Tag Archive for Fun

Time to be a princess……

I am far too old to be believing in fairytales, although I do enjoy a nice chilled Sunday with the kids and Disney’s Tangled…. So, for a few moments I want to indulge in the fantasy of Flynn Rider and my own wonderful White Stead.

Ok, so the moment is over and here I am finding myself without a cast iron frying pan to beat off the baddies and most definitely no white stead to rescue me from these great heights.

But I am in a castle…. Of sorts.

And I am up high…. Kind of.

But this is most definitely not a Disney film, I am most certainly not Rapunzel and I do not have magical hair the glows when I sing.

Instead I have the third round of competing to become part of the Team GB Paraclimbing to take part in.  And a pretty amazing building in which to do it!

Exterior image of The Castle Climbing Centre, showing the 3 tall towers of this previous water pumping station, part of the original design that gave it its name as a castle

Yet again, the designer in me is amazed by the location of the climbing competition; which has been my calming and relaxation technique to save me any full blown panic attacks.

This building in particular has hit a cord, being bought over 20 years ago from The ‘buildings at risk’ register, the team have worked on following the buildings design and when money has allowed, additions and alterations have occurred.  While keeping many of the original features of the building in place.

Image shows climbing walls between and around original brick features of the water pumping station

I could continue….. But for now I will move on to the real reason you are hear, reading this;  How was the competition?

In a word “challenging”

More so than I expected, more so than I think I could have prepared for.

This competition felt different, it was a week day and the climbing centre was reasonable quiet, this leant itself to another issue…. That those competing had time and lack of obstructions to watch those on the routes.

The general rule of thumb when climbing is

Nobody bothers with anyone else, they are all concentrating on their own next move or climb.

Image showing climbing walls with competitors in the background around the bouldering problems

But now there was an audience, on each climb and boulder problem.  There were supporters and there were the critics.  Both could be quite terrifying.

This was my third climb out of three in the series, but as yet none of those I had competed against in my category had climbed against me.  This was no different in London!

Even with my sight I was beginning to recognise other competitors, some had been at all and some just two out of the three, a good report was beginning to build with those who had met before, for me many quizzed me over my lack of Fizz!  Having decided that travelling up and back to London in 1 day was too much for her; as her work would be minimal.

Blindness and sightloss can be a very lonely disability, yet I have always found that ANYONE at a climbing centre is welcoming, supportive and doesn’t question differences.  So when meeting with some of the other VI’s, both male and female, I found myself questioned by my own peers.  Not all, the man who gave me the courage to attempt this; Mr John Churcher and his lovely wife have been great to talk to; get information from and are very supportive.  But especially in London, I found it very difficult to ‘mix’ with others from the VI category, I didn’t feel like it was a “mixing with the enemy” issue, it felt like some of those  competing weren’t looking (pun intended) to be part of Team GB.  A concept that is completely alien to me.

Yes, I am competing for me, for my personal challenge; yet I am competing to join a team, to work with, not against others.

You have probably realised by now, my emotions and ‘feeling’ effect my thoughts and sometimes lead me to distraction; that is what happened in Manchester, (round 2) but it wasn’t going to happen here, not in London.

So, feelings aside, I climbed my arse off!  I beat my own personal score from Manchester, yet found myself standing again on the 3rd podium.

Image of me standing on the left of the image on 3rd place podium spot.

My pride took a beating when 2nd place went to a 12 year old; although not as bad a beating as I had thought when the points details came out.  The competitive side of me was over the moon to discover it was just 6 points between 2nd and 3rd.

Image of the podium, including the 2nd and 1st place winners of the VI female category

It was a harder climb, it was also only 10 days after Manchester.  So for now, I have seven weeks to prepare for the finale….. Newcastle just before Christmas !!!

Time to get some serious training in.




Touch, but don’t Look

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The lengths I go to for a swim…

Last weeks climb is nothing in comparison to today’s challenge.

Today though was a very different type of challenge, this one was more of an anxiety, need for preparation and gaining some control over a situation.

I explain my WHY in What does ……  Today was one of those days; the kind of day where something out of my control was happening, something I couldn’t hide away from and something I didn’t want to hide from.

Because if I did, I would be disappointing and letting my son down.

So, time for a plan…..

My son was invited to a swim party!  A party where I was required to be in the water with him, something we had done before…. But never like this!

This was different, it was in a pool I had never been to, it was in a party environment, so I didn’t know if there would be lights, music or inflatables.  Oh and it was with many of the mums and dads from the school playground!

I set to work, I had a plan…. I was not going to let my son down, I WAS NOT going to let his friend and her family down by bailing out (I have paid for numerous birthday parties and know just how much they cost)

The pool and leisure centre was one that I had actually used before….. All be it 19 Years ago, before it was fully refurbished and renovated though.

This was a positive though …. The wonders of the Internet and EVERYTHING being online I was able to find a floor plan of the new building, a ‘street view’ of the exterior and images from the centres website to put together enough information to make me feel like I knew where I was going.  A virtual walk through if you like.

Then came my next worry, when in the pool, would I be able to see my son? Short answer is obvious….. No!

I didn’t want to ask another parent to look after him, I wanted to enjoy the party with him, but without keeping him all to myself and stopping him playing with his friends.

So, with his help I got from the changing rooms (where my cane was locked away) and into the pool.  I headed for a space at the side as to not get in anyone’s way.

I initially heard him playing, but soon the noise increased and it was hard to make him out.

A casual  “Hey, is Lawremce playing nicely?”  Gave me a conversation starter to find out roughly where he was in the pool, so I could focus in.  It was then a friend and fellow school mum said that she was keeping a look out for him as she knew I would find it tricky.  And as he was playing with her son it wasn’t difficult !!

Lawrence is a confident paddler, the party was in the training pool and I wanted him to enjoy his time at the party, hence another WHY I had to be there…. Knowing that everyone in the pool was known by the party hosts enabled me to relax my fear of stranger danger.

At one point. He came over to me and asked if I wanted to play, we had a real laugh, he was guiding me, without guiding me (if that makes any sense)

The one hour swim part of the party was over too soon and not only had Lawrence had a fabulous time, I too had had the chance to relax and enjoy the party fun.

Please take a moment to answer in the comments below; a few little question for me…

1. Would you, previously have thought this was a bit obsessive?

2.  Would you fear the opinion of your peers if you asked for support?


Fun with Fizz

Today we (me & Fizz) found ourselves faced with a very different challenge.

Our local coop currently has one of its outer shutters down, so we have a slightly odd turn at the top of the steps by the door.  The door is set at a 45* degree angle to the corner of the building, meaning that when both shutters are down, the building looks square, yet with them both open, you can access from either side through the same entrance. (With one down, we have to walk around to the other, which isn’t at all an issue of difficult to do)

So, we did the turn & Fizz stopped dead and sat down.  This is a very odd thing for her to do.

She doesn’t just sit down like this if there is an obstacle, if there were an obstacle she would remain standing and then guide me around.  If she couldn’t guide me around it, she would turn me around to indicate the way was blocked.

Today she just sat, nothing would move her!

I focused in on a bull dog type dog sat by the railings a little way up, it’s tail was wagging and it wasn’t barking.

This is normally all the invitation Fizz would need to rush me over to say hello; yet she still sat.  So it wasn’t the dog!
Maybe it was a bike laid on the ground, I scanned but saw nothing….

A man came out the shop but before I could ask him, he rushed past and away.

Curious !!
Then out came a lady with a trolley and my mystery was solved

sorry dear, my cat has come out for a walk with me and my dog, he is sitting between you and the door.

So I scanned, I was able to work out another animal, about the same size as the bull dog and also similar colouring.

It was a cat!

It was a very HUGE cat, and he was happily sitting licking his paw with his tail wagging, just like the dog !!
Knowing now the situation I asked Fizz to walk on; nothing!

She did move eventually, but only then cower behind me until the cat had walked past !!

My clever.  Highly trained.  Intelligent. Problem solving guide dog is officially a WIMP.

Way back when I wrote for Guide Dogs….

Tee stood in Cascade Shopping Centre on the campaign day with Fizz laid on the floor at my feet.

My whole reason for writing this blog is to raise awareness, share some of the crazy hiccups that occur along the way on my journey in a world of sight loss.

I enjoy campaigning about issues that I found myself affected by.  So, way back in September I supported Guide Dogs on a campaign day collecting signatures for a petition to ‘The Big 5.’  For which I wrote a one off blog for guidedog.org.uk, which is linked below.

Pavement Parking causing headaches.

It’s been a whole year

It’s so weird looking back on the photos of last year…. This day one year ago along with the support of a great friend and the brilliance of my very talented climbing partner, I found myself climbing the equivalent height of The Gherkin, London’s iconic tall building, named so because of its glass uninterrupted shape and dominance in the London skyline.


say the equivalent, because the building itself is un-climb able, so at Calshot Climbing centre we relayed between climbing and belaying to climb the 180m each.

We did the challenge to raise money for Hampshire Association for Care of The Blind,ore commonly known as Open Sight. With the final total being over £900.  It was also a major personal challenge for both me and Simon whom I climb with.  For me, because I had never climb this sort of endurance before and for Simon, he undertook the challenge blindfolded.  It was our ‘Blind Climb’

due to life and work commitments, sadly it has been some time since we have been up the wall again…. But we shall return and soon !!



Sun and Sandals

I can’t be the only person who thinks or worries about this, I am sure that it isn’t just something that fellow friends with a visual impairment can to relate too, but also those with half decent sight.

Here is my dilemma, with the sun, out comes the sunglasses…. No trouble there.  I have been wearing them throughout the winter anyway.  But with the warmer weather, out come the sandals.

And sandals mean just one thing….. Feet on show, more precisely.  Toes !!

I haven’t been able to see my feet for a long time.  I hate people touching my feet, so have never dare asked a friend to help.  Last year I only allowed my toes out in private, but not this year.  This year I want to let the sun kiss them.

So, I have come up with a way that I can give myself a pedicure and possibly even paint my toe nails (should the need arise-not that it has JUST yet)

Maybe it is using a piece of equipmemt designed to help those with sight issues to its extreme, but having recently received a (old to them) CCTV reader from a friend…..

I am now able to see my feet and toes for the first time in a long time, and thanks to my tv.

They are in high definition !!!!



Celebrating 2015 with a Fizz

Just before Christmas I had a call from guide dogs. The one I havd been waiting for for over a year.

“We think we have a match for you”

Excitment, hope, fear and absolute dread were some of the emotions that were stirred up.  An appointment was made and Fizz was due to come out to meet me with Jo the GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor)

Fabulius Fizz……

A beautiful black lab, crossed with a golden retriever…. With the shiniest smoothest coat I have ever known.

She is a speedy little lady, that took my breathe away for the first five minutes of our matching walk, but actually, she wasn’t walking any faster than I used to walk with Vicky five year as ago.  She was very easy to handle and we seemed to soon find a pace that worked well.  She was a little cheeky, paying too much attention to the area where we walked (but only as it was all new to her)

Jo walked behind us with a second lead so that she could take control of needed, but after 15 minutes she removed it, she kept us walking for a further 15 minutes.

Jo thought we were a good match.  Fizz is currently boarding (a foster home for guide dogs) with a family that are manic and the children are around the same age as my pair, she has settled well there having previously worked for a short time with a partner that decided for whatever reason, they didn’t wish to continue with Fizz.

Eek….. I felt the walk went really well, but was on tender hooks waiting for Jo to tell me what she thought.

Then it came….

“I think you worked beautifully together, if you agree (as I get to give my opinion too) I think this is the match for you and we should look at training dates and what the girls (Vicky & Fizz) think of each other”

So, a second meeting was arranged.  Where Vicky met Fizz up the road, they had a good ‘doggy’ sniff of each other.  Then Jo followed us home.

The girls got on like a house on fire.  They had a good romp around with school other.  Fizz took out each toy and several bones from the toy box, which Vicky didn’t bother with.  After this they both calmed down and laid together on the rug without a fuss.


So….. We are to train together, from home, not in a group class.

And we are due to start on Monday 19th January.

This is when Vicky will return her harness and be able to rest her paws and enjoy her time to stay home.

Which having worked with her over the Christmas period and since doing the walk with Fizz, I have realised just how much she has slowed and just how much she has had enough now.


So, in just over one week…… LET THE FUN BEGIN !!!




Creative SparKs are Flying

Although I am only just writing about this, the things I am about to share with you actually started just over 18 months ago.  But it has taken this time to get the project to where it needs to be.

A friend of mine is a magician, children’s’ entertainer and balloon artist.  A role that he has played out for many years before I even knew him.  Many of his clients and party gig’s he got through word of mouth and his website and business card.  Both of which he admitted didn’t show his true personality.

He is known in the business as sparkey…..  A play on his main profession and surname, but with no definition between the two parts.

He mentioned that he was trying to redesign his image and website, to enable him to move forward in his role.  This is where my creative brain kicked in  And I asked him if he would mind me having a play around with his ideas.

So, I started with my brief and his name….. And off I went.

First things first, his name….. I wasn’t going to change it, but I did ‘alter’ it a bit.

So sparkey became SparKey.

And the fun really started to begin.

I am not going to bore you all with the sleepless nights and crazy ideas that flowed (due to me suffering with insomnia, not due to the stress of the brief!)  But I took the initial idea of a ‘burnt out clown’ and gave him The SparKey personality.


The brief was to work in fun, laughter, magic and balloon modelling into a single character.  The balloon magic was a challenge, although it didn’t need to have been, I was missing one key feature of the package.  SparKey always made and wore a 3 coloured balloon made top-hat.

The magic was simple with a traditional black and white magic wand.

The fun came in the form of 3 iconic metallic green juggling clubs that SparKey used within many of his shows from the very beginning.

The fun, from his oversized green and blue clown shoes.

But how to portray the laughter?

That took more work, that took many a drawing being scrunched up on the kitchen floor, over flowing the waste paper basket at the kitchen table.  It turned me into, what to appear to others, unaware of the project….. A First Class Stalker.

Several hundred photographs, videos and observations of the man behind SparKey.

As the time went on, my sight went away.  Graphics was part of my degree, part of my soul and a brief like this wouldn’t have taken me a quarter of the time before.  This with it, bought its own demons, its own dark moments and at the same time, its own moments of creativity that may not have come, had the brief been completed in a quicker time.

One part of the design was really challenging, it was the key to bringing the whole design and character together.  It was the laughter, the smile, the energy that came through from the man behind the costume that was SparKey.

At one point, I struggled to distinguish shadows and laughter lines on his face, so I even spent time, feeling his face.  Touching his mouth and sketching as I felt the ever so slight small lines that made the smile.  The smile that made SparKey the character come to life and also the smile, that on many a draft occasion made the character look more like a psychopath than a childrens’ entertainer!

Tweaks and re-draws filled yet more waste paper baskets.  Colours and rendering took time.  Then, just before Christmas 2013 SparKey was born, he wasn’t perfect…. But that was part of his charm, part of his fun and part of the cheeky personality of the man that lay behind the image.

The man that is Simon Key. A.K.A SparKey.




Then came the colour and the logo to match.




All in all not bad for a VIP like me !!!

The images above are the ‘computer tweaked’ images of my hand drawings. That have now been formed to make SparKey’s business cards and website. A website that you can find at www.thesparkeyshow.co.uk


(copyright 2014)

One Gherkin wasn’t enough


WE DID IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Wednesday 17th September, me and Simon faced our challenge of climbing the height of The Gherkin. We set out to climb the 180m between us. We felt that this was a realistic challenge to conquer.



How wrong we were……


The climb equalled 90m each, on a stretch of wall we both knew well. The climb was for endurance, rather than climb technique. After all, Simon faced a bigger challenge than me. He had to climb blindfolded. I have only ever climbed blind, so I didn’t have that additional element to deal with.

We got 120-odd meters into the climb when we both agreed that it wasn’t enough. We then made to interesting if not slightly bonkers decision to continue climbing, until we had both individually climber 180m.

I say bonkers decision, as we both felt the adrenaline going at that point…. The very same adrenalin that began to wear off at around 300m.  Redbull, Kendal Mint Cake and Dextrose Tablets saw us through the last 60m….. Along with a VERY large amount of finger tape !!!!!

It was an amazing adventure. One that has left a few scars and bruises, but one that has spurred us both on to do something even bigger and even better.

So, having doubled the climb height, we are still pushing forward to ask those who wish to support us to show their support. The Just Giving page is still up and active. As is the ability to send a text donation from your phone.



TEXT BGCC70 £10 to 70070




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