This weekend I had a real wobble; anxiety, panic, fear and upset all rolled into one. This weekend didn’t start off very well.
There are times when people say how inspirational or how positive I am, well this weekend I wasn’t any of these things. In fact I felt like I was being penalised because of my sight and hearing issues. And I just wanted to leave where I was, give up on my plans for the weekend and walk away from it all.
Thankfully I was surrounded by some great friends; who didn’t allow the negativity to get to me, who stepped up and even stepped in to support me and change things around….. And for this I have gratitude. Because what started out pretty shitty ended up being pretty AMAZING.
This weekend I attended a MAHOOSIVE Herbalife training event called ‘Summer Spectacular’ This training consisted of two days of training, stories and information from not only some of the best in the UK part of Herbalife, but also some of the best from America, France and South Africa. Men and woman within the business that were not within my immediate reach.
So my ticket for the event was bought, childcare sorted, transport and sleeping arrangements sorted. I had the support of my amazing team so I knew that both me and Fizz would be ok.
The training was at a venue I hadn’t been to before, but that was ok because an hour or so on google and I had found enough images of the venue to feel that I had a good enough virtual awareness of it to get through. There was even a Starbucks on site, what more could I ask for?
The venue; The International Conference Centre (ICC) in Birmingham was also only a short ten minute walk from the apartment we were staying in AND there were plenty of grass areas between the two for me to know that Fizz’s needs were catered for also.
Saturday morning came and while my team mates were taking part in a very large ‘Fitclub’ I was able to grab a coffee, get my bearings and feel prepared for the next few days.
We came to entering the training room and a member of staff quickly found me (having the only dog in the building will get you noticed!!)
My team mates explained (because it was too loud for me to hold a conversation) that I would need to be seated near the front with space for both me and Fizz, but not in a direct walk-way as this could put Fizz and others in danger (black dog in a dark venue is a real trip hazard)
So, the staff guided me down the steps of the auditorium and sat me at the front, but with space the side where Fizz would be able to lay out. Brilliant, a seat was allocated for my team mate too and I thought all was ok. That was until the music started. It was not that it was LOUD. It was the fact that it was coming from a large speaker right beside where Fizz was to be able to rest…. let’s just say, she would have probably been more likely to burst an ear drum than relax.
No trouble I thought my friend and companion Jenny got the attention of the staff, asked for us to be moved and off we went.
The next seating we were offered would see Fizz sat directly beside the auditorium steps (a major trip hazard) but as the seating within the venue was fixed in place the staff were a little perplexed.
Another member of staff was called upon and it was decided that a couple of chairs could be brought in from outside and placed by the door……
“Um sorry I am not sitting right beside the door, where people will be coming and going throughout the day, that’s hardly relaxing for Fizz or suitable for me.”
So the chairs were moved and we were seated beside the camera mans tripod. But that was ok; at this time the meeting was starting and I just wanted to sit down.
So me and Jenny moved the chairs across slightly giving Fizz the space to lay down. But by this point not only was I feeling anxious and upset, I was also feeling that because our seating was so different to everyone else that I was on show, a bit of a ‘look at our token blind guest’ and this was what ALMOST saw me walk out.
I messaged my teammate and cousin Charlie with a very frank, honest, choice set of words and we simply replied
”Stay put I will sort this”
Charlie is a rock. Jenny got me a drink and Fizz nudged at me as if to say ‘it’s ok mum’
Charlie sent me a message a few moments later that simply said “it’s sorted” so I sat, listened to the speakers and awaited the break.
At the break we stepped outside and were greeted by the events coordinator who moved me away from the crowds (these events have upwards of 2000 people attend) and explained that there was a larger room just opposite that had the lights up, had tables, plenty of space and a large screen that was streaming the main event directly into the room.
Well considering at similar events I can only just watch the stage via the screens and never actually see the people as they stand on the stage, this sounded like a good solution.
So into the room we went, table found, cool air con and really good lighting and I felt both me and Fizz relax. Jenny came with me and she instantly agreed that this was a great alternative and would make it easier for her too to write notes and move about. (The room was a large conference hall, with about two dozen large circular tables.
Fizz was aware that I was more relaxed and as such, she was more relaxed. And thankfully the rest of the day was much calmer.
The events staff came back to find us to discuss the evening dinner and party. It would be held in the very room we were sitting in, but dressed to celebrate. There were set to be food stations, where festival themed food would be available. The event team asked me to just come also for and try to see if I could cope.
Again they made arrangements for me, Fizz and the a guest of my choice to enter the room before it was opened up to everyone. To enable me to come in while the lights were up to navigate the room.
Fastforward to the evening ……
I entered the room early with Fizz and Jenny, we found a table to sit at and I was able to familiarise myself with the room layout. The food stations would be far to tempting and distracting for Fizz, so Jenny agreed to support me by collecting food for me.
Entering the room early may not sound like much; but actually it made all the differenxe to enabling me to enjoy the evening.
I felt relaxed; I felt much more relaxed than I have at any other party event I have attended with Herbalife.
I even got up and danced for a bit and found myself mingling through (with a Jenny’s help) to catch up with other friends and colleagues.
Sundays Training was so much simpler.
We went straight into the ‘break out room’ and we actually found a good few more people sat here. News of the air conditioning had spread through to the auditorium and even some of our own team joined us.
I don’t feel that I missed out by sitting in the other room. I did however gain so much. I would highly recommend that such ‘accessible’ seating was available ….. And as such and email has gone off to the company to ensure more support is available.
After all, o can’t be the only person within Herbalife that has a disability or anxieties about large numbers of people?
Hang on, isn’t that the title to an Ocean Colour Scene song?
Well, for me and Fizz it was a journey home from a fantastic conference and social; with The Molly Watt Trust which saw us take a rather different diversion to one I would have expected.
Friday 15th September saw a terror attack on a London tube train at Parsons Green in South West London. One that yet again reminded us as a country that there are those among us who wish to hurt, mame and distroy the lives of innocent people.
This was a reminder that being vigilant and staying safe (especially when travelling) was very important. It was why I had questioned if I should travel to the event this weekend in Maidenhead.
But I decided Maidenhead was far enough away from London not to allow it to affect my plans. I had planned and double checked all of my travel arrangements and the walk from the station to the hotel several times over (nothing different in that, I do it each time)
So, Fizz and I packed our case and off we went. The train journey saw us change at Reading. A station that has undergone lots of work to give it one central walkway, which is up above the train platforms and access is gained to the platforms by escalators and lifts. The central concorse is home to shops and a verse open space.
This gave to it a very ’empty’ feel. It also made it hard for me to find assistance to help me negotiate to the correct platform to travel from Reading onto Maidenhead. So having finally found assistance, we were able to continue with our journey.
It was at this point the staff member that helped us let me know that for the weekend most of Reading railway station would be closed for routine work, with buses replacing trains.
That wasn’t an issue, it would simply just delay or trip home. Not one I was concerned about.
Well, returning to Maidenhead railway station on Saturday saw me and Fizz greated by friendly GWR train staff, they asked me where I was heading and gave me a diversion that I was not expecting.
Given the bus replacement services, I could get a bus to Reading, where I would then transfer to another bus and travel onto Basingstoke. Where I would then get a train to Southampton before the final leg of the journey on a train to fareham.
I could go to London!
A direct train would see us arrive at London Paddington in just over half an hour. Where we could get a tube on the Bakerloo lint to Oxford Circus before transferring to the Victoria Line Tube, to London Victoria from where I would be able to get a direct train to Fareham.
Given the events of Friday in London I was anxious, but at the thought of saving over an hour on the journey home, I had to put my anxieties to one side and just go with it and know, that if anything given Fridays’ incident, people would be more alert and hopefully helpful.
We soon arrived at London Paddington, not long had I stepped off the train with Fizz and stood to the side to gain my bearings than i was approached by a Policeman. He introduced himself to me, explained who he was and asked me how he could help.
I explained I was trying to get to the tube station to get across London, so he took me to a member of staff who worked for transport for London (TfL) who kindly walked me and Fizz through the crowds and straight to the right tube train. He put us in the front carriage and radio’d through to a colleague at Oxford Circus.
And sure enough a lovely TfL staff member was waiting for me and Fizz. She walked us through to the Victoria Line, where again she placed me and Fizz in the front carriage and radio’d ahead.
All of these journey’s were taking place late afternoon early evening on a Saturday, a day that is by its very nature a busy day. But everyone I came into contact with was chatty, friendly and happy to offer help.
Maybe it was because of Friday’s attack, but everyone in London and especially on the Tube on Saturday seemed to be much more ‘together’ much less rushed and more friendly to those around them that weren’t ‘natives’ to this vast city.
Arriving at Victoria tube station, me and Fizz were greated by a fantastic TfL member of staff. He not only guided us through the tube station, he also allowed us to ‘cut through’ locked gates and closed escalators to enable us to get through to the main Victoria Train station, where he was all ready to take me to my platform to get my train, before I said I would be having a break at the station, take Fizz out for some grass and get a much needed coffee. He kindly walked us to the exit for the park and wished us safe travels.
The TfL staff and both police and transport police get a lot of ‘stick’ for just doing their jobs, they are not always praised for it. I wanted to write this blog to show my appreciation.
I have always received great support from staff and police while travelling. But Saturday was over and above what I had ever expected. London police were out in force and clearly had a job to do.
The initial police office did not HAVE TO offer his help, but he did.
The TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead for assistance to wait for me, but he did.
The second TfL staff member didn’t have to radio ahead to Victoria, but again….. She did.
And just as the last member of TfL staff didn’t have to take me on a ‘shortcut’ or guide me right to my train platform….. He did (or rather would have had we not detoured to a grass spot!)
So, a journey that sounded horrendous was made so much more bearable by kindness and friendliness of strangers. Because the support didn’t stop there. Several times as Victoria train station I was asked by both staff and fellow travellers if I needed any help.
And even on our train home, one that due to my own mistake would see me and Fizz needing to change just one last time (I got on the Portsmouth train, instead of the Southampton train) But with a simple step off one train and Havant and then almost straight back on another train (without the need to change platforms) I received so much support and offers of help.
I think it sometimes takes a horrible event, like that of Friday for people to come together and support those around them that may not find the journey as easy as them.
I would like to extend my thanks to all the men and women who helped me and others in and around London over the last few days.
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.
So, going backwards I then completed with a flash (getting to the top on 1st attempt) Boulder 1.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 !!
Last year I was very lucky to be able to attend several gigs, and pretty gigs at that; with Adele, Muse, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and even Placebo. All of these took place in London, a capital known for its security and safety record.
Several weeks ago, a terrorist targeted a Manchester gig. Men, women and even children were caught up in this horrid act that resulted in 22 deaths and many many more suffering.
I am not here to talk about the attack, nor the group behind it, this is not a political post…… I am going to talk about the fear that this has left me with.
I am in fear of this happening at a gig I go to.
I am in fear of putting my friends in danger, because of the additional support they afford me.
I am in fear or letting this fear stop me.
Followng on from the Manchester attack, London saw a savage attack just last weekend. Where a van, usually placed on any street in the country was used to mount the curb and drive into Londoners who had been out enjoying a Saturday evening.
My next gig is in London in just a few weeks. It’s on a Saturday. It’s also at venue I have never been before. By the nature of a gig, one especially that is SOLD OUT. There will be an increase security presents to enable ease of movement for gig goers arriving and leaving, especially with additional support in the nearby tube and railway stations. I am also aware that many concrete barriers have been erected around London at key locations, such as The Bridges that cross The Thames to make it more difficult for a vehicle to be used as a terror weapon.
In wake of the terror attacks, plenty of advice has been given on RUN. HIDE. TELL. This is the bit I fear. What saved many people in both of these attacks was the ability for them to see the danger, see an escape route and to see those who needed help.
So, how do I cope in such a situation without the ability to see?
I can run, and especially if it were needed I would do this, but which way do I run? The fear in all of this isn’t for me. The fear in all of this is for my guiding girl Fizz and my friends.
I know that they would never leave me, but what if by helping me they are put into the way of danger?
What if me being with a guide dog appears as an easy target?
All these questions and fears are building up.
I don’t think I would ever have the answers, but in writing my blog I hope to ease my own fears and ease the fears of those around me.
Not even a trained firearms officer can say how they will cope or how they would deal with being involved in such an attack. As no amount of training can say how you would deal with human nature and the flight or flee reaction.
My friends will walk with me and support me in the same way that they have in the past. My vulnerability will also stand out to our police men and women and other security forces.
Some of my fellow friends with both hearing and visual impairments have said that they have felt additional support has been afforded to them especially in London since the weekend.
I am not going to make this blog about the terrorist that committed these crimes. Because after all the whole reasoning for many acts of terrorism is to divide and terrorise people. And iconically both Manchester and London have actually ‘come together’ supported each other and shown just how great they are as a whole at supporting those who need the support.
So, I have told you my fears, I have explained them, I am not able to completely dismiss them, but I am able to understand them. I am able to know that they will not stop me from going to London, or any other city for that matter.
I may just make sure more so than usual that my phone is charged and my additional battery pack is also charged.