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So….. Today, this happened !!

Me & Fizz outside EICA

It’s almost 11.00 o’clock, 12 hours after this crazy day started. The climbing arena was nothing like I had ever seen before and no matter how much I had researched and looked at photo after photo I was not prepared for the quarry that I… Continue Reading So….. Today, this happened !!

The end of a (half) Era

  Today is one filled with mixed emotions, concerns and thoughts.  Today, 18th January 2015 is the last working day for my guide dog Vicky.  We have been working together as a qualified team since 18th November 2009, and it has been an amazing 5… Continue Reading The end of a (half) Era

Maybe I Should have said something before…..

Well, this is something new……. I am sat in the passenger seat of my friends car doing 70+ MPH on the M6 Motorway travelling on my way to Edinburgh; while typing this blog.  My iPad is tethered to my phone for 4G and my voiceover… Continue Reading Maybe I Should have said something before…..

St George’s Day sewing marathon

So, tomorrow is St George’s Day and at 2.40 this afternoon my daughters school sent out a text message to say that any Beavers, Rainbows, Brownies etc are free to wear their uniforms instead of school uniform… With full badges! This created 2 panics…. 1)… Continue Reading St George’s Day sewing marathon

Inquizative Cubs

Having a friend that is a cub leader I was invited by him to speak to his cub group about my sight, having a guide dog and help them to understand that people have differences in how they communicate and see the world. I have… Continue Reading Inquizative Cubs

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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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


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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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Less than 5 degrees looks like…

A question I am regularly asked is “What can you see?”  It’s actually a tricky question to answer, because I can answer it medically (with percentages and terminology) or literally (I can see your face, but not the colour of your eyes!)

Facebook has been throwing around an image that may help.

My vision currently sits at just under 3 degrees (some call percent) central vision, with nystagmus (involuntary twitch) and a distance vision that is classed as ‘finger counting’ (I can’t even read the top letter of the eye chart, just fingers that the nurse holds up-as long as she does this against a contrasting background)

Complicated right?

The image that many friends have shared lately on Facebook is quite helpful:

Images shows visual field on a semi-circular diagram, breaking down the different parts of the view. With the centre 5% highlighted and standing out from the main diagram.

This diagram details what an eye can see while looking forward and focussing in on a spot or image, without moving the eyes or head the majority of people will have a good range of ‘far peripheral’

where as I have just the central vision (just 5 degrees of overall sight) and thus stands at less that 3 degrees for me.

Despite common misconception this doesn’t mean that the rest of my vision is black or dark, it just isn’t there.  Many RP (retinitis websites show photographs for a sighted person and for an RP sufferer.

Two images side by side, left image is of a lake with waterfall surrounded by autumnal trees. The right side of the image has all but a small proportion of the image blacked out, just showing he waterfall part along with the caption "view for someone with Retinitus Pigmentosa

They show the RP view of the same photograph with the outer area blacked out, many friends took these images literally I thought I saw a lot of black.

I can see the whole picture; only it takes concentration, scanning and an element of memory to get the same result.  Or what I believe to he the same result as someone without my eye condition.

 


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Summer showers

I can’t be the only guide dog owner this relates to?  Surely there are more like me?

This is what they call a ‘3rd world problem’

when irs humid and it rains in the summer months, I can but only GET WET!

Yku see. When everyone around me is reaching for the umbrella, I have to make a decision;  do I put on a coat with a hood (which even a lightweight jacket is too hot) or so I get wet?

When I was trained with both Vicky and Fizz, the importance of hand signals with a guide dog were just as important, if not more important that the words I spoke.

I can, just about get away with carrying a bag or pulling a suitcase when I am working my guide dog, nuts en this isn’t easy.

So, when it rains I don’t even carry a umbrella.  Which in the summer mo the means making the decision between sweating in a plastic mac or getting wet.

Most of the time, I choose getting wet!

However, saying that, this summer is different.  This summer I have hearing aids, this summer I have looked at other options, none have been feesable, so now on a day that is set to rain, I am dressed with a jacket, a thin top and the hope that I can dash between places instead of getting stuck in a rain shower.

Like I said, 3rd world problems ….


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Can you see me?

A friend asked me yesterday what I saw when I looked at her face in person not by looking at a photo.

We were sat only a coffee table width away from each other, so not far from each other.

As someone who has always had poor sight (although not as bad as it is now) I have no ‘normal’ memories of sight to refer to.

I usually explain it as. I can see the shadow of your eye, but not the colour or even the white in them.  I can see the darker colour of your mouth, but no detail or if you have food in your teeth.

 

But this doesn’t really help.

So, a quick look for an app at that App store and this is what I came up with.


A photograph of my face blurred to look the way I see it.

Can you see me?


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A simple question

Watching the Para-athletics, makes me wonder:

Would I be a Climber if I could see?

It’s a simple question; but honestly not one I can answer.

Simply put, it doesn’t matter about ‘can I?’ ‘Would I?’ or even ‘Should I?’ Because I can’t see and I can climb.

My sight & hearing loss has made me who is here today, it’s not about what I can’t do.

it should ALWAYS about what I CAN DO.

Yes I like most have wishes and hopes of things I want to do; but as yet haven’t.  I am also human and long for the day that I can see and I can watch my children playing on the other side of the park.  But, I am a realist and know that there are some hopes and dreams I will never have come true.

But life is for living, something that I can’t do if I sit too long and dwell.


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You can be blind and see true beauty

Today a friend asked me a simple question.

why did you say I looked beautiful when I know you can’t see me?

My reply

because true beauty isn’t seen, it’s felt.

It got me thinking though, I quite often tell my girlfriends they are beautiful, gorgeous and pretty; either in person or commenting on Facebook or instagram.  Have they all thought I was ‘just saying it to be nice’ ?

Facebook and instegram afford me the ability to REALLY look at my friends.  By zooming in or magnifying their photographs (which now also makes me sound like a stalker!) I can sit and looking at them, take my time to move around each photograph. (Which now really makes me sound like a crazed stalker! I’m not – but then that is the first thing a stalker WOULD say)

I am not lying when I say they are beautiful, I say they are beautiful because I don’t need to see them, I know them, I know how beautiful they are as a whole person.  They are my friends for many different reasons, they all give away both verbal and non-verbal cues to their beauty.

So, it is a true compliment when I call you beautiful or gorgeous.  It isn’t a lie, it isn’t an empty gesture or  out of habit.

It is the truth.

it also means that my friends have loan of a ‘blind perk’ – they can turn up at my door with no make up on, with a massive boil on the end of their nose and because of what as a blind person I see……. I will still see them as beautiful and gorgeous.

So, next time I pay you a compliment.  Accept it.  For I do truly mean it.


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One beep; two beep; three beep; four

Continue Reading One beep; two beep; three beep; four


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It’s not the reading that’s the issue…..

In a way to improve myself I am undertaking many different forms of learning.  Some is personal development, some is an education and some of it is to support my family.

One such learning is a 10 week parenting puzzle.

It isn’t a course that holds a secret instruction manual to raising children, rather it looks at ways in which as adults we have to dispel our own learnings as a child, to move past it and to understand ourselves better to support our children.

As the weeks have added up, the inner-termole of the course content has began to take an effect.  This teamed with counselling I have been undertaking to support me and help me with my anxieties and depression…… Has been giving me plenty to think about.

It has been commented (not as a critisism, more an observation) that I have become quieter as the weeks have rolled on.  The group I am in are very understanding and supportive towards everyone.

This week we were given an extra book.  “The huge bag of Worries” by Virginia Ironside.  It is a beautifully illustrated children’s book, yet one that is also written for adults too.

As part of our group, those leading us asked if one of us would read the book to the group.

A quick flick through the pages and I heard my voice before my thought had caught up

I’ll read it.

The intakes of breath were audible and noticed by others.  You see, I am an educated woman, I have a passion for reading, it is just my sight that doesn’t always play along!

Being a book to be read to and read by children; the type was larger, clearer and only briefly obscured by the illustrations behind.

I took a deep breathe and began to read.

I enjoyed the book.  I felt myself giving the characters tone and passion as the punctuation implied.

I felt saddened momentarily when it ended.  I closed the book and placed it on my lap.

I felt touched by the story; I felt that the story was so much more than a ‘children’s book’ it meant something.

I had also done something that I hadn’t done for many, many, MANY years.

I had read aloud to people other than my children.

You see, this is not just a little thing.  This is a MASSIVE thing.  I feel anxious reading, not because I dislike it, (far from it) more because I fear that I will miss words, not see them; especially in a children’s book, where the words can wrap around and over the pictures.

For someone who loves to read, yet faces my own worries over the act of reading.  It felt like it was a truly enlightening moment.  One that will hopefully stay with me for many years to come.

I have since ordered my own copy of the book, shared it with friends on Facebook and am looking forward to reading it to my own children.

You see, it isn’t the reading that’s the issue.  It’s the seeing the words.

 


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