A grand day out! Sweltering heat, massive hills, art & giant marshmallows


Despite the sweltering heat and glorious sunshine, on Friday me and my amazing

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

Exhausted, sweating like pigs, but happy

boyfriend Andy (and of course who can forget Winnie) jumped in the car and submitted ourselves to over three hours of swerving lunatic drivers, scar-tearingly bumpy roads, and squinting to see digital road maps due to the bright sunlight as we drove to Bristol – all in the name of street art, and, well so that I could do one of my challenges.

The car journey, which as usual saw me scoff my own weight in haribo sweets (well, if you can’t do it on a car journey when can you?), was something of an achievement for me. After more than a decade of Crohns/Colitis, I am still getting used to the idea of not having to race to the toilet every five minutes doubled over in crippling pain. Of course, even though I now have Winnie I still have my moments, but compared to the urgency and, ahem, accidents, my toilet habits are a breezy walk in the park these days. Only 10-weeks-ago (before my surgery) the idea of even the shortest of car journeys sent me into a flurry of minor nervous breakdowns. For more than a decade of my life I would go to the loo at least five times before getting in the car, bob around on the doorstep impatiently telling people to “hurry up before I need the loo again”, and once in the car I lived in constant fear of traffic jams, as they meant it could be hours before the next service station and chance for me to go to the loo. Honestly my fear was so severe that break lights activating ahead on a busy motorway, or the word ‘diversion’, or even ‘next services in 30 miles’, sent my blood pressure through the roof…I would start sweating and, usually the moment such a delay occurred my evil disease would kick off and naturally I would need the toilet at the one time that there was no way I could go!!

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

Traffic lights used to send me into cold sweats, now I just sit back and enjoy the ride

So, understandably my relationship with travelling, especially in cars (don’t get me started on my humiliating experiences with public transport) is one that I associate with pain, fear and panic. So I was very surprised that despite the unprecedented heat, and the fact that Winnie was kicking off, and Oscar (remaining colon) was spitting mucus out of my stomach, we had an event free and rather pleasant car journey. In the three-hour journey we only stopped once, and that was more so I could empty my weak bladder than because Winnie was full – though I have to admit that, probably to the surprise of other nosey passengers staring in through the car window, I did keep checking Winnie for status updates every half an hour – better safe than sorry.

Ok, so what exactly had we driven all the way to Bristol for? 

As part of challenge #No33 I have to visit 30 things on the Visit England 101 things to see in England before you die, and search for Banksy’s art in Bristol is one of the 30 challenges I chose. So Andy very kindly booked us a hotel and agreed to drive us to Bristol for a weekend of traipsing around a city looking for art – something that isn’t really up his street (he’s more sport, I’m more culture – that’s the truth).

I have to say that I was over-the-topily excited about this trip. The night before I had spent hours looking on the computer at things we could do when we got to this city, which by the way sounded like a cultural Mecca. I can’t even begin to describe my excitement when I discovered that we would not only be able to search for the famous Banksy works, but scattered around the city were 80 giant Gromit statues, which had been decorated by famous designers, illustrators, musicians, and authors. Everyone from Michael Buble (yes I know, I have no idea how to get the accent over his name) to Quentin Blake, and the creator of Where’s Wally – I was like a little kid in a massive sweet shop, I even downloaded the special Gromit app (such a child #lol) – in the end we only saw about 10 but ah well c’est la vie!

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

Me & one of the 80 Gromits

So after checking into the hotel (we got an excellent last-minute deal on the Doubletree – we’re not that posh!) and a quick change later, me, Andy and Winnie hit the streets of Bristol with one aim – to find something to eat. We quickly stumbled across our first Gromit, which was just outside the hotel, before heading down to the Quayside where the whole of Bristol appeared to have gathered for a drink. I won’t get into it, but after waiting for rather a long time outside a well-known chain Italian restaurant and being ignored, we decided to spread our wings and explore further afield, which with Winnie behaving herself was not so much of an issue, or so I thought until we climbed the steepest hill in the world to get to Cafe Rouge.

On the way we spotted our first Banksy – hurrah! So a couple of pictures later and we kept

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

The first one!! SHOCK and RELIEF!!

climbing past the rows of nightclubs until we got to the restaurant, by which time we were both sweating buckets and gasping for a drink – you could say we had earned our dinner! (we went to Cafe Rouge because I had a voucher and all 101 of these adventures combined is not going to be cheap so best to scrimp and save where possible) It was a lovely – well the same as any other Cafe Rouge – restaurant, which had an amazing view of Bristol University, which we both mistakenly mistook for the Cathedral until we explored later that night. The only downside was the gang of over-excited and tipsy graduates who were squealing their heads off, singing old kid TV theme tunes, and kept shouting loudly in Spanish – which made me think they had been language students. By the time we left I had a very bad headache, but had enjoyed my first salad post surgery 🙂 and Andy had indulged in his  ‘never let him down’ dish of duck.

At the restaurant - we only had one drink each - i promise!

At the restaurant – we only had one drink each – i promise!

Even though both of us only had one drunk we were a little tipsy and exhausted and decided to call it a night (we’re WILD), but on the way back to the hotel we stumbled across a frozen yogurt take-out that was still open at 10PM WOW!! And it did lactose free frozen yogurt, we just couldn’t say no to that!!

Anyway the next day I might have had a little strop after not being able to find a Starbucks immediately to satisfy my morning coffee urges…and poor Andy had to put up with my having full-blown paddies as we traipsed up that bloody hill again to get a frapaccino in the now unbearable heat. I was a little happier when I’d got my coffee, I think the ice and the caffeine combined with a little bit of air conditioning really helped to cool my rapidly spiralling out of control totally over-the-top temper, so then we could get on with what we had come to see – the Banksy street art.

The only problem is, finding a Banksy in Bristol is like finding your keys when you’ve lost

Yep another one...nightmare to find

Yep another one…nightmare to find

them, you can’t find them when you want to, but you stumble across them unexpectedly when you’re no longer searching for them. We found that first one quite by chance, and the second one (the girl with the balloons) when we turned the corner after our meal. But after that it became much much more difficult. Traipsing through Bristol, up and down the steepest hills I have tried to tackle since my surgery in temperatures reaching 30c was not easy at all. We explored the roughest parts of the city, where drunk people gathered in the streets, and went up alleyways stinking of spray paint as Andy’s special Iphone ap directed us into possible drug dens in search of the best street art the city had to offer.

Three hours later, exhausted, sunburnt, dripping with sweat and feeling like I had just run a marathon with lead weights attached to the backs of my knees, I gave in and decided I simply couldn’t search any longer. My legs felt like they were going to give way from under me and I was sweating from places I didn’t know existed. As we collapsed in the park under the shade next to some teenagers who were smoking some very funky smelling weed, we took our shoes off and gulped down the water, before reflecting that despite the temperamental

WHOOP another Banksy

WHOOP another Banksy

iPhone ap we had done rather well (even if one of the Banksy’s had disappeared by the time we had trudged miles to get there (some idiot painted over it no doubt)), and had not only seen some of the most WOW street art in the UK but also ventured where few tourists had ever dared to venture before.

Winnie was surprisingly well-behaved the entire day. I think, like everything, in the heat she just gave up, decided there was no point and declared the day a stoma holiday! So we sat and had some free fruit in the park and enjoyed lapping in the Pride festival atmosphere. I had never been to Pride before and it was an incredible event to experience, with the hot weather and music blasting people where scattered all over the lawns and grassy embankments just kicking back, enjoying beer and basically enjoying life.

I had really wanted to watch blast-from-the-past boy band Blue, but as we joined the

Another Banksy - squee!

Another Banksy – squee!

packed crowds I realised not only was I not going to be able to see them but Winnie was likely to get crushed in the process. Now I like Blue’s music but not enough to end up with a dented stoma! Anyway my decision not to see them perform was sealed by the band not coming on stage at the correct time, we waited 20 minutes and then with the onset of heat exhaustion decided not to ruin an amazing day by ending up in a&e and decided to call it a day.

We made it back home to Andy’s country home at around 8.30pm after stopping for supplies, once home we grabbed showers, tucked into a

AMAZING ART

AMAZING ART

yummy tea, and passed out. I woke the next day to my muscles screaming like they had been put through one of those Iron-man challenges and spent the rest of the day walking like a Cowboy (people must have thought I had had far too much fun!). So due to my exhaustion we spent most of the day sunning ourselves in the garden, Winnie had a few moments, but after being well-behaved the day before I forgave her. I even treated her to giant toasted American marshmallows on the BBQ later that night – MMM the best medication EVER!!!

So if you’re looking for a good weekend of exploring and you love art, head to Bristol. It was nothing like what I expected…it was a fusion of the old with the new, the traditional with the modern, obscure and at times terrible and verging on vandalism graffiti. It was one of the best and most random weekend’s me and Andy have had, and the best me and Winnie have spent together. So give it a go – a word of advice though, don’t go during a heat wave and expect to get much done!

The giant marshmallows - such a treat MMMM

The giant marshmallows – such a treat MMMM

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

If you didn’t see it on yesterday’s post below is the slide show of pics of the trip to Bristol. ENJOY!!

 

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Overwhelmed by your acceptance


Before I tell you about mine & Winnie’s ‘big weekend of adventure’ searching for Banksy’s famous street art and almost collapsing in the weirdly sweltering heat while lost in Bristol (yes Andy, we were lost!!), I want to say a massive heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you!

Me & Winnie at Gay Pride in Bristol - just a little bit burnt

Me & Winnie at Gay Pride in Bristol – just a little bit burnt

Four days have passed since I revealed Winnie in all her naked glory to the world, and I have been bombarded with tweets, Facebook messages and comments from people all over the world thanking me for sharing her.

For years I dreaded the idea of having a stoma. In my mind the birth of Winnie meant I would have to live the rest of my life trying to hide the pink lump on my stomach, covering her up with baggy jumpers and bin-bag style shapeless outfits. I thought I would be living the rest of my life in shame. People would point and stare at the shape of my bulging ostomy bag under my clothes, and I would be labelled a freak, disgusting, minging or dirty.  I thought that it wouldn’t matter what I wore, where I went, what I tried to do with my life or who I tried to confide in, no one would ever look at me as a normal 25-year-old woman again (not that I have ever been normal #lol).

Hope you can read back to front

Hope you can read back to front

I guess I thought that once I had my operation I would just be that girl with the bag of poo on her stomach. I guess I believed that my stoma would define me, just as my Crohns had done in the past.

For example:

Last year I was out celebrating a friend’s birthday. We were having a lovely night, chatting, drinking wine and gossiping at her gorgeous flat before heading out on the town. I was feeling ill, but wanted to have fun and ended up talking to one of her friends (who was a medical professional) about my Crohns/Colitis. She seemed understanding, and asked all kinds of questions, which I happily answered. Everything was ok until a couple of glasses of wine later (I only had one or two, she might have had bottles), when we were dancing in a packed bar and she yelled ‘OY CROHNS’ across the dance floor at me.

Looking back I wish I had gone up to her and said something witty and cutting in response. If my friend had heard she probably would have slapped her in the face. But at the time I was totally shocked into silence. She had called me by the name of my illness..it was like I had been slapped in the face! Needless to say I headed home soon after the ‘incident’ and have never spoken to that rude and nasty individual again!!

So after all my years of worrying about the world not accepting my stoma – or even me coping with living with my stoma – words cannot describe how it has felt to receive so many messages of support from fellow IBD sufferers and ostomates from all over the world. I am honestly speechless (and if you know me that doesn’t happen often). I have been called an ‘inspiration’, ‘brave’, ‘positive’, ‘sunny’, and Winnie has been described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect’. I have never been one to take compliments easily, and I have certainly never been called an inspiration before, so I was shocked and overwhelmed as the comments came pouring in via twitter, and my voice even started to quiver with emotion as I read them out to Andy while he was driving us to Bristol for one of my more arty challenges. 

When the tweets came rushing in I was half expecting a flurry of negativity. I thought I was about to be bombarded with 140 characters of hate and disgust, telling me that I was ‘minging’, ‘revolting’ had a ‘penis on my stomach’ or ‘poop coming out of my side’. But instead I watched as you all embraced Winnie for all her naked, pink, slipperiness, and welcomed her into the world with a massive ‘hi, lovely to finally meet you’! I waited for a long time for that message of hate and, guess what, I’m still waiting!

There are no words

There are no words

I hope that showing you Winnie naked and revealing the bare truth about life with a stoma will help the world to understand what living with an ostomy is like. Your messages have truly touched me, and if just one person out there is able to see past their preconceptions about what life with a stoma is like; see past their crippling fear of living with an ostomy; or even gain a little understanding of what a life-changing operation this really is, then showing Winnie to the world will all have been worthwhile.

You have all made me feel so accepted, so welcome, and so natural. It has been a feeling that I have wanted for so long – don’t get me wrong many people in my life have accepted my Crohns and my ostomy, my family, friends and boyfriend have been amazing about it – but I have never felt this accepted for who I really am in my entire life. With Winnie I feel weller (i know its not a word) than I have ever done in my life – she makes me feel fitter, happier, freer, stronger and more independent than I could ever have imagined. But now I feel a part of something bigger, something tightly woven and strong. I feel like I have been given a massive pat on the back or hug from the world, told I am ok, and welcomed with open arms into a new world of understanding, acceptance and hope.

You guys and the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

You guys and the giant marshmallow have made me soooo happy

I may still come out of the toilet with my skirt tucked in the back of my knickers (happened at weekend and flashed special ostomy pants to everyone in Starbucks), she might make farting noises during meetings, meals and intimate moments, and I might still nap like an old lady in the middle of the day, but you have accepted me and my stoma without raising a disgusted eyebrow or questioning our cuts and chainsaw scars – and that’s more than I could ever have hoped or dared to dream of!

Anyway, because this is a little long I won’t tell you about me, Winnie & Andy’s big adventure in Bristol today, I will save that until tomorrow, but for now I will leave you with a taster of what’s to come….