ParkyBoy goes on holiday

I lost my phone on arrival at Leeds train station. At first sight it may look unfair to blame ParkyBoy, but I interrogated him and he admitted to playing a small, but decisive role in the incident. But first some context. 

Kerry and I had to be at Leeds train station at 2am, to get to Manchester Airport. We were very conscious that we would be taking ParkyBoy with us, the first time that he’d be travelling since becoming mature (or immature) enough to really influence our experience. So, how did ParkyBoy use that newly gained power? And how did we cope with him?

Ferry, marked 'Gozo Channel', in blue water with a small fortress on land in the background.

Kerry and I had been so keen on going to Chile – intended as a big trip while I was able to do it – that we’d booked three years in a row! Each one, of course, was cancelled. It had been one of my important things to look forward to, but we decided to let it go; the only one of those things to look forward to that I didn’t do. We chose instead to go on a much shorter walking holiday in Gozo and Malta, where neither of us had been before.

I don’t know about you, but 2am is not often my best time. I needn’t have worried about whether a taxi would turn up, as the local firm’s fully automated system provided two, simultaneously, resulting in a series of automated texts while I was in the car, including as we arrived. This is where ParkyBoy comes in. My phone was in the breast pocket of a fleece, which was under a jacket. My fingers struggled to separate the layers of fabric, as I started to get out of the taxi. I ‘missed’ the pocket, but It was only when sat in the station that I realised. When Kerry arrived and asked “Have you phoned them?”, she got an appropriately withering look back.

After such a bad start I was a bit stressed, which the mischievous ParkyBoy delighted in. I’ve always hated the feeling of being processed, and definitely struggle more with the visual and mental demands of going through an airport than I used to. My fingers resisted opening and closing zips and fasteners to take things in and out of bags, I couldn’t get my passport to scan, and I left my wallet in my pocket before going through the metal detector. My answer to all this is to slow down, and go at the pace I need to. It’s fine. It reminded me, while enjoying leaving the UK again after so long, what horrible, inaccessible places airports are.

Getting things in and out of bags became a bit of a theme for me. Whether it was my large rucksack, or small day pack, I found that I couldn’t open it, take out a bar or a waterproof, and close it again, without first putting it down on a raised surface such as a bench or low wall. This is fairly trivial – just another thing that slows everything down, whether at an airport or walking along a beach. I’ve been a contented backpacker since my late teens, but it might be time to turn to wheeled luggage.

One of my great, revitalising pleasures in life has always been to swim in rivers and seas. I  plunged happily into the blue lagoon on a trip to the small island of Comino. My body was instantly shocked and I almost got straight out, before remembering that this was normal and it would get better. It did…a little… and I loved it! But a bit later I got severely shaky, shivering on the boat ride back to Gozo.The temperature in Gozo and Malta was a few degrees lower than we hoped. I didn’t go in the water again, and got very cold on a couple of evenings.

We had a week’s pass to use the excellent local buses which on day two we used to go to the island’s vibrant capital Victoria (Rabat). The bus was packed with locals and I started off standing, holding on to a vertical pillar, in the way I’ve done so often. It rattled along. At the first bend I swayed gently, and swayed gently back. At the second bend, I swayed, but this time the sway continued. I was still gripping the pole but realised there was nothing I could do to stop the sway. Everything went into slow motion, with the result inevitable. I ended up sitting, happily (for me!) on something very soft. I had landed slap bang on the lap of a young Gozitana, who was really quite flattered. (No! That’s a typo – there should be an ‘n’ not an ‘r’.) The man next to her (us!) immediately gave up his seat for me, which meant that I was sat next to the poor young woman for the rest of the journey.

I don’t think this counts as a fall. It feels different. But I do think it probably relates to lack of strength in my tremor hand and upper body, and to my balance. It’s certainly not something that had ever happened to me before. (And probably not to the young Gozitana either!)

One of the pleasures of travelling is so often the food. Maltese cuisine is strongly Italian – particularly Sicilian – influenced (not a bad start!). There was a wide range of seafood, meat, vegetables and pasta. My favourite dish was a simple rabbit ragu. But sometimes it felt like ParkyBoy was jumping and playing on my arm while I was eating, making the whole experience frustrating and…deflating. 

I was also very tired, usually late in a walk. Not unusual. But we were only doing 10-12 km a day, or urban walks, with nothing that could possibly call itself a mountain. 

Harbour with two small rowing boats in the foreground, and numerous very old buildings rising on a hill in the background.

I’ve focused here on the difficulties, but we had a lovely holiday. The food, landscapes, people, architecture, flowers and history of Malta were all so stimulating. And for me and Kerry so was the language. As we started to tune into it we heard mostly Arabic, but interspersed with clearly French- and Italian-sounding vocabulary. Fascinating! 

There’s no doubt that ParkyBoy influenced how I felt about this holiday: I was, at various times, cold, tired, slow, anxious, dangerous (to local bus users) and phoneless. Did this ruin my holiday? No. I really enjoyed being out in the fresh air walking, seeing the beautiful limestone buildings, eating the local food and feeling a different culture around me. In that sense nothing’s changed. It reinforces once more the need to keep doing new and stimulating things. For me that includes travelling. 

Tips for travelling with Parkinson’s

I was just about to write this blog when my Twitter/Parky friend @djclairemj tweeted this:

Claire Marie Jones
Any advice for going on a holiday? I’ve forgotten how…
how do you break from your routine when routine is what keeps you going??
Answers helpful. Will read out your tips!

So I offer these tips:

  1. Choose luggage that you can cope with – this may have changed
  2. Aim to go at the pace that you need, especially when navigating transport hubs – because only you know
  3. Control anxiety and stress as much as you can by having everything you need very accessible. This may include Covid pass and locator form, which we’re not used to carrying  
  4. Take a few days more medication with you than you need – just in case
  5. If you’re flying, take a few days medication in your hand luggage (with, of course, toothbrush and knickers) – just in case
  6. Carry on enjoying enjoying travelling

What are your top tips for travelling with Parkinson’s?

5 thoughts on “ParkyBoy goes on holiday

  1. Great to hear you’re getting out and about, Rob ! Sorry to hear of all the problems – but its a great description – good you can look back and smile now ? ! Mike

    Liked by 1 person

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