Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Let's Take It Further

I have been blogging since 2008, which is a crazy amount of time. It is nice to have a record of the last eight years of my life even if some of my posts are cringe central. Blogging is something I find quite therapeutic and I have always said that I write just for me, but it is a bonus if other people enjoy my writing too.

At present, I post new blog posts on my Twitter account (@selinalitt). However, I feel it is time to take things one step further and have created a page for my blog on Face Book. I’ve noticed it’s the in thing to do these days. So if you want to keep up to date with new posts, just click here and like my page.



Friday, 29 January 2016

Death in Paradise

Death. Even just thinking about the word makes me wince. It evokes images of black, darkness, doom. Yet nobody can escape it. It is our final destination. There’s nothing scarier than the unknown. I believe this is why when we lose a loved one, it causes us to go on an emotional rollercoaster. All we can do is hold on tight and ride it out.

In September, my Grandma who I used to call Nanima died. It all happened so fast, we never got the chance to say goodbye. I loved the fact that she lived in Mauritius, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. However, it meant she was alone at the end.

Last month my mum and I travelled out there to put her affairs in order and to say a proper goodbye. It may sound strange, but despite the sombre situation, I still enjoyed my time in Mauritius.

When I visit Mauritius, I feel at ease and can fully understand why my Grandma chose to live there. Whilst I’m British born and bred, I can’t resist being absorbed by the Mauritian culture. It rained at some point everyday whilst we were there, but it was hot rain. It made me giddy sloshing through warm puddles in my flip flops. It made me smile when a car tooted its horn at me, something that’s been happening since my first visit when I was eleven. It makes me feel like a local, included. The fresh beach cuisine is amazing, simple food, spectacular food. The soft sand, the wistful waves. The buses that hurtle at crazy speeds. My mum’s aunties, my family that fuss over you, tell you you’ve put on weight then feed you until you’re about to explode. Happy, strong, loving and lovely ladies. The sega sound that instantly results in you jiggling your hips. The common carefree Creole language. The purity of the people. My heritage.

No country is perfect though. Tourism has significantly helped Mauritius to develop, but poverty is still rife. The education system appears to be exceptional, much tougher than in England. Nevertheless, many of the younger generation appear to be heading overseas to find work, as it doesn’t seem to be available in Mauritius, which is such a shame. The roads have improved remarkably, yet I know road traffic accidents are a major problem. The healthcare service is also obviously nowhere as near advanced as here. When we visited my Grandma at the cemetery, a surprisingly modern peaceful space, I asked my mum to read some gravestones out to me, as I was curious to know who my Grandma was near. I found it heartbreaking to learn that so many of the graves were occupied by young people. People in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties. My Grandma was one of the oldest at 78. That says a lot about the country, which I never really realised since my Great-Grandma lived into her nineties in Mauritius.

I look like my mum and she looks like her mum. This means I look like my Grandma. In fact my mum has always told me how alike we are and as I got older I began to notice the similarities between me and my Grandma too. I also possess many of my mum’s features, but I’m most like my Grandma. The things we had in common include: a needle phobia, weak bladder, taking vitamins, being healthy, mannerisms, always direct/blunt, good organisational skills, needing our own space, stubbornness, an interest in words, tough love, hatred for the cold and most importantly a strong will. My Grandma had a lot of knocks in her life, but she always got back up again.

My mum says it is unlikely that she will return to her childhood home again. I’m determined to go back one day, maybe with my own child so they can hopefully experience the Mauritian culture and treasure it as much as I do. I’m so grateful that my Grandma decided to live in Mauritius, otherwise I may have never got the opportunity to learn about and appreciate my roots.

Forever in my heart

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Reflections to Ambitions

2015
I’m sitting here on New Year’s Eve in my Tinker Bell pyjamas contemplating life. A sprinkling of fairy dust allowing me to fly away to a Neverland feels like the perfect solution to life’s problems. However, it doesn’t solve them and even Neverland has its troubles. The thing about life is that we never exactly know what it’s going to throw at us, but we do know that it flings the good, the bad and the ugly. Our task is to embrace, battle and defeat. This year has proved to be one of my hardest yet.

The job didn’t work out, I didn’t run a PB for the second year running, my last remaining Grandparent passed away and somehow my relationship failed. These types of events leave you asking questions and have left me feeling a little lost.

Nevertheless, my year hasn’t all been doom and gloom. I have lived on my own for a year now. In that time I have only broken 1 plate, 1 bowl and 1 condiment shaker. Also, I’ve only dropped 2 dinners on my cream coloured carpet, the same amount Calvin decided to spew up too. My hoover has a few plasters on its cable that it chose to chew up one day and I seem to have misplaced a coaster causing my table to look slightly strange, but other than that independent living is going well.

Whilst paid employment let me down, voluntary work has kept me busy. Action for the Blind, Vista and Brownies have all enabled me to remain sane. I really enjoy giving something back to the world.

It feels wrong not to write a little note about Calvin, so I will. Apologies to Calvin fans as I didn’t write a blog post to mark our 6 year anniversary. We haven’t really had any adventures lately. Calvin is Calvin, my little bundle of sunshine, always ready to thrust a toy in my face. It’s impossible not to smile every morning when you’re greeted with such genuine excitement and affection.

2016
As I write we are already 3 days in. Happy Olympic and Paralympic Year! Honestly, where have the last 4 years gone?! London 2012 is still so vivid in my memory. Rio 2016 is going to be incredible, I can’t wait to watch it all on TV.

I am not going to kid myself or others. Realistically I have no chance of being able to compete in Rio. In 2015 I ranked 25th in the World, which purely and simply is not good enough. My main goal this year is to run a PB. It needs to happen. I dedicate my life to athletics, surely I deserve that at least. If my indoor season goes well, then I think I will start to cross my fingers that I may be selected for the Europeans in July. Ideally, I would like to rank in the top 3 in Europe by the end of 2016. In 2015 I finished 5th in the rankings. I have my first indoor race on 9 January.

I am not sure what else I want out of this year. Sadly, my ambitious nature seems to be wilting. This is out of order. I need to get a grip, have more faith in my abilities and start aspiring to be someone again. I think everyone is capable of some sort of greatness. No, scrap that, I KNOW we are all capable of being great!

Let’s all have a great year...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Talking Books

Today, RNIB are celebrating 80 years since the launch of their Talking Book service for blind and partially sighted readers. Personally, I have been using the service for about five years now and would be lost without it. Books offer so much including entertainment, education and escapism. Up until now, I have paid an annual fee of £50 in order to take advantage of the service, but was pleasantly surprised to learn today that RNIB are scrapping the fee, so from here on Talking Books are free to loan.

Recently, my portable Daisy player broke, which is a device needed to access Talking Books. As is the case for most products for the visually impaired, it would have been very pricey for me to replace it, approximately £300. Although a bit hesitant at first due to my lack of ability when it comes to technology (long live my Nokia with Talks), I decided to trial Overdrive. Overdrive is a relatively new service offered by RNIB, which allows its users to directly download Talking Books to their smart device. The app also links to other libraries, but I’m yet to master that side of things.

I have had my ipod touch for about 18 months now, which I originally got to help me learn how to use a touch screen, knowing that one day my trusty nokia will pack in (nooooo) and I’ll have to transfer to the Apple world. Having little patience for difficult tasks, well technology in general, I found myself only using my ipod touch to tell Sirri to ‘play music’ and ask him silly questions like ‘how much do you weigh?’. Hence, getting Overdrive was a big step. Maybe I should give myself more credit for my abilities or maybe the app is just really simple to use that even I can manage it with little trouble. The search facility is easily found, you just tap the ‘borrow’ button to obviously ‘borrow’ a book and then you go to your bookshelf on the RNIB Library to download the book to the app. The Overdrive app is VI friendly with clear controls for play, pause, rewind etc. I like that you can increase the speed of a book too, but I believe that facility is only available on IOS devices (if that’s what they are called). Nothing is perfect and the downside to the app is returning books with Voice Over enabled. It is really temperamental, sometimes the options appear, but more often than not when you double tap and hold, it begins to play the book instead. Nevertheless, each book you download has an expiry date, which you can choose to be 14 or 21 days and then the book will return itself to the library. You can checkout six books at a time. Overall, I’m satisfied and would definitely recommend it. It beats sending RNIB a list of books you want to read and then wait for the CDs to arrive in the post.

Whilst the Talking Books service is great, my only gripe with it is that a few times now, I have begun to read books in a series, only to find that RNIB don’t have the entire series and due to commercial reasons won’t be getting them either. I have had this problem with authors, such as Ally Condie, Veronica Roth, Charlaine Harris and P.C. and Kristin Cast. It’s quite frustrating, will I ever find out what happens next?! At present I am hooked on books written by experienced foster carer Cathy Glass. RNIB have four of her novels and I sincerely hope that they get more soon.

If like me you’re always looking for new things to read, you can find below a list of authors that I have enjoyed in the past. My preferred genres are chick flicks, true stories, fantasy, dystopia and young adult fiction.

Authors of note:
Dorothy Koomson
Cecelia Ahern
Lisa Jewell
Lauren Weisberger
Sarra Manning
Jane Fallon
Jane Green
Kate Jacobs
Sheila O’Flanagan
Jodi Picoult
R.J Palacio
Jane Costello
Jenny Colgan
Jojo Moyes
Harriet Evans
Alice Sebold
Lucy Dillon
Michele Hauf
Lucy Robinson
Gina Blaxill
Malorie Blackman
Carole Matthews
Aidan Macfarlane/Ann McPherson
Melvin Burgess
Louise Rennison
Allyson Braithwate/Ally Condie
Lindsey Kelk
Suzanne Collins
Lucy Diamond
Veronica Roth
Lisa Genova
S.J. Watson
Paula Daly
Charlaine Harris
Meg Cabot
P.C. and Kristin Cast
Sara Gruem
Cathy Glass


Tuesday, 8 September 2015

1 Year To Go...Again?!

Yesterday marked a year to go until the Paralympic Games in Rio. Scarily, I remember blogging when it was a year to go until London 2012. How time ticks on, yet my goals and ambitions remain the same.

This landmark provides the perfect opportunity for me to look back on my season. After the euphoria of competing at the 2014 Commonwealth games, I was revved up for winter training and ready to progress. However, I just ran into one barrier after another. After starting back at training for a couple of weeks, I got ill and spent a month feeling dreadful and constantly coughing. This meant I immediately fell behind in training. In November I already had a holiday booked to Mauritius to visit my Grandma, which forced me to miss more training. Then in December, I needed an eye operation, which led to further disruptions. Nevertheless, January arrived and although four months behind, it was a fresh start. I planned to start racing in June. In April I began a part-time job, which tested my energy levels and by May the fatigue caught up resulting in another virus with a terrible cough. Racing in June went out of the window. I thought my season would be over by my birthday in July, so didn’t think a holiday for my birthday would be a big deal. Annoyingly, I was wrong. However, all was not lost, I could race in August. So within the space of twelve days, I competed four times. Nowhere near as prepared as I wanted to be, I had no choice, but to go for it.

Race 1 – Watford Open
The last time I had raced was in front of forty-four thousand people. I would be lucky to have a crowd of forty-four in Watford. Despite this, my nerves were worse than ever and definitely contributed to my poor opener. 14.57 with legs that felt like jelly all the way down the track. Far from impressive.

Races 2 and 3 – Lee Valley Sprints Evening
Thankfully, I had raced the nerves out of my system in Watford. I had two chances in Lee Valley, which is a rare opportunity. My start wasn’t brilliant, but I managed to sprint to an illegal 14.04 on my first run. The wind was +3.7 and the legal limit is +2.0. On my second run, I executed the start and was flying until 50m in where I hit a wall and struggled the rest of the way. This is where the lack of winter training showed, as my speed endurance was seriously lacking. On a positive my second run was legal with a time of 14.28, the same time I ran at the Commonwealths.

Race 4 – Godiva Classic
This race was the big one, as it was not only my final chance to clock a decent time, but I would be racing other para-athletes. Generally, I executed the race fairly well. The only area I was disappointed with was my pick-up, which again relates back to my issues with winter training. I finished third in the race behind partially sighted athletes and ahead of those with CP, which is where I hoped to place. I clocked 14.25, a modest time, but it was into a minus 2.6 head wind. Therefore, I was satisfied, as I truly believe I would have dipped under fourteen seconds if the wind was in my favour.

In short, I failed to run a PB for a second year in a row. It really hit home how essential winter training is and the ability to stay fit and healthy. I am currently ranked 4th in Europe, which is ok, but I genuinely believe I can top the rankings. Hence, I resigned from my job and whilst I am young and able, I’m going to concentrate on trying to challenge the world in athletics. These days being a para-athlete can’t be a part-time job. The standards are exceptional. I want to be exceptional.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

27 Years

For my birthday this year, I decided very early on that I didn’t want to be in this country and booked to go to Fuerteventura with my family. Partly because I need my annual sunshine fix and partly because I felt I needed an escape.

It has become apparent that as we reach certain ages, different things are expected from us and are considered the norm. For example, in our teens the majority start dating and learn to drive. At 18 many go to university and now I’m in my mid to late twenties, I’ve noticed it is common to have a career, house, be in a long-term relationship or married and/or have a baby. If you don’t meet what is deemed the social norm, you can be left feeling like a failure.

They say in school that all anyone wants to do is fit in. I’ve learnt that this doesn’t stop when we leave; we’re constantly striving to be socially accepted. If you can’t get a boyfriend at school, you’re a loser and in the same vein, if you can’t get or don’t want a job in your twenties you’re a lay about.

Last night, a Saturday evening I was home alone and scanning through my Face Book. The posts included: someone celebrating their wedding day, a couple celebrating their 2 year anniversary, another couple going on their first holiday together, a friend pleased that she had passed her 6 month probation at work, a friend excited to get a job and snaps of my friends child doing something worth cooing at.

Whilst all of that is lovely and I’m genuinely pleased lots of people I know are sharing happy experiences, it got me wondering whether they are in their respective predicaments because they have always dreamed of such things or because they are just trying to meet the social model.

Personally, I have always wanted to keep up with my peers and be like everyone else. Although, on reflection attempting to do this just isn’t right for me. Like most school girls, I was desperate for a boyfriend and was lucky enough to get one. However, I don’t believe I was ready for all it entailed. It was suggested to me that because of my gradual sight loss, I should do my A Levels over 3 years instead of 2. I refused. My grades were fairly good, but could I have done better? At 18, I didn’t go to university like many of my friends, as I think I knew it wasn’t the right time for me. I was 21 when I started my degree with The Open University and 25 when I graduated. Not going to a brick university, studying part-time and at an older age is not the average way to complete a degree, but it was right for me. Now at 27, I do feel like I’ve been left behind, I know I shouldn’t, but I constantly compare myself and my life to others. I long for what others have and yet at the same time know I’m not ready for what they have. I keep telling myself it’s ok to go against the grain and it’s fine that I’m not winning the race. Nevertheless, I can’t get rid of that pang of failure deep within.

It takes a strong person to be different.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Snowdonia

Life would be dull if we always stayed within our comfort zones. So when I heard that VICTA were organising a trip to Wales involving a visit to Zip World and mastering Mount Snowdon, I was quick to sign up.

Luckily for me I was able to get a place on the trip, which took place between 7-9 July. After meeting at Bangor train station, we went straight to Zip World to fly at around 100mph over a quarry and lake. I’ve experienced zip wires in the past, but none as long or as fast as the ones at Zip World. Usually, I’m used to sitting upright on a zip wire, yet at Zip World you lie on your front and just dangle in the air. The thought of this was very disconcerting, so I was surprised to feel secure and safe in the position. I’m sure it helped not being able to see the earth way beneath me. We first tried the little zipper to get a feel of everything and then it was time for the main event. The sensation of soaring through the air is unbelievable. The wind whooshed against you at such force it temporarily deafens you and it’s impossible to open your mouth to scream. Rain drops pelted against my skin, which wasn’t pleasant, but added to the sensory experience.

The following day, it was time to conquer Mount Snowdon. At first I was a little disgruntled to hear that we would only be climbing down the mountain, as who aspires to descend a mountain?! However, I underestimated the challenge. We got the train up to the top and then climbed to the summit. I thought the wind at Zip World was powerful, little did I realise the winds at the peak of Mount Snowdon were on another level. The cold was biting, my face ached and it was a fight to stay upright. My six layers just didn’t feel adequate. The entire trek was testing, but until the wind settled down, as we got lower, it felt near impossible and generally difficult to enjoy. I expected it to be tricky underfoot, but again I failed to anticipate how awkward it would be at times. Being blind definitely made the walk a million times harder, the amount of occasions I misfooted and twisted my ankles was unreal. Nevertheless, my guide was amazing.

I think it took us around three and a half hours to get to the bottom and the sense of achievement was immense. Two days, two challenges, two unbelievable feats. A big thank you to VICTA and their volunteers for enabling blind and partially sighted young people to push themselves beyond their limits.