Cycling and petting for the disabled

Don’t worry – it’s not that kind of blog, at least not yet, I will explain…….

Today I cycled into town. Before you get excited about this and start sending me information on Lycra and padded shorts and nutritional supplements to help me rehydrate/revitalise/recarb or reload protein or whatever you’re supposed to do; I am not about to threaten any government recommendations for getting fit just yet. Twice in a week is probably the most cycling I will ever manage and I can hardly lay claim to an energetic cycling style. In fact I suspect psyching myself up to do it burns almost as many calories as the cycling itself, and this is my main issue with exercise. Realising at half past midday that I hadn’t got any tuna for supper despite promising to do this, and having fully psyched myself to the max, I had to get a very quick lunch out of the fridge to give me enough time to cycle to and from town (and be back at the school gates, of course at 3:15 for the obligatory cake sale). I am sure this weekly extraction of money will pop up again in future posts, I digress. As my middle son is away on a school trip I realised I could could eat his carton of covent garden pea and ham soup (other liquidised green goo is available) and replace it before he got back. A whole carton – don’t pretend that half a carton is a serving, Covent Garden – has 270 calories. It’s positively skinny. So, how many calories do you burn cycling 10 km in total into and out of town along a very flat canal path? Well, mapmyride has 58 different bike ride options to select from when calculating this pressing issue, and thank god one of them is “hybrid cycling – shopping/errands”. It’s almost like they knew I was headed for Waitrose. Total estimated calories burned for a woman of a certain age (44) and weight is 329. I haven’t done the maths yet, but I’m pretty sure the white and milk chocolate chip brownie I ate as a result of being starving when I got home had slightly more than 59 calories in it. According to another site I found, if I keep up this level of cycling, (presumably without the brownies) I could get my BMI down by a couple of units into a more healthy zone in only one year. One year! I’m going to struggle to do this for more than one week. I’m not going to visit that site again.

So, once in town, I was intrigued to see a man outside Waitrose, standing by a Shetland pony shouting, “for local disabled kids”. Now, I wondered whether he had astutely realised (or read the metro on many occasions) that most people don’t give a monkey for disabled kids close to them, never mind ones far away; OR, that unless your disabled kid needed to be carried literally just round the corner and back, the pony wasn’t going to make it with those tiny legs. As a fully able person, the last time I tried to get on a Shetland pony as young (tall) girl, I half mounted, half stepped over it. The result was crumpled girl on the ground on the other side of a Shetland pony.


It turns out that this is a petting pony for disabled kids. Again, I have issues with this. Simply because you can raise money for something, stood next to a shrunken, fuzzy pet, it does not mean you should. Alternatively, at least work out what you are going to do with the money first. In reverse date order, my youngest disabled son has petted the following three animals in as many weeks:

1. Very flat, dead frog, found just outside the house. Begged me to take it home after showing it to all his friends at school and the teacher refused to keep its fragrant body in the classroom.

2. Slow worm in the garden: awepic (cross between awesome and epic). Conversation followed for hours about how much of a slow worm, or normal worm for that matter, you could cut off its owner before you got one or even possibly two slow worms to grow back.

3. A hissing cockroach at the zoo on the basis that it would probably feel nice, but in fact felt stickily and hissed (go figure).

My middle son, also disabled, pets our cat but drew the line at the hissing cockroach. He was probably hiding his disappointment that we had turned up hoping to see a scorpion and he was still waiting for an answer as to why snake skins, when shed, are not as colourful as the snakes they came from. Perhaps my sons have the wrong kind of disability for petting Shetland ponies? Perhaps you have to be wheelchair bound to feel a warm fuzzy glow from a warm fuzzy pony and have your world improved beyond measure for a brief moment. Now I know Shetland ponies are not the most expensive of horses to own (who’d have guessed? What did we do before Google), but I wonder how much net worth Mr shouty Shetland got for the kids today. He felt obliged to give me a sticker for capturing the photo above which I wore with pride, but this too must eat into some pretty meagre margins.

I can’t help thinking that Mr shouty Shetland could have spent the time helping every other disabled person I know fill out the appeal form for having their Disability Living Allowance benefit turned down, a lengthy process that takes 11 weeks for the Department of Works and Pensions simply to read your letter. Perhaps there’s something we don’t know about the reading age of DWP employees. It’s a great way of lowering the benefit budget, how long will it take to do something after they’ve read it I wonder? Anyway, helping with DLA admin may have been of some practical benefit, rather than roasting the poor animal in the sun for a few hours.

After all that I did check with my youngest son on the merits of petting a Shetland pony. It would be great he said, “better than a hissing cockroach”.


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