The Great Outdoors

A couple of weeks ago I realised with some alarm that I still have twenty days annual leave to use up by the end of March. I’ve been putting it off because when I’m not at work I don’t have access to the same level of support.

I only get funding for my Access to Work support worker when I’m at work. At all other times I have to fund my care from the personal budget I get from my local Council. My social worker’s made sure I’ve got some provision for when I’m not at work, but this allowance covers just under half the number of annual leave days I’m entitled to, and in addition it’s expected to cover me for when I’m off sick, and for Bank Holidays. Last year a lot of this care allowance got used up when I was off work a lot with tonsillitis.

But, with what remains of my allowance and the goodwill of friends, I’ve made a plan for using up my leave over the next few weeks. I’ll be taking a couple of days off each week, and my boss is also allowing me to carry some days over into the next leave-year. Today’s been my first day off.

Leftwing Idiot and I had a leisurely lunch and went into town to look at walking and snowboarding boots. Regular readers, and those who know me, might be a little puzzled as to why I’d be interested in boots of this sort because my mobility is pretty poor and it’s evident I wouldn’t have a great deal of success with rambling or snowboarding. But I’ve been wondering whether rigid boots designed for outdoor pursuits might help me in my day-to-day life.

I already have the NHS boots provided by my orthotics team to try and limit how much my ankle tics interfere with how I walk, and although these work quite well, I thought an even firmer boot might be worth a try. I’d had a look online and seen a few possible options, and my day off seemed like a good opportunity to check them out in person.

This meant visiting a lot of outdoor-sports shops some had first-rate accessibility, others were poor, and a couple I couldn’t get into at all. I waited outside one shop while Leftwing Idiot went in to see if they had anything suitable and whether it was worth me struggling in.

As it turned out the shop in question was worth going in because they had loads of promising boots. Once inside, the staff couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful. A knowledgeable sales assistant helped me try on a range of snowboarding boots. Her helpfulness stopped me feeling awkward that I had no intention of taking them anywhere near actual snow, on a board or anything else.

Snowboarding boots are big but firm, made with a soft inner lining with a thick, inflexible outer shell. When I was wearing them my ankles were kept very still, giving me a more stable base and taking away my constant worry that I’m moments away from a nasty ankle injury.

But however immobile my ankles are, these boots are not going to solve all my walking difficulties. No boots can stop me dropping to the floor every few steps because of the tics in my knees. Even so, I felt my walking was much better with the boots on.

What I need to think about is whether they improve my walking enough to justify buying a pair– they’re far from cheap. I’ve decided to mull it over for a few days and perhaps go back and try them on again soon.

If I did get the boots I’d wear them to work and aim to walk about more in the relatively safe spaces there. This could work well, increasing my activity levels and helping me keep fit. I’ll let you know how I get on if I do decide to give them a go, one step at a time.

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