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Engaging with the National Trust

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The mood lifting slightly – in Ascott House grounds

It was my Birthday last week, which made Ellen extremely grumpy.  She is very fond of her own Birthday and buying presents for other people but she has no interest whatsoever in celebrating anyone else’s day.  My ‘Good morning, it’s my Birthday!’ received the predictable response of  ‘get out!’

We took a trip to one of our local National Trust houses to walk off lunch and try and improve her mood.  Ellen is usually a big fan of visiting such places, I think I’ve mentioned before how much she enjoys telling us which chairs you can and can’t sit on (mostly with NT it’s ‘can’t’ but their various ways of depicting this fascinates Ellen).

It didn’t start well as Ellen refused to get out of the car.  We then realised that her ‘carer card’ had expired, but luckily it was a quiet day and after explanation the staff let us take in a carer (her sister) but we were informed we needed to phone up for another carer card as soon as possible.  Boringly, for Ellen, almost all the chairs at Ascott House can be sat on, there was no quiz and I got told off for taking photos.  Richard took a work phone call and paced around outside for a while before making the fatal mistake of talking to one of the NT volunteers and becoming gripped – Ellen and I decided to make a swift exit and explore the grounds.

It was at least a beautiful day and one of the horses obligingly did a huge wee right in front of us, which cheered Ellen up immensely and she even let me take a photo of her.

A few days later I phoned the NT to get Ellen’s new carer card.  It’s a very strange system they have for disabled members.  They send a new membership card on renewal, but to enter with a carer requires an additional, rather flimsy card, which needs renewing every year, but which is not sent out automatically.

‘I explained what I wanted.

‘Can we speak to Ellen?’ the advisor asked.

‘No, a) she’s not here and b) she doesn’t talk on the phone.’ I replied.

‘Ah’ a pause.  ‘It’s a matter of data protection you see’ the man continued.

I take a deep breath.  ‘Look’, I say, ‘she has autism and learning difficulties and she doesn’t talk on the phone, and even if she did, she’d just say “yes” or “go way” to everything you ask.’

To his credit, after disappearing for several minutes to consult with his manager, the man ‘did things another way’ and eventually said the card would be dispatched in 14 days.

‘It’s not a very good system, is it?’  I suggested.

‘I can pass your comments on to the appropriate team’ he replied.

I had the terrible deja vu sense of a black hole opening up before me.

‘That would be lovely’ I exclaimed, after all, the post-birthday glow had not completely left me.  ‘Speak to you again next year!’