Tag Archive for deafblind

Reflections

Photograph of Tee, Weston a grey t-shirt saying “climb on” stood in front of a black and white canvas of a misty hence in Greenwich Park

Photograph of Tee, Weston a grey t-shirt saying “climb on” stood in front of a black and white canvas of a misty hence in Greenwich ParkThis November it will be 10 years since I was registered SSI (Severly Sight aimpaired aka BLIND) it was the appointment with my consultant that EVERY seemed to change, yet at the very same time NOTHING changed.

What I mean by that is that my eye sight didn’t actually change at THAT appointment.  I  simply became aware of just how bad it was.

Having had my Nystagmus (involuntary eye movements) and having worn pretty strong glasses for as long as I can remember my sight had never been great.  But in terms of the distance I could see (I have always been short sighted) had changed very little.

Rightly or wrongly so; when I was in my early teens I had been discharged from the consultant at the hospital, where I was given into the care of my opticians.  With the strength of my prescription And it was through this team that in July 2008 they used their new camera equipment to try getting a photo of my retina.

My optician wasn’t happy with what she saw, but she couldn’t explain it to me as she explained it could simply be that with my eye movement the photograph wasn’t actually true.  So she referred me to the hospital for a thorough check up.

Having been rushed in as an emergency after the hospital were concerned I had detached my retina (a common issue that if caught early enough can be reversed) I discovered that this was not the case, the registrar discovered I had cataract in both eyes, I will always remember what she said;

With laser treatment we can remove them and that would actually improve your vision.

But as she was simply confirming I hadn’t detracted my retina, she didn’t actually comment on the fact that my retina wasn’t ‘complete’.

So, you can probably understand my total shock when I returned a few weeks later to see the consultant to be given the news of just how bad my sight was.

I did have cataracts (my left eye had been diagnosed when I was 12) But the laser surgery suggested wouldn’t be easy and would have very little affect at this time.  And actually with my retina dying away my sight would actually only get worse.

Many people ask me

How did you not realise you were going blind?

Its simple, the changes in my peripheral were suggested to be something that had been happening steadily for many many years, and as I only likely lost a small amount at a time I didn’t actually realise.

I did notice ‘little’ things after my daughter was born in 2006, like how I was bumping into things, like low level tables or benches.  But I put this down to ‘baby brain’

I had also noticed that it was taking me longer for my eyes to adjust to light changes; like walking indoors after being out in the bright sunshine, but because I had reaction lenses this went in-noticed as an actual change in my sight (as I assumed it was just the glasses)

So…… Reflections.

I have decided I want to celebrate this anniversary.  I want to acknowledge that as me I have changed from the person I was before.  It hasn’t always been happiness and celebrations, but I have tried to embrace my blindness (and now deafness)

It may sound like a cliche

But in these last ten years I have had so many amazing opportunities, so many doors open to me.  I want to move forward with me and celebrating the good seems the best way to do this.  I am human, I can’t be postmitive ALL THE TIME.  But in this instance I want to look for the good, rather than dwell on the bad.

But the question is (and this I hand over to you my readers) ….

How should I celebrate???


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When riding a bike is not like riding a bike

Photograph shows a ‘selfie’ of Simon smiling at the camera, with me, Tee sat behind him on the left. The photo is of us both sat on the Tandem, but the bike is not in the shot.

About a month ago I bought myself something rather quite special.

I bought a tandem.

I bought it from a fellow blindie who had had a change of health and although the bike had been serviced and well looked after; it had remained sat un-ridden.

It is only through the ‘on this day’ feature of Facebook that I can tell you that it has been just under two years since I have ridden a bike.

It was when we were away on holiday with the children, it was when we were riding on site of a Haven Holiday Park.  After this I am sure that there was one further bike ride back at home before my bike was left to gather cobwebs and become home to spiders in the garage.

I did not stop riding because of an injury.

I stopped because with my hearing going in addition to my sight I did not feel I was safe either for myself or for other road users.

Many would be surprised that it is only in the last two years that I haven’t ridden my bike.  Thinking about it now, it was pure stubbornness that had stopped me from hanging up my riding helmet before then; in the same way I can only imagine that a car driver who is in denial about their sight feels about surrendering their driving license.

A tandem was a way of gaining back some of me.

Yes, by the very definition of it I would only be able to ride with someone else.  But riding a tandem with someone else feels less of a lack of independence than riding a bicycle with another adult beside me.  I think that this is because a tandem is for ANYONE.  A normally sighted person can ride a tandem, it isn’t a ‘mobility aid’ in the conventional sense of the word.  Even though when I think about it, in my case it kind of is just that; a mobility aid.

Anyway……

I had the bike serviced and checked over.  I spoke with a few friends about coming out for a ride with me and then, earlier this week.  One of them took me up on my offer.

Having spent time looking over the bike and following the workings of it I was instantly struck by the fact that as the rear peddler (the stoker in technical, bicycle jargon) I had no gears or brakes.  I was to simply just peddle. (Which when you think about it sensibly it makes perfect sense, but to me as a former solo cyclist-I had always had gears and brakes)

So, if all I was to do was to peddle. When and how would I know to peddle?

How would it feel sitting behind someone else (The Pilot-more jargon) who was in control of where we went?

How fast we got there?

And in what intensity of gears we were to achieve it?

I guessed I would just have to ‘go with them’ … LITERALLY.

My faithful Climbing Partner in Crime (CPiC) Simon was my first volunteer; we have ridden together before (on individual bikes) and he more than most understands my sight loss, and more to the point my anxieties of something new.

First he took the bike for a ride to the end of the car park without me.  This gave him a feel for the length of the bike and the kind of turning circle it would have.  Then it was my turn to get on with him.

My first ‘odd’ feeling was that I had both my feet off the floor, on the peddles and yet the bike was still upright and stationary.  This being because Simon is taller and still had his feet on the ground!

We set off; it was wobbly, but it soon became smoother as we got into a rhythmic pattern.  And surprisingly; not being able to see infront of me wasn’t concerning (because all I could see was the red of his jumper) felt O.K.

It felt ‘odd’ in the sense that I didn’t feel I was peddling enough, not as much as I thought I remembered from when I had ridden my bike before.  However, what I was forgetting was one simple rule;

”Double the bodies means half the power”

Easier said than done.  When the pilot slowed down I felt that as the stoker it was for me to peddle more.  This wasn’t the case.  In fact at one point I was told very bluntly to “JUST STOP”

I began to relax into the journey, I began to feel when it was time to coast and when it was time to peddle.

I also felt the exact point where my shoulder relaxed and my anxieties of ‘letting the other rider down’ were disappearing.

I only got off the bike and walked at a point where we crossed a road on the footpath (rather than add the complication of the road junction into the mix)

And before I knew it we were heading back towards home.

I could lie and say my arse wasn’t hurting from being sat on a not so padded saddle.  I could lie and say I didn’t get cramp in my thigh….. But then were would the fun be in that?

It was interesting to discover that I can suffer with ‘Elvis Leg’ when riding a bike, just as I do at points when I am climbing….. This usually comes at a point where I am concentrating so hard that (as silly as this will sound) I forget to breathe!

We managed to clock up just over 9km on our first ride.  After all I live in The Highlands area, which as the name suggests is an area with many a hill; which for the most part I want to be avoiding until my bike fitness has improved somewhat.

The route was recorded on my Apple Watch and all the specifics as to times, heart rate and distances are stored within my fitness app.  So next time we can follow the same route and see the improvements in it.

I wasn’t really able to talk to Simon much while we were cycling (but then there really was no need to) so when we arrived back I asked him how he felt, his answer wasn’t what I think I expected to hear;

”It felt creepy having someone riding RIGHT behind me, so close; I felt I wanted to ride to get away from them.”

…. But as he never managed it, he said it was just something he would have to get used to.  And he has agreed to go out and ride with me again.

So watch this space for more tandem cycling antics.

 

 


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I’m still here

This year hasn’t had the easiest of starts, with changes in my sight, trouble with my hearing and ‘other’ issues;  It has all been a bit much to deal with at times.

All of this compounded by a need to explore who I am and where I belong, and it isn’t hard to realise that my anxiety and mental health has also taken a beating.

But that’s ok.

It is alright to not be ok ALL the time.

And it is ok to admit that; however hard it may be.

There are a few things I want to tell you about, I have realised I never finished off my 2017 BMC Paraclimbing competition blogs, or even mentioned the Team Selection Day back in February 2018.

So, for now I am going to spend some time going ‘backwards’ but as all posts are dated to (around) when they happened, humour me.

And once I have completed these, take a good look through the past six months.  I can promise you there will be laughter, whit and sarcasm.  But be warned there will also be sadness, upset and moments of total despair.

Enjoy xx


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What a difference a year makes

Selfie photograph of my face, with a scarve on that is blue with red popppies. I am wearing my glasses and my hearing aids with my hair

On 20th March 2017 I found myself sat in the audiologists office having my hearing aids fitted; which I wrote about in What does sound sound like?.

I had previously been told I would only need a hearing aid for my right ear, yet when I arrived at my appointment I was actually fitted with a hearing aid for both my left and right ear; a pleasant suprise, yet a very welcome on.  Because in giving me hearing aids for both ears the audiologist was able to programme the strength in each side differently so that I heard the same.

I wont’t lie, I hated wearing them.

It took me a long time to get used to ‘hearing’things again.  The little things, like the kitchen clock; the dogs gnawing on their bones; the sound of my feet on the pavement.  But (following the audiologists advice) I soon learnt to ‘not hear’ or rather ‘tune out’ these sounds; sounds that my brain had learnt to ignore (just as it does for most people who can hear perfectly well)

I also quickly learnt how little and inconspicuous my hearing aids were.  With very few people realising that I actually wore them.

When they were originally fitted, I had them set by the audiologist to automatically adjust with no input from me.  However this was not while I got used to them.

In July ((1 beep, 2 beep, 3 beep, 4) I had my hearing aids adjusted and since then I have gone from strength to strength in using them and wearing them each and every day, just as I would with my glasses (even though I now get so little from wearing them-wearing them is a daily habit)

I have also added to my ‘tech’ to go with my hearing aids, with my amplicomms personal t-loop system I am able to listen friends in busier environments, have calls streamed directly into my ears with the microphone around my neck; I am also able to listen to audible and music too.

My CPiC and I are working on using it as an aid to my climbing….. But that is a whole other blog post!!

So, what have I gained in the last year?

I have learnt that just like glasses for me, hearing aids to not ‘fix’ my hearing; however they do enable me to hear more and clearer than if I don’t wear them.

I have been able to feel safer out and about, especially with hearing traffic and its direction.  So much so, that in recent months I have gone back to enjoying walking into town (about 2.5 miles) with Fizz guiding me.

I have also learnt that I can ‘shut out’ noise if I want to sit quietly with a cuppa or a cold pint, then I can turn my hearing aids down, put them into the induction loop setting and I can sit peacefully.  So I can have ‘selective’ hearing too!!

Its been an interesting year of wearing hearing aids, I would be lying if I said I am getting used to them….. But I am finding the postitives with them, both with my own hearing and with the connections I have made with other people who have hearing and sight issues.

I am still wanting to work on fundraising for my own pair or ReSound Hearing Aids, which are so much more ‘tech’ friendly with my iPhone and Apple Watch, but that is a work in progress.

 


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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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When the final isn’t THE final

Snow is threatened!!!

Just what you need to hear when you have a journey to Newcastle to make for the final round of the BmC Paraclimbing comps for 2017.

So, to cover all eventualities a pup sitter was sourced for both Vicky and Fizz (us humans getting stranded in the snow is one thing, but not at all suitable for a dog; extra layers and clothes packed; along with extra car supplies SHOULD we end up stuck.

Driving up wasn’t an issue, apart from the odd icy patch, we managed to make good time.

Saturday morning we awoke to frost, but thankfully NO SNOW.

But the temperature was too cold.  It would actually have to warm up to snow.  And I am sure I have mentioned before how cold weather and climbing centres don’t really mix?

Especially when said climbing centre is inside an old church….

So, base layers, t-shirts, jumpers, coats AND hats at the ready I was warm. (But totally unable to climb with all these layers.

Newcastle Climbing Centre had restricted entry, it was only available for the competition, which made for a much quieter and less stressful day, but it was really REALLY really COLD.

The first top rope route was long, it wasn’t technically difficult, but such a high route in a cold setting and about 2/3rds of the way up I found myself having to move quickly from each hold, while at the same time unable to move quickly because of the temperature.

This very problem caused me to come off rope rope two at a move that I should have had no trouble with.

Top rope three was quirky, it saw me challenging my climbing style and making moves that I wouldn’t normally do, but these moves saw me reach higher than I ever expected.  I was proud of this route, even though I didn’t too it.

The bouldering problems were much easier to warm up for.  Boulder problems are set on lower walls, with bigger crash mats underneath and as such, this area of the centre appeared warmer.

Route one on the boulder saw me miss out the top hold for fear of sitting down and pulling up.  Route two was more of a traverse around a corner and then up on a diagonal, a route where I managed to get the start of on my final try, but then slipped further on on it.

Route three was a pig!  I am being kind here because it would be rude to swear.  It was a route that started in an almost horizontal laid back position and then you were to climb backwards before moving upto a standing position of height.  I was put off this route by watching some of the climbers I would count as ‘elite’ not managing to get past the backwards climb section of the problem.  Not surprisingly I got to the starting golds of this route (where all my body was off the floor) but only managed to move one hand before coming off.

My efforts were not in vien, these little ‘extra point’ moves saw me gain silver for this round of the competition.

And accumulatively see me awarded with Silver for the series.

………

However, the results of these competitions is not how the 2018 Paraclimbing team will be selected.  This time around there will be a selection day in February in Sheffield.

So watch this space …. My climbing has changed dramatically in the last year, but will it be enough?


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When Molly and Chris gave a Masterclass

Image of Members of the group sat around a large table with phones, iPads and other tech sat on the table with numerous cups of tea, coffee and water with Molly stood at the head of the table showing her iPad:

Would you think of a pair of glasses as a mobility aid?

When you see an item every day and used by everyone then it becomes ‘the norm’ and not seen as an aid to support someone with a disability.

There are many products that are designed to support those with disabilities, these include glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs and even other everyday products like iPhones and iPads.

It may not seem like it to a person who has no sensory or motor disabilities, yet all apple products were designed with accessibility and intergration as their base principle.

There are obviously other computer operating systems, programmes and technologies available.  But as a Mac (made famous in a Mitchell & Webb sketch) which I have been ever since I studied at university; way back when Apple Macintosh was for everything design and Windows was for everything administrative.

I have spoken before of my liking for Apple products, and in this I am not alone.  Molly from The Molly Watt Trust is a big believer and user of Apple products, her charity have also helped to support and fund those with Ushers Syndrome by funding an Apple Watch programme as she herself had found its features so very beneficial.

As part of an Ushers Social and awareness weekend (The Weekend that almost wasn’t) Molly was going to give a presentation similar to that that she gives to large companies about accessibility and awareness.

Her work as a Keynote speaker and accessibility advisor sees her working alongside Chris from Sigma (https://www.wearesigma.com/) Among others.

Molly explained the way in which she made use of the accessibility on her iPad.  She spoke of the obvious ‘voice-over’ and how she didn’t use it, how she found ‘zoom’ and ‘speak screen’ more neneficial to her.

She spoke of how you could set you home button triple click to bring you a list of accessibility options.  Including how to use your camera as a magnifier.

These little ‘nuggets’ of information were some that I was aware of and some that I wasn’t.

Since the latest iOS update there was also a rather clever new accessibility feature called ‘smart invert’ this is where the screen and text are inverted in the colours used, but the p have photographs are not……. Savi g confusion with colours when looking at images.

Chris spoke of how accessibility is in the every day, how as I said at the start of this post , “ when something is used and seen every day it becomes the ‘norm’” and how the work he does with Sigma and Molly is about making that a reality.

Molly explained how she found “Hey Siri” a great help; although this was when she realised that another piece of technology she was used stopped the others in the room from heading the response.

You see, Molly wears ReSound hearing aids; hearing aids that stream her iPhone and iPad directly and clearly into her ears.  Just as if she were wearing headphones!

Molly’s work has seen her work with ReSound and it is through this work that I have followed her and learnt about the fantastic products that are available.

Molly and the work she does through her company Molly Watt Ltd is paving the way for those with sightless, Ushers and hearing loss.

This masterclass have me some fantastic information to work with, some new connections to talk to and more importantly new friends who enjoy similar struggles to me.

The session was just a snapshot of what Molly and Chris do when talking to big companies, where there is often very rarely anyone with additional needs in the audience.

But it was enough to make me feel confident that accessibility becoming part of ‘the notm’ Could be a reality in the not to far distant future.


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The Weekend that almost wasn’t

Those of you who have been following me for some time will know one of my mantra to life is:

Have dog, will travel.

And with this mantra in place and a connection made through the power of Facebook, when a fun social event that would be followed up by an information and tech based learning event popped up; I found myself booking a hotel and myself for an evening with an Amy Whinehouse Tribute act.

The Facebook connection was that with the talented Molly, The founder and inspirational woman behind The Molly Watt Trust, along with the younger company of Molly Watt Ltd.

With my (relitively) recent hearing loss, I had used my ability to connect through Facebook to link with groups that supported those known as ‘deafblind’.

Having made contact with Molly at the beginning of my blogger journey, along with having a guide dog connection with her I had taken more of an interest in the work of The Molly Watt Trust and found myself naturally drawn toward them with my increasing issues around my sight and hearing loss.

So, when this weekend came up to join in on a ‘social’ and learning based opportuity arrived.  I jumped at it.

THE PLANNING COMMENCED……

What type of journey would it take to get from my own home town to Maidenhead?

And from the station to the hotel?

The hotel that was hosting the dinner on the Friday and the Ushers day on the Saturday was on hotels.com, so I booked my room and set about not having to worry about travelling between venues.

The price was right and would save me additional travel; it was all falling into place …..

……. Or so I thought!

I was looking forward to the event and had everything in place, so now it was just a case of picking which shoes to pack to go with my dress.

After all, not having to go out of the hotel other than to allow Fizz to spend meant I could pack the hot pink heels without the worry of walking any great distance in them.  Not because I can’t walk in heels.  Rather I prefer to be in flat comfortable trainers if I am walking in an area I am not aware of, or in the dark, where I find more difficulty than I do if it were daylight.

Come September 15th my case was packed, my train ticket was collected and off with Fizz, we were on our way.

And then came the first of our hurdles…… Reading Railway Station!

This station is something from a futuristic movie; a large metallic, vast and somewhat oversized pedestrian gangway, which is accessed via long escalators (and multipul lifts) to enable you to walk safely away from the trains to any one of the stations many many platforms.

Yet without a clear indicator as to which train leaves from which platform.  And more importantly because I am well aware I may have missed the obvious large screens giving this information I need I couldn’t find any members of staff!

I only managed to find staff on the actual platforms as and when a train arrived.  Not ideal, as some of the staff I found actually arrived and were set to depart with the train….. So couldn’t direct me around the station.

It was ok though, I wasn’t going to let this get to me, I had managed to find Starbucks on my travels around the station, so when I found the platform and train I needed it was time to grab a nice coffee for me and a bowl of water for Fizz while we waited.

We (Fizz and I) arrived at Maidenhead and out came Google Maps.

It was at this point I realised my error.

The Thames Riviera Hotel (where the dinner and information day were occurring) was not The Thames Hotel I had in fact booked my room for the night!

They were so very close, just a short 5 minute walk along The Thames between the two, yet they were very different hotels.

This was when panic started to kick in.

How could I have made such a simple mistake?

How had I got it SO wrong?

A quick message in a Facebook group about the event and I was calmed.  I could do this.  I am a grown woman; who just happens to have an eye condition and hearing condition that may make life a little more of a challenge at times.

But I am strong and independent.  Who just happened to have a blip.  That was all it was…. a simple blip.  I had come so far, the hotel was already paid for, it would be silly to turn around and go home now……. Right?

So, as I said before.  On went Google Maps and off I went.

With hearing aids in place, I had to rely on holding my phone to hear the directions, while trying to keep out of the bright sunshine to roughly follow the blue line.

I didn’t even realise my first error with this.

Maidenhead Railway Station has 2 exits.  And I found myself leaving via the small, unassuming exit.

The second error came when I misheard a direction.

While walking alongside busy traffic I was sure the direction had been to walk forward.  Sadly, it hadn’t.  It had been to turn right.  And by the time I had realised my error, in true Google Maps programming, my route had been recalculated.

A walk that saw me walking along an almost non-existent path beside a dual-carriageway.  Walking into a multi story car park attached to a local Sainsburys store to find a foot bridge to cross the aforementioned carriageway.

A footbridge that landed me by a leisure centre and bowling alley just as the rain started to get heavy.

I bit the bullet, I went into the bowling alley and collected the telephone number for a local taxi.  Upon calling the firm, I explained my location and where I wanted to go, no problem a car could be with me within a few minutes.  So I kindly mention I have my guide dog travelling with me; that was when suddenly a car would not be available for almost forty minutes.

So, I gave up on the idea of a taxi and returned to my trusted phone and four-pawed companion to find the hotel.

This was a journey that took us another twenty-five minutes and a desperate plea to my best friend for help and linking my location on Google Maps to his Google Maps; and an hour after we had left to station to walk the seventeen minutes to the hotel, we arrived.

Both Fizz and I were damp (actually that was an understatement)

The doorman at the hotel instantly took control.

He collected my case and walked us to our room.

He commented on my damp dog (which I instantly apologised for), which he would hear nothing about.  He left us for only a few moments, before returning with an armful of towels.  He explained that these towels were clean, yet had lost their crisp white finish, so were no longer used for the guests……. But would be absolutely perfect to rub down my soggy dog with and give her a comfortable soft bed to dry off on.

This was too much, I managed to thank him before closing the door and collapsing in tears on the floor.  The anxiety of the day was taking its toll. But with a nudge from Fizz (I like to think as her ways of asking if I was ok.) I realised it was all going to be alright.

A conversation with my best friend put my mind at ease regards the hotel I was staying at and the hotel I was set to attend for dinner.  A dinner for which I was going to wear hot pink heels, that I would not feel comfortable walking outside (For the reasons I mentioned above)

What was stopping me wearing my trainers on the walk, with my ‘pretty shoes’ in my bag?  The answer….. Nothing.

This time, I not only looked on Google Maps for the direction, but I used Google Street View to actually walk the route virtually between the two hotels, a very straight five minute walk along the river, passing a park (perfect for spending Fizz) before crossing a large road to get to the hotel.

This time (although I would be walking in ‘twilight’) I was not leaving anything to chance!  Although, I did feel like I was taking my and Fizz’s life in my hands by crossing the road infront of the hotel, a road that was also one of the large bridges across The Thames River.

The rest of the evening passed with a blur of fun, entertainment and enjoyment, of putting faces to names and adding new friends into my life to enrich it.

I did wear my trainers for the walk; quickly changing upon arriving at the RIGHT hotel!  Switching them out again before leaving at the end of the evening.  One of the benefits of going to an event with others who have sight issues, is that such incidents are easier to hide.

I returned to my hotel, for a very comfortable and refreshing sleep, ready to return after breakfast for the chance to chat, chance to learn and more importantly, chance to find support and similarities with others going through their sight and hearing loss journey.

…………………………..

The walk The Riviera Hotel to the railway station was minus the difficulties of the previous day.  I even found the point where I had taken the wrong turn.  The turn that had caused so much anxiety.

Although the train journey home wasn’t without an interesting twist either!  That I found easier to write about at the time and you can read about it in  The day we caught the train

So, for the weekend that could have easily found me returning home, I discovered just how, as a strong independent (somewhat stubborn) woman, I am also human.  I make mistakes, but I also learned I am not to be so hard on myself.

This weekend did do one thing for me; it confirmed that I had to find a way of being able to channel my phone directly to my ears (as if I were able to wear headphones again)  I am still £4,000 away from the ‘ideal’ ReSound hearing aids I am fundraising for.  But there has to be an interim answer, isn’t there?

 

 

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And so it all starts again…..

Round 1: Paraclimbing competition for 2017 (2018 team selection)

EICA – Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, hosted by BMC and MSC.

One year and one week to the day of my first ever competition and I was back to do it all over again.

And in that one year and one week many things had changed.  I have most definitely changed; my climbing has most certainly improved and although my sight and hearing have had their setbacks (as detailed standing alone)    I thought I was in a much stronger position physically and mentally for this competition.

I wasn’t sure though, why I hadn’t been as prepared for the 13 hour drive that had seen us be diverted off the M6 and not arrive at the hotel until after 1am on Saturday morning.  After all, thanks to said sight and hearing impairments, I wasn’t able to share the drive with my CPC (Climbing Partner in Crime). The whole horrible job had been left to him to endure and in turn exhaust him mentally in ways, that as having never been a driver I can’t quite understand; yet one I can fully empathise with.

This year was different, this year I didn’t have the apprehension of a new Climbing Centre, the apprehension of never having competed before.

This year I had a bench mark; a place to beat and a score to improve upon.

This year I always wanted to EARN my podium place (not just get it by default-having been the only competitor last year!) Which although I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t have competition I was setting myself a personal goal to get me up on the podium.

After a bit of a wobble I found myself ready to set about the day.  My first move was a bouldering problem which was actually marked as the hardest of my 3 problems, but it wasn’t something I was aware at the time.

it was to start from a sitting position, it was also then I realised that my routes where only to cover 2 categories; interestingly the 2 categories where VI and Upper-Body Amptutee.

It happens some times that some routes are set for particular categories and not others, for example a route set for lower body amputees would probably not be suited to an upper body amputee.  And for a reason I do not understand it is often that the Vi and Upper-amputee are grouped together.

All competitors (from each of the 9 categories) had the same Boulder 1 and 2, in addition to Climb 1 and 2, but when it came to the 3rd of each problem this was where the VIs and Upper body amputees had a different  problem on each.

This meant that the queue of competitions on these routes were much smaller; hence my school girl error of actually doing my hardest first.

 Use of my back, sat crouched on a smalll foot hold with my right arm out to the side holding a large pink hold.

So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.

Image with my on my halls up above my head on a hold ready to step up

I wasn’t as successful on Boulder 2, where I misread my footings and started off all wrong, a silly error I repeated on my following attempts.

Image of me on Boulder 2 struggling to get my feet and hands right to move forward

Time for lunch and freshness break for Guiding girl Fizz, who had made herself lots of friends while benched as I climbed.  And was sporting a slightly grey colour around her ears; afyerall a black dog around all that chalk isn’t the best mix!

Fizz cuddled up on the shoulder of another climber

Then it was onto the climbs. (Which unlike the Boulder, you only get one shot)  Climb 1 was over before I realised, it was a great warm up climb and one I didn’t need any guidance from the ground on.

Climb 2 was a busy climb, with each and every Climber using it I got to enjoy watching (through the camera on my iPhone) the others who went before me.  It was a much higher climb, with a column and yellow holds on the grey wall.  It was time for me to climb, just as my CPC had returned from completing his 3rd Boulder (not the same as my 3rd Boulder) he told me how he had scraped his knuckle on the wall and would just need to sit and rest.  (I later discovered that he had popped a tendon and actually had to have it strapped up and imobilize his middle fingers)

So, off I went and got myself tied in for the climb.  I was about 2 m off the ground when I realised I didn’t have the support.  My ground support wasn’t there, I was on the climb alone and had to up my game and concentrate on my hands and feet.  I heard no instruction, I just had to focus and more importantly; remember to breath !!

….. Something is very easy to forget when I climb…..

It was a long climb, it was a climb that went from left side to right side and back to left, it wasn’t easy with the little contrast, but I did it.  Or I hoped it had!  When I got to the rope top (the rope didn’t finish at the top of the wall) I reached around but couldn’t find another hold, I had to just hope I had the last one, but I was worried I had missed it!)

Thankfully coming down I confirmed with the judge, I had got to the final hold and I had flashed the climb.

Phew….. I could relax.

It was then I discovered my CPiC’s injury and worked with him to support his injury to enable him to finish his own last two climbs.

And given the shortage or judges, there was a fair wait for me to finish my final climb.  I was however able to watch two of my fellow competitions complete the climb (yet as they were both upper body amputees, their climb was different to mine…….. Even though it was the same route and wal)

It also gave me the opportunity to watch my CPiC complete his climbs too.

Then it was time for my final climb; just in time too as they announced it was time for the last climbs.

And this climb looked like a great contrast; black holds on a light grey wall.  I hadn’t worked out why my fellow climbers had ignored several of the obvious holds, that was until I got on the wall.

The ‘obvious’ holds were in fact not holds at all, they were black gaffer tape taping over quickdraws and other such climbing accessories.  A feature that had apparently been on the other walls too.  But as the holds on those routes weren’t black, I hadn’t even noticed them.

I took on the climb, it was most certainly a challenge.  But a fun challenge at that.

 

Image of T climbing on a grey wall with black holds, while being positioned in a capital K position.

I had a move planned in my head, I moved my feet to make it an easier set a ste and then ….. OUCH!

I had missed it, it was such a simple move, but one I never made, instead I scraped my elbow off the wall as I dropped quite far. (My belay has been getting ready to take up my slack, which gave me more rope, sc I when I missed the move he found himself unexpectedly giving me more rope-which was no issue as I was fairly high up the wall!)

It was the final climb though, I had no second chance and one I am proud to say that “I climbed until I fell.”  Not something I had done in previous competition; not something I had been doing while climbing in general until very recently.

And yes, I fell….. But it felt AMAZING !! I climbed until I couldn’t climb anymore.

And it got me a Silver Medal!

Photograph of me & Guide Dog Fizz stood on the silver podium with mouth my fellow competitors stood on the gold podium tithe right of me, with the 3rd competitor stood on the bronze podium to her right.

Out of the 4 competitors in my category I came second.  A medal I am more than proud of.  And can’t wait to improve on at October’s competition!

Roll on round 2, when I get to climb at The Castle !!


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Raw

There is no witty title for this one, no sarcasm and no humour; I am without.

This is one of those few blogs where I just open my heart up.

This weekend has been full of emotion.  It was a weekend that had been planned to be fun, full of laughter and enjoyment with my daughter, my best friend and his son; thankfully they appeared to enjoy it, although maybe by the end of the time away my upset began to show.

It would appear; if only to me that by hearing less I am actually not able to see as much either!

My sight has not changed by any great degree, but when I find myself struggling to hear in a situation, I also find seeing more of a struggle too.

Maybe it is because I am not getting the sound clues that I rely so heavily on to fill in the gaps that I miss with my vision.  Maybe it is totally in my head (as some have suggested)

All I know, is that which ever it is.  It has completely thrown my idea of the world upside down and has left me feeling RAW and unable to cope.

I have cried, I have screamed and I have hidden it all from my daughter.  She doesn’t understand, mostly because I am not sure that I even do.

How do you explain RAW to a child?

And if you do know, can you please explain it to me ?


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