My husband is a last minute packer. He runs around manically the hour before we leave to go on holiday, scanning each room for what he might need, and inevitably forgetting something. 😉 I used to be the same. We could handle last minute and spontaneous short breaks; it was our norm. But since getting ill, preparation and organisation have become my new mantra. There is no way my body could handle rushing around, nor my stress levels! Instead I am now a “take at least a week to get ready” packer- unsurprisingly there is so much more to organise when going on holiday with an illness.
Since getting ill, it now takes forever to find somewhere suitable to stay. We used to be very laid back, spending most of our time out of the room exploring. We were easy going; we just wanted ‘near a pub’ and ‘the cheaper the better’. Nowadays, my illness has decreed a long search criteria. We need a cottage.. with a downstairs double bedroom.. a downstairs bathroom.. no stairs to get in or out of the house.. a place to park the car next to the property.. with good mobile phone reception.. an electric cooker.. away from farms/main roads/factories/anything gassy or smelly.. and within a couple of hours drive of Harefield! Then we have to throw in Lottie the dog’s requirements.. dog friendly.. and an enclosed garden. And you can quickly see that the 20,000 possible cottages on cottages.com soon dwindles to a dozen! It takes hours and hours of searching cottage websites, looking on route finders, ringing up the owners and asking questions, to find a suitable cottage.
The week before the holiday is an attempt to find a balance between preparing.. and resting. Packing my suitcase now takes at least a week. Lists are written and checked off to make sure I don’t forget anything. Things I want to take that are downstairs have to be collected and put at the bottom of the stairs as I can’t carry them up.. and after a few days and a few nags to Phil, they eventually make it up the stairs to be put in to my suitcase! And I am only packing for me and my dog. I am in awe of parents with PH; it would take me at least a month to pack if I had to think about and pack for little children too! Luckily Lottie the dog’s holiday bag doesn’t take too long to get ready. In the week before, one day is devoted to the annual holiday ironing- yes nowadays I only iron as a ‘treat’ when I’m going away! Irons are heavy. Even with sitting down and taking the odd rest, ironing is a breath-taking activity. But wearing a nicely ironed dress on my holiday, makes me feel a little special, so I make myself do it once a year. Aside from the normal packing, I have to organise so many extra things for the holiday as I have an illness. Oxygen concentrators and canisters have to be arranged to be delivered to the cottage. Blood tests have to be rearranged, and booked at the holiday location if needed. Medicines have to be ordered in advance and taken in bulk (just in case there is a freak storm that strands us there!). Food has to be ordered to be delivered to the cottage so I don’t have to waste energy doing it when away. Harefield have to be informed of my whereabouts for the week. Medical notes have to be sorted and taken with us. And don’t even start me on the annual hunt for holiday insurance when you have a pre-existing condition.. I could write a whole separate blog on it! When I’m not preparing, I force myself to spend hours doing nothing. Resting and relaxing, to ensure I am feeling well and have energy on the holiday.
But the organisation is always worth it. I love being on holiday! 🙂 After all of the previous hospital clashes and cancellations, we eventually had a week long holiday, in a lovely cottage, near Stowmarket in Suffolk. The cottage was small but beautifully decorated. There was a really big garden, which we loved chilling in during our rest time. The owners had kindly left a welcome hamper when we arrived- complete with homemade cakes, wine, breakfast food.. and dog treats for Lottie. The weather was glorious, a heat wave every day: we felt like we were abroad! We ate every meal outside on the patio or as a picnic on the grass, and in the evening we drank our G&Ts (Just T for me!) under the stars. Lottie made friends with the owners family and their dogs. Bailey, a Miniature Schnauzer, would ‘call’ for Lottie whenever we returned from a visit, and then the two of them would just follow each other around. Lottie loved having the freedom to explore the grounds; she would happily stay outside for hours, just returning periodically to check we were still there, and then in the evening when we called her when it got dark.
Suffolk is a beautiful county, full of winding country roads, picturesque towns and thatched roofed villages. On the first day we visited one of my childhood friends at her new house in Sudbury. Another childhood friend also made the trek over with her partner, so we spent a lovely afternoon together; eating delicious food, catching up and discussing Louise’s many extravagant plans for the house! On other days, we walked around the ruins in the beautiful abbey gardens in Bury St Edmunds, photographed tens of wonky thatched cottages in Lavenham, and saw some beautiful birds hiding from the sweltering heat at the Owl Sanctuary. We enjoyed dog walks around Needham Lake, and the lanes around the cottage. We explored the wildlife sanctuary and castle at Framlingham (and Lottie walked along the high castle walls with Phil- she loves heights!). And in our rest time, we hung out in the grounds of the cottage. I spent hours rocking and reading in the egg chair (I want one), whilst Phil played on his slackline. There were sheep at the bottom of the garden, which we could feed by hand (very tickly). Lottie loved escaping in to their field, to hoover up any left over food scattered on the grass! We had a great week 🙂
Over the last few years, we’ve worked out ways to make the holiday run better. It is a balancing act- trying to juggle fun and rest. One part of me longs to be exploring and making the most of living in a different part of the country, yet another part of me is mindful of the need to rest and to not overdo it. To allow me to use all of my energy on sightseeing, Phil kindly takes over most of the cooking and washing up, and does a lot of the dog walks on his own. We put the priority sightseeing visits at the start of the holiday when I am feeling the strongest, as I get weaker and more symptomatic as the week progresses. As I only have a limited amount of energy, instead of full day trips, I find it better to visit places for only a few hours each day. That way, I don’t complete extinguish all of my energy reserves and my symptoms don’t become too extreme. This leaves the rest of the day to relax and do nothing requiring energy; letting my lungs recover. Phil goes running in these resting periods, and I often buy a new box set to watch, or new books and magazines to read. If I limit myself to afternoon trips only, then I can hopefully manage a couple of days of visits before needing a complete rest day. As the week progresses, I get weaker and my symptoms worsen, and my body wants to rest more than explore. However instead of fitting in extra rests, I try to ignore the symptoms and feeling sick, and allow myself a couple more sneaky excursions. So in the later half of the week, I end up feeling constantly ill.. but I smile through it! I justify forcing myself through the poorly days, as it means I get to see extra cool places and make extra memories. And I can always have a big long rest when I get home!
Going on holiday with an illness is different. It takes more organisation and planning beforehand. Where we can go is now restricted, and what we can do is now restricted. I can’t explore every day, visit all of the sites, leave the house early and return late. I can’t go out for lots of meals, and stay up late getting drunk. I can’t go on every dog walk, and do all of the housework. Our new way of holidaying is neither Phil nor my choice. However I’m very thankful that we can do it still, that I’m well enough to be able to do a holiday at all. We still get the excitement of staying in a different house, the thrill of reading the holiday leaflets deciding where to go, the adventure of a different place to take a dog walk. We can still visit some of the sights, still explore some of the area, still appreciate living in a different place. Six months ago, I would not have been well enough to do this. So I’m thankful for every day that I get to see something different and make a new memory. And if I am lucky enough to get a lung transplant, then maybe we will get to have a spontaneous, laid-back, activity-filled vacation once again! Though I’ll probably never go back to being a last minute packer- I don’t forget as many things by being organised! 🙂