Tag Archive for visually impaired

Part of life just got A LOT simpler !!!

The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

Charles Eames

I first read this while studying at university 21 years ago; in this previous life before my severely sight impaired diagnosis and even a half decent understand of how terrible my vision was, this quote spoke to me.

Along with a book called ‘The Design of Everyday Things’ by Don Norman that was yellow with a red coffee pot that had the handle and the spout on the same side have always stuck with me.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, just as I have previously written about how Steve Jobs had a vision for Apple that put accessibility at its very core, instead of an after thought. Being mindful at the design stage can change the experiences of the end user.

Apple isn’t the only company or product to do this. My Breville ‘One Cup‘ is another example as are the scales I received today.

As an independent Herbalife Distributor who allowed lockdown to take control, I gained far too much weight, teamed with not climbing or swimming and well you can imagine where I found myself at the beginning of the year?

I have for the past 5 years started my day with a Herbalife Nutrition shake along with a whizzy, fat burning tea. However throughout lockdown my healthy, good nutrition would start and end with breakfast!

The products are good, however they are not magical.

So, fast forward (or is it rewind?) to January this year; January when I turned 40! When a friend shared a photo of me sat at their dining-room table and I realised how much I had let myself go. Yes I could feel my clothes were tight, uncomfortable and I was certainly not happy, however as someone who can’t see the reflection in the mirror; I was in denial.

I looked at that photo over and over again. I felt embarrassed, mortified and realised that I needed to make some changes.

I had all the tools I needed, the products in my kitchen cupboards and a wealth of knowledge. I had to start treating myself like I was a client, a client in Herbalife was something I hadn’t had in a while; (after all who is going to take weight loss advice from a fat person?)

So I (Re-) started my journey, went back to basics, a simple 1, 2, 3 approach and along with a new model; I found my focus.

There was just one part of the process that was VERY difficult.

Each morning, after I woke and popped to the bathroom I would stand on my bathroom scales.

My scales are a little more detailed than your average scales, they were in-fact Tanita Scanners. In addition to my weight I would get a whole host of other information, most importantly my body hydration and body fat percentages.

These scanners are programmable, with memory. All I had to do was switch them on, wait for them to beep and stand on. They would record all the measurements and then beep several times to say I could step off.

All my measurements were saved so I could grab my phone and take a photo of each measurement to zoom in on and record in a little challenge group I am in.

These scanners were a game changer for me as long gone were the days when I could when see my feet when stood upright, let alone the neon green scales beneath them, all before even trying to make out that in the middle was a digital display.

However, in the last 3 or 4 weeks my sight has changed (there’s another blog coming about that) it was taking more concentration to read from the photos.

I needed another solution.

I didn’t even look at talking bathroom scales. I didn’t research ANY accessible, visually impaired products. Instead I focussed my research on scanners like those I had that I could use with an app.

My reasoning for this?

If the scanners relayed all the data into an app, I could use zoom on my phone to read that data.

Today my Kamtron scanners arrived. I chose these based on the ‘Fitdays’ app which looked the simplest on the App Store. They were also significantly cheaper than the Bluetooth enabled Tanitas that appeared (on paper) to do the same thing.

They connect via Bluetooth to the app. All I have to do is touch the button on the back of the scanners, wait for the beep and step on, a little sound emanates from my phone when the data is recorded and off I step.

Then by using the ‘read screen’ toggle on my iPhone all the details are read out to me, no taking photos, no screenshots to then have to zoom in on. And more importantly no masses of screenshot photos taking up space on my phone or iCloud!

So simple…

Good products designed well can easily help and support those who may have additional or altered needs.

It may just be a ‘happy coincidence’ that this product is so accessible? It may have been part of the design brief? Sadly I will never know which, I will simply refer back to my original quote.

The role of the designer is that of a good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.

Charles Eames

FOOTNOTE: In writing this post I am simply sharing a product I found that works for me, I am not in anyway endorsing Kamtron Scales or The Fitdays app. Just as I have previously spoken about other products and apps.

How do the blind, date?

Since locking down in March 2020 because of the global pandemic, I like many have done a little evaluating of my life.

I am headstrong, (stubborn) fiercely independent and actually enjoy my time by myself. However I have those times when I don’t want to do it all alone.

Dating for anyone can be a minefield, its all about an online presence; dating apps and even Facebook have got in on it. After all it is a multi-million pound industry in the U.K alone. It is where swiping left or right appears to be the way you decide. Then there are time wasters. Those are often only after one thing. Thankfully within a message or two these become obvious. Even me as a blind gal is now getting the hang of spotting them!

It appears even for those who have perfect vision, the days of locking eyes across a crowded room are gone. You can now even do online speed dating, where you don’t even have to get out of your chair; or worry about having garlic breathe.

The route I decided to take was semi-old fashioned. I got chatting online to a guy who was in a group on Facebook for mutual interests. We spoke virtually and then over the phone before actually meeting in person.

Those of you who have followed my blog for some time or who are connected with me on Facebook will know I post regular updates, posts and photos of my adventures. I am very much real. Many people have met me in real life, I have also gone through a very thorough evaluation to get my sight diagnosis, DWP disability benefits and my guide dogs.

Which has probably just given you a heads up to the direction that this date took…

I chose the venue, one I would feel comfortable in and also, if things went well we could enjoy a walk along the beach after. I arrived a little early, however was pleased to realise he was already at the bar.

We had spoken about my guide dog, he had asked questions about my sight and we had become Facebook friends, so he could see for himself. He was a gentleman and got our drinks before we sat down at a quiet end of the bar.

This was when things went very quickly south. (to put it politely)

My guide dog Fizz only made the briefest of hellos before laying down. She didn’t even wait for me to take off her harness before she settled. And following a recent conversation with a friend about dating and dogs intuition this should have been enough for me to stand up and leave; I however thought she may be sulking because we were so near the beach and she hadn’t been in the water.

Not taking off her harness did have its benefits though.

It would appear; despite several online conversations, telephone calls, facetime calls and my general online presence being true to myself, about my ‘blind fails’ and life with my guide dog; he was a little surprised when I actually walked in with my leading lady.

Obviously, writing this type of blog isn’t easy for me and there have been many re-writes; however I feel it is important to share this with you, as it may just stand as educational to some on how words can actually hurt more than sticks and stones. (as the childhood rhyme goes)

I am independent, I (partly) live my life to prove to myself that I can; that I am not solely defined by my disability and to help my children understand that life is to be lived, not purely existed. I will not apologise for that.

Wearing my sunglasses (being summer isn’t that what most people do?) and having a guide dog beside me apparently made my blindness too obvious! (so it began)

“You appear so outgoing and fabulous with the climbing, cycling (on a tandem) and solo adventures, but seriously how can you do any of it LIKE THAT?”

Was not a question I expected to be asked. And I think I managed to croak out “Pardon” before taking a rather large gulp of my drink.

“Well, I mean a real blind person couldn’t do any of that.”

At this point I finished my almost full pint, stood up, took Fizz’s harness and walked out.

I was about ten paces outside the pub when I heard an “excuse me miss” I turned around to be greeted by the barman. He had seen me finish my drink quickly and my sharp exit. He wanted to double check I was safe and if I needed any assistance. He told me that the man I was with had made no move to follow me and asked if I wanted him to walk me back into the pub by another door. I explained I was alright, just foolish and thanked him for his concern.

And then I reached out and spoke with a dear friend. She reminded me it was best to get this sort of rubbish out of the way quickly and that I didn’t need to waste anymore time on it.

I, like many with any disability have faced my fair share of people not understanding. I have been quizzed by strangers when I have used my phone or picked out my own shopping. I have also had people I believed to be close to me not understand.

Sight loss is a spectrum, it varies greatly and is not as simple as sighted or blind. Just as some who use a wheelchair can also walk, some registered blind (severely sight impaired) have some usable vision.

In all honesty, walking with a guide dog gives me a greater confidence than when I walk with my cane, she is a literal extension of my left arm that makes moving around appear effortless; even in a busy pub.

I have not yet undertaken a truly solo adventure, as I have always had my guide dogs with me, just as when I cycle I have a pilot on my tandem (I think riding it alone would look a little concerning!) and in the very same way that when I climb I also have a partner. I do much of ‘life’ with what I call blind hacks and tweaks. And as I have said before; I wont apologise for that.

This is one of those ‘chalk up to experience and move on’ moments.

It was not said as a compliment. Or as an admiration.

There has been no further contact and nobody has been blocked.

For now I am thinking of going ‘old-school as regards dating. I will hold out for that ‘eyes locking across a crowded room’ moment.

Oh wait…

Time to let you in on a little secret

Canary Wharf Roundell with Guide Dog sat in front of it in her guide dog harness.

Since the beginning of April 2020, when it became clear that lock-down was here to stay I joined an online virtual challenge called ‘Race at Your Pace’. Being that both running and cycling require the input of a sighted guide I joined the walking challenge and between April and 31st December I clocked up 612mi.

BUT WHY?

As a form of training for a challenge I hope to complete now we are in 2021. Which I originally wanted to call ‘my Womble Challenge’, in that I shall be walking the London Underground Overground (cue cheesy 1970s tv theme tune) However, as this is a different version of The Tube Challenge I completed in 2019 I have setted for

‘Tinks Tube Challenge, a 2021 Twist’

As it was “Tinks Tube Challenge” that saw me travel to and through all 270 tube stations on The London Underground with world record holder Andy James, in under 19 hours on this day two years ago.

However this time, (thankfully) there is no time challenge or running. Instead each line I walk will enable me to see London on the surface. Take in the sights, the sounds and the smells. And with the length of the walks vary from just 32 minutes to 2.5 days. (as i will be stopping and sleeping) if it is a part of london covered by the underground network it will form part of the walk. I plan to walk to each tube station on each line; this will see me visit most stations more than once over the full eleven walks.

With Kings Cross St Pancras being the staiton I will visit the most.

This is not a new challenge, there have been variations of this challenge achieved over the last few decades; it was actually reading Mark Masons’ book ‘Walk the Lines, The London Underground OVERGROUND’ That inspired me to take on this mammoth challenge.

Which if TfL run to time will see me complete 272 stations with the new Northern Line extension out to Batttersea Power Station.

As with my previous tube challenge I am completing this as part of my fundraising to name a life-changing guide dog Victoria. 2020 would have been ideal for this as the puns relating to sight and 2020 are in abundance, however the Covid pandemic had other ideas and foolishly lead me to believe that by now we would be out the other side and returning to some normality instead of (again) being in a form of lockdown. (Oh how niave of me!)

So instead of launching this challenge today on the 2nd Anniversary of me completing the original challenge as I had planned; by starting out on my first walk I can only write about it here and instead build the tension.

2021 for me has already started with BIG BIRTHDAY, so it is only fitting that I give back to others. Guide dogs are and have been a big part of my life since 2009. So it is in this monumental year for me age wise I return the support, while doing something that I am actually really looking forward to.

Given the distances covered on each walk, there will be very few that I am able to complete with Fizz by my side, instead I have a team of volunteers to support me as sight guides and my faithful cane.

Given the current restrictions and dangers to everyone with this pandemic I feel it is a much more realistic expectation that I probably won’t get to physically start my challenge until the latter part of the year. So, for now I will continue to train, working particularly on increasing my fitness and stamina; so that when it is safe to do so I will be good to go.

…. On a side note I have also updated my fundraising page too, which can be found HERE

Eek …. 40 is fast approaching

As my youngest has recently celebrated turning 10, it makes me aware that the next birthday is our family is mine.

My birthday has often been a Love-Hate subject for me, being at the beginning of January it’s always been pretty rubbish timing. (Better than it could have been, I believe my due date was December 21st)

As a child I often got money for my birthday, which mixed with what were True-January sales I got so much more for my money. However since adulthood as much as I would love to celebrate and socialise with friends I am acutely aware that January is a VERY long month.

Many often joke that January is actually much longer than its 31 days, which in reference to paydays is certainly true; as it can be as much as Seven weeks rather than Five.

However, a real plus for me is that restaurants and pubs are generally much quieter for these exact same reasons! Meaning that I can enjoy myself without the worry of additional difficulties because of noise, crowds and party-type lighting. (Hence the Love-Hate)

Having my youngest 10 years ago meant that I was a very tired newish mum for my thirtieth as it was a very different experience to when I had my eldest because of the changes in my sight.

Lots of people have started asking what I want to do the celebrate.

And honestly, with the world still in the middle of these ‘unprecedented times’ and with so many restrictions in place, there is a distinct possibly that even if I started RIGHT NOW….. I would not achieve what I want to by the end my thirties with a ‘Forty things before I am Forty Bucket list’

So, the question is; do I make it ‘Forty things to do as I turn Forty’?

Or as one friend suggested….. “Celebrating beginning my Naughty Forties in Style”

And if that is the case, What do I do?

I do have a pretty big ‘challenge’ planned for 2021, which is currently being tweaked and trained for. Which, linking to my previous challenges (Gherkin 2014, Cheesegrater 2017 and my Tube Challenge 2019) will be following the London theme.

This Challenge will most certainly help me to achieve my fundraising target to name a guide dog pup and future life-changer. Which would be an AMAZING way to celebrate starting my “Naughty-Forties.”

With the exception of this year (thanks lockdown!) I have in recent years taken to a solo travel adventure, so it is only fitting that that would be included. But I would also like to do something with my children, with friends and with those I now come to call family.

I do also like the idea of celebrating in several different ways. I’m not thinking of a big party; actually I can’t think of anything worse! Rather many smaller and different experiences that will be much easier to adapt to include my different circles of friends and family.

It goes without saying there will be Climbing, Hiking, Tandem Riding, London, Trains, Beaches, Cocktails and Cake …. Plenty of Cake!

But as for particulars….. This is where you my reader comes in. What would you do if you were me?

Please comment below and help me make this an amazing and incredible year to look forward to.

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As the world begins to reopen – why does it feel less accessible ?

Selfie photo of me wearing a floral face mask and dark sunglasses with the pole for the bus stop behind me

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic the use of face masks has increased. It has been compulsory for most ‘front-line staff’ from the very beginning.

Then government officials suggested members of the public wear face coverings or masks when going into enclosed spaces where social distancing may be difficult, such as supermarkets, garden centres and medical appointments.

And I will admit, when this recommendation came in I also took this to mean to wear a face mask or face covering when using the bus.
Whixh as of tomorrow 15th June it will be compulsory to wear a face covering on all public transport. (Unless young, have certain health conditions and certain disabilities)

so, one afternoon earlier this week I thought I would road-test my floral cotton facemask for the bus journey and while I did some essential shopping.

Having not been on a bus for about Eight weeks I was initially a bit concerned about my journey, but the bus driver soon put me at ease. Our local buses have had clear screens to protect the drivers for many years, so this was nothing new, however implementing social distancing on a bus was definitely something I was uncertain of.

The driver explained to me that each of the seats in the aisle were taped off with yellow tape, as were both of the seats in every other row to enable passengers to sit two metres apart beside, in-front and behind.

For me, my sight enables me to see the bright yellow tape on the grey seats, however not to read the words. So the drivers instructions were very clear and descriptive; as you can see from this photograph that I took once I sat down.

Side on view of grey seats on a bus with many have yellow tape explaining about social distancing on the aisle seats and on both seats every other row

The bus seemed fairly empty and as I went to get off at the bus station, the bus driver again explained that social distancing was implemented inside the station. If I am honest, my guide dog was a little hesitant when we got into the station, but I gave her the command to turn left and out the station and she soon found her feet and walked with confidence.

As i have said previously, I have found it easier to shop for many of my essentials from my local Wilko and Poundland stores as they are smaller and generally have been quieter.

So, on this visit off to Wilko we went. I tried to scan for a queue outside the store and as I couldn’t I approached the door and asked the staff member if there was a queue to join, when she explained there was no-one else waiting so I could come straight in. She explained where the freshly wiped down baskets were and off I went to get what was on my list.

I walked down one aisle and at the end it appeared that they had put extra shelving in, so the pathway around to the next aisle was rather tight for manoeuvring me, Fizz my guide dog and the basket that was sat i the crook of my arm.

Shopping picked and off to the till. Here we hit a slight snag.

The store layout had altered. The additional shelving at the end of the aisles were actually there as the store had implemented a system similar to Tesco where you had to wait while socially distancing at one point before moving forward to the next available till. Which a kind shopper explained to me from the other side of the shelving.

So, after a bit of trial and error, we found the queue. With a light floor colour and the dark red Wilko signs marking each 2m space I was able to ensure I kept my distance. Then it was our turn to be at the front of the queue.

Again another snag…….

With no member of staff on queue control I patiently waited to hear a clue as to when it was my turn to go to a till. However the queue placement meant that we were at the customer service end of the tills with maybe five or six tills off in-front of us. When a couple walked very close beside me on my right, huffing as they did.

Another kind shopper who was now behind me (at a social distance) apologised as the couple that went passed me had got fed up of waiting as a till had become clear and I had not seen it; even though from their position this couple who jumped the queue did have a very clear view of my guide dog by y side. Thankfully at the next till to become free, the staff member had called out to me.

After hitting my basket off of the clear screen that had been put in place the staff member was kind and clear with her explanation and she even took my bag to pack my shopping for me.

Shopping done, back to the bus station, here is where I discovered the social distance implementations. I just want to add at this point, I am in full support of social distancing and of businesses and service providers who are taking care to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

Fizz appeared to be walking right up against the metal benches, a place I try to move her away from as this is often where food has been discarded. Yet when I asked her to move in and walk more within the centre of the path she refused. I count in the large boards to get us to our stand. And then gave the command to find a seat. Fizz did this time move me to the right and to a seat by our bus stand. It was when I sat that I could then ‘see’ the issues that had caused Fizz to struggle; both when we left the station and as we returned.

Photo of the inside of Fareham Bus Station, a large metal timetable board is on the left and infront is a orange cone with red and white tape and a sign pointing left to state that this is the direction to walk.  In the background past the tape is a metal bench.

There is a gap between the tape to enable people to get to the right bus stand, there also appears to be a yellow line on the floor, but as can be seen the space on each side of the tape is not very large and is why Fizz had found it a struggle both when leaving the bus station and when we returned.

Sadly, after the ordeal of our shopping trip a bus driver explained that I had over an hour to wait for the next bus. (As they are running a very different service, which is understandable) So I gave fizz the command to leave, and I decided we would just walk home, as that would take us about 40 minutes.

This whole experience had exhausted me mentally and I just wanted to get away from it all. My shopping was (if I am honest) a little too heavy for walking home; however I felt vulnerable. My confidence was thrown, especially as I was in what I would consider ‘familiar territory’, although with all the additional safety measures the whole thing felt alien to both me and Fizz.

So, tomorrow as more stores open I think I will actually be less likely to be visiting my local town. Because with these additional MUCH NEEDED safety measures I don’t feel that the routes and places that were so familiar to me prior to the Covid-19 will remain as such until social distancing is a distant memory…. Which I am well aware is not going to be the case anytime soon.

So for me, as the world re-opens I feel it is much less accessible for me.

And I am pretty sure that I am not the only one. I would love to hear your views and experiences. Please comment below.

Take Care and Stay Safe.

What is this all leading to ?

Yellow medal staring 50 miles walked

Lockdown has not been easy for me from a mental health point of view. As someone who holds multiply volunteer roles I work better when my schedule is full.

They say

If you want something done, ask a busy person.

And for me that is most definitely the case. When I have all the time in the world to do something it never gets done. To the point that my diary schedule now also includes specific days and times for mundane housework.

I also need to find something to get me working out, gaining strength and becoming fitter; rather than just sitting in front of Netflix’s.

Along came a Facebook advert for a virtual challenge called ‘Race At Your Pace.’ Ever skeptical about just adverts I asked a few friends and they confirmed it was a genuine company and that actually many of them were doing a running challenge with them.

Social distancing for me with a visual impairment means that I am unable to run or cycle; given that I need either a guide runner to run with me or a pilot to ride my tandem.

Which left me with walking.

Not a problem, as I needed to exercise my guide dog Fizz, and this was a mix between ‘working walks’ for her in harness and ‘sniffy walks’ where she was on a longer lead and able to just be a dog, sniffing at each post to catch up on all the ‘Pee-Mails’

So, April’s challenge was set, I set myself the target of 50 miles of walking workouts. Which I new was a MASSIVE challenge for me, however with both indoor walks and outdoor walks counting I felt it was achievable.

Oh how wrong was I?

In April I did walk 50 miles, however it saw me going right up to the last minute with a 4 mile walk on the 30th April. Having always measured my distance in Kilometres, it was a bit of a shock to the system to measure in Miles.

However when this beauty arrived in the post I felt proud that I had achieved it.

And having gone right to the wire for April I knew I needed to work harder. So not only did I re-enter for May, but upped the distance…. This time 65miles.

A target that I not only reached on the 29th May with 2 days to spare but I discovered that I had smashed through it as only looking a ‘walking workouts’ on my Apple Watch did not include the 6+miles I had recorded as ‘Hikes’.

So yes, you have probably guessed by now, I am going again in June, I am again increasing my distance…. increasing to 75 miles.

But why?

I hear you ask, we’ll Lockdown has been a time of planning, and for now let’s just say when the world reopens I will be walking much much further than 50, or 65 , or even 75 miles……

The only Corona I want is the ice-cold one that comes with a wedge of lime

Over the last week to ten-days there has been a real shift in how we all behave; And rightly so. Covid-19 is no joke and not something we should take lightly.

This is a strange time, unlike any other I have ever faced in my lifetime and actually many people have never faced since WW2.

It is a time when the vulnerable are simply facing greater vulnerability..

The simple things that many people (vulnerable or not) take for granted, like having your supermarket shop delivered to your door; even being able to buy toilet roll because your on your last roll.

For me, this time has been one of increased anxiety, and I would put much of that down to my disabilities.

My disabilities don’t place me in the group of ‘at risk’ thankfully, however many of the measures in place are much more difficult for me.

When at home, washing my hands and cleaning are easy for me. However when out and about, not so much.

In the last day or two WHO (World Health Organisation) have recommended social distancing. And this has been a major issue for me.

Made even more difficult because I have an incredibly sociable guide dog !!

Keeping a significant distance of two meters when you have no depth perception and a visual impairment that means if you put your arm out in-front of you, you can’t see your own hand; How do you actually know how close to someone you are standing?

All of my many volunteer roles have been put on hold. My social life (aka my coffee habit) has significantly decreased. However my walking and ‘escaping to the great outdoors’ has increased.

The biggest challenge for me at this time of uncertainty the most difficult thing for me is asking for help or accepting help when it is offered.

I am stubbornly independent, however I had a moment early this week when I had to swallow my pride and ask a friend to take me food shopping. Because no amount of independence would have made it possible for me to do a ‘usual’ fortnightly shop in person because no deliveries were available. That very same friend has been absolutely amazing in ensuring that both my physical and mental health are not being affected by all of this.

Thankfully social distancing doesn’t have to be a adhered to when working my guide dog. She is and can continue to be my left hand lady. Our walks have been very different, but with more time for her to run around and she hasn’t seemed to mind too much.

My message to you all is to stay home, to stay safe and more importantly share with those who are not as fortunate as yourself. However if you do catch the Coronavirus, isolate, order in, and ASK FOR HELP.



Puzzling perceptions

Always one for challenging myself.

However, this challenge is on a totally different level than any other I have done before.

It’s not particularly physically challenging, rather mentally challenging and reliant heavily on a sensitive touch. (A skill I am working on improving)

What is this challeng? I hear you ask….

It’s a puzzle, not as in I am teasing you all; but rather an actual puzzle. A jigsaw puzzle that is.

With my lack of sight, the actual picture on the puzzle is redundant. So, for this reason I have chosen one made up of butterflies, in varying colours and shades, to give a finished puzzle that is almost a rainbow.

I will be honest, it’s been hard work. There has been tears and just to get to this stage has taken many a late night.

It all started with finding the edge pieces. Then out came my magnifier; so that I could separate the pieces by their main colour, which is easier said then done as several of the pieces morph into the next colour.

So, for now this is where I am.

Image of a white board with all the edges of the colourful jigsaw pieces on it.  Sat in the centre is a tray with the separated colours in.

London sans guide dog.

I am just heading home after an amazing evening at the theatre.

With my dear friend as my sighted guide I left my leading lady Fizz with a friend for a doggy-sleep-over. 

With work commitments it was literally up to London for the show and home again, not really ideal given the wintery weather. Also I would not be alone until on my own home territory; Fizz deserves to be able to put her paws up and relax.

There are few positives about me going out with my cane against going out with Fizz, however one of the biggest makes me act a bit like a kid in a sweatshop, which would be …………….. Travelling on escalators!!

No need to hunt for the stairs, or find the lift. I can literally get swept along with the crowd at London Victoria and (remembering to stand on the right hand side) travel up and down the series of moving stairs.

No walking out of the station; into the rain to find the obscurely placed lift that has only been an addition in recent years.

My friend was born and brought up in London, so she was a brilliant guide. However, London theatre district on a Friday evening is not a place for the faint hearted!

And I would be lying if I said I didn’t make the odd ‘deliberate’ cane tap with Mr and Mrs Arrogant. (Fellow long cane users will know where I am coming from on this)

However we both survived.

We enjoyed the comedy.

I succeeded in making my friend laugh with my ability to act as if I were Moses, parting the oncoming crowds as if they were the sea.

And all while not having to think of where the nearest patch of grass or earth around a tree was.

It isn’t often I would venture into the capital without my guiding girl Fizz, but given the times of the travel, not leaving London until just before midnight it was much more important to ensure Fizz’s needs were met….. While pleasing another of my friends as Fizz went to hers for a sleepover and a play date with her pet dog.

Time REALLY DOES Fly when you are having fun

Fizz sat in front of a Mini the Minx statue on the street in Dundee

As someone with sight loss, it can often be quite painful to look back.

This is because looking back is a time when there was more sight, less struggles.

However, in this instance I am looking back to actually be able to measure how far I have come.

This time five years ago I was in the midst of training with Fizz, my second guide dog.

Training with Fizz was different in many ways to when I trained with Vicky.

For starters, I didn’t have the nausea that I had had during training with Vicky (as I soon discovered I was actually pregnant with my son)

I also discovered very quickly, that although trained the same, personality played a big part in how a dog behaved and works…

Unlike Vicky, Fizz was not a licker; she was however a very tactile dog and loved to be close, preferably touching me at any opportunities.

I was also quick to learn that Vicky had actually worked on me and twisted me around her paw!

This became apparent as we trained within our local supermarket.

(With Vicky) If I had forgotten to pick something up in the aisle we would walk up-to the end of the aisle, around to the next and complete a loop to get back to the beginning. As she (Vicky) would never just turn around and go back on herself.

I just thought that this was the way this was how things were done….. How wrong I was !!!

When going to do this same move with Fizz in the supermarket my GDMI (guide dog mobility instructor) asked what I was doing, so I explained to be told in a firm (but fair) tone

You turn your dog around. Right where you are!

My GDMI referred to my previous guide dog as a ‘double diva retriever’ as she was both a flatcoat retriever and golden retriever. Which only became more clear as my training with Fizz progressed. As I worked backwards from some of the ‘habits’ Vicky had me doing to suit HER.

Fizz was also different in that she was walking at the pace I SHOULD be walking at; I say should because I hadn’t realised that as Vicky had slowed in her older age, I had simply adjusted to that too. When actually my preferred walking pace was considerably faster. However to begin with, this made it feel like I was running to keep pace. Just 10 days in to training I was already finding each day a little easier and enjoying the long walks more and more.

If I am honest, I found it much harder to train with Fizz than I did with Vicky, however my life was so different from when I started training with Vicky back in 2009.

And a massive chunk of that was actually down to Vicky; down to the freedom and independence she had given me.

I was no longer the woman who relied on others to take me places, if I wanted to do something or go somewhere, with Vicky beside me I was able to achieve this.

Home life had changed to, when I trained with Fizz I was no longer working, but instead I filled my time with volunteer roles, climbing, socialising, walking and of course caring for my children.

And now I also had the time to be able to spend time taking Vicky out each day for a (non working) walk and play at the park so that she could enjoy her retirement at home with me and the children as part of our family.

Which is where she stayed with us until she passed away at the very beginning of 2018.

Fizz picked up on my hearing loss sooner than I did; she stepped up and kept me safe when I missed the odd bike or electric car.

She has been my rock.

She has taken the independence Vicky gave me and enabled me to expand on it, we have had some amazing and sometimes crazy adventures.

It’s hard to believe that Fizz has been my leading lady for five years now, however on the other side it is also becoming clearer that at eight and a half years old, Fizz is starting to behave in ways that show me that she is starting to slow down, isn’t as keen on some situations.

And that maybe; just maybe. It may be time to think about her happiness above my own and if it’s time to look into her retirement plan.

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