Steam trains, dogs, children and helping friends - a good week

Even the least perceptive of readers might have detected a certain melancholy tone to my posts over the last couple of weeks; a feeling that the ups and downs of stroke-survivor life were getting to even this most hardy of bloggers.

And yes, they'd be right; the mental challenges were manifesting themselves in physical difficulties - more fatigue, more headaches, more balance problems, all of the things that rear their heads when I'm on a low.

So let's start by saying that there won't be any of that here this week. Instead, there will be talk of steam trains, dogs, children (good and bad....), good friends and helping people who are in stressful situations.

Let's start with the latter. A month or so ago, I enjoyed a night out with some friends I hadn't seen for 30 years. In the course of the evening, someone mentioned to a mutual friend that their father had recently suffered a stroke and was struggling in the aftermath, for a variety of reasons - and the family was struggling under the pressure of being expected to provide the sort of care that the NHS cannot/will not.

My name was mentioned as being someone who could provide some support and perspective, as a survivor who has been in that situation and, in many ways, still is.

That resulted in a 45-minute conversation on Monday evening which opened my eyes as to how things have worsened in the years since my stroke, but I hope gave my friend a glimpse of light and a feeling of support. Too often, stroke survivors and their families are left to fend for themselves without that support - if I can help in some small way, that makes me happy.

Tuesday was where the dogs came in. Seeing our own dog running around a pub garden, playing with dogs ten times his size and gnawing excitedly on a bone, whilst Mrs Warrior and I had lunch with my stepmother was enough to lift the spirits. Attending a networking event that evening and meeting a dog who is having chemotherapy treatment for leishmaniasis (Google it; it's not nice) did so even more. The animal in question has lost much of his hair due to chemotherapy but given that many vets put dogs with this condition to sleep, he is lucky to be alive. Maybe we have a shared outlook on life.....

And then there were children. So many, in fact, that they had their own table to the side of the meeting room. They were immaculately behaved (my kind of children, lol) and one even introduced herself to the meeting, something which can be daunting to experienced networkers. All in all, a lovely day.   

The Severn Valley Railway (svr.co.uk) always raises my spirits. A heritage railway running steam trains from Kidderminster, where I was born, to the lovely riverside town of Bridgnorth and back, it is definitely worth a visit. Views of rolling English countryside, stops at spectacular village stations and a great pub in the King and Castle on Kidderminster station; not even screaming children running up and down the carriages could ruin my morning.

The fact that I was doing it in the company of fellow members of a local stroke-survivors group on Wednesday only lifted my mood; Being with these people always does. Many are afflicted in worse and different ways to me, a fact brought home when we stopped for lunch at a country pub after our train excursion.

Often, stroke survivors have varying degrees of blindness and it is fairly common for people to lose their peripheral vision - they can see what's straight in front of them, but not to the side. I've heard of it but not until this week have I seen what it really means to try to eat with no peripheral vision. Put your hands up so that you can only see directly ahead; now try to eat a plate of food . That's what it means. That's why I'm not the only Warrior around here.

Yes, it took nearly four hours to do the 60-mile journey home due to traffic delays; yes, I could barely walk when we got off the coach because my legs were so stiff, but the whole day was an exercise in enjoying myself, something that has been too absent lately.

I'm in north Wales next week, giving a talk on stroke-awareness. It will be an arduous trip, but I'm looking forward to it. And I will remember this as one of the good weeks. Maybe I'll have another one next week.