I realised I needed an iron to give everything a once over, I called reception to find this basic of all hotels didn’t have one.. agh!!!! I ended up snuggling up with the kids while the shower steamed out clothes for morning.

We work up Early and excited, all dressed in our finery we made our way to the dining rooIMG_4005.jpgm for breakfast. What a shock we had to find the quiet hotel had turned into a buzzing mass of pilgrims,
Vicars, nuns and hundreds of groups proudly supporting the national colours huddled in groups everywhere we looked.

The atmosphere was electric as we grabbed our breakfast, we spotted some of the other ED families all dressed ready  for our special day.

After breakfast we gathered the gifts we had brought and met with the other families to wait for our coach. We took photos or each other and I was touched by the support everyone gave me as I struggled with the children and the pushchair. It was a hard moment, seeing all the families and I felt really lonely, missing the rest of our family. But the excitement took over and we settled on the coach on our way to the vatican.

As we arrived the crowdsIMG_3764.jpgIMG_3770.jpg were huge! it was a daunting moment as we ( a large group) tried to stay together ( with the Italian lack of organisation) We had to go through a different entrance to the crowds, passing through airport style security and bumbling through to our area at the front of St Peters square.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the morning as it was simply so very special and been in the company of his holiness was emotional and wonderful. William and I were moved to tears and neither of us will ever forget it. no amount of words will explain the moment.

When mass started we were sat right at the front of the audience so we were really in the thick of it. But I had to have a little laugh at us allIMG_3779.jpg, as the sun creeped around to shine on us, I turned to see all the ED families frantically feeding the children water and stripping off their layers. Oh the joy of not been alone! For once in our life we were one of many.. what a wonderful feeling.

We came away from St Peters square emotional and hungry. Thankfully we were ferried back to the bus and driven out of the city to a farm style restaurant, were we enjoyed a wonderfully rustic meal in the shade of a barn.

TIMG_3816.jpghe children ran around the meadow together and parents were able to chat and share notes of how they were coping with the children with the condition.

IMG_3825.jpgI learned loads! We have been coping alone since we got our diagnosis and it was great to hear from families with much more experience. We were coming away with lots of knowledge and support.

The day after our big day we spent the day exploring Rome, the kids and I grabbed a tour bus pass and we hopped on and and off the bus at the various sites.

IMG_3832.jpgWhat an adventure!!! Not only did we go see the pope but we met so many other families from across the globe all like us. How wonderful it as for William to meet other children like him and to become the majority rather than the minority for a change.