Tag Archive for independence

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

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 …

 

 

 

 

GETTING MY GEEK ON in Glasgow

Photograph of my gold Starbucks travel mug with the guide book to The Glasgow Science Centre with the SEC Armadillo building behind across the river Clyde.

Continued from … Welcome to Glasgow

After a relaxed evening in the hotel which included a Tai Chi class, a swim and a sauna before a gorgeous dinner, on Wednesday morninf I decided to visit The Glasgow Science Centre before embarking on another train journey deeper into Scotland (you’ll have to read on to find out where)

The Science Centre and adjoining iMax cinema were architecturally interesting buildings even before I walked through the doors.

 

Photograph shows a round ball like building on the left which is Glasgow IMAX with a large screen on the right of the photograph, with a small green area in front of it

Photograph is taken of the rear of the IMAX building where Starbucks sits amongst a glass wall sat beside part of an old dock areaPhotograph of the entrance to The Glasgow Science Museum, shoring what looks like the top half of a letter C shaped building, the glass front of the building sat to the right of the large screen

These building were custom built for purpose and opened to the public in June 2001, with a titanium clad exterior the Science Centre (science mall) with its crescent shaped glazing enables it along with the neighbouring imax to ‘blend in’ with the often grey overcast skies of Glasgow while offering a reflection from the river Clyde.

Set over three floors and including a planetarium and many interactive work station I could understand how it had gained its reputation and place on trip advisor as a ‘MUST SEE’ even though it was a pay for attraction (which many museums are not)

I fell in love with each and every floor.

Although I struggled with a few small issues (like no large print or alternative format maps or voice information on the lifts) I did find a very helpful member of staff who explained the floor levels to me and even explained where the stairs were as they were tucked away as the main traffic was directed towards the large lifts.

One perminant exhibit that I was interested in was ‘A Question of Perception’ that looked at optical illusions, the science behind it and how the human brain helps with this.  In addition to the illusions, I watched the cctv monitors for the centres own ‘wacky salon’ (you can find a video for this on YouTube, but as it is not accessible I have decided against sharing it here)

With interactive exhibitions across the whole centre, including a wonderful planetarium I enjoyed a good couple of hours here and took hundreds of photographs of the different exhibits, of which I will share just one with you.  This is of the ‘perfect triangle’ which from the angle of my photograph looks far from perfect.

Photograph of tabary - A mind blowing sculpture of a three part solid triangle, which is in fact an optical illusion and it is only when you get to within 2 foot of it that you see the sculpture is actulay 3 separate solid four sided rectangular, not actually a triangle at all.

However, too soon it was time for me to go, popping back to the hotel to collect my bags and head off for another train journey.

A train journey that saw me travelling from Exhibition Road to Glasgow Central, to hop on the shuttle bus to Glasgow Queen Street before boarding a train to Perth, where I would then change again (after a quick ‘wee stop’ for Fizz) to travel onto Pitlochry.

A place that could not be further from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow, with a population of just over 2,500 in comparison Glasgows 500,000….. It was a place I really couldn’t wait to escape to.

To be continued…….

All Aboard

Stock photograph of Glasgow Central Station sign

Continued from The start of an adventure… 

With a coffee in hand, along with my suitcase, book bag, handbag and guide dog I soon found the mobility assistance within London Euston Railway station.  My assistance had been pre-booked so at just after 22:00 i was guided to my train.

The man assisting me happily took my case and my book bag and off we went.

It was a very different ‘check-in’ for The Caladonian Sleeper.  It reminded me more of checking in to a flight.

First I checked in and was informed by the staff that I would be upgraded to a berth, they allocated me the ‘accessibile berth’ so that I was directly beside the toilet and just a door away from the lounge car.

The train measured over a quarter of a mile long and I was towards the furthest end.  This is because the train that leaves Euston travels towards Scotland as one train, before splitting; with one part going towards Edinburgh and the other part towards Glasgow.

Photograph is of the side of The Caladonian Sleeper train carriage from the platform

Once onboard the train, my room wasn’t quite ready, so I was seated in the lounge car where I was able to enjoy reading the extensive whiskey menu before I settled for a glass of red wine; before making myself and Fizz comfortable for the night in our berth.

Photograph from the open electronic door on my berth, showing the open and close panel on the left, Fizz sat in front of the single bed which has an orange hand rail and a top bunk bed that is seen at the top of the picturePhotograph is taken from where I sat in the bottom bunk in the berth, showing the width of the bed, with a counter at the end of the bed and the sink with a bottle of water on the side

The bed was comfortable, I took the extra pillows off the top bunk and although I looked at the little ‘sleep pack’ that was sat on the bed, I chose not to make use of the eye mask or ear plugs.  For my first ever sleeper journey I wanted to be as aware of my surroundings as possible.

I plugged my phone and watch in the USB ports, worked out which switch was for the main light and the bed light; popped to the loo again for one last time and tucked in to bed to listen to my audio book all before the train had even left the station.

This was a school girl error as I suddenly felt very aware and awake when the train did start moving.  Especially at the beginning when we were stopping at other London stations (just like a normal train would) so it was not until we were clear of London that I found myself getting comfortable again and drifting off to sleep.

I remember waking several times throughout the night, but there was not a clear reason for it.  It wasn’t until I awoke in a panic when the train seemed to ‘turn off’ that I got a reasonable nights sleep.

My panic awakening was because I felt that we must surely have arrived in Glasgow, although upon reaching my phone I realised I was over an hour early for the arrival time of Glasgow, let alone for the extra thirty minutes I had to vacate my room once we did arrive.

So I took the time to get dressed and raise the blind in my room to let the Scottish scenery in.  I even made myself a Herbalife shake for breakfast and got packed up.

Photograph of the open blind within my birth showing the countryside with the sink and worktop in the foreground

It wasn’t long before we pulled into Glasgow Central Station and the kind staff gave me a bottle of apple juice and informed me that my requested station assistance was ready to guide me from the train to the exit of the station.

It was lovely to walk into a quiet station (being 7:10 on a Tuesday morning). The rail assistance asked me where I was heading and asked if I needed help getting a taxi, I politely informed him that I was going to head to my hotel to drop off my case and enable Fizz to stretch her paws along The River Clyde.

Because thanks to more support on social media and google maps I knew all I had to do was walk toward the river and then along it for 19 minutes to reach my base for the next day and a half.  The Glasgow Crowne Plaza.

TO BE CONTINUED …

The start of an adventure – But first … London.

When opportunity presents itself, take its hand and let it lead you beyond your comfort zone.

A fellow VI friend informed me of an upgrade available to me as a guide dog owner to sleep in a cabin overnight on a train for the cost of a seated ticket.

The Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland gave me just such opportunity.  So in planning a trip I had hoped to take with my CPiC I booked a trip from London to Glasgow.

A journey which soon gave me the option to either cancel or put on my ‘big girl pants on’ to go alone….

Cancelling wasn’t really ever an option, as I would loose money not only on tickets, but on rooms already booked; plus my pure stubborn nature wouldn’t allow it.  So I decided to go alone (with my guiding girl Fizz) and a new plan was made.

London to Glasgow was recommended to me as Edinburgh was hosting The Fringe Festival.

So my plan started to come together.  I would travel to London on Monday, to catch the 23.20 sleeper out of Euston to Glasgow.

Monday was my day to explore London.

London is somewhere I have been many times before, however with my suitcase I wanted to stay close to Euston.  But just getting there wasn’t so simple.

Having used Euston Tube station as an interchange before for the northern line I was aware that it only had escalator access to street level.  So I made the brave (slightly silly) decision to get the tube to Kings Cross and walk back to Euston.

The walk was the easy bit, but the different lifts and levels of Kings Cross was a bit of a ‘challenge’ to say the least.  But one I achieved on my own.  The opportunity was there to ask for assistance, but I chose to put my problem solvcing hat on and just ‘get on with it’  Afterall, I have been to Kings Cross before and if in my mind if i couldn’t handle the tube, how would I manage Glasgow?

Hitting Kings Cross also gave me the opportunity to work out a green space for Fizz because with planned engineering works at Euston at the weekend, we would be returning to Kings Cross.  Thanks to the power of social media, I was made aware of a flower bed to the side of the station.

The flower bed was in fact right beside The British Library, a building that has always fascinated me.  So with time to kill I took the opportunity to go in.

WOW …..

The security staff were amazing, from explaining the bag search, to using a body scan wand on me and Fizz and continuing to explain it all to me; to then walking us down the ramps to the cloakrooms so I could have my suitcase stored while I explored.

Sadly there were no large print maps available, but as I explained to the staff that I used my phone as a magnifier they quickly radioed through to the other room attendants and security to make them aware that

“the blonde haired woman with the black guide dog who is deafblind has permission to use her phone as an aid to assist her, she isn’t taking photos, but simply magnifying the signs to enable her to enjoy her visit.’

This made me feel so very welcome and enabled me to enjoy my visit; while breaking down barriers for other visitors, who stopped to ask me how I was managing with the maps and signage.

I never went to look at the books (I do want to do this, but think it would be much easier with a sighted assistant) I purely went to look at the building…. The way the levels are open, the way the skylights are positioned, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Photograph shows the stripped skylights that run parallel to each other in a triangular flat roof of The British Library

Photograph shows rounded stairwells and the skylights again from inside The British Library

I enjoyed the fact that I could sit on each level, watch the world go by and enjoy the different ways in which other people used the space.

Because despite my failing sight, I love to read and I have always had a fascination with libraries.  So for a few hours after I explored the space I sat down with a comfy spot for Fizz and read my latest book. (Which is for another blog in the future)

This was just the calming and relaxed start to my adventure I needed before I met up with a climbing friend for a late supper.

We sat and talked, we ate, we drank and then realised this is the first time we have ever met outside of a climbing wall or competition setting.

And before I knew it, it was time to catch my train.

I felt nervous.

I felt excited.

I felt exhausted.

So, with a quick stop at Starbucks I went to find the assisted travel desk to board my train.

TO BE CONTINUED …

Discovering just how independent I can be

This post is probably the wrong way around.  But for me it seems only right that I write this bit first……

Today I am heading home after an amazing week away with my Guiding Girl Fizz.

Today I am realising that although this journey wasn’t the one I had originally planned for, it was the journey I needed to take.

And as much as I almost found myself not taking it …. I am grateful to my own stubborn nature and my ability to plan and organise.

And the fact that I would always have wondered ‘what if?’ Had I not at least tried.

So, try I did and I am so very grateful that I did.

 

…… TO BE CONTINUED

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