I'm expanding my horizons, getting back into something that I did several years ago, then gave up because I couldn't make the step I'm making now. All sounds a bit cryptic? Yesterday I joined an Archery Club!
Anyone who reads my blog knows that Pre-CRPS I was fit, active and sporty. I played golf off a 5.6 handicap both at club level as well as representing Essex. I have at one time or another played Badminton, Tennis, Squash, Hockey, at Junior County and later Club level. When CRPS struck all that was taken away in an instant. It was devastating and one of the biggest blows that CRPS made to my life. I was desperate to find a sport that I could still do. The options weren't great, unsurprisingly, when you're stuck in a wheelchair with your legs elevated in front of you. In many ways it would have been so much better to be paralysed. That way I could just shove the legs out of the way and get on with life, work and sport. Just another cruel aspect of CRPS.
After lots of research Archery seemed a good punt. We found a Disabled Sports and Social Club nearby where I could go and try. After the first session I was hooked. Eric had a go as well so it became something that we could do together again. We were taught how to shoot, safety etc. and it wasn't too long before we headed to an equipment shop to be kitted out with our own bows. I also tried air rifle shooting at the same club but it wasn't a patch on archery! Over the next year or so we went along each week. Unfortunately numbers doing archery dried up, to the point that it was just us, and the coach stopped going as well. It was time to find an Archery Club!
Sadly this didn't go well. There weren't many near us but we took the plunge and went along to one. It was a disaster. I was the only one in a wheelchair, which wasn't the biggest problem. They shot to a whistle. One person steps forward, shoots their arrows, whistle goes, you swap to the person behind, they shoot, whistle goes again, everyone goes and gets their arrows. A great system for able bodied people but horrendous for someone who had to try and manoeuvre into position each time. They made no allowance for me being in a wheelchair, I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was horrible. Having been put off completely, we gave up and bought a target, stand and net for the garden and shot irregularly at home. Eric breaking his arm threw a huge spanner in the works, so that largely put paid for us shooting in the garden. To this day it hasn't healed and won't so he can't shoot anymore. I didn't like to ask him to get me set up to shoot because I didn't want him to have the hassle. He didn't mind but I did. So in the interim years I have done very little.
I've talked about me falling apart mentally in recent months in other posts. Speedway proved to be the buzz that helped me fight through that and come out the other side. I started to think about the off season, which runs from the end of October through to mid March. I go out even less during the winter as there is no speedway and have nothing to really look forward to. We go to Lakeside once every couple of weeks and have the occasional lunch at a local pub. Apart from that I'm stuck in my chair in the house. What is there to look forward to? Not a lot. I needed something else which would give me a buzz and something to look forward to? The obvious candidate was archery. But how to do it, with other people and on a (CRPS permitting) more regular basis? The answer of course was to dip my toe in the water again and try to find an archery club that would be supportive of disabled archers.
The power of Twitter has made this possible. I sent a tweet saying simply:
"Does anyone know of an archery club that accommodates wheelchair archers in (my area)? Please RT"
I watched as it was retweeted time after time after time. Within 10 minutes I had several people from all over the country recommending my next course of action, or clubs that were in my vicinity. I am now in touch with a Paralympic archer about to take part in London 2012. Simply by sending out that rather innocuous looking text. Amazing! It was great to be reassured that archery clubs are friendly places and that my situation wouldn't be a barrier. Within 24 hours I was in contact with an archery club that sounded absolutely ideal. I went to their Open Day yesterday, and signed up before I left. I have found my ideal club! Exciting times!!
There are so many pluses. You can shoot 364 days of the year because the club owns the land. Ideal because I'm not tied to a specific time or day, I can choose to go when I feel up to it. I won't be able to go very regularly because of the inevitable punishment, but to be able to go at any time is brilliant. Of course there is the social side of things as well, which will be a real bonus as I'm stuck in the house most of the time. We can park the car at the back of the field to improve access. To be honest the car park is right next to the field, but it's a bonus. In the winter I can shoot on Friday evenings. They immediately let me have my own target despite the fact that lots of people were trying out Archery. The same will happen indoors meaning I can stay put once I'm in place ready to shoot. Disabled toilets at both venues, indeed both sites are totally wheelchair friendly. The people were so friendly and welcoming. Being in a wheelchair didn't matter. Indeed when I was introduced to the Chairman it was me who mentioned my legs being up being unusual. His response was 'Is it?'. If further proof was needed that this was the ideal club for me, that was it. Wheelchair, what wheelchair?