After our rather difficult summer, my friend Mary and I felt we needed a complete change of scene. We settled on Exmouth as a place she knew well and somewhere where there would be level walking to enable ease of wheelchair locomotion.

I was quite nervous about travelling by train with a wheelchair, walking frame and luggage but my sister and brother-in-law came to our rescue and enabled us to hire a car and driver to take us there and back door-to-door. So, off we set.

The flat was on the ground floor of a Victorian villa. The rooms were large, with high ceilings, and in the lounge we had a beautiful fireplace, complete with carved decoration. I do love  a tactile fireplace!

We had obviously done a good deed or two somewhere along the line because we were blessed with amazing weather for September. The sun shone warm and bright and the day after we arrived we went on our first boat excursion. This was along the river Exe and we were entertained with a commentary on the wildlife, local places of interest and how expensive buying a flat in the area is. One had recently sold for over  a million pounds. They wheeled me onto the boat in my chair and parked us at the front. I drank red wine and Mary ate an ice-cream. (She said that she didn’t want to be found driving a wheelchair whilst under the influence of alcohol.) We agreed that we were living the good life.

Later we sat on the seafront just listening to the sea and reading our books.

The next day we explored the town, treating ourselves to coffee and cake. This was the beginning of our unhealthy eating plan which we kept up, I’m pleased to say, for the whole week.

Which is not to say that we didn’t have our occasional failures.

We were sure we had seen somewhere that a local eatery served ice-cream sundaes. We walked (well, I didn’t!) around the town and along the seafront but could not find this elusive establishment. Mary even nipped back into the flat to check the visitor information but, no, there was nothing there about ice-cream sundaes. So we kept on looking.

Eventually we found a sign advertising ice-cream sundaes on a shop near the flat which was probably what we had originally seen. But it was out of date, a false prophet of illusory frozen dessert delights which in reality were no longer available. Further enquiries confirmed that there wasn’t anywhere in town that actually served ice-cream sundaes. I found this amazing. There was plenty of gorgeous full-cream Devon ice-cream for sale, however, so that day we “made do” with a cone each. Now we are back in Swindon, however, we will have to make up for this holiday disappointment by ordering something suitably calorific from our local branch of Kaspa’s.

We hadn’t been resident in Exmouth for long before we met our upstairs neighbour. He was a retired army captain who had been living in Spain but who had returned to England on the death of his wife so as to be near his children. He was delighted to find people to talk to and accompanied us into town, telling us where the best bakeries, coffee shops and pubs were and warning us about the expensive restaurants. He seemed to know the names of most of the counter staff in these establishments and told us, wherever we went to eat, to say that Richard had sent us.

He was keen to help on a practical level too and kept strolling into the middle of the road and holding his hand up to stop the traffic for us. Generally, Devon drivers had already proven sympathetic to wheelchair users, but it was great to be treated like VIPs!

Later in the week he twisted his knee and Mary was able to repay some of his kindness by doing some shopping for him.

We had other adventures, too, during our stay in Exmouth, but I’ll tell you about those in next week’s blog.