I watched the Royal wedding from a ferry on the high seas. Excited and engrossed in the TV commentary, I thought little of where I was. However as the happy couple were eventually pronounced man and wife (incidentally in the exact same spot in Windsor, that Phil proposed to me, many moons ago), I suddenly spotted the Isle of Man on the horizon, and realised the significance of the journey. After 2.5 years of being forced to stay close to London… I’d once again crossed the sea and left the country. 🙂
I adore the Isle of Man, Phil’s homeland. Hills, valleys, mountains. Beaches, coves, glens. Castles, lighthouses, ancient stones. I’ve made the regular trek over with him these past sixteen years together; exploring new sights or revisiting our favourite spots. Even after I became ill with Pulmonary Hypertension, the trips continued. However being placed on the lung transplant list suddenly halted these frequent visits. The island is a full days travel from my London hospital; far outside the small three hour radius of Harefield that I was forced to adhere to for a while. Although Phil has still made the odd flying visit home… with deterioration and transplant restrictions, I’ve been unable to join him for a few years now! However, on the very night that I was temporarily suspended from the transplant list, we booked our ferry tickets to return together! 🙂
In life before PH, the logistics of visiting the island were a lot simpler, cheaper and easier. We could take public transport to the airport, carry everything we needed in a backpack, and be eating ice creams on the beach within a few hours of leaving home. We could visit all year round, book the journey the night before, and stay for just a quick weekend if needed. And we could travel from our hometown to Douglas for a bargain £18! However now, as I’m banned from flying and need a lot of equipment, it takes a full day of travel via car and ferry, before we’re enjoying a Rum’n’Raisin. Boat cabins are booked to allow me to lie down, a ‘dangerous goods’ certificate has to be completed so I can carry my oxygen aboard, and we only ever venture across in the summer months (stormy seas make even well people ill!). Oxygen deliveries needs to be arranged with their local health service, extra medication needs to be taken over in case we become stranded, and specialist travel insurance bought so I can be repatriated to my London hospital if ill. With extra bits to organise, holidays now have to be booked at least a month in advance! Kindly, my parent-in-laws have also made adaptions to make my trip easier. They installed a stair lift so I can access their upstairs living area, and we now stay in their enormous guest suite, complete with sofa and TV, so I can rest in peace. Visiting Phil’s homeland is more difficult with PH, but it is certainly still possible.
In the ten years of island visits, before I developed PH, we shared some wonderful experiences. The Isle Of Man is an outdoor girl’s dream. We’ve collected and cooked limpets on the sands of a deserted cove. We’ve clambered and climbed rocky cliffs with splashing waves below. We’ve hiked to the summit of the highest mountain, Snaefell. We’ve trekked across muddy fields to explore deserted ruins. We’ve crossed rivers by stepping stones down quiet glens. I’m incredibly thankful that I got to share, with Phil, so many of the special and beautiful and exciting spots on the island whilst I was well and able. I’m incredibly thankful that I got to enjoy the island, explore the best of the island, for a good decade before I got sick.
Nowadays, as a lot of what we previously enjoyed doing is no longer accessible to me, holidays itineraries have changed. We’ve had to adapt. We’ve had to adjust. Phil has searched maps to identify alternatives that allow me a similar but accessible version of previous loves. When I wanted to feel like I was in the peaks again, he found a quiet isolated mountain road that I could scoot down. When I longed for a scooter friendly walk with cliff views, he took me to a disused road that fitted the bill. Clambering over rocks to visit quiet coves, has been replaced by sitting on the sands of the bigger central town beaches. Hikes to the summit of Snaefell, have been replaced by tram rides to the top. Remote countryside treks, have been replaced by car drives along the quiet roads. Catching and eating seafood, has been replaced by buying it from street sellers! In the process of “adjusting our sails”, we’ve discovered a different side to the island. New places, new sites, new adventures. We’ve visited spots that we hadn’t seen in the ten years of ‘healthy’ visits prior. There are obviously many beautiful parts that I can’t access, many fun experiences that we can’t adapt, and so we have great plans for when we visit again after I’ve had a transplant. But for now we’ve found a way to make holidays to Phil’s homeland work… and so we still love it. We still adore visiting that little country in the middle of the Irish Sea.
We’ve not long returned from a wonderful week on the island. My first visit over in 2.5 years, and my first faraway holiday since being taken off the transplant list. It was fabulous. The sun shone, the sea glistened, the hills sang, and the island looked at its best. And amazingly my body coped incredibly well. I needed just one rest day (to recover from the journey -it’s a long way and I was very excited!). Every other day was spent getting out and about for a few hours; taking in as much of the island as we could. And happily, we also got to spend lots of time with our fun-loving nephew and niece. Joe Yien (19 months old) and Mei Yan (nearly 3 years) are complete whirlwinds and budding daredevils (they take after their Uncle Phil). It was a brilliant week.
I have all my fingers crossed that my good health continues so I can be kept off the transplant list for a little longer. Now I’m able to travel further afield again, we have a couple of exciting trips to Europe planned for the later half of the year. Without a royal wedding to distract me, hopefully I’ll realise the significance of the journey, next time I cross the sea!