Blogging 101:Falling Off The Waggon

It’s the last day of the Blogging 101 chalenge i started at the start of January here on WordPress. I’m afraid i have rather fallen off the waggon on this one. To be fair though, a lot of the things have been behind the seens stuff and building up your blog. The course is primarely aimed at people who have never blogged before. Have tried to keep up with the whole thing, and the assignments looked good, but i just found that when it came to writing, that was a struggle.

That’s not to say that i haven’t been busy though-in fact the very opposite. What with doing my art class on a Thursday morning and preparing for the upcoming exhibition that we will be having, to guide dogs meetings, to campaigning meetings, to going up to Stormont with guide dogs to deliver guide dogs manifesto to the politicians, to co delivering disability equality training with ourhealth trust. Plus Parkrun every Saturday morning. So January has been a busy old month, but i haven’t felt like blogging it at the end of the day. It looks like February might be the same way, with the AGM tomorrow for Angel Eyes NI followed by a campaigning meeting on Monday. Ballymena is going through apublic relm scheme at the minute, so the whole town is a bit of a mess with roadworks usually in a different place every day. I’ve noticed though that since they have started up again after their christmas break, they seem more organised with where the roadworks are. Perhaps that is because i’m not as effected on my main routes through the town as i was before christmas. It will be interesting to see how long is left of the work for a start, and just to hear a general update i suppose.

I must thank the other bloggers in the challenge who have followed and commented on my posts. I did try to do the same, so any random comments are probably from me lol. I think i’ll just stick to blogging as and when the notion takes me though.

I’d like to thank everyone for putting up with the slight change of title of the blog. I guess “The average blog by an average blogger” was kind of boring me a little. I’m more happy with the name of the blog now i think.

Apologies for the spelling mistakes-the wordpress app keeps crashing when i go to try and eddit on my ipad which is driving me mad. It has crashed 3 times already since i started the post. I hate mistakes in my posts though.

Normal service can now resume, and although the challenge was good, i think i’ll just stick to blogging without putting pressure on myself :).

Hello Talking Bus

I’m just home from a fabulous day. Today was the launch of the first talking busses in Northern Ireland.

Back in 2011, a pilot was launched to trial the audio visual announcements on the busses. It was only on one of the Metro 5A busses. From what i remember it was only on for a limitted time as well. The pilot was a success, so then lots of meetings with the Minister for regional development insued, along with lots and lots of campaigning.

IN October last year, the minister for regional development announced that funding had become available and the audio visual system would start to be rolled out by the end of the financial year on some of the metro services. This was great news to look forward to.

I found out last week that the service was going to be launched today. Of course i was very keen to go, as i had been so heavily involved in trying to get it rolled out.

So this morning, a lot of us met at Donnygall square west. Translink put on a bus especially for the launch, so it was a bus that went a different route than it normally would go. I can tell you, it was rather tight as we had at least 7 guide dogs, and more were at the Scanos centre which was where we were heading. I thought it was cool! All the stops were announced. I wanted to sit on the bus all day to see where it would go lol! The stops were announced as you would come up to them to give the driver time to stop and so that you could ring the bell in time to get off. The stops were also displayed on a screen. The company who made the technologywere called Vex technologies and apparently they were the ones who put the equiptment in to the London busses.

When we got to the Scanos centre, there were yet more guide dogs. There were about 30-40 people altogether with and without dogs. There were a few speeches to get done plus a cup of tea and a scone, of course.

We all then crammed back on the bus, and it was an even tighter squeeze to get all of us on. We headed up to Stormont to meet with the minister for regional development and to get lots of photos taken. The belfast telegraph were there as well as Cool FM and City beat radio stations who interviewed the minister. I made a bit of a mistake at this point though. The minister was asking how i was and i accidentally called him by his first name when i was talking to him. Oops. He didn’t even notice though. I just thought he was a person like everyone else, so why wouldn’t i call him by his first name. I’ll know for future though.

Lots of photos were taken both on and off the bus, and the minister went on the bus for a bit and we then headed back to stormont for some more photos.

By this stage, most of us needed a comfort break, so we headed over to Dundonald park and ride to avail of the facilities before going back to Donnygall square West where we’d started from.

It was a brilliant day. It’s only some of the busses that will have it from tomorrow onwards, but hopefully it will be eventually on all the metros. I hope even more that it will be eventually on the ulster busses too that are outside of Belfast.

I would like to thank the minister for agreeing to install it, plus Translink itself. It will make such a difference to so many people. It’ll be interesting to see what the public think of it.

Who knows, it might even make me want to go to yoga again lol.

Attacks On Guide Dogs Rising, Finds New Report

The other day while perusing the
Guide Dogs website
I came across
This article
Which says that dog attacks on guide dogs have more than doubled, with there only being three attacks every month across the UK, to there now being over 7 a month. That was over a 14 month period.

I think that more needs to be done about these attacks. They can affect guide dog owners just as much as they can affect the dog.

Guide dogs have written a standard letter encouraging microchipping for all dogs, but you can add your own
Comments and experiences
And write to your MP. I wrote to my MP, but i’m not sure if it will do much good.

These dog attacks need to stop right now. The media have been interested this week, with alot of guide dog owners here apparently doing interviews about dog attacks on radio, and a couple of news papers taking up the story too. The chief executive was on
Day break
Earlier this week, and the head of campaignes was on
BBC five live
Too. I’ve just found out on twitter that the chief executive has written
This blog
Because the issue has got such a response since Monday. I’ve even posted the orriginal link on
the Teams facebook page

While dog attacks are a horrible thing to go through, I think that the more owners who speak up about it the better. I would never wish anyone to experience one, but if you can, please write to your MP as the more people do it, the more things could change.

I’ll be sure to post any more news. Please raise the issue. Dog attacks are a serious serious matter!

I’m sorry this is so long, but i would encourage anyone to spread the word about this horrible issue. As you can probably gather from this post, it is an issue very very close to my heart!

Eye Matter Residential

I’m just back from the anual Eye matter residential. Well I came back yesterday, but i’m just writing it now. I was too tired last night to write it up. Anyway this was my first time going on an Eye matter residential as I have only been going for about a year and a bit.

So on Tuesday morning, I went up to Belfast where I would meet the others who were going, and we were all heading down to Fermannagh for a couple of days. It was the “Share centre”. We all arrived at about half 10, as the bus was leaving at 11 o’clock. While we were waiting, I gave my friend who was going a £25 Itunes card, and a bottle of Bushmills whisky as it would be her birthday at the end of the month, but I didn’t know if i would see her again before that.

We got down to Fermannagh at about 1 o’clock, where we just basically put our stuff in the chalet, and went to lunch. Lunch was Pasta with Macoroni cheese and chicken i think. I thought that pasta would taste like pasta lol. This was really bland and boring. It just tasted of nothing lol. During lunch, I got a chance to ask a guide dog owner some guide dog questions, but they weren’t really that major lol.

After that, we went back to the chalet. We got a quick orrientation around the place, like where our rooms were, (which had braille on them, which I thought was quite good), and where the kitchen was etc. The RNIB own this chalet, so the kitchen had a talking microwave which was also quite cool. We then went for a walk around the grounds since it was quite a nice day, and we didn’t have anything planned until like 3 o’clock. I had been to the share centre before, but couldn’t remember it all. I loved that there were no kerbs or anything around, it was all flat apart from the odd slope or whatever. Plus everything seemed to be quite close to each other.

At about 3 o’clock, we went round to the main centre part of the place. Well one of the main parts anyway. This was because it had like a big massive room that would probably be used for conferences or something. We were going to do some “visual awareness training”. This is where you go out to businesses and stuff if they ask for it of course, and make them aware of how to treat people with visual impairments. This is just things like making sure that people know how to guide a person etc. We will be using that alot in our next campaigne for eye matter, so we needed to know that.

The course was called “Visability. A programme designed and delivered by RNIB NI”. I think the actual course is just called “Visability” though. This was just to give us a general idea of what the course would involve, as we would probably be going out and delivering it. It was basically a powerpoint presentation (which we got an accessible copy of), containing approximately 22 slides. There were things like a true or false quiz about different things about people with a visual impairment. Things like “A totally blind person can hear better than a sighted person”. I think it is to chalenge people’s perceptions about visual impairment, as many organisations and that probably wouldn’t have had anyone who was blind or partially sighted before. Other things included:

• • A definition of sight loss for both blind and partially sighted standards
• how many people were blind and partially sighted in Northern ireland and some other statistics
• common causes of sight loss
• pictures of different sight conditions
• all about Diabetes and how it affects your sight
• a group exercise where you had to put on “simulation specs” which were like glasses with the middle of them blanked out to simulate different conditions, or totally foggy glasses or something like that, and they came with an activity sheet with them. You had to do things like read an eye doctors report or something with them, and count money etc. I thought this exercise was a bit pointless for a group of visually impaired people, but i suppose they were just showing us what they were.
• how to communicate with a visually impaired person, such as telling them when you left a room or something
• how to guide
• a guiding exercise which was quite fun lol. We each did it to each other. I guided my friend, and used the cane to know where i was going lol. I only killed her once lol! I just walked her into a table I think. We then had to show the person a seat, and go through a door. This bit annoyed me though as we had to be on the “hinge” side, and this was drummed into me each time i did mobility at school. I used to always hear “change sides” when ever we came to a door and she was guiding me. It used to really piss me off lol.
• The next slide was “useful contacts, which only seemed to be the RNIB, and finally it was just a thank you.

There would then probably be a question and answer session. The presentation would be addapted for which ever organisation needed it, and if they had had it before and that.

The whole thing was quite good craic actually, apart from the “simulation specs” bit. I thought that it was going to drag in, but i actually found that i enjoyed it.

Next, we had a woman come down to talk to us about “communication”. She was a life coach, and she was talking to us about effective communication and that since we would be delivering the presentations on visual awareness. She talked to us about things like how to breath when talking, like how it should come from the diaphragm, and what barriers would be common for effective communication, and what way an audience can help relax the speaker. It was quite informative, and the woman got us moving about and stuff, and she was really good craic. That lasted for about 2 hours.

We decided that we were going out for a meal, so we all went back to the chalet, and got our gladrags on for about an hour, and just chilled. We went off to a hotel in Lisnaski, which wasn’t that far from where we were.

I was debating to have chicken googions and chips, or spagetti Ballognaise. I figured that eating spaghetti would be quite messy as we were sitting at a table that had a couch thingie instead of seats. Usually the table is quite far away then lol. So i went for the chicken googions and chips. I felt like a bit of a heffer lol, but another girl had that too so I didn’t feel so bad.

We decided to stay on in the bar afterwards for a bit. I got a bottle of west coast cooler. The night was great craic.

On the way back, a couple of the people got us some drinks to take back to the chalet as we were having a quiz. (we are all adults, in case you start thinking that we were kids lol). My friend baught me a big bottle of West coast cooler which was nice I thought. The rest of us headed back on the bus.

The rest of the night was spent playing a quiz, and drinking alcohol. We didn’t get drunk though so that was good. We went to bed at about 2 o’clock on Wednesday morning lol.

We got up at about half 8 the next morning (Wednesday). We just had breakfast in the chalet which was good. We had a choice of serial or toast. I just had cherios (those good little oes). We then just got ready for the instructor to come and take us to do the cannooing. They apparently come to the door of the chalet which was pritty cool. I stuck on my old trainers to go cannooing, as i thought there was going to be a bit of splashing and that so didn’t want to get my good ones wet. I wish i hadn’t though!!! Number one we didn’t get wet, and number two, they were worn so much that they were really low!! Might chuck them in the bin lol. Anyway the instructor came at about 10 o’clock.

The cannooing was quite good as always. The seat though felt as if it was the seat from a kayac lol.

In the middle of the cannooing, we stopped off at a little island, and we went to this forest place. We started gathering up sticks and that, as we were going to make a fire. Well the instructors did it lol, but we watched. One was a bushcraft teacher. We just had hot juice and some biscuits. Then we went back to the cannoos. I thought we were back at the chalet though lol.

When we got back to the other side, we just went back to the chalet and waited for a while until lunch. It was good comfort food today which was good. Fish fingers, chips and beans. Ya gotta love the basic foods sometimes!!

After lunch we got prepared for the second part of the “communications” workshop. This was “presentation skills”. I was sort of dreading this one, as it was 3 hours long, but it flew in! It was with the same woman from Tuesday.

In this we talked about how to present ourselves, like standing with our shoulders back and that. We also had to present for a minute and a half without any notes, just about 10 minutes for preparation lol. I chose to talk about
The Archers
We were all crapping ourselves, but it really flew in. One persons was like 5 mins though!!! We all didn’t think we would be able to do it for a minute and a half. We also learnt about how to deal with awkward questions we might get asked, and we also learnt a cool trick to make us more confident. Basically you put your middle finger and thumb together on each hand, and close your eyes. You then breathe in really deeply, and just imagine how confident you would be in a situation, or remember a confident time. Just keep imagining how you felt and that. Then at the end of it you breathe in and out deeply again. You just do it everyday, and you will convince yourself that you are confident. It’s kind of like tricking your sub conscionce. This was among so many other things, like smiling, for example.

At about 5 o’clock we went back to the chalet and chilled until the Bbq was ready. It started raining earlier, so we wondered if we would have it, but thankfully it stayed dry. While we were waiting, I got a go on a tandom bike that one of the volunteers had braught down. I didn’t really like getting onto it, as it seemed to wobble alot lol. I had imagined the bike would be like two seats side by side, instead of one in front of the other. Once we got going though, i enjoyed it. I think because i had never really been on a bike before that was why i still was a bit hesitant to do it. I found though as we got further away, i built up more trust. It kind of felt like the movements of a horse when you’re on it. It was quite cool!!!

When we got back, the Bbq was ready.

We chilled then afterwards for about half an hour, until the instructor came for the “night line” activity. This was were you had a rope going around a forest, and you were bllindfolded.

So at 8 o’clock, we all went down to this forest. We all got our goggles on (they were like swimming goggles), and this was our blind folds. So we walked just before the forest holding on to the persons shoulder who was in front of us. Then when we were in the forest we just held onto a rope. Was kind of slow, as people weren’t sure where to go, but once we got going it was fun! There were alot of ditches you had to take big massive steps over, as some of them were filled with mud and stuff. We went on along until we came to a big big big big ditch. It was three metres wide or something. You had to go through it, but it was really thick mud so you had to run in it. I sort of feel like a bit of a wus though, as i wouldn’t go into it, as i was wearing good trainers, and i didn’t want them getting wet, and i just scared myself into not going, as it sounded really really really dangerous. I hesitated loads lol. I just like the idea of solid ground lol. But no, i really do feel a bit of a wus lol. Anyway i just went around it. We also had to crawl under picnic tables and that. It was fun apart from the crazy ditch!!

We went back to the chalet after that to get showers. My friend and I were in the bathroom (not what you think!). She was washing her feet, and i was preparing to get in the shower. I set my bottle of shower jell down on the floor, and started to get ready. I was about to get in the shower and get my bottle. I couldn’t find where i set it!!! So me and my friend just sort of slid around the floor (feet seemed easier to find it), looking for it. I found it eventually, but it took me about 5 minutes!!!! After that, I could then get on with my shower, which was freeeeeeeeeeezing!!! I think there was something wrong with the shower, as the hot water in the sink was warm. I didn’t really stay long in that shower lol.

When I got out, I was just going to chill, as i thought we were drinking at the chalet, (had drink left over from Tuesday), but we all decided to go off to the bar. There was one of the dudes braught his guitar, and started playing in the bar, but I think we got some rather weird looks, as it wasn’t a music night or anything. Oops. After about an hour, we just came back.

We all stayed up to about 4 on Thursday morning lol, as we did the rest of the quiz from Tuesday, and then my friend and the guy with the guitar played some good traditional iresh music. We were all singing by the time the night was nearly over, and we weren’t even drunk!! It was mad mad mad craic.

Yesterday morning we were wrecked though!!! We got up and had breakfast, (there was a fry but i couldn’t face having that in the morning lol), then went down to the climbing wall. I only went about a quarter of the way up the wall, as the footholds were really close to the wall, and it was really hard to get my trainers onto them lol. Also I kept having shakey legs, so had to come down a few times. A wee birdy told me though that it was a harder side of the wall they had put us on. Didn’t feel so bad for not doing it then.

After that, it was chill time, until lunch. We had hotdog and chips lol.

After lunch we just chilled for a while, before the second part of our “visual awareness training” workshop that we would be doing. We just stayed in the chalet to do it. This was more on the youth service, as this is our next campaigne. This was more on how youth clubs could get more blind and partially sighted members, and how to provide things in accessible formats and that. Think it was that anyway, as I just wanted to sleep lol.

We just packed our stuff, after that, and then we gave the organisers a sentence to sum up the three days, as they were going to write an article.

The bus came at half 4 to take us back to Belfast where we would then go home from there.

It was great craic and company!!! Good to recharge the old batteries! Thanks all the guys of eye matter for organising it, and thank you everyone else for the craic!