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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

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

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

Faith

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

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

Myth Bust: Blind Girls (and guys) Can Wear Contact Lenses

Just as someone who is severely sight impaired (blind) can and does often wear glasses; they are also able to (sometimes) wear contact lenses.

And why ?

For the same reason anyone else would wear contact lenses…. And for me, wearing contact lenses enables me to wear non-prescription sunglasses; among other reasons. (Vanity induced)

Until I wrote this post, it is part of me that very few know about.

Having had hard contact lenses when my sight was much more complicated as a teenager I did not get on with them.

Yet now with my simpler prescription I have been introduced to the world of soft monthly disposable lenses and for the past month or so I have been trialling them and find them so comfortable and easy to use and wear.

I thought I would write this post because earlier this week I was asked to ‘prove’ that I wore them. (By someone of authority-not just a random stranger)

This found me standing in the middle of a very busy London area, cleaning my hands, then moving and removing one of my lenses.

Which was followed by apologies and a long conversation about assumptions !! (And me getting a little bit told off for being ‘sarcastic’ )

My visual field is now at less than 3% and even with the best lenses I still can’t make out the top line of the eye chart, yet I still wish to make the most of my remaining vision and as I have found the days getting brighter (another part of my sight issue) I find contact lenses with wrap around (non-prescription) sunglasses help me with this.

I guess the point I am trying to make here is that it is the assumptions of others and people’s need for ‘proof’ of disability that needs to change; which is only going to happen by people asking questions (something most adults aren’t good at) and by people having conversations.

Those who know me, know I will happily have these conversations over and over again…. But I am just one person.

Myth Bust: This blind girl CAN shop!

Today I had a very rough encounter with a shop assistant. A very quizzical, judgemental encounter….. But rather than be negative, this got me thinking; unless you have a visual impairment or live within close proximity to someone who does, this may be a common misconception that anyone of my readers may also hold.

So here in a series of blogs I am going to look at busting some myths and misconceptions. Now as my blog is all about me (selfish I know!) what I write here works for me and is my point of view. Sight loss has a MAHOOSIVE variant in the many that it affects, so what works for me may not work for another. After all VIs (Visually Impaired) are unique Human beings with their own individual characteristics.

I personally love to shop! Muse through rails of clothes, feeling the different texture. I find some shops easier than others, I also have my staple ‘go to’ shops for my essentials.

When I trained with my guide dog (both of them) it was explained to me about how a dog works in certain environments. How a dog works in a supermarket for example is different to how they work in a clothes shop. And most of this is down to how we as humans move around in said shops.

Mostly because of how the shops themselves lay out their stock. A supermarket is quite regimented, with aisles and shelving. Where as clothes shops work with rails, displays and a more ‘hap-hazard’ movable approach.

So, when in a clothes shop I do not ‘work’ my guide dog Fizz. By this I mean I do not hold her harness handle and ask her to guide me around….. Manly because we wouldn’t get past the first row of clothes as the space between rails isn’t wide enough for Fizz to work properly!

So once inside a clothes store I will simply hold her lead, I will keep her on my left hand side and I will use my right hand to feel my way around the store, feeling out mostly for the ends of rails that could cause me issues if I bump them.

The stores I frequent regularly are used to me and Fizz, they even know that at times she will just lay down if I am spending too long looking at a section! After all she is a dog; she has no need or interest in clothes!

But when we go into a different shop (which doesn’t happen often) the other shoppers (as today) and the staff appear amazed by it.

Today’s encounter saw me being asked to leave. And this was because the store assistant believed that I was not VI and that my guide dog was just a pet. (Despite her harness and all her ‘uniform’ stating she is just that)

The store assistant had watched me move around, touching the clothes, but that my dog was just walking behind me. I did explain the main reason for this was because the space between the clothes was only just big enough for me to walk in, let alone Fizz to walk beside me.

I explained how I am trained with Fizz and how dropping harness means she doesn’t have to be responsible for trying to navigate in such an unnavigable space. To which the store assistant became very interested and was then asking questions out of interest not judgement.

Another point to make is that clothes shopping isn’t a rushed affair (not for me anyway) So I take my time, I can focus using what little sight I have left on navigating my way around. It’s not ideal and at times it doesn’t always work. But it is making the best of the situation.

For me, I prefer to shop alone for clothes, not be rushed or concerned with someone else getting bored or fed up with me. So this is how I work around it. It’s a quirk and it is following my guide dog training; which means I can’t be the only person who does this.

After all VIs shop, VIs go out alone and VIs above all else, have their own minds.

Personally I would not consider going clothes shopping using my long cane. As most clothes are hung on rails a cane could alert me to the floor being clear, but won’t alert me to the tops hanging from a rail (if the lighting isn’t right for me to see) And for this reason I do understand why some VIs prefer to shop with others.

So, I hope you have enjoyed this Mythe bust? Feel free to comment below on this subject or other myths you may have questions about.

Just over there

‘Over there’ is a world of myths and legends, often where ‘that way’ can be found. (Or so I am told)

It’s a place where as someone with a visual impairment upon asking for the location of something I have been directed to MANY times.

“It is a place I have never found !!”

Usually such explanation to a location comes with a wave of a hand or arm, but rarely any eye contact from the person giving the instruction.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when such directions do come with eye contact, but due to other people or a counter my guide dog is often obscured.

I am more than happy to press the matter and ask for more detailed direction. And thankfully on most occasions it has been easily obtained.

But it reminds me of how we can all become so familiar with our environments that we forget that someone new (with or without sight-loss) may not find it so easy to navigate.

I know people get flustered giving directions; do they give it from their point of view or the person asking?

If it is a shop or business and you are the employee being asked for directions the easiest way to direct someone is to walk them there.

Asking if the person would like to take your arm, explaining to them when you are turning left or right and most importantly when you are walking through a doorway, even if the door is open.

I am thankful that Fizz will fall in behind someone guiding us and simply ‘follow’ but for me I like to have the verbal directions as it means that should the need arise I can find my own way if there is a next time.

Having previously gone up. Now it’s time to go down!

With my faithful-guide dog Fizz by my side (and guide-gal Vicky before her) I am able to travel to and around London with ease, the London Underground network is vast and with audio announcements and fantastic friendly staff (TfL) along with the odd app or 3 I have found I can stay largely independent in a network that often confuses those without additional needs.

I was first made aware of ‘The Tube Challenge’ in September 2018.  The challenge is to visit all 270 stations on the London Underground Tube network (not including dlr or overground) in the fastest time possible.

The current Guinness world record is held by Andi James, who completes the challenge in the fasted recorded time of 15 hours 45 minutes 38 seconds.

So when I asked if the challenge could be done with a disability, he took it onboard and now we are here.

On Friday 11th January 2019, along with Andi James as my sighted guide I will be aiming to complete The Tube Challenge.

Given the nature of the challenge, the endurance aspect and the travel, the public and the timings.  This is one day of tube travel where I will not have my guide dog with me.  Fizz will be enjoying the rest with her paws up, while I achieve my goal.

This in itself adds additional elements to completing the challenge with my cane and sighted guide.

We shall be starting early on the Friday morning, traveling through rush hour, navigating the tube network, swapping between lines that will see us travel above ground in addition to under it, traveling around some of the networks busiest station, heading through evening rush hour and the weekend get-away to achieve this.  All parts of which will hold its own challenges.

The gauntlet has been laid down, the planning has begun.  And now is where I ask for your support.

In addition to achieving this I wish to raise awareness of the freedom my guide dogs have given me.  It is in memory of my first guide dog Vicky that I wish to do this.  She sadly passed over the rainbow bridge on 2nd January 2018; having hung up her harness on 19th January 2015 when Fizz stepped into her paws.

And in raising awareness, I wish to raise money to name a guide dog puppy, a name that will mark the occasion.  A few names have been put forward once they are agreed I shall update this page accordingly.

Please can I ask you to dig deep, show your support.  Just-Giving-TinkOBell270

A different sport, but just as much of a challenge

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.

To donate please click here

Power 100 2018

Here are my entries into the publication.

Page 98-99
Photograph is a collage of pages 98-99 in The Power 100 publication, the left side reads ‘Sport’ the right side lists 12 names, with mine as the last listed

Page 111

Photograph with my image in the top right corner and a bio about me. The full text is available online to read

Power 100 2018 – A secret I managed to keep

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

 

The 1st of the withouts

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.

Vicky gave me so much and it is about remembering her today; not being sad that she is no longer here, rather be grateful that she came into my life.  Photgraph shows black flat tie x lab dog sat with a grey hat and scalf in front of a red sofa

Photograph shows Guide dog Vicky sat in harness in the lounge in front of the sofa, she is wearing a smile on her face.

 

Gosh, four years since The Gherkin

Photograph of The Gherkin building behind a church with the side of The Cheesegraer on the very left of the photo

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.

All 180m.

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.

 

Peaceful Pitlochry

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.

Photograph of small waterfall in the middle of trees and bushes, taken from the waterfall lookout opposite

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.

Photograph taken from the top of the dam looking towards the river tunnel and Loch Faskelly Photograph taken from the top of the fish ladder, showing it move down in stages like the gates on a canal

Photograph taken from ontop of the dam looking down the river and into Pitlochry

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.

Photograph of a plaque within the visitor centre with a quote from one of the civil engineers who helped design the dam

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 …

 

 

 

 

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