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
While with a group of friends today we were talking about faith. Discussing it and questioning what our understanding of it is. One comment made about one way to look at faith was If you’re sat on a chair, you hold faith that THAT chair
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)
Love it or hate it; one thing that we have all learnt during the pandemic is how to use the video conferencing app Zoom.
From conferences and Pub quizzes to Weddings, Zoom has enabled us to connect even when physically we can’t.
For me, with my visual impairment it was an incredibly steep learning curve to understand how to use it to its full potential.
I have hosted many a meeting with friends, colleagues and even the cub scouts who are all unable to meet face to face at this time.
When ‘Share screen’ goes on my own camera goes off. Then I can sit with my nose up close to actually see the content.
For conferences it has enabled me to join in when if I was at an event in person I may struggle due to the amount of people, the noise level and even at times the flashing lights. This all disappears on Zoom.
For other meetings it has enabled me to be in the comfort of my own home, rather than making a lengthy journey across the country, which in turn has enabled many more people to join the meeting who may have been restricted before due to location or time.
And as I said above, just Last weekend, I had the privilege of watching two wonderful friends celebrate and marrying each other; After the original ceremony was postponed at the very beginning of the pandemic.
Even though it was via zoom I dressed for the occasion, following the guidance that the couple had previously shared as their ceremony took place in a Mosque.
But why did I like this via zoom so much? I hear you ask.
The answers are very simple.
Because I was actually able to SEE my friends as they spoke. It was set up so that each of those within the Mosque that read out, sung or spoke were on a different camera to the couple.
Again it enabled me to momentarily turn off my own camera so that I could look closely at the happy couple and see the beautiful decorations that were set out before them and also the beautiful outfits they were wearing.
As this ceremony took place in a Mosque, had we been able to meet in person then this is where we would have continued the celebrations with food afterwards. Obviously there is no way to convey this via a video conferencing app, however it did mean that I was able to see up close as the happy couple cut into their amazing wedding cake.
Yes, I would have much rather have been able to be there with them in person to celebrate. To hug them both. However, for me because of my sight and hearing issues I feel that I was actually able to enjoy their special day more, because of the closeness of the camera to them, because of the way it was set up that when someone else spoke it flicked over to their camera. (Were I there in person I would have no way to see who was talking)
Via zoom for me, there is also no worry of the travel, the hotel arrangements, the concerns over coping without my guide dog, among other anxieties.
And more importantly it meant that two of my wonderful friends were able to join together and start this new chapter of their lives; as a partnership.
There will come a time when we can meet together, gather and celebrate. And that is most certainly a day I am looking forward to, sadly though I feel we are a long way off such at time at the moment.
I had used zoom prior to the pandemic, but only for meetings and the odd training.
Yet now, it is an integral part of my life and for me personally it helps me to overcome some of the issues that could hold me back because of my sight and hearing loss.
So, just as I love marmite I think I can honestly say, I am a big fan of Zoom. I know it isn’t for everyone, my own son for example absolutely hates it. But then he isn’t a fan or Marmite either !
As my youngest has recently celebrated turning 10, it makes me aware that the next birthday is our family is mine.
My birthday has often been a Love-Hate subject for me, being at the beginning of January it’s always been pretty rubbish timing. (Better than it could have been, I believe my due date was December 21st)
As a child I often got money for my birthday, which mixed with what were True-January sales I got so much more for my money. However since adulthood as much as I would love to celebrate and socialise with friends I am acutely aware that January is a VERY long month.
Many often joke that January is actually much longer than its 31 days, which in reference to paydays is certainly true; as it can be as much as Seven weeks rather than Five.
However, a real plus for me is that restaurants and pubs are generally much quieter for these exact same reasons! Meaning that I can enjoy myself without the worry of additional difficulties because of noise, crowds and party-type lighting. (Hence the Love-Hate)
Having my youngest 10 years ago meant that I was a very tired newish mum for my thirtieth as it was a very different experience to when I had my eldest because of the changes in my sight.
Lots of people have started asking what I want to do the celebrate.
And honestly, with the world still in the middle of these ‘unprecedented times’ and with so many restrictions in place, there is a distinct possibly that even if I started RIGHT NOW….. I would not achieve what I want to by the end my thirties with a ‘Forty things before I am Forty Bucket list’
So, the question is; do I make it ‘Forty things to do as I turn Forty’?
Or as one friend suggested….. “Celebrating beginning my Naughty Forties in Style”
And if that is the case, What do I do?
I do have a pretty big ‘challenge’ planned for 2021, which is currently being tweaked and trained for. Which, linking to my previous challenges (Gherkin 2014, Cheesegrater 2017 and my Tube Challenge 2019) will be following the London theme.
This Challenge will most certainly help me to achieve my fundraising target to name a guide dog pup and future life-changer. Which would be an AMAZING way to celebrate starting my “Naughty-Forties.”
With the exception of this year (thanks lockdown!) I have in recent years taken to a solo travel adventure, so it is only fitting that that would be included. But I would also like to do something with my children, with friends and with those I now come to call family.
I do also like the idea of celebrating in several different ways. I’m not thinking of a big party; actually I can’t think of anything worse! Rather many smaller and different experiences that will be much easier to adapt to include my different circles of friends and family.
It goes without saying there will be Climbing, Hiking, Tandem Riding, London, Trains, Beaches, Cocktails and Cake …. Plenty of Cake!
But as for particulars….. This is where you my reader comes in. What would you do if you were me?
Please comment below and help me make this an amazing and incredible year to look forward to.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the use of face masks has increased. It has been compulsory for most ‘front-line staff’ from the very beginning.
Then government officials suggested members of the public wear face coverings or masks when going into enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, such as supermarkets, garden centres and medical appointments.
And I will admit, when this recommendation came in I also took this to mean to wear a face mask or face covering when using the bus.
Whixh as of tomorrow 15th June it will be compulsory to wear a face covering on all public transport. (Unless young, have certain health conditions and certain disabilities)
so, one afternoon earlier this week I thought I would road-test my floral cotton facemask for the bus journey and while I did some essential shopping.
Having not been on a bus for about Eight weeks I was initially a bit concerned about my journey, but the bus driver soon put me at ease. Our local buses have had clear screens to protect the drivers for many years, so this was nothing new, however implementing social distancing on a bus was definitely something I was uncertain of.
The driver explained to me that each of the seats in the aisle were taped off with yellow tape, as were both of the seats in every other row to enable passengers to sit two metres apart beside, in-front and behind.
For me, my sight enables me to see the bright yellow tape on the grey seats, however not to read the words. So the drivers instructions were very clear and descriptive; as you can see from this photograph that I took once I sat down.
The bus seemed fairly empty and as I went to get off at the bus station, the bus driver again explained that social distancing was implemented inside the station. If I am honest, my guide dog was a little hesitant when we got into the station, but I gave her the command to turn left and out the station and she soon found her feet and walked with confidence.
As i have said previously, I have found it easier to shop for many of my essentials from my local Wilko and Poundland stores as they are smaller and generally have been quieter.
So, on this visit off to Wilko we went. I tried to scan for a queue outside the store and as I couldn’t I approached the door and asked the staff member if there was a queue to join, when she explained there was no-one else waiting so I could come straight in. She explained where the freshly wiped down baskets were and off I went to get what was on my list.
I walked down one aisle and at the end it appeared that they had put extra shelving in, so the pathway around to the next aisle was rather tight for manoeuvring me, Fizz my guide dog and the basket that was sat i the crook of my arm.
Shopping picked and off to the till. Here we hit a slight snag.
The store layout had altered. The additional shelving at the end of the aisles were actually there as the store had implemented a system similar to Tesco where you had to wait while socially distancing at one point before moving forward to the next available till. Which a kind shopper explained to me from the other side of the shelving.
So, after a bit of trial and error, we found the queue. With a light floor colour and the dark red Wilko signs marking each 2m space I was able to ensure I kept my distance. Then it was our turn to be at the front of the queue.
Again another snag…….
With no member of staff on queue control I patiently waited to hear a clue as to when it was my turn to go to a till. However the queue placement meant that we were at the customer service end of the tills with maybe five or six tills off in-front of us. When a couple walked very close beside me on my right, huffing as they did.
Another kind shopper who was now behind me (at a social distance) apologised as the couple that went passed me had got fed up of waiting as a till had become clear and I had not seen it; even though from their position this couple who jumped the queue did have a very clear view of my guide dog by y side. Thankfully at the next till to become free, the staff member had called out to me.
After hitting my basket off of the clear screen that had been put in place the staff member was kind and clear with her explanation and she even took my bag to pack my shopping for me.
Shopping done, back to the bus station, here is where I discovered the social distance implementations. I just want to add at this point, I am in full support of social distancing and of businesses and service providers who are taking care to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.
Fizz appeared to be walking right up against the metal benches, a place I try to move her away from as this is often where food has been discarded. Yet when I asked her to move in and walk more within the centre of the path she refused. I count in the large boards to get us to our stand. And then gave the command to find a seat. Fizz did this time move me to the right and to a seat by our bus stand. It was when I sat that I could then ‘see’ the issues that had caused Fizz to struggle; both when we left the station and as we returned.
There is a gap between the tape to enable people to get to the right bus stand, there also appears to be a yellow line on the floor, but as can be seen the space on each side of the tape is not very large and is why Fizz had found it a struggle both when leaving the bus station and when we returned.
Sadly, after the ordeal of our shopping trip a bus driver explained that I had over an hour to wait for the next bus. (As they are running a very different service, which is understandable) So I gave fizz the command to leave, and I decided we would just walk home, as that would take us about 40 minutes.
This whole experience had exhausted me mentally and I just wanted to get away from it all. My shopping was (if I am honest) a little too heavy for walking home; however I felt vulnerable. My confidence was thrown, especially as I was in what I would consider ‘familiar territory’, although with all the additional safety measures the whole thing felt alien to both me and Fizz.
So, tomorrow as more stores open I think I will actually be less likely to be visiting my local town. Because with these additional MUCH NEEDED safety measures I don’t feel that the routes and places that were so familiar to me prior to the Covid-19 will remain as such until social distancing is a distant memory…. Which I am well aware is not going to be the case anytime soon.
So for me, as the world re-opens I feel it is much less accessible for me.
And I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. I would love to hear your views and experiences. Please comment below.
Take Care and Stay Safe.
Lockdown has not been easy for me from a mental health point of view. As someone who holds multiply volunteer roles I work better when my schedule is full.
If you want something done, ask a busy person.
And for me that is most definitely the case. When I have all the time in the world to do something it never gets done. To the point that my diary schedule now also includes specific days and times for mundane housework.
I also need to find something to get me working out, gaining strength and becoming fitter; rather than just sitting in front of Netflix’s.
Along came a Facebook advert for a virtual challenge called ‘Race At Your Pace.’ Ever skeptical about just adverts I asked a few friends and they confirmed it was a genuine company and that actually many of them were doing a running challenge with them.
Social distancing for me with a visual impairment means that I am unable to run or cycle; given that I need either a guide runner to run with me or a pilot to ride my tandem.
Which left me with walking.
Not a problem, as I needed to exercise my guide dog Fizz, and this was a mix between ‘working walks’ for her in harness and ‘sniffy walks’ where she was on a longer lead and able to just be a dog, sniffing at each post to catch up on all the ‘Pee-Mails’
So, April’s challenge was set, I set myself the target of 50 miles of walking workouts. Which I new was a MASSIVE challenge for me, however with both indoor walks and outdoor walks counting I felt it was achievable.
Oh how wrong was I?
In April I did walk 50 miles, however it saw me going right up to the last minute with a 4 mile walk on the 30th April. Having always measured my distance in Kilometres, it was a bit of a shock to the system to measure in Miles.
However when this beauty arrived in the post I felt proud that I had achieved it.
And having gone right to the wire for April I knew I needed to work harder. So not only did I re-enter for May, but upped the distance…. This time 65miles.
A target that I not only reached on the 29th May with 2 days to spare but I discovered that I had smashed through it as only looking a ‘walking workouts’ on my Apple Watch did not include the 6+miles I had recorded as ‘Hikes’.
So yes, you have probably guessed by now, I am going again in June, I am again increasing my distance…. increasing to 75 miles.
I hear you ask, we’ll Lockdown has been a time of planning, and for now let’s just say when the world reopens I will be walking much much further than 50, or 65 , or even 75 miles……
Over the last week to ten-days there has been a real shift in how we all behave; And rightly so. Covid-19 is no joke and not something we should take lightly.
This is a strange time, unlike any other I have ever faced in my lifetime and actually many people have never faced since WW2.
It is a time when the vulnerable are simply facing greater vulnerability..
The simple things that many people (vulnerable or not) take for granted, like having your supermarket shop delivered to your door; even being able to buy toilet roll because your on your last roll.
For me, this time has been one of increased anxiety, and I would put much of that down to my disabilities.
My disabilities don’t place me in the group of ‘at risk’ thankfully, however many of the measures in place are much more difficult for me.
When at home, washing my hands and cleaning are easy for me. However when out and about, not so much.
In the last day or two WHO (World Health Organisation) have recommended social distancing. And this has been a major issue for me.
Made even more difficult because I have an incredibly sociable guide dog !!
Keeping a significant distance of two meters when you have no depth perception and a visual impairment that means if you put your arm out in-front of you, you can’t see your own hand; How do you actually know how close to someone you are standing?
All of my many volunteer roles have been put on hold. My social life (aka my coffee habit) has significantly decreased. However my walking and ‘escaping to the great outdoors’ has increased.
The biggest challenge for me at this time of uncertainty the most difficult thing for me is asking for help or accepting help when it is offered.
I am stubbornly independent, however I had a moment early this week when I had to swallow my pride and ask a friend to take me food shopping. Because no amount of independence would have made it possible for me to do a ‘usual’ fortnightly shop in person because no deliveries were available. That very same friend has been absolutely amazing in ensuring that both my physical and mental health are not being affected by all of this.
Thankfully social distancing doesn’t have to be a adhered to when working my guide dog. She is and can continue to be my left hand lady. Our walks have been very different, but with more time for her to run around and she hasn’t seemed to mind too much.
My message to you all is to stay home, to stay safe and more importantly share with those who are not as fortunate as yourself. However if you do catch the Coronavirus, isolate, order in, and ASK FOR HELP.
Always one for challenging myself.
However, this challenge is on a totally different level than any other I have done before.
It’s not particularly physically challenging, rather mentally challenging and reliant heavily on a sensitive touch. (A skill I am working on improving)
What is this challeng? I hear you ask….
It’s a puzzle, not as in I am teasing you all; but rather an actual puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle that is.
With my lack of sight, the actual picture on the puzzle is redundant. So, for this reason I have chosen one made up of butterflies, in varying colours and shades, to give a finished puzzle that is almost a rainbow.
I will be honest, it’s been hard work. There has been tears and just to get to this stage has taken many a late night.
It all started with finding the edge pieces. Then out came my magnifier; so that I could separate the pieces by their main colour, which is easier said then done as several of the pieces morph into the next colour.
So, for now this is where I am.
As someone with sight loss, it can often be quite painful to look back.
This is because looking back is a time when there was more sight, less struggles.
However, in this instance I am looking back to actually be able to measure how far I have come.
This time five years ago I was in the midst of training with Fizz, my second guide dog.
Training with Fizz was different in many ways to when I trained with Vicky.
For starters, I didn’t have the nausea that I had had during training with Vicky (as I soon discovered I was actually pregnant with my son)
I also discovered very quickly, that although trained the same, personality played a big part in how a dog behaved and works…
Unlike Vicky, Fizz was not a licker; she was however a very tactile dog and loved to be close, preferably touching me at any opportunities.
I was also quick to learn that Vicky had actually worked on me and twisted me around her paw!
This became apparent as we trained within our local supermarket.
(With Vicky) If I had forgotten to pick something up in the aisle we would walk up-to the end of the aisle, around to the next and complete a loop to get back to the beginning. As she (Vicky) would never just turn around and go back on herself.
I just thought that this was the way this was how things were done….. How wrong I was !!!
When going to do this same move with Fizz in the supermarket my GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) asked what I was doing, so I explained to be told in a firm (but fair) tone
You turn your dog around. Right where you are!
My GDMI referred to my previous guide dog as a ‘double diva retriever’ as she was both a flatcoat retriever and golden retriever. Which only became more clear as my training with Fizz progressed. As I worked backwards from some of the ‘habits’ Vicky had me doing to suit HER.
Fizz was also different in that she was walking at the pace I SHOULD be walking at; I say should because I hadn’t realised that as Vicky had slowed in her older age, I had simply adjusted to that too. When actually my preferred walking pace was considerably faster. However to begin with, this made it feel like I was running to keep pace. Just 10 days in to training I was already finding each day a little easier and enjoying the long walks more and more.
If I am honest, I found it much harder to train with Fizz than I did with Vicky, however my life was so different from when I started training with Vicky back in 2009.
And a massive chunk of that was actually down to Vicky; down to the freedom and independence she had given me.
I was no longer the woman who relied on others to take me places, if I wanted to do something or go somewhere, with Vicky beside me I was able to achieve this.
Home life had changed to, when I trained with Fizz I was no longer working, but instead I filled my time with volunteer roles, climbing, socialising, walking and of course caring for my children.
And now I also had the time to be able to spend time taking Vicky out each day for a (non working) walk and play at the park so that she could enjoy her retirement at home with me and the children as part of our family.
Which is where she stayed with us until she passed away at the very beginning of 2018.
Fizz picked up on my hearing loss sooner than I did; she stepped up and kept me safe when I missed the odd bike or electric car.
She has been my rock.
She has taken the independence Vicky gave me and enabled me to expand on it, we have had some amazing and sometimes crazy adventures.
It’s hard to believe that Fizz has been my leading lady for five years now, however on the other side it is also becoming clearer that at eight and a half years old, Fizz is starting to behave in ways that show me that she is starting to slow down, isn’t as keen on some situations.
And that maybe; just maybe. It may be time to think about her happiness above my own and if it’s time to look into her retirement plan.