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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…..

I have a question for you

it is time for me to ask for you to help me. If I were to write a book, giving in sight into my life and how I have got myself in and out of many a situation. Would you read it? I am talking… Continue Reading I have a question for you

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

Fears

Fear is a strange thing.

It can come from no where and just APPEAR before you even realise it is there, then it can stop you from achieving so much, holding you back from something that you don’t even realise is a SOMETHING.

For me, I have a fear of falling. Literally falling, not metaphorically falling.

Which you would think as a climber would be ‘part of the territory’ for me; and actually partly it is. However there is a big difference between taking a fall on a rope to taking a fall on a bouldering wall.

The most obvious of which is the lack of rope! That rope that even when I am 17 ft up a wall doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself on the wall; or swing out; or come down a fair distance because of the give in the rope, or my belayer leaving too much slack.

And there are also times when I make a move on a roped climb and I am not actually at a height where the rope would have an affect. But it is a security, it is a safety net and one that even if it is purely psychological at times makes me feel safe.

When I boulder (outside of competitions) there are no top ropes, no safety net. It is all on me…..

And that is scary and fearful and makes me emotional just writing this.

One thing that I see other climbers doing, and I have watched dozens of instruction videos about, is jumping down from the wall.

Not from the very top, but most definitely from a height at least as tall as they are.

Which for me; as someone who cant even see the floor when I am stood on it, the thought of jumping any height is where my fear of falling comes from. You see, or rather I can’t see, so can’t work out where the floor is and how quickly I will approach it.

And it is this fear of falling and not being able to get off of a climb that has stopped me from wanted to boulder. It is only on the odd route where I can actually ‘top out’ climbing over the top of the wall and coming back down via the cafe seating that I happily give it a go.

All routes on a bouldering wall are colour coded. So you can go to ANY wall within the centre and know exactly what level the climb before you is. I had no real intention of actually bouldering on this evening. But then my CPiC said

“You need to be aiming for yellow”

I looked at the colour chart, I looked at the yellow and then I replied,

“I’m just going to work on biscuits”

As in the colour, not the food!

And why biscuit?

Well, basically biscuit is v0, the easiest of all the climbs. But it wasn’t because of the ease of the climbs, tonight I had decided I was going to work on something in a different way.

I was going to work on my fear.

My fear of falling and my fear of how I would get back off of the wall. As I said before, jumping down when you can’t even see your feet makes the ground a scary place. And as I had previously had to be ‘lifted’ off of the wall by my CPiC because I totally froze and couldn’t go either up nor down. (Something that he didn’t want to be repeating every time I attempted a boulder)

The climbs were easy, they were also over far too quickly (v0 climbs don’t tend to be high)

However it wasn’t about the climbing up, it was more about the coming down. And this is a point that anyone who climbs will tell you is actually harder than going up in the first place.

So, how do you climb down?

I often climb up by allowing my feet to follow where my hands have been, I didn’t know how I could just reverse this process seeing as I couldn’t actually see where my feet were.

I stopped thinking……….

May sound silly, but thinking too much is often my downfall.

It didn’t matter what holds I used to get down, I didn’t stick to biscuit, I just took the holds that felt safe and in reach. A reach that I naturally found myself doing with ease when I crouched down, climbing my hands down the wall first to enable me to then move my feet.

As good as it felt not to be scared of going up as I knew how to get down, I was exhausting myself.

Climbing down is harder than going up (I think I said that already) ……

But how do you jump when you can’t see the floor?

Maybe that was my problem? I was fixing on something I couldn’t see, rather than working with something that I could see. When I am on a roped wall I can’t see the floor. I don’t even look down anymore. I just sit back in my harness and walk down the wall with my belayer counting me down to the floor. (Initially he would just sit me down on the floor in my harness)

So, to jump off the wall. This is where the trouble with thinking reared its head again! I just kept thinking about it. So much so that I had built it up to be a lot more than it actually was.

With my CPiC spotting me (standing behind me) he put his hand on me to ‘show me’ where he stood against me (height wise) and knowing that he is just short of 6 ft I could gauge where I was compared to the floor.

But I couldn’t jump.

I had to climb down further.

And even then I just couldn’t jump.

As I said, I was thinking too much……. I knew the floor (safety matting) is spongy and have some give in it. So I knew I wouldn’t be landing on solid ground (for good reason too) but knowing that the floor would move made me even more scared of it.

I needed to just do it.

But how do I jump?

I was holding onto the wall…..
I was crouched down slightly……
I was less than waist height from the floor……
I just had to let go and jump down…………………….. But I couldn’t do it……………

I forgot how to jump.
It was that ‘thinking’ thing again……

So, letting go with my hands first and then i jumped……..
Only I didn’t …… Not really ………………………………………..

I forgot to bend my knees.
I landed with a thud.
It was purely because of my CPIC that I didn’t fall backwards.

I failed………….
I tried again…………

I struggled again………..
I forgot to bend my knees………

I ended up head butting the wall in front of me………
I went back to climbing off the wall……………………….

I faced a fear, and although I didn’t over come it, I tried. I gained a better understanding of my position on the wall.

I moved to purple holds,

I worked on my technique.

I worked on my starting point on the wall. I worked on my start, pulling myself up from an almost sitting position on the wall and I focussed my energy on something else.

While my CPiC was busy with his own climbs I found myself relaxing about the jump down, I climbed down to the floor, then climbed back up several holds and jumped……

The benefit of me doing it is that I couldn’t see how stupid I looked (I felt stupid enough) I bounced on the matting, I sometimes stayed on my feet and sometimes not.

But each time I jumped I landed without hurting myself or anyone else.

It may well have looked ridiculous; your probably reading this thinking it sounds ridiculous. But do you know something. That doesn’t matter.

Because despite thinking, despite fear. I DID IT.


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New Year; New Challenges

And no, this isn’t about setting a (be it a belated) Resolution.  This is about the realisation that after just over a month into 2018 I have faced and fought, fought and (sometimes) lost and lost and re-found my own sense of strength.

If you are a regular reader you will know that this year started with the sad loss of my first guide dog Vicky.

But with the sadness of loosing her; along with the adjustment of ‘just having Fizz’ I found a passion.

A passion that has always been in me, but for one reason….. Or rather one EXCUSE or another I had forgotten it.

It is so easy to forget those simple passions that can bring such pleasure when ‘life’ keeps getting in the way.

Anyway, I digress……

When we said goodbye to Vicky I suddenly realised how much I loathed being at home.  How I couldn’t bare the ‘silence’, the little things about her like hearing her dream.

It also took me several weeks to ‘forget’ to say hello to her when we came in.

One of the strangest things was coming home to a silent house! Because for the past 3 years I have always left on the tv or the radio to keep her company, so she didn’t feel alone.

So, as painful and upsetting as returning to a quiet house was, sitting in one was even worse!

And this is where my passion reignited.

When the children weren’t home (because of school or being with their dads) I disappeared off for a walk.

The beauty of a walk is that Fizz could always come too.  The beauty of a walk is that I could just ‘stomp’ out my upset.

The other beauty of walking is that I could track it all on my Apple Watch, to judge the distance, to track my pace and after several weeks to gauge how my fitness had improved, because the very same walk from my house to town isn’t taking as long!

The other bonus of my walking is that I could feel free.  I don’t need to rely on another person to walk, I don’t need to rely on any equipment or memberships.

I just ‘harness up’ Fizz and head out.

Sometimes we get the bus to the beach, sometimes we take a different route into town.  And other times we enjoy a stomp through the muddy bridal ways en route to the pub with friends!

Your probably wondering why I am telling you all this in this post?  Well, you see I have decided to make this walking count.

I haven’t finalised the details yet, but with a group of friends I am looking to complete The Three Peak Challenge in late Summer.  Its just over 26 miles and with a tour guide is a walk that is set to take between 9 and 12 hours to complete.  And for obvious reasons (such as exhaustion, concentration and distractions) it is one walk that Fizz won’t be completing with me!

But that doesn’t mean that she can’t help with my training !!

And why I hear you ask……..

Well, you see ReSound have just made a massive development with their hearing aids, having raised just over £1,000 for them, I want to ‘earn’ the remaining £2,500 towards enabling me to purchase the new and improved LinX 3D (an improvement on the LinX 2 that I had previously tried.

So, one the challenge is set up you can show your support with words of encouragement, pennies to help reach the target OR by joining in on the walk yourself.

Domation can be made via the Just Giving Page Help TINK Hear


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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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Didn’t you see it?

There is nothing like a GDRI (Guide Dog Related Injury) to wake you up on a chilly winters morning.  Although in fairness, this wasn’t Fizz’s fault at all.

After the school run we were heading over to catch a bus, but as the weather was bright (although chilly) I had decided we would walk the 20 odd minutes to a stop further away.

A stop that saw us having to walk through a lovely park area that Fizz often gets to run around in.

So I knew her distraction level would be heightened.  But this I could manage; I could even handle the other free running dogs coming over to say hello.

Afterall, I didn’t expect them to understand it when their owners were shouting

“Leave, that’s a working dog!”

So, with her harness in my left hand (as usual) and the lead in my right; we navigated through the park.

Several Dogs; ignoring their owners pleas came to say hello.  But with a strong

“Leave it, walk on”

Fizz ignored them for the most part….

That was until we met a tiny dog.  I say tiny as Fizz had to put her head down some way to sniff (which I could feel through the harness)

I could hear the owners pleas, but they were some way away, so continued with our walk and giving Fizz the command to go on.

But she wouldn’t.

I thought this was just down to the distraction of the dog, so persevered and finally got her to move forward.

And that was when it happened….

I fell forward, landing full pelt onto my hands and knees

When the owner appeared beside me and uttered those words

”Didn’t you see the lead?”

Suprisingly, NO!

It would appear that said small dog ‘Rouge’ was on an EXTREMELY long lead type rope, which the owner used as she (Rouge, not the owner) was so small she would get lost if not attached!

I asked the owner why she hadn’t used the leader to get her dog out of the way and her reply made me laugh

”She may be small, but she is very strong and I can pull and pull on her lead, but she just won’t be moved.”

To give you an idea, this dog was chihuahua sized, but with long hair.  Personally I thought she looked like the sort of dog that would blow away if the wind was more than a gentle breeze!

But I kept my comments to myself, picked myself up and making sure the dog wasn’t in front of me, continued on with our walk.

I know that walking through the park can be a distraction for Fizz and I also know that dogs will be running free and want to say hello.  What occurred today left me winded!  And if I am honest, a little upset.  I received no apology; or worse still, no help from the other dog owner.

But it has reminded me that Fizz May be surrounded by distraction, but she still knew what was best for me!  Something I don’t give her credit for enough……… Lesson Learned!


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Sleep tight baby girl

This post has taken me several weeks to write and I must warn you that it may cause you upset, tears are most certainly in my eyes as I type this.  But they are tears of great memories, of funny stories and of achievements.

On January 2nd, after a struggle with an illness I said goodbye to my original guiding girl; my first guide dog Vicky.

Three years ago today (19.01.15) Vicky wore her guide dog harness for the final time.  She walked beside me as I took the children to school in the morning.  We took a longer walk home that day.  She then sat wondering what I was upto when I took this photograph of her sat in the lounge wearing her harness.Photograph shows Guide dog Vicky sat in harness in the lounge in front of the sofa, she is wearing a smile on her face.

And the reason for this final photograph?  It was because in less than 30 minutes a GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) would be coming to start my training with a new guide dog, my second leading lady Fizz.

I wrote about all that she had enabled me to do in The end of a (half) Era

When Vicky retired it was agreed that she would enjoy her retirement at home with me and the children, the home that she had moved into in 2009.  The home that she had been such an import part of and had help to instigate so many changes within.

Most of all (among others) when she guided me both literally and metaphorically through my pregnancy with my son.  When she ensured that both of us were safe while he was inside my tummy and while I carried him in his carrier.  She had also allowed me to go out and spend time with my daughter (who was just 4 1/2 yo when Vicky arrived)  So it goes without saying that she had captured an extra special part of my heart, that no other guide dog would be able to replace.

As my first guide dog, working with Vicky was scary.  But also exhilarating!!

When I applied for her in 2008 my list of ‘wants’ was to be able to go to the local shops alone, to take my daughter safely to pre-school (and then school) and to be able to go back to getting the bus to work and being able to not have to rely on someone to drive me.

When ‘murmurs’ of Vicky retiring began in 2013 my list of ‘wants’ was so very different.

Althoigh I no longer, I now had a son.  I now went horse riding.  I now volunteered with various charities and had such a busy schedule between the children, volunteering and hobbies that it took 16 months to find a guide dog that could follow in the huge paw prints that Vicky had set out.

It was also at this time when I started training with Fizz that I discovered just how much Vicky had had me wrapped around her dew claw!

I had thought it was ‘usual’ to work in circular routes, not being able to just turn around and walk back the way we had come (in the supermarket for example) like when we had walked upto school, which was LITERALLY in the road next to the house, we had to walk up on one side of the road and back down on the other!

It was when training with Fizz I discovered that this was a ‘retriever trait’ and one that I had been allowing Vicky to get away with.

Anyway….. I digress …….

In September last year Vicky had a cyst removed from her hip, it was nothing of any consequence, it had just been a source of discomfort.  So just weeks after when I noticed a lump on her side I took her straight back to the vets.

They weren’t overly concern.  She had just turned 12 yo and when tested with a needle prick the results showed it was a fatty lump.

So, with the agreement of both the vet and guide dogs we would watch and measure the lump.

In November Vicky went off her food, the lump was measured and there was  a sizeable change in it.  Vicky was put on pain medication and further tests were agreed.

When I took Vicky in Forbes her X-rays in early December it was felt that actually she would benefit from specialist investigations that my vet could not offer.

Vicky was starting get tired.  She was beginning to show her struggle.  She was still very playful at home with Fizz, but our walks had become considerably shorter.

She was noticeably loosing weight and her coat was loosing its gleaming shine.

Her pain medication was increased and every hope was placed on her appointment with the specialist.

That was until she took a turn on New Year’s Day.  It was heartbreakingly to watch her.  The vets were brilliantly though. They put her on a drip and made her comfortable.  They even managed to change her visit to the specialist.

So after staying with them overnight I was amazed to see a much brighter bouncy girl bought out to me the following morning.

She was still weak, she was still in pain, but she was also relieved to see me again.

So we went to the specialist.  Where we were joined by GDWO (guidebook dog welfare officer) Vicky was so placid that they were able to X-ray her without sedation.

It wasn’t good news.

Although the X-rays didn’t tell them EXACTLY what was wrong with her, they did tell them enough.

The consultant was so kind.

The GDWO was so kind.

We could investigate more.

We could reduce her pain.

But the one thing we couldn’t do was to stop the end result.

Vicky was 12 yo and as a Flatcoat cross Golden Retriever I already knew she was older than most.

The growth on her chest was too big.  Whether it was a fatty lump or cancer, there was no option to remove it.

The consultant talked about this and that.  I remember asking is guide dogs needed it investigating further (they didn’t)

It was then that I looked down at Vicky.  I had sat down on the floor with her by this point.  I could see the pain in her eyes, I could feel the tension in her body.

Through tears (just like those that are escaping now) I asked the consultant if we could let her go to sleep and take her pain away?

He was amazing.

He told me he would give me time with her and if when he came back it was too soon I was just to tell him to bugger off (his exact words!) and he would give us more time.

The GDWO went to get Vicky a comfy bed as she was laying on a hard floor and kept banging her head each time she lifted it.

The nurses bought a beautiful white fluffy fleecy bed and we got her comfortable on it.

I spoke to her and thanked her.

The consultant came back and I agreed it was time for her to go.

I stayed with her and held her tight.  She was so peaceful, she was no longer in pain…..  But she was gone!

My friend that was with me supported me throughout, even though she too was upset.  The GDWO told me she would stay with Vicky, make sure that she wasn’t left alone and take care of all the paperwork.

It absolutley broke my heart the minute I walked out of that room and typing his now I am feeling that pain all over again.

Vicky was so much, she gave me so much more than I could ever thank her for or repay her for:

She gave me the me that is here today.  There are no words to describe what that is.  I just know that the love I feel for her will never be replaced.

It was agreed that Vicky would be cremated and get to ‘come home’

The GDWO took care of all of this on my behalf.  She even bought Vicky home to me on 10th January.

The house hasn’t been the same.  Fizz hasn’t been the same;  I have sat and cried cuddled into her; I have explained it to her.  I know she is missing her friend.  The whole time Fizz has been with me, she has had Vicky to play with.  And now it is just her…….

Photograph of a pale wooden box with the gold inscription “Vicky” on the top sat on a grey sofa with w small dog bone beside it that was placed there by Fizz the dog who is looking sadly at the bone and the box.

We have plans to take Vicky for her ‘final walk’ and let her go.  Keeping all the memories, the photographs and a few simple keepsakes of her.

Along with the love for her.  And although I love Fizz (and wouldn’t change her for the world) Vicky will always have an extra special place that no other dog or human can ever replace.


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First Scarlet; Then Pink; A study of Sherlock

This is an interesting one.  Something a little different for me.  Something that is far too good an opportunity to pass up.

Through my volunteer role with Open Sight I was made aware of The Conan Doyle exhibition that is currently taking pride of place at Portsmouth Central Library, an exhibition that was bequeathed to the City of Portsmouth by  richard-lancelyn-green with funding from The National Lottery (among others) it had been made fully accessible to those with a visual impairment.

Sadly I had yet to find the time to visit when I received another correspondence from Open Sight giving very vague details of a residential writing course being run and funded on behalf of The Conan Doyle Trust.  For whole Open Sight were simply collecting details of those who were interested to be passed over for more information.

The residential course running 5 full days would be fully funded including accommodation and travel, so I fully expected the ‘application process email’ when it arrived.

(I won’t detail EVERYTHING here)

But hence to say, an interest in Sir Conan Doyle and his infamous charactor Sherlock Holmes were part of the process.

The first criteria was to submit TWO examples of our own work (published or not) to give an idea of writing style.

The second criteria was to write (in no more than 500 words) what you could gain from such a residential course, while explaining your interest in The Conan Doyle Collection.

So, I set to work, this is what I wrote:

Oh how I dream to study Sherlock!

The opportunity to attend a creative writing course will enable me to learn properly how to put my own ‘interesting’ writings of my journey with sight loss. To discover that the whole thing is not only being supported by The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection that was bequeathed to the City of Portsmouth; but it is to work on the ongoing projects funded to take part in 2018, possibly enabling me to write about my love and enjoyment of more recent adaptations of one of Doyle’s infamous characters Sherlock Holmes and I find my fingers tingling over the keyboard to find the right words.

Just 500 words to explain myself, that in itself is a challenge!

Honestly, until the 2010 BBC TV series of Sherlock written by Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis I hadn’t really had an interest in the works of A.C Doyle. I initially took each episode as it was, set in today’s time yet with the iconic ‘nod’ to the originals by seeing Holmes and Watson share rooms at 221b Baker Street. I never realised just how many other ‘nods’ each story held.

And it was the special in January 2016 of The Abominable Bride that I gained so much insight into the original works of Doyle. Being visually impaired it is difficult to ‘read’ yet with audio description turn on I was able to enjoy every detailed part of the theatre that played out on the screen. The detailed explanation that had led the writers to take a trip into the past, the additional details within the current stories that all held historically to the original works. I was transported to a world of intrigue, mystery and found myself wanting to join The now consulting detective.

The whit and sarcasm were bought to life by a great cast, which I relate to as I often find myself writing with these; to turn some of the sadder stories that I relay into a more positive light.

My mind often runs away when I am writing and the words flow easily for the most part. I write in the hope that just one person will find comfort or happiness in reading my words. I write on my own blog www.seemyway.co.uk – about my own life, my journey, about the little ‘tweeks’ or ‘blind fails’ I encounter regularly. I also use it to talk about my passion for rock climbing, volunteering and not letting my sight beat me. It isn’t always pretty happy stories, but then it is real and sometimes there is no way of adding a positive spin to something.

I want to expand my knowledge of writing, my understanding and use of the English language as my hope for the future would be to become a published author, supporting others with sight loss, their families and friends to gain a better understanding of how people can see the world when they are visually impaired.

(the supporting work I included)Screenshot photograph of my blog post “Familiarity is a blind gals best friend”Screen shot photograph of my blog post “Blindly following google”

And now I wait….. A concept that requires Patience; something that doesn’t come naturally to me !

Despite my work being ‘found to be very interesting’ I was put onto the ‘shortlist’ which meant that if (for whatever reason) anyone was t able to attend I would get to go.

So, I kept quiet, made arrangements as if I were to be going.  Only to hear at the beginning of this week that I would not be attending.

So, for now I am looking at the positives and have taken some learning away from this experience and I am also looking at other adventures that my blogging could open for me.

So….. Watch this space !!!


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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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An Open Letter

DEAR CAR DRIVERS

Thank you for your kindness. I do not want this post to sound ungrateful. Really I don’t:

When you see me and my working girl (guide dog) Fizz waiting patiently at the curb edge to cross the road, I do not think you rude for driving on.

Stopping and (I can only assume) flash your lights, waving at me or even tooting your horn, (this I can hear) will not make me walk out into the road.

By stopping early for the junction you are being kind. But you are also putting me in danger. If I were to cross in front of you, your engine noise could mask that of a car coming the other way, or a car behind you could decide to overtake.

Unless I am on a designated crossing, Fizz is trained to not go before you. So I will stand and I will wave you on. I will put my hand up to wave a thank you, or give you a thumbs up; but please just keep going.

(Even more so when it is dark, both me and Fizz will be in high viz, but we are both dazzled by your headlights)

When I wave the first car on, why would I then walk before the 2nd? I am not doing it to be ‘carist’ I will wave each and everyone of you on.

I am not being rude, I am ensuring my own safely. Please understand, by stopping early you are often creating traffic build up, reducing the ‘natural gaps’ that would enable me and Fizz to cross safely.

I am not alone with this, all guide dog owners are taught this, as are all (or where when I was trained) long cane users.

If I am with a friend or a kind stranger has offered to help me cross.  AND if crossing in front of you would be the only option, I will drop Fizz’s harness handle (walking her just by her lead) and taking the arm of the person with me.  This removes the responsibility to guide me from my guide dog and is the only time I will ‘break the rules’

This is because we have assistance from a sighted guide.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter xx

safe travelling to you all xx

Warm Wishes xx Tink


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Silvers nice ….. Yet Bronze is prettier

This weekend saw the 3rd round of the BMC Paraclimbing series.

Manchester Climbing Centre was the venue – A beautiful former church, which has kept many of its original features, not to mention the lack of heating!! (Which was clearly felt this weekend ‘tup-north)

The routes were set, the atmosphere was buzzing and the turn out was phenomenal.

Selfie of me with Guide Dog Fizz with the Climbing Centre behind us and showing a large round stain glass window at the top Centre of the photograph

 

There were six competitors in female VI (according to the entry list anyway)  and Abi a fellow vi Climber who often ‘flashed’ all her routes and boulders was here.  So barring a natural disaster I set myself up for the best I could achieve would be a silver.

….. So what is a FLASH I hear you ask …..

To ‘Flash’ all routes and boulders is to get to the top hold on the first attempt.  With the top rope climbing routes you only had one go to get the best score or to ‘flash’ the route, but with the boulder problems you are given 3 opportunities.  Scoring a bonus 2 points if you succeed on the first go.

Anyway, I set myself the personal challenge to beat my scores from the same competition last year.  Knowing that the climbs had been set harder, this was my way of judging how I had improved in the past year.

This is the same challenge I have set myself for each of the rounds.  However one that, despite topping more routes and reaching higher in the routes I didn’t top, I didn’t actually achieve this in Edinburgh.  But as we don’t climb the EXACT same routes each year this isn’t always a clear sign of improvement, they may have changed the scoring against how everyone performed last year.

This was certainly the case for the 2nd round this year; after 3 of the 4 Male VI climbers scored maximum points, the route setters upped the challange for London.  Given that the 3rd top rope in Manchester was graded as a 7a (2a grades above my comfort zone) the Competition was seen to be set for a much higher status.

Usually as the routes go, boulder 1 and top rope 1 are lower grades, I flashed boulder 1, yet took a silly slip on top rope 1, costing me 26 points.

Photo shows me on toprope 1, just before I slipped. This is about 2/3rds up the route.

I got further on top rope 2 and just under the first ledge on top rope 3 (where I hadn’t expected to get too far from the ground!)

Photograph of me on top rope 3, my right hand is up on an underhand hold, my right leg is bent and the move I need to make is to stand up on my right to reach over the red ledge with my left hand.... I didn’t reach it!

The second boulder was a challange and one I had hoped to return to after a break (but time ran away from me) while boulder 3 was set as a challange to most.  I was happy to get the minimum points of 47 on this as it was such a hard set.  47 Out of 60 meant I got both my feet off of the ground, which given there was only one foot hold and the hand holds had an interesting placement was quite an achievement and similar to many of my fellow competitors.

This photograph is of boulder 2, I managed to get one hand hold higher having moved my right foot to a higher hold.    

Had time allowed I think a 3rd attempt on this route would have seen me complete it.

But time didn’t allow.

The sheer volume of competitors and lack of volunteers who could belay meant that the competition ran over by 35 minutes as it was.  In which time I competed in the 3rd top rope, where I found myself scoring much higher than I expected.

Once the competition was over it was time to calm down, take off my climbing shoes (hello feet) and harness and await the results.

There were no podium blocks, but an innovative use of the stone steps that led upto the bouldering area and my catagory was read out.

As expected, 1st place went to Abi (which I congratulated her on) then 2nd place …….. Me!

I took my podium; accepted my medal and had my picture taken.

There had been no 3rd place on the podium which I had felt was odd, but had honestly thought the person named as 3rd had left.

It was only after all the podiums were announced that the organiser explained that the medals that hadn’t been handed out in London were ready for collection.  It was at this point I discovered that a fellow female VI had been mis-catagoried and was in fact 2nd.  So back went my shiny silver medal and out came the beautiful bronze!

Sadly it was too late to re-take the podium photographs. So the only one I have is of me with my silver.  So here is my ‘incorrect’ Podium photo showing me beside the beautiful Abi.

Photograph of me stood on the left hand side of stone steps with a silver medal and certificate with Fizz stood beside me and fellow climber and gold medal winner Abi on the right


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Familiarity is a Blind Gals Best friend

Just as a car driver does not need to actually look at the gear stick to change gears in a car, there are places where I can move around with great ease without the need to see.

To a degree I can walk around in my local gym without the need for my cane or guide dog. The machines all have their set place, it is just me needing to focus on where the other gym goers are, although given the location of the mirrors and the windows in the gym I can easily become disorientated.

One such place I do not need to look is my own home.

Although this does not include my childrens’ bedrooms ….. These are the only two places in my home that I walk with shuffled feet and taking extra care.  But then I have it on good authority that many of my sighted parents do the very same thing in their childrens bedrooms as they are a minefield of Lego, cars, clothes and all things child!

I can also extend this ease of movement to The Scout Hut where I volunteer, although with this environment I have to factor in moving children.  However the main hall, entrance hall and kitchen are set out in such a way that apart from the odd additional table, everything has its place.

Suprisingly another place that I can move with ease is Calshot Climbing Centre.  For obvious reasons the walls never move.  Even though the holds and routes on the walls may alter.  The blue fencing around the climbing walls and the black cubbyhole benches don’t move.  It is just the climbers, their gear and the ropes that do.

The wall also has marked out areas on the floor where you can and cant walk.  These are depicted by a dark red floor for the climbers and belayers to stand in and a black mat flooring where you can wait, stand and walk without being in the way of a climber or their belay partners.  Although saying this, there is not much contrast between the two colours and if I don’t concentrate I can occasionally get it wrong.  But generally I am ok.  Although if I am moving between different climbs; for ease I will link into the arm of my CPiC.

Should I need to go and top up my water bottle or pick up a set of hold keys, because a hold has slipped, I can do this unaided and unsupervised by my partner.  Although I will often ask him

Is there a clear path?

I know to walk with my head down, so that I can look out for objects on the floor.  I also find myself asking others if they are belaying if there is the odd person stood.  Because although I can see the person, I would really struggle to see the rope they were holding on to and as a considerate climber, I would never want to walk near a belayer that may need to suddenly move to support their climber.

This familiarity that is great for me is often an issue of concern for those who do not know me.  Especially as I tend to wear a top that says ‘Blindclimber’ on the back.

I have previously, in other circumstances had people question my blindness.  It is a common occurrence and one that does not faze me. It does however occasionally upset me when people are critical and rude in the way they question.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, Friday while climbing I had one such occurance.

The climbing wall was cold.  So while belaying I had my fleece on.  This covered my top.  So as is usual, I don’t look up to watch my partner climb.  Not because I am rude, but because once his feet are over my head height I can’t see very much of him.  And because I feel is climbing and movements through the rope; I learnt a long time I didn’t have to get neck ache and pretend.

This does however often lead to other climbers (not so) quiet whispers of

Oh my God, he isn’t safe up there.

How can he be safe with her? She isn’t even watching him!

Wow, he’s brave.  How can someone belay without looking out for the guy on the rope?

This is a conversation I have had many a time with my CPiC, he knows I have him.  He knows he is safe.  He would not be happy to climb if he didn’t feel either of them.

Friday was very much the same.  With my fleece on the group of three chatting by us were not so subtle in their conversation and accusations.  So me being the outspoken, no shit personality that I am.  Without them even asking, I politely said

Hey, just so you guys are aware, I can’t see too well, so if you are climbing near here you will need to be more aware of where my partner is as I can’t warn him of where you may be on the wall.

This was met with the usual mumbles and apologies as they were well aware that I had overheard them talking.  And as such were very detailed in the position they were going to climb, which was actually several climbs over and no where near (but this I also already knew from the direction of their voices and the movement of their rope bag)

But it enabled me to make my point and be heard loud and clear.

So, it was my time to climb and off came the fleece.  The back of my top visable and I never thought anything more of it.

That was until later in the evening when I went to full up my water bottle  (afterall when it is cold it is just as important to be hydrated!). and The Three Amigos were sat around the other side of the wall laughing and joking.  I was met with

She can’t really be blind, look she is walking with such confidence she can clearly see what she is doing.  Why would you lie?

I don’t even warrant such comments with an answer.  I just got my water and went back to my partner.  He instantly realised I was bothered by something and so I told him, he knows how this gets to me and told me (sincerely) to ignore them and enjoy the climb.

Which is exactly what I did.

And exactly what I will continue to do each and every time someone questions my abilities.

Afterall, those who are technically blind can often see something.  And they will use that minimal sight to appear as ‘normal’ as the next person.  I don’t believe I am any different to others in that way?

Or maybe I am?  Why don’t you put your comments below.  I am always interested in people views.


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