Archive for September 26, 2017

Whats Red and White ? …. Oh wait, this isn’t a joke!

Would you know what a red and white cane meant?

Would you know what a guide dog in a dark brown harness meant?

Would you know what a guide dog with a red and white check pattern on their harness meant?

Im going to assume (just for the purpose of this blog) that you don’t !

Lets start the wrong way around.

A guide dog a dark brown harness?

This is a guide dog that is still undergoing training, it has not yet qualified to guide a person with a sight impairment.  A guide dog only gets it WHITE harness when it has passed all of the training needed to guide someone who has a visual impairment.

A red and white cane?

This is a long cane for a person with both a sight and hearing impairment.  Clearly the cane itself works to inform the person using it of obstacles, steps, and such that a white cane would.  The red is there purely to symbolise a hearing impairment.  Sadly it is not a clever cane that can assist its user with hearing.  But it can notify those around the user that they have a hearing impairment and may not be able to understand you clearly.

This does not mean you need to shout at them.  It just means that the person with the cane may need more time and a little patience to understand your conversation.

But would you know this?

How do ‘Joe Public’ know these things?

Aparently the bit about the red and white cane is in the Highway Code.  Having never been able to drive, I can’t confirm this; I do however assume that the Highway Code is the sort of book you look trough and possible even read when studying to learn to drive, but soon put down and forget once you have your license?

There is now even more confusion over what colour cane means what after several manufacturers now offer the option of choosing the colour of your can, say pink, green, blue or even multicoloured.

Is it any wonder people (Joe Public) are confused?

So, imagine a guide dog with a red and white check pattern on their harness?  Do you know what that means?

As with a red and white striped cane, this is to signify that the owner of the guide dog has an additional hearing impairment.  This does not mean (in most cases) that the dog is dual trained.

In the UK there are several guide dog partnerships where the dog is trained to assist a wheelchair user (the role of a canine partner) in addition to its girding duties and for which it has to undergo additional training.

There is also ONE working partnership in the UK where the guide dog has blue and white checks on her harness.  This is Hetty, (you may have seen her featured on SuperVet) in addition to being a guide dog, she is trained as a seizure alert dog, spending all her time with her owner, sleeping in the same room and all in addition to her guiding work.

I guess my point of writing this post is to help improve awareness.

Especiially now as my guide dog Fizz has been issued with her own red and white check flash to go on the front of her harness.  I will continue in my role as a speaker for guide dogs to inform all those I talk to of the meaning of her harness and hope that in time, public awareness and understanding will mean that this colour combination is a clear,y understood as that of the ‘typical’ guide dog yellow harness.

 

The Weekend that almost wasn’t

Those of you who have been following me for some time will know one of my mantra to life is:

Have dog, will travel.

And with this mantra in place and a connection made through the power of Facebook, when a fun social event that would be followed up by an information and tech based learning event popped up; I found myself booking a hotel and myself for an evening with an Amy Whinehouse Tribute act.

The Facebook connection was that with the talented Molly, The founder and inspirational woman behind The Molly Watt Trust, along with the younger company of Molly Watt Ltd.

With my (relitively) recent hearing loss, I had used my ability to connect through Facebook to link with groups that supported those known as ‘deafblind’.

Having made contact with Molly at the beginning of my blogger journey, along with having a guide dog connection with her I had taken more of an interest in the work of The Molly Watt Trust and found myself naturally drawn toward them with my increasing issues around my sight and hearing loss.

So, when this weekend came up to join in on a ‘social’ and learning based opportuity arrived.  I jumped at it.

THE PLANNING COMMENCED……

What type of journey would it take to get from my own home town to Maidenhead?

And from the station to the hotel?

The hotel that was hosting the dinner on the Friday and the Ushers day on the Saturday was on hotels.com, so I booked my room and set about not having to worry about travelling between venues.

The price was right and would save me additional travel; it was all falling into place …..

……. Or so I thought!

I was looking forward to the event and had everything in place, so now it was just a case of picking which shoes to pack to go with my dress.

After all, not having to go out of the hotel other than to allow Fizz to spend meant I could pack the hot pink heels without the worry of walking any great distance in them.  Not because I can’t walk in heels.  Rather I prefer to be in flat comfortable trainers if I am walking in an area I am not aware of, or in the dark, where I find more difficulty than I do if it were daylight.

Come September 15th my case was packed, my train ticket was collected and off with Fizz, we were on our way.

And then came the first of our hurdles…… Reading Railway Station!

This station is something from a futuristic movie; a large metallic, vast and somewhat oversized pedestrian gangway, which is accessed via long escalators (and multipul lifts) to enable you to walk safely away from the trains to any one of the stations many many platforms.

Yet without a clear indicator as to which train leaves from which platform.  And more importantly because I am well aware I may have missed the obvious large screens giving this information I need I couldn’t find any members of staff!

I only managed to find staff on the actual platforms as and when a train arrived.  Not ideal, as some of the staff I found actually arrived and were set to depart with the train….. So couldn’t direct me around the station.

It was ok though, I wasn’t going to let this get to me, I had managed to find Starbucks on my travels around the station, so when I found the platform and train I needed it was time to grab a nice coffee for me and a bowl of water for Fizz while we waited.

We (Fizz and I) arrived at Maidenhead and out came Google Maps.

It was at this point I realised my error.

The Thames Riviera Hotel (where the dinner and information day were occurring) was not The Thames Hotel I had in fact booked my room for the night!

They were so very close, just a short 5 minute walk along The Thames between the two, yet they were very different hotels.

This was when panic started to kick in.

How could I have made such a simple mistake?

How had I got it SO wrong?

A quick message in a Facebook group about the event and I was calmed.  I could do this.  I am a grown woman; who just happens to have an eye condition and hearing condition that may make life a little more of a challenge at times.

But I am strong and independent.  Who just happened to have a blip.  That was all it was…. a simple blip.  I had come so far, the hotel was already paid for, it would be silly to turn around and go home now……. Right?

So, as I said before.  On went Google Maps and off I went.

With hearing aids in place, I had to rely on holding my phone to hear the directions, while trying to keep out of the bright sunshine to roughly follow the blue line.

I didn’t even realise my first error with this.

Maidenhead Railway Station has 2 exits.  And I found myself leaving via the small, unassuming exit.

The second error came when I misheard a direction.

While walking alongside busy traffic I was sure the direction had been to walk forward.  Sadly, it hadn’t.  It had been to turn right.  And by the time I had realised my error, in true Google Maps programming, my route had been recalculated.

A walk that saw me walking along an almost non-existent path beside a dual-carriageway.  Walking into a multi story car park attached to a local Sainsburys store to find a foot bridge to cross the aforementioned carriageway.

A footbridge that landed me by a leisure centre and bowling alley just as the rain started to get heavy.

I bit the bullet, I went into the bowling alley and collected the telephone number for a local taxi.  Upon calling the firm, I explained my location and where I wanted to go, no problem a car could be with me within a few minutes.  So I kindly mention I have my guide dog travelling with me; that was when suddenly a car would not be available for almost forty minutes.

So, I gave up on the idea of a taxi and returned to my trusted phone and four-pawed companion to find the hotel.

This was a journey that took us another twenty-five minutes and a desperate plea to my best friend for help and linking my location on Google Maps to his Google Maps; and an hour after we had left to station to walk the seventeen minutes to the hotel, we arrived.

Both Fizz and I were damp (actually that was an understatement)

The doorman at the hotel instantly took control.

He collected my case and walked us to our room.

He commented on my damp dog (which I instantly apologised for), which he would hear nothing about.  He left us for only a few moments, before returning with an armful of towels.  He explained that these towels were clean, yet had lost their crisp white finish, so were no longer used for the guests……. But would be absolutely perfect to rub down my soggy dog with and give her a comfortable soft bed to dry off on.

This was too much, I managed to thank him before closing the door and collapsing in tears on the floor.  The anxiety of the day was taking its toll. But with a nudge from Fizz (I like to think as her ways of asking if I was ok.) I realised it was all going to be alright.

A conversation with my best friend put my mind at ease regards the hotel I was staying at and the hotel I was set to attend for dinner.  A dinner for which I was going to wear hot pink heels, that I would not feel comfortable walking outside (For the reasons I mentioned above)

What was stopping me wearing my trainers on the walk, with my ‘pretty shoes’ in my bag?  The answer….. Nothing.

This time, I not only looked on Google Maps for the direction, but I used Google Street View to actually walk the route virtually between the two hotels, a very straight five minute walk along the river, passing a park (perfect for spending Fizz) before crossing a large road to get to the hotel.

This time (although I would be walking in ‘twilight’) I was not leaving anything to chance!  Although, I did feel like I was taking my and Fizz’s life in my hands by crossing the road infront of the hotel, a road that was also one of the large bridges across The Thames River.

The rest of the evening passed with a blur of fun, entertainment and enjoyment, of putting faces to names and adding new friends into my life to enrich it.

I did wear my trainers for the walk; quickly changing upon arriving at the RIGHT hotel!  Switching them out again before leaving at the end of the evening.  One of the benefits of going to an event with others who have sight issues, is that such incidents are easier to hide.

I returned to my hotel, for a very comfortable and refreshing sleep, ready to return after breakfast for the chance to chat, chance to learn and more importantly, chance to find support and similarities with others going through their sight and hearing loss journey.

…………………………..

The walk The Riviera Hotel to the railway station was minus the difficulties of the previous day.  I even found the point where I had taken the wrong turn.  The turn that had caused so much anxiety.

Although the train journey home wasn’t without an interesting twist either!  That I found easier to write about at the time and you can read about it in  The day we caught the train

So, for the weekend that could have easily found me returning home, I discovered just how, as a strong independent (somewhat stubborn) woman, I am also human.  I make mistakes, but I also learned I am not to be so hard on myself.

This weekend did do one thing for me; it confirmed that I had to find a way of being able to channel my phone directly to my ears (as if I were able to wear headphones again)  I am still £4,000 away from the ‘ideal’ ReSound hearing aids I am fundraising for.  But there has to be an interim answer, isn’t there?

 

 

,

The day we caught the train

Hang on, isn’t that the title to an Ocean Colour Scene song?

Well, for me and Fizz it was a journey home from a fantastic conference and social; with The Molly Watt Trust which saw us take a rather different diversion to one I would have expected.

Friday 15th September saw a terror attack on a London tube train at Parsons Green in South West London.  One that yet again reminded us as a country that there are those among us who wish to hurt, mame and distroy the lives of innocent people.

This was a reminder that being vigilant and staying safe (especially when travelling) was very important.  It was why I had questioned if I should travel to the event this weekend in Maidenhead.

But I decided Maidenhead was far enough away from London not to allow it to affect my plans.  I had planned and double checked all of my travel arrangements and the walk from the station to the hotel several times over (nothing different in that, I do it each time)

So, Fizz and I packed our case and off we went.  The train journey saw us change at Reading.  A station that has undergone lots of work to give it one central walkway, which is up above the train platforms and access is gained to the platforms by escalators and lifts.  The central concorse is home to shops and a verse open space.

This gave to it a very ’empty’ feel.   It also made it hard for me to find assistance to help me negotiate to the correct platform to travel from Reading onto Maidenhead.  So having finally found assistance, we were able to continue with our journey.

It was at this point the staff member that helped us let me know that for the weekend most of Reading railway station would be closed for routine work, with buses replacing trains.

That wasn’t an issue, it would simply just delay or trip home.  Not one I was concerned about.

Well, returning to Maidenhead railway station on Saturday saw me and Fizz greated by friendly GWR train staff,  they asked me where I was heading and gave me a diversion that I was not expecting.

Given the bus replacement services, I could get a bus to Reading, where I would then transfer to another bus and travel onto Basingstoke.  Where I would then get a train to Southampton before the final leg of the journey on a train to fareham.

Or……..

I could go to London!

A direct train would see us arrive at London Paddington in just over half an hour.  Where we could get a tube on the Bakerloo lint to Oxford Circus before transferring to the Victoria Line Tube, to London Victoria from where I would be able to get a direct train to Fareham.

Given the events of Friday in London I was anxious, but at the thought of saving over an hour on the journey home, I had to put my anxieties to one side and just go with it and know, that if anything given Fridays’ incident, people would be more alert and hopefully helpful.

We soon arrived at London Paddington, not long had I stepped off the train with Fizz and stood to the side to gain my bearings than i was approached by a Policeman.  He introduced himself to me, explained who he was and asked me how he could help.

I explained  I was trying to get to the tube station to get across London, so he took me to a member of staff who worked for transport for London (TfL) who kindly walked me and Fizz through the crowds and straight to the right tube train.  He put us in the front carriage and radio’d through to a colleague at Oxford Circus.

And sure enough a lovely TfL staff member was waiting for me and Fizz.  She walked us through to the Victoria Line, where again she placed me and Fizz in the front carriage and radio’d ahead.

All of these journey’s were taking place late afternoon early evening on a Saturday, a day that is by its very nature a busy day.  But everyone I came into contact with was chatty, friendly and happy to offer help.

Maybe it was because of Friday’s attack, but everyone in London and especially on the Tube on Saturday seemed to be much more ‘together’ much less rushed and more friendly to those around them that weren’t ‘natives’ to this vast city.

Arriving at Victoria tube station, me and Fizz were greated by a fantastic TfL member of staff.  He not only guided us through the tube station, he also allowed us to ‘cut through’ locked gates and closed escalators to enable us to get through to the main Victoria Train station, where he was all ready to take me to my platform to get my train, before I said I would be having a break at the station, take Fizz out for some grass and get a much needed coffee.  He kindly walked us to the exit for the park and wished us safe travels.

The TfL staff and both police and transport police get a lot of ‘stick’ for just doing their jobs, they are not always praised for it.  I wanted to write this blog to show my appreciation.

I have always received great support from staff and police while travelling.  But Saturday was over and above what I had ever expected.  London police were out in force and clearly had a job to do.

The initial police office did not HAVE TO offer his help, but he did.

The TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead for assistance to wait for me, but he did.

The second TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead to Victoria, but again….. She did.

And just as the last member of TfL staff didn’t have to take me on a ‘shortcut’ or guide me right to my train platform….. He did (or rather would have had we not detoured to a grass spot!)

So, a journey that sounded horrendous was made so much more bearable by kindness and friendliness of strangers.  Because the support didn’t stop there.  Several times as Victoria train station I was asked by both staff and fellow travellers if I needed any help.

And even on our train home, one that due to my own mistake would see me and Fizz needing to change just one last time (I got on the Portsmouth train, instead of the Southampton train)  But with a simple step off one train and Havant and then almost straight back on another train (without the need to change platforms) I received so much support and offers of help.

I think it sometimes takes a horrible event, like that of Friday for people to come together and support those around them that may not find the journey as easy as them.

I would like to extend my thanks to all the men and women who helped me and others in and around London over the last few days.

 

…….. THANK YOU …….

 

 

And so it all starts again…..

Round 1: Paraclimbing competition for 2017 (2018 team selection)

EICA – Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, hosted by BMC and MSC.

One year and one week to the day of my first ever competition and I was back to do it all over again.

And in that one year and one week many things had changed.  I have most definitely changed; my climbing has most certainly improved and although my sight and hearing have had their setbacks (as detailed standing alone)    I thought I was in a much stronger position physically and mentally for this competition.

I wasn’t sure though, why I hadn’t been as prepared for the 13 hour drive that had seen us be diverted off the M6 and not arrive at the hotel until after 1am on Saturday morning.  After all, thanks to said sight and hearing impairments, I wasn’t able to share the drive with my CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime). The whole horrible job had been left to him to endure and in turn exhaust him mentally in ways, that as having never been a driver I can’t quite understand; yet one I can fully empathise with.

This year was different, this year I didn’t have the apprehension of a new Climbing Centre, the apprehension of never having competed before.

This year I had a bench mark; a place to beat and a score to improve upon.

This year I always wanted to EARN my podium place (not just get it by default-having been the only competitor last year!) Which although I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have competition I was setting myself a personal goal to get me up on the podium.

After a bit of a wobble I found myself ready to set about the day.  My first move was a bouldering problem which was actually marked as the hardest of my 3 problems, but it wasn’t something I was aware at the time.

it was to start from a sitting position, it was also then I realised that my routes where only to cover 2 categories; interestingly the 2 categories where VI and Upper-Body Amptutee.

It happens some times that some routes are set for particular categories and not others, for example a route set for lower body amputees would probably not be suited to an upper body amputee.  And for a reason I do not understand it is often that the Vi and Upper-amputee are grouped together.

All competitors (from each of the 9 categories) had the same Boulder 1 and 2, in addition to Climb 1 and 2, but when it came to the 3rd of each problem this was where the VIs and Upper body amputees had a different  problem on each.

This meant that the queue of competitions on these routes were much smaller; hence my school girl error of actually doing my hardest first.

 Use of my back, sat crouched on a smalll foot hold with my right arm out to the side holding a large pink hold.

So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.

Image with my on my halls up above my head on a hold ready to step up

I wasn’t as successful on Boulder 2, where I misread my footings and started off all wrong, a silly error I repeated on my following attempts.

Image of me on Boulder 2 struggling to get my feet and hands right to move forward

Time for lunch and freshness break for Guiding girl Fizz, who had made herself lots of friends while benched as I climbed.  And was sporting a slightly grey colour around her ears; afyerall a black dog around all that chalk isn’t the best mix!

Fizz cuddled up on the shoulder of another climber

Then it was onto the climbs. (Which unlike the Boulder, you only get one shot)  Climb 1 was over before I realised, it was a great warm up climb and one I didn’t need any guidance from the ground on.

Climb 2 was a busy climb, with each and every Climber using it I got to enjoy watching (through the camera on my iPhone) the others who went before me.  It was a much higher climb, with a column and yellow holds on the grey wall.  It was time for me to climb, just as my CPC had returned from completing his 3rd Boulder (not the same as my 3rd Boulder) he told me how he had scraped his knuckle on the wall and would just need to sit and rest.  (I later discovered that he had popped a tendon and actually had to have it strapped up and imobilize his middle fingers)

So, off I went and got myself tied in for the climb.  I was about 2 m off the ground when I realised I didn’t have the support.  My ground support wasn’t there, I was on the climb alone and had to up my game and concentrate on my hands and feet.  I heard no instruction, I just had to focus and more importantly; remember to breath !!

….. Something is very easy to forget when I climb…..

It was a long climb, it was a climb that went from left side to right side and back to left, it wasn’t easy with the little contrast, but I did it.  Or I hoped it had!  When I got to the rope top (the rope didn’t finish at the top of the wall) I reached around but couldn’t find another hold, I had to just hope I had the last one, but I was worried I had missed it!)

Thankfully coming down I confirmed with the judge, I had got to the final hold and I had flashed the climb.

Phew….. I could relax.

It was then I discovered my CPiC’s injury and worked with him to support his injury to enable him to finish his own last two climbs.

And given the shortage or judges, there was a fair wait for me to finish my final climb.  I was however able to watch two of my fellow competitions complete the climb (yet as they were both upper body amputees, their climb was different to mine…….. Even though it was the same route and wal)

It also gave me the opportunity to watch my CPiC complete his climbs too.

Then it was time for my final climb; just in time too as they announced it was time for the last climbs.

And this climb looked like a great contrast; black holds on a light grey wall.  I hadn’t worked out why my fellow climbers had ignored several of the obvious holds, that was until I got on the wall.

The ‘obvious’ holds were in fact not holds at all, they were black gaffer tape taping over quickdraws and other such climbing accessories.  A feature that had apparently been on the other walls too.  But as the holds on those routes weren’t black, I hadn’t even noticed them.

I took on the climb, it was most certainly a challenge.  But a fun challenge at that.

 

Image of T climbing on a grey wall with black holds, while being positioned in a capital K position.

I had a move planned in my head, I moved my feet to make it an easier set a ste and then ….. OUCH!

I had missed it, it was such a simple move, but one I never made, instead I scraped my elbow off the wall as I dropped quite far. (My belay has been getting ready to take up my slack, which gave me more rope, sc I when I missed the move he found himself unexpectedly giving me more rope-which was no issue as I was fairly high up the wall!)

It was the final climb though, I had no second chance and one I am proud to say that “I climbed until I fell.”  Not something I had done in previous competition; not something I had been doing while climbing in general until very recently.

And yes, I fell….. But it felt AMAZING !! I climbed until I couldn’t climb anymore.

And it got me a Silver Medal!

Photograph of me & Guide Dog Fizz stood on the silver podium with mouth my fellow competitors stood on the gold podium tithe right of me, with the 3rd competitor stood on the bronze podium to her right.

Out of the 4 competitors in my category I came second.  A medal I am more than proud of.  And can’t wait to improve on at October’s competition!

Roll on round 2, when I get to climb at The Castle !!

Standing Alone amongst Thousands.

Image of the high quarry walls of Ratho EICA garden, with dark storm clouds behind creating a bright reflection of light from the sun from behind the photographers

Ratho is ingrained on my memory; it is where it all began; it is a place that until this weekend I had only ever been once before.  But my memories of it didn’t disappoint me.

Although, sadly my sight and hearing did.

What is so special about Ratho I hear you ask?

Well…….

Ratho is the home to EICA or Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.  It is where my journey REALLY began with my climbing.  The date was  3rd September, 2016.  Yes I did say 2016!

However, it would take until 9th September 2017 to really realise it.  You see, this is the date that I made my second visit.  The visit that was filled with mixed emotions, anxieties and fears.  But for very different reasons.

And it is because of this that this visit where I felt much more so than ever before that I was alone.

Obviously I wasn’t literally alone; I was surrounded by 43 other paraclimbers, who included my best friend and CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime) in addition to about 400 other climbers, spectators, Scottish Mountainering and BMC staff.

But still I felt alone.

Wizz back to that date in 2016 and I found myself at my very first Climbing Competition; totally ill-prepared and in a much poorer condition to that of the climbers all around me.

But I had a rucksack full of nerves and a naive mindset that I wasn’t troubled by it.  Again my CPC was there, he having not signed up to compete, he who subsequently volunteered to be a belay and judge for one of the climbs.  Leaving me to face this adventure alone.

Although it wasn’t until Saturday I realised just how much I had taken that to heart and how much I needed to summon up the same courage I had had the previous year.

This year I KNEW Ratho would be different.  Not physically (although yes the climbs would be set differently) but for me, One year later I now wear hearing aids, my sight has detereated even further and my physical and mental strength had changed.

The changes in my physical strength and my climbing capabilities are most definitely a positive and I couldn’t wait to push myself on the climbs.  However with my sight and hearing changes, my mental state was in a questionable way.

It was such a way that I couldn’t face explaining or mentioning it to my CPC, Ratho this year held its own challenges for him, he didn’t need to deal with my Sh*t too!

You see, last year he started the competition at Round 2.  So, although he had been to EICA before, he had never climbed or competed.  This year is also the start of the competing calender for his son.  Who has NEVER competed before and although he loves to climb has a great fear of heights.

My CPC needed to be their for himself and his son.  Not me.

After all, I am a grown woman, I didn’t ‘physically’ need him there to partner me, as the belayers where also judges for the competition.

But for the first time in a very long time I found myself surrounded by familiar faces, yet standing alone.

This was my demon on Saturday, not the fault of anyone else, most certainly not my CPC’s, my other friends or even fellow competitors.  It wasn’t even my ‘fault’ it was just a demon that was with me.

And one I was desperate to ditch before the competition began.

One ‘thing’ I have noticed is that I often only see (yes I know how ironic that sounds) the changes in my sight when I return to something or somewhere that I have been before, but not for some time.

On a day-to-day I don’t ‘notice’ the changes.  It is when I go somewhere or go to do something I haven’t done in some time that I notice it.  The main reason for this is and ‘perks’ to my sight is because the deteriation occurs ever so slightly, and the sight that I have left is so minimal that no change is ever obvious.

It is for this reason I have yet to return to my university town of Nottingham (that’s a whole other story though, for another time).

I dread being able to detect the changes.  And if I am honest, I really didn’t think that in ONE YEAR Ratho could be so different.  I had forgotten that although I was under the care of the audiology team, I was unaware of the exact change to my hearing.  I most certainly was not aware that I would be needing hearing aids.  So, it is no wonder that by changing the ‘sound’ of the venue, I inturn realised how this visually changed the whole venue too; before even adding in the confirmed deteriation I had been told of at last weeks eye clinic appointment!!!

I took myself away, I left my CPC and fellow competitors.  I (guided by Fizz) escaped to the tranquility and safety of the gardens of Ratho.  Being built within a quarry you end up entering the building at the top and walk down into it, meaning that the garden is almost level with the main climbing floor.  There was the odd person about, but more importantly there was silence.  There was birdsong, which I didn’t remember from last year.  And there were great big slabs of rock to sit on.

And sit on the rock I did.

I sat and I cried.

I sat and I felt myself falling apart.

I sat and I reminded myself to breathe; to control my demon and just allow the emotion to wash over me, yet not allow it to control me.

I sat for far too long, I missed the start of the comp, I missed the group photo, but I was also able to leave the emotions that had gradually been bubbling under the surface behind in the garden.  I was able to let them wash over me, but not control me.

I sat and I focused.

Sod not being able to see the faces of my friends.

Sod not being able to see the walls as clearly.

After all, I am a visually impaired climber, no one in the competition would be worrying about me; they were all too worried about themselves and their own performances. (It’s human nature and self-preservation)

So I took a deep breath and returned, plastered on a smile and ‘acted’ the confident climber; I ‘acted’ the inspirational climber with the shear stubborn nature that others had previously commented on.

Oh…… And more importantly……. I CLIMBED

What’s 3 hours travelling between friends?

Although I have been climbing for a few years now, I would say that it is only since I discovered how poor my performance was in last years Para climbing BMC Competitions were that I have really been working on upping my game.

So, when a friend and fellow blind climber shared on Facebook the BIC Festival (Bristol Inclusive Climbing) I found my interest spiked.

Checked the calender…. It was clear.

My climbing partner in crime was away with a Cub Scout group.

And being over a month away, the train fare was less than £15 return.

With all those ducks in a row, there was just on thing for it….. I was going to Bristol.

Fastforward the month (to Friday 1st September) and it was time to set the alarm.  My bag was packed for the day, my tickets were printed and I had apt reading for the journey.

The direct train from Fareham to Wales, via Bristol had even gone as far as to allocate me a seat (thanks to the kindness of strangers I was able to find my seat and settle for the trip)

Just under 3 hours later, the announcement on ithe train said ‘We are now approaching Bristol Temple Meads” and just in time as Miss Fizz was beginning to become unsettled.

We got off the train, found her a comfort stop (the platform guttering) and we were on our way,

I had a 1:1 session booked in as part of the festival in the afternoon, so for now with Fizz by my side we were off to explore Bristol.  Being a place we have never explored before, with the sun shining there was no time like the present.

Along with Google maps and a need for a Starbucks, we set off.  We walked along the canal, we walked amongst the many building projects and we found our way around the busy roads and numerous complicated crossing to get to ‘the shopping district’. Where my faithful guide sort out and found said required Starbucks.

The Climbing centre hosting the festival was Bristol Redpoint.  Which was uncharacteristically placed within more of a residential area than many other climbing centres.  So with my trusty phone, I worked out the bus route, running maps along the journey (as the bus had no audio descriptors of the journey). Although the driver had assured me she would let me know when it was my stop, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.  And as luck would have it; oven with my poor sight, I was able to see the climbing centre as the bus passed it (the bus stop was just past it)

Photograph of the outside of Redpoint Bristol

The sun was shining and I soon discovered that it was not just the centre of Bristol that had busy roads and complicated crossing … Espeially for a blind girl and her guide dog!

But again, the kindness of strangers found us being walked across the road and traffic stopped by a kind hearted delivery driver that was partly the cause of the terrible crossing conditions as he was parked up ready to make a delivery.

We made it safely across and into Redpoint, where Fizz instantly recognised a friend.  The wife of the fellow climber who had originally shared the BIC information on Facebook.  He, John as a VI climber was sat in the midst of the festival chatting to visitors and participants about the para-climbing community and the bmc team, which he is part of.

The staff at Redpoint had clearly undertaken disability awareness training and were very helpful, yet not in a patronising way.  I was guided by a friendly guy who was explaining the changes in floor textures, the areas we were walking through and finally the festival sign in area before handing me over to his colleague to chat with me in more detail.

All the staff I encountered were incredibly friendly and a female member of staff kindly showed me where I would find the toilets, before explaining the room layout to me.  (A point which is often overlooked)

So, freshened up and kitted up I left Fizz ‘benced’ to a tale where she was able to play with both John’s working guide dog and retired guide dog while I went and enjoyed a 1:1 session with an instruction called Tom.

Tom was very easy to talk too and we chatted about my climbing experiences, my sight and my hearing.  He then asked me a question I didn’t expect,

What would you like me to challenge you on today?

So, we had a bit of fun, I tried a bridge problem, where for the most part my feet climbed up the walls to the left and right of me, with the odd quick foot touch on the wall in front.

Panaramic photo of a bridging climbing problem with handholds on the central white wall and foot holds on the left stone affect wall and right white wall beside a railing

Tom put me on a wall with a much higher climbing grade on slab to see what I could do.  Turns out I pulled off one of my highest grades yet (with the acception of the final foot hold)

Image of the wall grading detailing sand holds equal 5+

Image of the 5+ Graded wall (which grading I was unaware of when I climbed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And he even ran through some memory traversing with me.  Where my feet could go on any hold, but my hands were only to touch the green holds and in a particular sequence that was almost like playing out a song to achieve the right moves. (Sadly no photos of this)

It was an amazing day and one that (writing this 10 days later) actually helped me greatly with my first Comp of the season at Ratho

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