2014 In Review

It’s that time of the year again where most bloggers will recap on their year in blogging. Normally i would link to my posts, but i’m quite tired, so i’m just going to write as best i can how my year went.

This year has mostly been good. I have been quite quiet compared to recent years on my blog, but i’ve still been as busy as ever.

January started with me having to do a talk for the national cityzins service which is a program for 15 to 17 year olds in Northern Ireland. It has only been in Northern Ireland for a short time. So i had to talk to 300 young people about my volunteering. That was quite nerve racking, but i hope they got something out of it. It all adds to the experience of speaking in public. When i am doing a talk with guide dogs, i often get asked “how do you do that without notes?”. Simple, i just go with the flow, but if it was a formal presentation i had to do then i would have it written down. It does take time though to build up that confidence to be able to speak in public though.

I signed up to do the belfast marathon 8 mile walk, without really thinking about it.

Around about March time, i received my millenium volunteering certificate for completing 200 hours of volunteering with guide dogs which was cool. The scheme is for 14 to 25 year olds and you can complete, 50, a hundred, or 200 hours. The two hundred hours is a formal afair though where you are presented the certificate by the education minister i think who signs it, or a similar official. So it’s very grand. I also have my 200 hours from the Cedar foundation too which i received a few years earlier.

I decided to join my local parkrun then as i wanted to make sure i was prepared to walk the 8 miles for the marathon. The parkruns are only three, but i also wanted to make sure Ushi could do it too. I walk around the course, and i must say it is so welcoming. I was scared i wouldn’t be able to take part in the parkrun when i sent that first email to the run director, but thankfully, i was accepted in to the parkrunning community. I sometimes think i’m a bit of a burden though cause i would rather have someone with me each week just to make sure i stay on course. Because it is so open, i wouldn’t feel comfortable working Ushi round it on my own, although i would like to try it but i know that won’t happen. Plus i need to think of my own safety too. Every week without fail, a marshil is provided for me which is brilliant and i really appreciate the volunteers who accompany me each week. I don’t really improve on my time, but i do like to do it for the craic. Plus Ushi likes to stop, lots on the route, so that factors in to things too. She doesn’t come all the time to a parkrun though but from what i can see, she seems to enjoy them. Some of the runners joke that i should start running, and i would be interested to see if i would like it, but i highly doubt it. I always felt like i was being pulled around at school. So as long as someone walks with me each week, i will keep going. I do miss it if i’m not doing it i must say. I thought i would stop after the marathon walk, but i want to get my 50 club t shirt :).

I was a wee bit worried about how Ushi would cope with the marathon walk, but she really seemed to enjoy it. Again i was guided, but i worked Ushi and we just took it at her pace. I would never rush Ushi for a time. The craic we all had was class, including Ushi pushing slower walkers along with her head lol! The only bit she found a bit weird was when we walked on the road because they were closed to traffic Once the footpath cleared a little, we kept to it as much as we could to make Ushi feel more settled, as she is trained for the footpaths, and not the road. She did enjoy it though, and crashed out the next day. I made sure to bring loads of water and food for me, which happened to be bananas so Ushi could have some as she likes bananas. So i was well prepared.

I attended my first Waggy Races, which is where you can run or walk with your dog for 3 miles. They were supporting guide dogs. It was set up by a couple and their dog. I must say i’ve never seen a more well organised event than i did that day. Each dog got a goody bag from Jollyes, and as Ushi was the only guide dog, she won a gimaphidus baked cooky for dogs from a local dog bakery. It was about the size of a dinner plate lol! The course wasn’t just a 3 mile course though-it was quite challenging in some parts, but once again, i had someone with me while i worked Ushi. May i point out that i would never work Ushi if i knew she couldn’t cope, but so far she’s doing fine. I was so impressed that evry dog owner there made an effort to pick up their dogs mess and there were literally buckets full of poo bags lol. Some people had more than one dog too. I wouldn’t like to be taking that to a bin the next morning lol! I was going to go to another one there recently, but unfortunately the person who was accompanying me took not well so i will go the next time which i’m sure there will be.

I also took part in the Belfast telegraph Run her titanic 10 k which is a race just for women. Again, it was great craic and Ushi worked it brilliantly.

The art group that i am part of in Belfast has been great fun too. Our work was displayed on the Belfast barge which is a musium on a boat. Our prints were based around the marritime history in Belfast. Those same prints will apparently be going to the Titanic centre in January this year, so that is good. I have always loved Art, even when i did it for my GCSEs. We also created different wall hangings which were displayed at different events. I hope to get the route there nailed in the new year as it’s only about a 20 minute walk from great victoria street train station, so that’s good.

I attended an echolocation workshop in Lisburn which was really interesting. I still don’t know if i would actively use it though but it was still very interesting.

I attended a couple of taster sessions with disability sports where i got to try out skiing among other things. I hope there will be more of that in 2015.

I attended my first relaxed performance of a pantomime, which was very loud, but different. It must be very useful for children with edditional needs who maybe wouldn’t enjoy a normal pantomime, so it was good that was put on for them.

I have also discovered that Ushi has a fascination with rabbits and squirrels when she sees one in harness. A very big fascination, in fact. She either wants to eat, chase or play with them-i’m not sure which and i don’t really want to find out.

I also attended the 30th aniversary concert for guide dogs being here for 30 years. It was a brilliant night. Guide dogs had put together a choir made up of staff, volunteers and guide dog owners. I did not join the choir but i did see the concert. It was amazing and the craic everyone had was brilliant :).

Unfortunately the year has had its bad points too. One was when me and my friend were nearly refused access to a restaurant because the owners weren’t that clued up on the law regarding guide dogs. I never want to feel the way i did that night. I have never experienced anything like it and i hope i never will. Their attitude was quite appalling. Thankfully a letter and a leaflet from the equality commission did the trick and i got a £25 voucher for my trouble and an appology. Not that i’ll be back again, mind you. Still, at least they had the guts to appologise. I wouldn’t normally do something like that, but it was just so shocking the way we were treated. I hope it never happens again.

The other major thing was my uncle dying. If you’ve read my blog, you’ll know how close my sister and i were to our uncle. Unfortunately he took a massive heart attack in August. So that was a big shock. Unfortunately the problem is genettic, as a lot of the men on mums side of the family died of the exact same thing. It’s so strange not being able to text him and tell him what we’ve been up to. I thought about him a lot over christmas as he loved christmas. It’s been really hard going through his things. I’ll think of him around his birthday too no doubt. I hope he is happy whereever he is. Rip uncle Stephen xxxx.

All this stuff isn’t including all the things i have been doing with guide dogs and angel eyes though. Plus the disability consultation panel for our trust, as well as the campaigning i’ve been doing with guide dogs.

So it’s deffinetly been a busy year. It’s mostly had its good points, but some bad ones too.

So what are my plans for 2015? I hope to get back in to yoga as i’ve kind of lost my motivation for that so talked myself out of doing it quite a lot this year. I hope to keep enjoying parkrun. I hope to keep as busy and never lose any interest in things.

Sorry this post is giant, but thanks for sticking with me. I hope 2015 is a good one, and happy new year since we’re in to 2015 now :).

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Heros

I know i said in my last post that i was off to listen to The Archers, but one of the daily prompts inspired me to write another post. WordPress and many other blogging platforms offer up a post a day, or prompt to get the creative juices flowing if you’re struggling to write in your blog. Most of the posts i read and skip past, but this one today inspired me to write. Where to start though.

Heros can come in many forms, and for me at least, my hero would have to be my social worker. I know they are not popular with a lot of people, but for me at least, i happened to stumble across a good one. She was there when my parents needed her, which was when i was diagnosed as beingblind. She taught me very basic cane skills when i was about3 or 4, and she was just an all round nice woman. She used to help out with a youth club i used to attend, so in a way she has practically seen me grow upin a way. If i needed a social worker now, it would be her since she has moved to the adult services team. She is a fantastic woman who taught my parents how to let me be as independent as possible.

If i could choose another hero, it would have to be my rehabilitation worker who taught me how to use the long cane, and eventually encouraged me to go on to apply for a guide dog.

I kind of feel silly for writing this though as i find it hard to put in to words how to thank or show my appreciation to people.

So who would your hero, or heros be and wy??

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “My Hero.”


Happy Christmas All

As i sit here letting my dinner digest, i just thought i’d pop in and wish you all a happy Christmas. I hope you all have enjoyed your day.

I have done nothing, absolutely nothing all day. I am spending Christmas this year down at my dads with my sister. I didn’t have a clue what i wanted, so we’re just getting money this year. I do find it strange not having anything to open, but when you don’t know what you want, it’s hard to have something. We did of course have christmas dinner but other than that, we’ve just treated it as another day. Just another day.

I’ve been thinking about my uncle a lot though. He really loved when we were at his the christmas before last. He loved it every christmas come to think of it. It deffinetly is quite strange knowing that we won’t see him agin. Everything is getting squared away on that front, and the relivant documents are with the relivant people.

So i would like to thank everyone who wished me a happy christmas, and thanks to the friends who got me presents. I am desperate though and can’t wait to open my presents so i have to open them as soon as i get them :).

So i hope everyone enjoys the rest of their christmas day. I am off to catch up on The archers for this week as i’ve missed them this week. I hope people who are finding it hard can get through today. I think the older you get, the less christmas means, or maybe that’s just me. I think i shall wrapp up now. Take care all :).


Jack In The Bean Stalk Relaxed

Yesterday i headed off to Derry for the pantomime with Angel eyes. It was at the Millennium Forum.

First of all, activities started with a touch tour so that we could feel all the props. Of course we arrived slightly later than the start so the quietness of the touch tour was broken by tiny paws on the wooden floor lol. The staff were brilliant and even radioed through so that there would be a bowl of water for Ushi which was cool.

After the touch tour, it was time for a spot of lunch. During lunch, some of the cast came in to speak to us.

On our way back in to the theatre, a couple of families came up to me and said they should have brought their autism assistance dogs but they didn’t know they could. As well as Angel eyes being there, there were lots of families with kids withedditional needs theretoo. The staff had set up a little quiet room with toys and snacks so that if kids needed to go out if the pantomime became too much, they could. The lights were also kept on during the performance. Other than that, the pantomime went on as normal.

The only thing i noticed was that the pantomime was very loud. I thought it was only me who thought it was louder but i don’t think it was. It was a bit confusing because of the noise, but it was still good all the same.

Once again, it was a great idea to have the relaxed performance, but it was exhausting because it was so loud. Poor Ushi got tortured by kids who all wanted to talk to her, but she coped brilliantly.

I would once again like to thank the staff at the forum for being so helpful from the start, and of course to Angel eyes.


Seeing With Sound

On Wednesday, i attended a workshop being held at an organisation called Lisburn In Focus. This is an organisation run by the rnib and Lisburn counscil i think.

The workshop was all about a technique called
Echolocation
Which is basically where you would click with your tongue or fingers to gain information about your environment. The guy taking the workshop is a rehabilitation worker from Scotland. He had been trained by a man called Daniel Kish to use Echolocation.

The class started at about 11 o’clock. There was a presentation first of all about Echolocation and the different types. There are two types:passive and active echolocation. Most blind people use passive, where they can sort of sense that there is an object or an open space, without actually knowing what it was. Active echolocation is where you would either click your fingers or your tongue to know how far away an object was orwht it was.

After the presentation, a tea tray was placed in front of us and we had to make a shushing sound to find out where the tray was and when it disappeared. People who had any vision were blind folded for this.

We then had to walk around the room “shushing” and finding alcoves and doors. Again people were blind folded for this.

By the time we had done that, it was lunch time.

After lunch, it was back to the workshop again. This time, we were starting to click with our tongues. This is not as easy as it sounds. To get a decent click, you have to put your tongue at the roof of your mouth, and kind of slide it forward. It is hard to explain. After practicing this for a while, it was time to head outside to practice tongue clicking and seeing what we could find. Interestingly, there was one point where there was a hedge, but higher up from that there seemed to be a wall as it made a different sound. When there was an open space it sounded different to when there wasn’t. There was an ornament with two poles in the middle of the courtyard, which sounded totally different again.

When we all came back in, we all had a discussion about what we had found. Each person was able to give a different answer which was interesting.

Our final activity of the day was to go out in to a very wide open area outside the room where we were and click down in to the atrium below which was basically a huge reception type area below. The banister we were leaning against was doughnut shaped so one group was at one end and the other was at the other. I thought the group at the other end of the doughnut sounded like they were below us in the atrium. Some people were able to find a christmas tree in the middle of the atrium too.

We finished with a question and answer session.

I would like to thank the Lisburn in focus team and the rehabilitation worker Alex Camble for taking the workshop. Apparently Alex will be coming back in January and wants to do more in Northern Ireland.

It was a very interesting day, and while it’s good to learn the different techniques, i think i’ll stick to passive echolocation for now.