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
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
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
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
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)
This year has been fairly quiet for my climbing. However I have not been doing nothing with my time. I have in fact been in training.
Training for a different kind of challenge. This challenge is to run. Something I have not done since completing The GSR five years ago.
The reason I haven’t run for so long is that I discovered just after I started to notice my hearing loss that when running at the gym I suffered with motion sickness.
But I have (in secret) been completing my own variation of ‘couch to 5k’ I have even been taking off my Apple Watch as to not alert my friends who I share my activity with aware of my training.
My training has been on a set flat path at the far side of a local leisure centre parkland.
I have not quite manaeged a full 5k to date, but I have discovered that on a flat concrete path I do not suffer with the motion sickness I had suffered on each occasion (I tried several times at different times etc) of a treadmill run.
So, why am I letting you all know my secret?
Well, this Sunday I am attending a race. A flat course where I will have a guide runner and my children.
This Sunday we will undertake The Poppy Run.
This run is organised to raise money for The Royal British Legion.
Those who have followed me for some time will know how much I love the poppy. I love what it represents and I am forever grateful to those who have stood up protected our country.
So, along with my children, my guide dog Fizz (who isn’t running in harness, rather joining the other dogs who are welcome to join in the days events) and my friend and guide runner Vicky on Sunday 4th November at 11am we shall stand in silence for 2 minutes before setting off on the 5km course around Southampton Common.
I am doing this for other reasons.
4th November 2018 marks 10 years since I received the news that I would loose all sight and was registered severely sight impaired (blind)
This day is one I wish to celebrate and what better way could I do that then support a fantastic charity and face a personal challenge?
Well, maybe it’s because the girl in me enjoys a bit of bling and I can’t wait to complete the run to receive my poppy medal.
So, dear readers I ask for your support. As I am sure you are aware this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, a war where so many have their lives to enable us to keep our future.
As a family with multiple different surnames we have set up our just giving page as ‘Madhouse Family Poppy Run’ We would love to smash our £100 target.
Back in early September I was made aware that I had made it into the Shaw Trust Power 100 2018. But at the time knew nothing of it, who had nominated me or even what I was being nominated for.
I most certainly did not believe that I was chosen from over 700 entries to be named on the list which is compiled with the tag line
‘Britain’s most influential disabled people.’
Which may be why I kept it a close guarded secret. I only told my closest friend (because I did have to tell someone and I honestly believed he had nominated me-but he swears it wasn’t him)
Even when the proofreading of my bio that would be included in the publication came through I struggled to believe it.
I had previously heard of The Shaw Trust, but in only its fourth year, the power list is a relatively young publication, but one that is an amazing achievement in increasing awareness of people with disabilities and the impact they can have on the world around them. (Just as those who do not have disabilities can)
I then received my invitation to the launch party of The Power 100, to which i was welcome to bring someone, and it was I felt only right that I should invite my CPiC to attend after all I was sure he had been the person who had nominated me. (He is adamant it wasn’t him)
The event was to be held on The SouthBank and the dress code was ‘come as you are’ But no further information was forthcoming.
So Wednesday evening after a day in London with butterflies we attended the ‘Power 100 Launch’
The speakers talking of the work both they and the Shaw Trust do were amazing. The ‘Top Ten’ of the power list were announced, along with a little biography of what they did.
It was at the point where Alex Brooker was announced as Number 1 and invited to speak that I felt truly moved. His words, his whit and his ability to show how humbled he was by this really touched me.
It was after these that the publication was handed out.
It wasn’t actually until the point where Simon (my CPiC) found my bio page that I felt I was actually included. That this wasn’t all a big misunderstanding and they had invited me in error. As he read out my bio I found myself overcome with emotion.
Is it possible to say I felt proud of myself?
I realised that for the previous ten years (almost) since I recieved what I felt was devastating life ending news about my diagnosis I had actually impacted somewhere. I hadn’t ‘wasted’ my abilities.
I realised that I mattered.
You can see photographs of my inclusion within the publication HERE
You can see my bio and the other 99 entires in this years Power 100 2018 HERE
Yesterday marked the beginning of it.
Today compounded it even more.
What am I talking about?
I am talking about events and celbratitions about my first leading lady, the ‘original guiding girl’ Vicky.
On 15th October 2009 I met her for the very first time, she came with my GDMI Caroline to see if she could be the dog for me. And it wasn’t known to me at the time, but today 16th October is her birthday; or rather WAS her birthday.
And as such today is the first time since she came into my life that she hasn’t been with me to celebrate this day.
Good Olde Facebook has reminded me of today with lots of photographs and happy memories.
And it is some of those I feel I would share with you in this post.
Its hard to believe that Monday this week marked four years since I took on my first challenge….. The challenge to climb The Gherkin.
A challenge that took a twist when my CPiC and I decided rather than to climb the height between us, we would climb the height each.
For me, ‘The Gherkin’ was to prove (mostly to myself) that I could undertake that level of endurance. For Simon it was a slightly different challenge; for him it was about climbing blindfolded.
A challenge that together, we improved upon in May 2017 when we chose another iconic and interestingly nicknamed building of London’s skyline when we set about the challenge of scaling all 225m of ‘The Cheesegrater.
So….. 180m up a gherkin, 224m up a cheesegrater.
What number could possibly come next?
Can you keep a secret?
What if I told you the number involved was 270?
What would your thoughts be?
I can also tell you that the next challenge WON’T be a climb. However, it will very much involve LONDON.
Continued from ….. GETTING MY GEEK ON in Glasgow
The train journey was through rolling hills and beautiful landscapes.
Arriving at Pitlochry a fellow passenger helped me off with my case as there was a pushchair and hold-all in the door; only to have someone take my case on the platform!
All was okay though…. the man taking my case was in fact my cousin who had come to meet me! I would be spending my time with him and his wife. He gave me the warmest of welcomes and enveloping hug, easing away all the tensions from galavanting in Glasgow.
Fizz also had a friend, in their dog Honey (although on first impressions they weren’t too keen on each other)
Pitlochry is somewhere I have never been before, but thanks to good olde Google Streetview I felt it was somewhere I would be comfortable. The high street was made up of a mix of cafes, charity shops and outdoor shops. The homes were nestled within lush green fields and with numerous whiskey distilleries, long walks and most importantly … FAMILY
A family who opened their home to me. Who cooked me a overly dinner and who walked me via the local golf course to the pub to enjoy a drink or 3 with them and their friends.
After a very comfortable nights sleep we took the dogs out for a walk to Black Spout Wood, a beautiful and refreshing walk with streams for the dogs to splash about in and my first ever encounter of a natural waterfall.
The waterfall was considerably smaller than than usual, because water levels in the streams were much lower as even in Scotland they have been having a very hot summer.
All before returning for some lunch before embarking on a second walk and whiskey tasting in the afternoon.
Afterall, you can’t come to such a beautiful Burgh without tasting the local produce … Even if that is whiskey and gin!
And it is a whiskey that the store keeper knows so well, with the undertones of banana in one and dark chocolate in another; I must admit that to my untrained nose I could taste the differences in the samples, but not what was explained. We even sampled some of Pitlochry’s new gin, which I found very enjoyable and easy to drink.
After a few purchases we headed off towards The Pitlochry Dam. A structure that was planned back in the 1950s, being fully operational in 1962. You see the dam had (at the time) been part of Scotland’s history as the dam created hydro-electricity that helped to power just under two-thirds of The Highlands energy supply (bearing in mind the in 1960 energy usage was no where near what it was today)
The dam being on the river Tummel also included ‘A fish ladder’ enabling the salmon to move through their migration into the river after the dam.
The visitor centre had been renovated in recent years and for my cousin it was the first time he had visited it, we enjoyed some time looking around and learning the history and impact of the dam.
Again, the river Tummel and the Dam are showing how deplested the water levels are given the hot weather. It was very interesting though to find out how important and revelationary this dam was and how even now it continues to support Scotland’s power supplies, although now much of Scotland receives its energy from wind turbines.
During our walk we encountered the odd shower, but this just created a beautiful sky of blue and grey with the odd black cloud against the lush creeks and earth colours of the hills and trees.
But sadly all too soon, it was time to catch another train. For the next part of my adventure. A train journey that saw me returning to Perth before changing to travel on to Dundee.
Dubdee is a city I have visited many MANY many times before, but not for several years. In fact, the last time I visited was when I went to my Grabs funeral.
But that is another post.
To Be Continued …
Continued from ….. All Aboard
The sun was warm, although the sky was grey; the air reminded me of London, yet the feeling I got from this city was very different. It was as if when I spoke people softened.
Maybe it was hearing my southern English accent or maybe it was just the way I spoke. Whatever it was, it was very welcoming.
The train assistant walked me out onto the street beside Glasgow Central station and told me to turn right and then right again at the corner. To go to the crossing and I would find myself beside the river, from there I should turn right again and walk alongside The Clyde and I would reach The Glasgow Crowne Plaza.
Walking towards the Clyde had another reason; according to google maps, it was where the closest patch of grass was for Fizz to be able to have her breakfast and do ‘her business’ after all I was very aware that she had been on a train for eight hours without any option of relief!
The walk was lovely, calming yet refreshing and i was able to enjoy the varying architecture and engineering of the many different bridges we passed. (I later discovered just how many bridges there where)
The hotel was sat just after an odd ‘armadillo’ shaped building. I later discovered this to be The SEC Armadillo (yup that its official name) beside the SSE Hydro, a large exhibition, show and conference space.
While on the other side of the river there was The Glasgow Science Centre, IMAX cinema and The Glasgow Tower. But given the mix and mismatch of buildings and paving shows how there has been an increase in renovation and regeneration within the area in recent years.
This would do nicely, very nicely as a base to explore from. Surprisingly even at 8am in the morning my hotel room was ready for me, so instead of just leaving my bag at the hotel, I was able to check in, refresh with a lovely shower and sort myself out read for an adventure.
The hotel was beautiful, with 16 floors I took the opportunity to go upto the very top floor to look at the views (after photographing them and then zooming in) here are just a few of them.
When initially researching the hotel I had found that there was a train station closer to the hotel, but because this would have been involving walking away from the grass area i had decided against it originally. However I re-looked at it as a way to get back into the city centre for part of my exploration.
And when I did I discovered not only that the train station was just 3 minutes walk away, but that it was fully accessible over a large dual carriageway thanks to this beautifully designed fully covered in, ramped bridge.
The train took me less than 5 minutes to travel back into the center of Glasgow. Where I quickly found that my google maps was struggling a little because of the high buildings and built up area just like it does in London.
We (Fizz and I) walked for hours, admiring buildings, discovering Glasgow Queen Street station which would be the station I would need to continue my travel later. And in finding other station just a few moments walk from The Central Station I discovered this beautiful mosaic.
I could continue to bore you with photographs from around Glasgow, but actually all I will say is that I walked over 20,000 steps in this beautiful city and saw some amazing buildings along with meeting many MANY many tourists from lots of different countries.
Fizz walked her paws off and she was a superstar for me. With the odd little ‘mischievous quirk’ when she discovered a near by costa and clearly felt we had walked enough for the moment and walked me quickly to the crossing, causing traffic to stop before I had realised what her plans were …
Who am i to argue with a guide dog?
Stop, refuelled and ready for more…. off we go again.
TO BE CONTINUED …
When opportunity presents itself, take its hand and let it lead you beyond your comfort zone.
A fellow VI friend informed me of an upgrade available to me as a guide dog owner to sleep in a cabin overnight on a train for the cost of a seated ticket.
The Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland gave me just such opportunity. So in planning a trip I had hoped to take with my CPiC I booked a trip from London to Glasgow.
A journey which soon gave me the option to either cancel or put on my ‘big girl pants on’ to go alone….
Cancelling wasn’t really ever an option, as I would loose money not only on tickets, but on rooms already booked; plus my pure stubborn nature wouldn’t allow it. So I decided to go alone (with my guiding girl Fizz) and a new plan was made.
London to Glasgow was recommended to me as Edinburgh was hosting The Fringe Festival.
So my plan started to come together. I would travel to London on Monday, to catch the 23.20 sleeper out of Euston to Glasgow.
Monday was my day to explore London.
London is somewhere I have been many times before, however with my suitcase I wanted to stay close to Euston. But just getting there wasn’t so simple.
Having used Euston Tube station as an interchange before for the northern line I was aware that it only had escalator access to street level. So I made the brave (slightly silly) decision to get the tube to Kings Cross and walk back to Euston.
The walk was the easy bit, but the different lifts and levels of Kings Cross was a bit of a ‘challenge’ to say the least. But one I achieved on my own. The opportunity was there to ask for assistance, but I chose to put my problem solvcing hat on and just ‘get on with it’ Afterall, I have been to Kings Cross before and if in my mind if i couldn’t handle the tube, how would I manage Glasgow?
Hitting Kings Cross also gave me the opportunity to work out a green space for Fizz because with planned engineering works at Euston at the weekend, we would be returning to Kings Cross. Thanks to the power of social media, I was made aware of a flower bed to the side of the station.
The flower bed was in fact right beside The British Library, a building that has always fascinated me. So with time to kill I took the opportunity to go in.
The security staff were amazing, from explaining the bag search, to using a body scan wand on me and Fizz and continuing to explain it all to me; to then walking us down the ramps to the cloakrooms so I could have my suitcase stored while I explored.
Sadly there were no large print maps available, but as I explained to the staff that I used my phone as a magnifier they quickly radioed through to the other room attendants and security to make them aware that
“the blonde haired woman with the black guide dog who is deafblind has permission to use her phone as an aid to assist her, she isn’t taking photos, but simply magnifying the signs to enable her to enjoy her visit.’
This made me feel so very welcome and enabled me to enjoy my visit; while breaking down barriers for other visitors, who stopped to ask me how I was managing with the maps and signage.
I never went to look at the books (I do want to do this, but think it would be much easier with a sighted assistant) I purely went to look at the building…. The way the levels are open, the way the skylights are positioned, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I enjoyed the fact that I could sit on each level, watch the world go by and enjoy the different ways in which other people used the space.
Because despite my failing sight, I love to read and I have always had a fascination with libraries. So for a few hours after I explored the space I sat down with a comfy spot for Fizz and read my latest book. (Which is for another blog in the future)
This was just the calming and relaxed start to my adventure I needed before I met up with a climbing friend for a late supper.
We sat and talked, we ate, we drank and then realised this is the first time we have ever met outside of a climbing wall or competition setting.
And before I knew it, it was time to catch my train.
I felt nervous.
I felt excited.
I felt exhausted.
So, with a quick stop at Starbucks I went to find the assisted travel desk to board my train.
TO BE CONTINUED …