Archive for Days Out

Days like today…….

I have a ‘Have Guide Dog, will travel’ attitude to life, today I decided in the sun to visit Winchester (alone) something I don’t think I will be in a hurry to repeat.

The rudeness, the sly comments & general ‘opinions’ that were continually thrust upon me resulted in a very short visit.

I am more than happy to accept and I do understand that not everyone likes dogs, be that an assistance dog or  a pet.

I do understand that in some cultures dogs are not warmly accepted. But today the comments or actions of rudeness did not come from the here.

Today it came from,

A business woman looking down on her phone;

The art student with a VERY LARGE portfolio;

The man in the queue in Starbucks;

The woman behind me in boots who tutted at me when I asked the sales assistant to repeat herself for the 3rd time because I couldn’t hear her;

The van driver who got shirty when I waved him on because I wouldn’t cross in-front of him.

Were it not for the kindness of strangers I would have found myself fighting tears & heading for the nearest taxi.

it was thanks to ….

The window cleaner who moved his ladder so I would walk past;

Theassistant in Starbucks who offered me water for Fizz while pointing out to the rude man that assistance dog or not I had every right to enjoy coffee;

To the sales assistant in boots who guided me to a quieter area so I could hear what she was saying!

I know that I may stand in the wrong queue at times, I know that my guide dog likes to walk by the building line, which means we often walk right in front of the shop doors, I do understand that I take up more width on the pavement as I walk beside my guide, and she can’t tell me to “step in” the way a sighted person would if the path was narrow.

But at what point does vocalising your opinions change this? All it does is demoralises someone who just wants to get on.  And could even stop a (less stubborn) person from going out and visiting other areas.

Today has been one of those days where I have felt isolated and hurt by the actions of others.  But writing this now I am able to say that I won’t let it stop me, I share this with you now to raise awareness.

Because it can often be the ‘off-handed’ comment that you quickly forget making that can cause irreparable damage to someone.  We never know what demons people are fighting; so just be kind.

It really is THAT simple.


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Overheard in Costa (other coffee shops are available)

 “you can tell your teacher tomorrow how you saw a guide dog being trained, that is a very special dog and once that lady has trained him he will look after a blind person.”

“Mummy isn’t that lady blind?”

“No darling that lady isn’t blind, she wouldn’t be out on her own in coffee shops if she was!”

This whole conversation tickled me and I shared it with my friends on Facebook.

I would usually correct the mum, but on this occasion I wasn’t feeling myself so didn’t.

For which I am now kicking myself; I also find myself asking

“Why can’t a guide dog user go into a coffee shop alone?”


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London just got A WHOLE LOT Easier!

Today I made my first trip of the year into London.  After all, have dog; will travel still stands.

Even more so when a return ticket costs just over £10!

So, 2 hours on a direct train to London Victoria and then to get the tube to meet friends.

Something in the past that I have dreaded a little from London Victoria, but not anymore.

Why?

Because as THE busiest tube station on the entire underground network, Victoria is now ACCESSIBLE.

So, it’s not quite so straightforward, and it isn’t the easiest of ways to navigate.  But all the same, Victoria now has a new North Entrance; which offers step free access (via lift) from street level to tube.

I say it isn’t straightforward because the entrance to the accessible part of the underground isn’t within London Victoria Railway Station, rather it is up the road on the outside by a fairly new shopping area on Victoria Street.

And then once you find the street level lift area, it is then a series of lifts to get down to the deep level of the district/central line, before changing to a 3rd lift to go even further under to reach the Victoria Line.

This multi-lift approach is very similar to the confusion that is Kings Cross, however (thankfully) the lifts have really clear white on blue signage indicating which lift to take to which level.

And as always, helpful and friendly TFL staff more than happy to help.

So, no more dreading this particular tube station and a whole world of possibilities opening up to me without the need to walk on switched off escalators (which isn’t actually always possible when it’s peak time!) with their steeper treads and length distances.

To some this may not seem much, but to others this will help reduce some of the ‘additional’ stresses that London can pose.


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When Molly and Chris gave a Masterclass

Image of Members of the group sat around a large table with phones, iPads and other tech sat on the table with numerous cups of tea, coffee and water with Molly stood at the head of the table showing her iPad:

Would you think of a pair of glasses as a mobility aid?

When you see an item every day and used by everyone then it becomes ‘the norm’ and not seen as an aid to support someone with a disability.

There are many products that are designed to support those with disabilities, these include glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs and even other everyday products like iPhones and iPads.

It may not seem like it to a person who has no sensory or motor disabilities, yet all apple products were designed with accessibility and intergration as their base principle.

There are obviously other computer operating systems, programmes and technologies available.  But as a Mac (made famous in a Mitchell & Webb sketch) which I have been ever since I studied at university; way back when Apple Macintosh was for everything design and Windows was for everything administrative.

I have spoken before of my liking for Apple products, and in this I am not alone.  Molly from The Molly Watt Trust is a big believer and user of Apple products, her charity have also helped to support and fund those with Ushers Syndrome by funding an Apple Watch programme as she herself had found its features so very beneficial.

As part of an Ushers Social and awareness weekend (The Weekend that almost wasn’t) Molly was going to give a presentation similar to that that she gives to large companies about accessibility and awareness.

Her work as a Keynote speaker and accessibility advisor sees her working alongside Chris from Sigma (https://www.wearesigma.com/) Among others.

Molly explained the way in which she made use of the accessibility on her iPad.  She spoke of the obvious ‘voice-over’ and how she didn’t use it, how she found ‘zoom’ and ‘speak screen’ more neneficial to her.

She spoke of how you could set you home button triple click to bring you a list of accessibility options.  Including how to use your camera as a magnifier.

These little ‘nuggets’ of information were some that I was aware of and some that I wasn’t.

Since the latest iOS update there was also a rather clever new accessibility feature called ‘smart invert’ this is where the screen and text are inverted in the colours used, but the p have photographs are not……. Savi g confusion with colours when looking at images.

Chris spoke of how accessibility is in the every day, how as I said at the start of this post , “ when something is used and seen every day it becomes the ‘norm’” and how the work he does with Sigma and Molly is about making that a reality.

Molly explained how she found “Hey Siri” a great help; although this was when she realised that another piece of technology she was used stopped the others in the room from heading the response.

You see, Molly wears ReSound hearing aids; hearing aids that stream her iPhone and iPad directly and clearly into her ears.  Just as if she were wearing headphones!

Molly’s work has seen her work with ReSound and it is through this work that I have followed her and learnt about the fantastic products that are available.

Molly and the work she does through her company Molly Watt Ltd is paving the way for those with sightless, Ushers and hearing loss.

This masterclass have me some fantastic information to work with, some new connections to talk to and more importantly new friends who enjoy similar struggles to me.

The session was just a snapshot of what Molly and Chris do when talking to big companies, where there is often very rarely anyone with additional needs in the audience.

But it was enough to make me feel confident that accessibility becoming part of ‘the notm’ Could be a reality in the not to far distant future.


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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 …….

 

 


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Are chains REALLY a bad thing ?

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Fun with Fizz

Today we (me & Fizz) found ourselves faced with a very different challenge.

Our local coop currently has one of its outer shutters down, so we have a slightly odd turn at the top of the steps by the door.  The door is set at a 45* degree angle to the corner of the building, meaning that when both shutters are down, the building looks square, yet with them both open, you can access from either side through the same entrance. (With one down, we have to walk around to the other, which isn’t at all an issue of difficult to do)

So, we did the turn & Fizz stopped dead and sat down.  This is a very odd thing for her to do.

She doesn’t just sit down like this if there is an obstacle, if there were an obstacle she would remain standing and then guide me around.  If she couldn’t guide me around it, she would turn me around to indicate the way was blocked.

Today she just sat, nothing would move her!

I focused in on a bull dog type dog sat by the railings a little way up, it’s tail was wagging and it wasn’t barking.

This is normally all the invitation Fizz would need to rush me over to say hello; yet she still sat.  So it wasn’t the dog!
Maybe it was a bike laid on the ground, I scanned but saw nothing….

A man came out the shop but before I could ask him, he rushed past and away.

Curious !!
Then out came a lady with a trolley and my mystery was solved

sorry dear, my cat has come out for a walk with me and my dog, he is sitting between you and the door.

So I scanned, I was able to work out another animal, about the same size as the bull dog and also similar colouring.

It was a cat!

It was a very HUGE cat, and he was happily sitting licking his paw with his tail wagging, just like the dog !!
Knowing now the situation I asked Fizz to walk on; nothing!

She did move eventually, but only then cower behind me until the cat had walked past !!

My clever.  Highly trained.  Intelligent. Problem solving guide dog is officially a WIMP.


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Jumping without a parachute …

Who needs a comfort zone anyway?  Last weekend I not only stepped out of mine, I jumped out of it without my parachute !!

Not even those closest to me may have even realised the inner turmoil I was battling with …… Fizz knew, she kept me calm, she kept me from falling apart and she kept me safe every time I needed her to put on her harness and be my eyes.

Any event/conference/summer spectacular is daunting for many!

A room with 2,000 other people is also terrifying in itself!

Then add to the mix you can only see shapes and colours; the lighting is set up as corporate and moves with the music; the music that is loud, pumped out around the room to ‘raise the roof’ to ‘motivate’ and to ‘excite’ EVERYONE in the room.

Having recently decided to stop ‘messing around with diets and fads’ and actual take control of my eating, my inner nutrients and my health, I looked to my cousin for support.  She introduced me to Herbalife, a safe, clean, nutrition fuelled way of eating, not a ‘diet product’ rather a way to live, a way to improve myself from the inside out, while being able to support me through training, rock climbing, bringing up my children and running around with each of my volunteer roles.

… Fast forward a few months and here I was, sat in Manchester, watching, learning and feeling empowered by The Herbalife Summer Spectacular.

The chosen venue was literally a large box!  A MASSIVE exhibition space that was broken up and segmented by heavy curtains, false walls and carpeting.

Having previously been to Manchester a few years ago, this didn’t concern me.  With the new Google Street View App on my phone I was able to walk around the outside of EventCity, I was able to find Starbucks, plan how to get from the hotel in MediaCity, again having visited the area before, I felt OK here.

I had a room-mate for the weekend, she absolutely adored Fizz and was wonderful, even volunteering to take her out for walks having never met either of us before.

…. Back to the venue…. I was invited to sit at the front of the room, an area reserved for those prestige members, an adjustment made just for me if it would help me see the event clearer.  Sadly no where I sat would have done that, so I stayed sat with my cousin and her friends.  Fizz was fabulous, she was so calm and took all the noises and light changes in her stride, not letting it bother her at all.

In the evening, we returned to EventCity for a dinner and awards ceremony.  I though I would be OK, I though that I now knew the venue and would be OK.  I had realised in the 2 hours that we had left the venue for, that the room had changed, the big round tables were still in place, but upon our return they were dressed in white linen cloths, fully dressed with red, white and blue balloons.  The large screens were in place also, but now decorated with the same colours, there was now also a checkered dance floor and the lighting was much dimmer.

Dressed to match the colours, as advised on the invitation I found a seat with my roomy and sat down to enjoy the show.  I had preordered drinks, that she kindly collected from the bar, we had a fabulous time, laughing, chatting and watching the awards ceremony; that saw my cousins husband won first prize of £10,000 !!!

The food was interesting and incredibly difficult….. Apparently it looked very pretty, but served on white plates with dim lights and light coloured food, it was a bit of a struggle for a VIP like me !

I survived though, my anxiety didn’t get the better of me, I had a pretty good time and I am now going to be giving away my inner turmoils of the weekend to those who were with me and will hopefully be reading this.


 

 


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Madness of Muse

19.30 ….. The time has come, the big event of my year is just one sleep away.

Tomorrow sees me return to the London O2 in North Greenwich, this time to see a very different performance in the act Muse.

I am currently laid on the bed in my hotel room, with a view (via the zoom view on my camera) of the O2 just across the river.  And the excitement is building….. Especially as when the traffic noise dies down; I can hear the sound check!

This is set to be a very ‘visual’ gig.  So I have my faithful friend and PA Simon with me to support me.  Unlike my trip to see Adele, this time I have bought my guiding girl Fizz with me, as I am away for a few days I wanted to be able to feel confident and comfortable while we are out tomorrow before the gig.

So, I have arranged with the accessibility team at the O2 to ensure that she will be well looked after.  This is the bit I am nervous about, how do they ‘look after’ her?

But for now off to sleep so we can enjoy a full day out tomorrow.

07.00….. Awake a breakfast eaten, I am thinking I am maybe just a little bit excited !!!

First, we are off to Stratford for the day, last night we grabbed the tube and went for a walk around the Olympic Park, but Sam hoping to go back today to ‘see’ it in daylight.  Simon was very fortunate to be one of the volunteers involved with the opening ceremony for the Olympics I’m 2012…. So, who better to be my guide?

The weather was interesting…. Bright blue sky, that thick black clouds. Here is the photo of what things looked like when we arrived it Stratford, we then went into the shopping centre and when we came out again, the sun was shining, yet the ground was soaked.

I had chosen the hotel for the ease of travelling to the O2, it was just one tube journey away.  After our day out, we got ready and left early to get to there with plenty of time.  As the tube got closer, more and more people joined the train and the buzz was so calm and yet exciting.  Fizz was calm and happy with the added attention she was getting each time someone got on or off.

I have previously visited the O2 (for dinner) with Fizz in the past, so she knew the route and remembered it well.  She was a star, the crowds were large, however she took it all in her stride and expertly Weaved her way through, I think even Simon was amazed by her work.  She was amazing and her skills were being put to good use, making it a much calmer experience for me.  And most of all, she was also enjoying the challenge.

The O2 isn’t just s concert venue, it’s a centre of entertainment, there are masses of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, a bowling alley and even a multi-screen cinema!  So, on entering we went for a drink, it was very busy, but not manic and we had kind of expected it.  Once the doors opened to the arena.  I had been advised that I needed to take Mizz Fizz to the customer service desk, where we would find assistance.  This was when we found our ‘ANGEL’ literally, it was a friendly member of the O2 staff, who had huge beautiful white wings made of feathers on her back.  She showed us which entrance that we were needing to go in to get to our seats, before taking us to the customer team, she introduced me to the senior member of staff, who had been expecting Fizz.  She took my contact details and introduced me to the male member of staff who would be Fizz’s guardian while we enjoyed the concert.  He would be taking her to a carpeted sound proofed room above the arena, she would be offered water and he would take her out for a short walk to enable her to go to the toilet.  I had bought w toy and treats with us, so that she would enjoy her experience.

Then information the staff gave me was a complete surprise and not something that I had thought of, but clearly it was a point that the staff were aware of, it wasn’t anything bad or of a concern, it was actually a great benefit.

Towards the end of the gig, a member of staff would walk Fizz to the entrance to the arena that we would be leaving by, this was so that we would be able to leave straight away, without having to battle amongst the crowds.

So, with fizz taken care of, Simon guided me to our seats and we were ready for the show!

Photo shows view from out seats, it shows the central stage with large lled lit balls attached to drone..... The title of the Touri could easily fill this post with photos of the show, I could bore you all with the enjoyment of the show….. I won’t, I will just say that I was amazed at how visual and precise the lighting was I was able to enjoy myself, the sound quality was spot on, I could clearly hear each word, for everything else I was able to use my phone to view, photograph and film.  For my own enjoyment later, not for sharing around.  So I have just end added one.

It all ended too quickly, it felt like we had been in there only an hour, rather than nearer three.

Muse had left the stage, the lights went on and all of a sudden I was aware of the sniff of Fizz behind me…. She had dragged her handler in through the doors as soon as they were open.  She, never being there before, came straight to us.  This was brilliant, as I had her harness with me, we were ready to leave.

…… Filled with memories that will never leave, even if my sight does.

 

 


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What can I say?

So…. Following on from This gal is off to a Gig, I am sure you have all been waiting with great antisipation to hear my update of The O2.  I honestly don’t know what I can say, I was absolutely blown away.

We weren’t in any ‘special’ seating, we were in ZZ and oh my, that may sound terrible, but it was actually brilliant.

We walked in to the arena and our seats were on that very level on the left, no stairs, no panic over how the hell I was going to walk down amongst crowds of people.  All we had to do was shuffle along in front of people who had already taken their seats and we were there.

I was far too nervous to need the loo!  Even with the Vente Starbucks and the best part of 2 bottles of rosé…. I just wanted to watch it.  (I know I mostly listened, but the term ‘watching’ is part of my vocabulary. Just like ‘I’ll see you later’ even though it will be a very long time if ever that I actually SEE them!)

….. I hate those people who go to a gig and then watch it through the tiny screen on their phones, but tonight that was me!  Not for the whole gig, but definitely for the beginning, for the ‘pre show’ sitting down bit.

I wasn’t recording it, I was able to take the odd snap and look at it, the set up was amazing though.

photograph showing the stage, which has a large image of closed eyes, surrounded by a large light framing it.
photograph showing the size of the arena, showing the central stage along with the different levels down from my seat
As my photos show, we were high up, but with the big screen (and the use of my iPhone) where we sat was irrelevant.

Going to the gig was more about the atmosphere, the unexpected and the ‘live-ness’ of it all.

Adele probably has one of the most powerful voices of this age, she knows how to sing… She also knows how to talk to the crowd, in a way that makes you feel that you are at an intimate location, not sat in the O2 with 20,000 plus other people.  I guess being from London herself, she felt more relaxed in her surroundings.  She didn’t just sing though, she performed to the crowd.  Those sat close enough got involved, including two little girls who were 7 and 8.

There were two parts to her ‘stage’   She initially came up out of a box on the centre of the arena before moving to the large stage.  She then moved back to be centre stage, to me a small dot of lights was all that enable me to see this, until she was encased in a curtain…. That was when I got to see her, properly see her.

Photograph of the central stage with Adepe stood in the middle, surrounded by a sheer curtain that is showing her projected onto each of its 4sides
As the photo shows, she is projected up onto each of the four sides, she joked that she shouldn’t spin around, before doing just that…. Because it would make the audience dizzy and feel sick!

The whole event was amazing, the atmosphere was brilliant and when I began to get nervous about leaving, the staff were quickly on hand to help (while also checking out that my cane wasn’t some sort of weapon!)

I am even more excited now about returning next month to see Muse!  This time with Mizz Fizz who will be escorted out of the arena after I have been seated to spend her evening with the management team….. In an ‘almost’ sound proof office!


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