Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Distinction No.2

Some good news! My second module towards my English Language and Literature degree with The Open University was U211 Exploring the English Language. I finished all of the assignments and exam back in October, but only just received my result. This was the first exam I have had to do since having no useful vision and I was beyond nervous. So, when I discovered I managed to scrape a Distinction I was really pleased.

My results:
TMA 01 78%
TMA 02 76%
TMA 03 80%
TMA 04 74%
TMA 05 80%
TMA 06 85%
TMA 07 85%
OCAs 80%
Exam 77%

So as you can see I didn’t reach the 85% Distinction threshold overall, but the OU were very kind to award me a Distinction anyway. I truly worked hard on the course, enjoying it and finding it challenging at the same time. I’m currently doing my third module and need six to complete my degree.


So, when I went to Mauritius in February I had tonsillitis and uni work to complete. Therefore, I was really looking forward to enjoying Egypt, ill and work free. However, I forgot I was having a bad year!

We were flying from Gatwick and to avoid the early start on Monday morning, we stayed in a hotel over night near the airport. We’ve never done this before, but seemed like a good idea. I never sleep well in hotels, but the fire alarm at 4am and the random phone call to the room at 5am made sleeping even more difficult.

Anyway, to the sunshine we flew, plane delayed by about an hour, but no big deal really. We arrived at the hotel in Hurgharda around 9pm exhausted. Yes, Hurgharda, so no I didn’t get eaten by a shark! For a 5 star all inclusive resort the food was disappointing, little choice and nothing seemed to match each other.

Next morning, we went to sun bathe by the pool and by lunchtime I was coughing up my guts! I couldn’t believe it, ill yet again on holiday. My symptoms throughout the week included; coughing, sneezing, fever, the runs, blocked nose and ears and I even threw up to round things off.

It was my mum’s 50th birthday whilst we were away and it turned out that all of us were ill for the entire holiday. Therefore, we literally did nothing, but eat and lie by the pool. Shivering in 30C heat is not a good look let me tell you! Ever since I can remember my parents have played tennis on our holidays. We can’t go to a hotel unless they have a tennis court. Yet this holiday they didn’t pick up a racket once, which has to be an absolute first.

Then when we were due to fly back rumours circulated in the hotel that the airports were closed back home due to snow. We were all dying to get back for days since we were ill and we were potentially going to be stranded. I suppose we were quite lucky we only had a 3 hour delay, but even so!

Overall, a rubbish holiday! The hotel seemed quite nice despite the food, but we were unable to make the most of the facilities! Cursed...I think so...

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Last night I went to see JLS live in concert at the Nottingham Trent FM Arena. Considering our seats were about halfway back, I could see the lighting really well, which always keeps my focus and adds to the enjoyment of the performance.

The special FX seemed really clever, as they came out in a car that hovered over the audience. They also had a dancing robot, revolving stage and a projected stage. I was a bit gutted that the end of the projected stage stopped right in front of our seats, but there was no lighting other than on the main stage, so I couldn’t even glimpse a shadow of them!

Of course they performed all of their hits, tracks from their new album and they also did a few Backstreet Boys and N Sync songs that were amazing.

Great band!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Guide Dog Visit

I wasn’t going to update my blog about the Guide Dog visit yesterday, but thought I’d write a quick note. There’s nothing new to report really, Calvin impressed them with his sniffing skills, jumping up on strangers ability and his Christopher Columbus explorer instinct.

We did 2 walks, one with and one without the halty. He was pretty much the same on both, but they insisted I should always use his halty. I also got it in the neck regarding his weight, as he is 40kg. His maximum is 38kg, but when I took Calvin to the vets for his 6 monthly check up, they said he was fine, as he’s a tall dog. Guide Dogs disagree and I’ve been told to cut his food down to 10oz, which I refuse to do, as the poor dog will starve! They’ve also advised that I only give him raw carrots and not dog biscuits for treats.

So that’s it really. I’m off to Egypt on Monday for a week, Calvin is off to my friend’s house and on my return I will have my exam results for my last OU module that I finished in October!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

To See Or Not To See, That Is The Question...

There is always the debate of is it better to have seen and lost or have never seen at all and not know what you’re missing. Of course neither are ideal, but let’s face it, blindness is a disability and therefore in most cases can’t be cured.

For someone like me who was born fully sighted and perfectly healthy, becoming partially sighted at the age of 2 and eventually stripped of useful vision by the age of 18, I get asked all of the time don’t you wish you could still see? Can’t they do anything? God, it must be horrible!

Yes, being blind is an inconvenience, but just like the snow you have two options. You can either let it stop you from continuing with day to day living or fight it and get on as best you can. There was a time, when I spent 8 years losing my vision, getting some restored and losing it again that I felt being blind was the worst thing in the whole world! I hated not being able to see at night, not being able to find my friends in the playground, not being able to read and not being able to walk around freely. However, I eventually got over myself and accepted the fact that being blind isn’t that bad really!

This blog post has been inspired by meeting a mum of an old school friend whilst out shopping yesterday. Charlotte was one of my best friends at primary school and one of the few people who knew me when I had good partial vision and witnessed me lose a substantial amount in year 6. Literally, from the age of 6 I can remember always being around her house, she’s the one who introduced me to Brownies and I think we both had some great birthday parties. I remember her and her family were animal mad, having at least 3 dogs, 2 cats and other small furry things! Digby, was my favourite dog, a beautiful looking German Shepherd with his gorgeous black and brown coat and pointy ears. He was a hyper dog, but I can’t ever remember being afraid of him and he’s the reason why I would love a Shepherd as a Guide Dog. They also had a blind dog called Nelly. I can remember watching poor Nelly walking into things, but he never got frustrated and just got on with it!

Anyway, I have some great visual memories of Charlotte, like the bright orange diadora tracksuit she had that I begged my mum to buy me the same one, when she played a bear in our year 5 Christmas concert and her cool flashing trainers she wore with her Brownie uniform. If I hadn’t had lost my sight maybe I wouldn’t remember these things, but if I was blind from birth I wouldn’t have the opportunity to appreciate the detail of the memories.

I also have a difficult memory that will always stick with me. It must have been Charlotte’s 12th birthday party that she invited me to. After primary school we got split up at secondary school and didn’t attend the same school from year 10, but the first summer after being in year 7, we must have still been friends. Charlotte had a sleepover in a tent at the bottom of her garden. It wasn’t a massive garden, but you’ll understand why at the time I thought it was. It had been approximately 1 and a half year’s since I had a dramatic drop in vision. We were all in the tent comparing who wore knickers under their pyjamas when we had to go inside for cake. It was dark already even though it was August and whilst everyone ran inside, I blagged that I didn’t want any cake. I sat in the tent, peering out and can recall seeing the lights at the house, it couldn’t have been more than 10m away. After a few mins Charlotte came back to the tent and insisted I went inside too. We’re 12 years old, nobody explained to me what night blindness was, I could still get around fairly ok in the daytime, so how was she expected to know I needed help, if I didn’t realise or understand myself! She grabbed my hand and we walked in with no conversation and looking back it’s a great example of how children are more accepting of disability. Once I was inside and in the light, I was completely fine, the cake was 101 Dalmatians!

Losing your sight is a traumatic experience for anyone. People say it’s easier when you’re younger, but if me losing my sight was easier than a 40 year old I’d hate to be their age! If anything, to me it’s better if you lose it when you’re older, the visual memories you can retain are far more than what I have. Although, I wouldn’t change mine for the world.

For me, I can definitely say that it’s better to have seenand lost, than to have never seen at all. I can’t imagine not knowing my colours amongst a thousand other things. Losing my sight has also given me a determination I never would have had if I was partially sighted still. As they say in every bad is good and in every good is bad...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The White Wedding

Last weekend was Beth and Graham’s wedding, which took place in Hartlepool, up north. Calvin and I arrived on the Friday afternoon after a 4 hour train journey. Calvin was pretty good between Leicester and Derby, as we had a table seat, but the long journey from Derby to Darlington was a nightmare. The other passengers found it amusing at first that he wouldn’t go in between the seats, but after a while people having to step over him were cursing him.

I always knew spending Calvin would be a nightmare, as he will only go on grass when out despite happily spending on concrete at home. I was hoping he would be bursting enough to let the river flow when we arrived at the hotel, as there was no grass in sight and a crunchy layer of snow instead. However, he didn’t go.

When shown to my room, I was a little, no scrap that, extremely concerned that I had no idea where I was and how to get back out! After unpacking a few things, Calvin guzzling a bowl of water and orientating myself around the room Beth called to ask whether I wanted to go down to her room. I agreed, but wasn’t 100% that I knew how to get back to the steps.

I knew I went through 2 doors to get to my room, but for some reason Calvin took me through 3 sets to get back to the steps. I basically let him take me, asking him to find the first 2 sets of doors I knew about and then asked for the steps. Although it wasn’t exactly the most direct route, I was just pleased my faulty dog found the way!

After Calvin did his necessary humping, playing and chewing we took the dogs out to spend again. Calvin was still being stubborn and eventually Beth took him off me and he spent where Sandie had been. Of course he was dying to go, I don’t know why he does it to himself!

That evening we went to Porto Fino, an Italian restaurant that I had never been to. Along with Jenny and Joe, we were with Beth’s family. It was a pleasant meal and pretty tasty too.

Calvin only did one more busy that day and I prayed he’d make it through the night. I didn’t sleep well at all, I’ve never had such a non sound proof room. I could hear clearly the music, singing and audience from the bar downstairs and I was on the second floor!

The following morning Calvin did a busy on Beth’s command, but usually does a big busy first thing, no chance of that here. He went again at 9am, not on my command of course and then he wouldn’t go at all the next few times.

Beth was getting married at 4pm on HMS Hartlepool ship, that I can’t remember the name of! She had a red dress hand made by her mum, which was stunning and Sandie was her bride’s maid dressed in a red diamante collar and lead. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise this and happened to buy Calvin the same diamante collar and lead in black, it was absolutely lush!

Prior to the wedding beginning, there was a panic that Calvin was lying on the aisle where Beth was going to walk down. Everyone tried their best to get him to tuck in, but he never did really. Besides, when Beth came marching down the aisle Calvin and Sandie thought it was appropriate to greet each other!

Beth and Graham’s vows to each other were more amusing to me than a tear jerker, although they were sentimental. Graham talked about Beth’s strange taste in pjs and Beth commented she knew it was love when they were standing outside of Game Station at 8.45am for the Nintendo DS to be released!

The reception was decorated thoughtfully, with each guest having jelly babies, a guitar plucker and ball ball name tag. It sounds quite strange written down, but trust me it made sense. Also, all those who attended the hen do received a photo book, which is a great memory.

They didn’t have a traditional first dance or disco, but it was nice nonetheless. Oh and I forgot to mention, since Calvin hadn’t spent since 9am, whilst we were trekking across the snow from the ship to the reception, me in open toe healed shoes Calvin stopped dead for about an hour whilst he melted the snow with a mammoth busy!

Before bed, a member of Beth’s family spent Calvin for me and I was so relieved to hear he had done a big busy! It’s such a stressful thing toileting your dog! The even better thing about it was that I didn’t have to pick it up! That night the music seemed louder than previously, as the kettle and cups on my side vibrated. Calvin didn’t sleep in his bed, but snuggled up to mine, except every time he got up to lie in a different position he flung himself back down and pushed my bed along a little!

By Sunday the snow was pretty heavy and I knew travelling back would be a nightmare. On the bright side, Calvin did his first busy for me on command, as Beth had already left for her honeymoon! After a few delays, I got home on Sunday evening, exhausted, but in one piece!

Calvin exploded when he got back, the amount of big busy he must have been storing was unreal and it can’t have been comfortable for him! I have no idea how to get him to spend when he needs to though. I was fairly impressed with his guiding skills over the weekend, always taking me back to our room, but he did pull a lot as usual and felt the need to say hello to anyone and everyone!

Due to the snow, Guide Dogs cancelled yesterday and hopefully they’ll be coming out next Wednesday. I weighed Calvin on Monday and was shocked to find he was 40kg, when 6 months ago he was 33kg. 38kg is his maximum, he exercises well and doesn’t look fat, he’s just a big dog. I have started cutting his food back though, after it was increased when he was under-weight. You can’t win!

On a final note, today marks 12 years since I started to lose my sight, which I won’t harp on about, as I did a blog post to mark 10 years. Time really does fly.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Journey

At the age of 16 I had been gradually losing my sight for about 5 and a half years with various operations in between. I preferred to struggle around school and when out instead of using a cane. Although I was pretty much against anything that labelled me as visually impaired. However, I was determined to get a dog believing that people were more accepting of them than canes and thought it would make mobility much easier.

Growing up, I watched my uncle who is blind with his Guide Dogs and seemed really independent in London and still is. So, as soon as I turned 16 I called Guide Dogs and had an information talk. They knocked me back immediately, saying I was too young, didn’t have enough routes and didn’t know what I was doing with my life.

On reflection, I still disagree and I think having a Guide Dog would have been the ideal transition when I turned 18 and had no useful vision. Learning routes where I could see entrances to doorways, curbs and other visual clues would have helped me understand where I was now.

Anyway, I’m not the type of person who let’s people say no and get away with it, so at 19 I reapplied. Again I was told a similar story that I didn’t have enough routes and didn’t know what I was doing with my life. However, this time I argued down the phone with the DM and they agreed to put my name on the list.

The Wait:
This has to be the hardest part of it all. You hear about other people getting a dog before you and just so badly want it to be your turn. 3 months, 6 months, a year, 18 months and then finally after 19 months I got the call. I remember it very well, being disappointed that Calvin wasn’t female, didn’t have a cute name, I didn’t know his colour and he was a massive dog when I hoped for a small one. Talk about ungrateful!

Matching visit:
I was petrified when this enormous dog jumped on me, as soft and cute as he seemed. He was a speedy walker and due to nerves and not generally being able to walk fast, I really struggled to keep up with him. I should have known from that point he wasn’t going to be the best dog, as he nearly pulled me flat on my face when trying to chase something!

He had no health problems, was lively but apparently this was only because it was a new place and was gorgeous too. So how could I say no!

The sleepover:
To check my brother wasn’t allergic to Calvin, he stopped over before training. I suppose he was still lively because it was a new place. Or maybe he was just going to stay like this forever! He ran around like a loon, legged it out of the front door and did a busy on the front garden and was the most excitable dog I had ever met. Remember, I hate dogs! So it was all very scary!

I trained alone with Calvin, 1 week in a hotel and 2 weeks at home in total. Not much compared to many others. It was an exhausting experience and I could wave goodbye to having a lie in ever again. After the first day we had the support lead taken off and I thought this Guide Dog lark was a breeze! Calvin made a few mistakes walking over curbs, finding things I didn’t want and having a busy on walks, but generally seemed amazing.

Going solo:
After training I understood why they said the first year was the hardest. Calvin broke big time, getting me lost nearly on a daily basis, started to scavenge, chase things more and more and generally do his own thing. I found taking him to athletics was a nightmare, as he cried, barked, jumped on everyone and couldn’t be bribed by treats. Just my luck to get a faulty dog, but all the time I was bonding with him as a normal dog, enjoying playing with him, grooming him and appreciating the affection he gave me.

1 year on:
The hardest bit is supposed to be over, but when I’m out with him I just think 9 more years and the torture will be over! He’s an awful guide when with other people and isn’t the easiest to deal with on my own. I feel like I’m forever correcting him, getting lost and that I can’t teach him new things in the fear we’ll end up lost. It shouldn’t be like this and for most people it isn’t, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles to control my dog.

So is it better than having a cane? It’s like having a child, needing to spend, groom, feed, play and occupy 24/7. I still stand by my opinion that under 16s should not be allowed a dog, as it’s just too much work. It is however, I feel is better than a cane. The pace you can walk, the less concentration you need if your dog is on form and the less wary people are to approach you. It is a major responsibility, but I wouldn’t change Calvin for the world. I don’t think he’ll mature and calm down, he’s had a year to do that already. I can only hope that my hard work will pay off and one day he’ll lose the reputation of being a bad Guide Dog!

On 30 November we have Guide Dogs coming out for our annual visit and I can’t wait to tell them Calvin’s 101 faults and see what they’re going to do about it. Also, sorry for posting this late, I ruined my Calvin week, but turned my pc off last night and completely forgot about it!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

From Cane to Dog

When you’re in public with your Guide Dog, you’re not only an advert for the organisation in general, but an advert for visually impaired people too. However, when your dog is constantly playing up and you’re correcting like a mad man, you just wish nobody is around, as they think you’re the terrible one! Most of the time when you’re walking along, trying to mind your own business, you know all eyes are on you. This makes me very self-aware and you have to learn how to crack a smile at the drop of a hat, even if you don’t feel like it! Yes, the public mean well and are the ones who fund Guide Dogs, but sometimes it would be nice to know you’re not in the spotlight, especially when you’ve thrown on some tacky clothes and haven’t brushed your hair!

So, here’s what happens when you make the transition from cane to dog...

Top 10 – You know you’re a Guide Dog owner when...

1. You’re told on a daily basis ‘I bet he can smell my dog on me’
2. People ‘awwww’ at you as you walk down the street
3. You know where every dog lives in the village and know their names too
4. You learn people can’t read and stroke your dog without permission
5. Kids shout ‘dog, ‘doggy’ and other similar words over and over again at you
6. You start telling people you’re going for a busy instead of the toilet
7. You have no fear in shoving your hand down your dog’s throat to remove fluff from a toy, squeaker, twig or any other object
8. Everyone thinks you have a new boyfriend as you sign cards, ‘love Selina and Calvin’
9. Your pockets stink of dog treats
10. You have to tell people you’re blind, as they think you’re training your dog

Friday, 19 November 2010

Calvin the Comedian

He woke me up early again! Calvin must have been a comedian in a previous life, because he makes me laugh more than any human could do! His muppet moments were one offs, but here’s funny things he does on a daily basis. I think you have to be there for the dramatic effect! One that isn’t on the list is when he dreams, tail thumping, high pitched barks, growls and then deep snoring! I think all dogs do that though.

Top 10 – I find him funny when...

1. You’re in the kitchen and he’ll drop his toy dramatically onto the wooden floor to let you know he’s there, making a loud bang
2. He plays dead
3. He runs around like a loon after playing peek-a-boo
4. He thinks he’s the bees knees after doing obedience
5. He nudges you with his wet nose
6. He slips all over the wooden floor
7. He throws himself to the ground with a massive thud when wanting to lie down
8. You get a present or parcel from someone and he sits so nicely waiting for you to give it him
9. He runs away at full speed from little dogs
10. He lies on his back holding a toy in between his paws and mouth and just stays there for ages

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Calvin the Cute

Even though Calvin woke me up before my alarm again, I can never stay mad at my gorgeous boy! Today, as I heard him racing up the stairs, I put my quilt over my head. He lifted it up with his nose and poked his head under like ‘woooo hoooo anyone home’! At times I want to strangle him, but I love him to bits too.

He’s got loads of nicknames; Calvie Coo, Baby Boo, Gorgeous Boy, and Softy are a few of the nice ones. With Nightmare, spoilt Paws, Dennis the Menace, Naughty Boy, call yourself a Guide Dog and Little Git being the more negative ones!

As I said I do love him and considering I hate dogs he doesn’t know how lucky he is! Here’s a few reasons why my Calvie has won me over...

Top 10 – I love him when...

1. He snuggles up to my feet
2. He puts his paw on my lap and tilts his head to one side
3. He puppy bites
4. He rolls onto his back when having a groom
5. He gets me to places in half the time I could with a cane
6. He finds the right way when I’m feeling a little unsure
7. He always greets me, as if he’s not seen me for weeks
8. He puts his head on my lap and lets out a big sigh
9. We get home after being lost and all is forgotten
10. Everyone compliments on how gorgeous he is

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Calvin the Curse

Ok since Calvin came bounding into my room this morning, tail wagging vigorously, wet nose and licks all before my alarm went off he’s getting it today! Since the clocks went back he’s waking me up early nearly on a daily basis!

I think a lot of Guide Dog owners are protective over their dogs, just like parents are with their children, but let’s face it; they’re not all cute and cuddly 24/7! I hate to say it, but this list was so easy to write and I could have easily written loads more! Of course I love him, but here are 10 things I hate about you...well Calvin anyway!

Top 10 – I hate it when...

1. I’m running late, grab Calvin’s lead and he legs it around the dining table
2. He’s knocked out, but I have to wait until 10pm to spend him so he doesn’t wake me up in the night
3. He sniffs and gets the munchies on walks
4. He rolls in fox or badger pooh
5. He won’t spend when out, when he’s clearly bursting
6. He follows me around the house when I’m getting ready to go out without him, making me feel guilty
7. He lies in the aisle of the train or bus
8. We get lost on a simple route
9. He chases things
10. He forgets how to guide when I’m with other people, not stopping at curbs or steps, walks me into things and pulls allot!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Calvin the Clown

When I got a Guide Dog I didn’t realise that they could have such a personality. I have met a few dull dogs, but Calvin is certainly not one of them. Here’s a few amusing moments over the past year, unfortunately not enough space to share them all!

Top 10 – Calvin muppet moments

1. Finding a golf ball in the snow and swallowing it
2. Running onto the athletics track during a race, knocking me to the ground
3. Chasing a pidgin and bouncing off of a bin in the process
4. Drinking the entire river at Fosse Meadows and then having busys in public every 5 seconds, including in Fosse Park food court
5. Trying to pick up as many toys as possible at once, I think the record is 4
6. Being so excited to hear someone at the door that he grabbed my brand new Timberlands to greet them
7. Jumping onto the bus seat and sitting proudly instead of going in between them
8. Insisting that the arrival of a parcel was for him and wasn’t satisfied until he could snuggle up with some of the paper packaging and go to sleep
9. Climbing onto the dining room table, knocking off all of the items on top of his food container and stuffing his face
10. Deceiving me in thinking that he’s being really calm in a pet shop, when in fact he had his head immersed in a bucket full of treats!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Calvin Week

This is my 100th blog post and tomorrow marks a year since I started training with Calvin. So, I’ve decided to dedicate this week to Guide Dog ownership. Check back daily to find fun and serious posts about mine and Calvin’s partnership.

This is not only a good opportunity to evaluate my first year as a Guide Dog owner, but hopefully enlighten others on what it entails.

See you tomorrow...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

F1 Review 2010

Today was the climax of the 2010 F1 season in the desert of Abu Dhabi. Going into the final race, there were four potential World Championship winners with my favourites Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso leading the way.

The double World Champion was looking to join a select group of eight that had won three championships or more. Unfortunately, an unexpected safety car, tyre degradation, watching the wrong driver and under estimating the mid field guys it all went wrong! All he needed was a fourth place, but ended up eighth.

So, the World Championship went to 22 year old Sebastian Vettel who flies the flag for Red bull Racing. The German youngster who has been pipped to be the new Schumacher since his debut made history by also being the youngest ever champion. Taking the crown away from Lewis Hamilton who previously stole it from Fernando Alonso.

All four drivers in the hunt for the championship, Vettel, Alonso, Webber and Hamilton have all had a rollercoaster season with wins, crashes and penalties. Last year’s champion Jenson Button was chasing the championship for a while, but couldn’t keep up finishing fifth overall.

For my Ferrari boys, Alonso and Massa made the best of a quick, but not quite quick enough car. They also caused controversy with team orders feeding a message to Massa that ‘Fernando is faster than you’! This meant Massa gave up his only potential win for Alonso who had more of a chance of clinching the title. Some will say Alonso never deserved it in the first place, but I can fully understand why Ferrari did it. This was Massa’s first year back after his life-threatening accident and I felt he wasn’t as feisty this year, but hope both drivers will come back fighting next year!

This season also saw the return of seven time World Champion and personal idol Michael Schumacher. He had a bumpy season, scored well in a few races, but was beaten by his team mate in many others. The legend is set to continue next year and word has it that Mercedes are by far ahead in development than the other cars.

Yet again Ferrari hit the final hurdle to win a championship, but nobody can deny that Sebastian Vettel wasn’t a worthy winner and I would love to see him in Ferrari colours one day!

Friday, 5 November 2010


Just a quick post to confirm that I was nominated for Sports Aid funding by UK Athletics. Obviously very pleased with that since my performances were below average this year. I’ve had to fill out an application form, which was due back today and I’ll hear in the New Year the amount I’ll receive. Although I will stress I may get nothing, as only 70-80% of applicants are successful. I received £1000 this year and a similar amount would be really helpful. Time to play the waiting game!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Hen Weekend and Puppy Walker Meet

I don’t seem to do many non day to day activities these days, but last weekend was an exception with Beth’s hen do and meeting Calvin’s puppy walkers.

Calvin was obviously so excited after watching me pack our things the night before he decided to wake me up an hour early! I know I get anxious about missing trains, but would have preferred the extra sleep!

The hen do was taking place at the Cliffton Hotel in Teignmouth, Devon, which is an Action for the Blind hotel for visually impaired guests, but the fully sighted are welcome too. The journey would take approximately 5 hours with 2 changes at Birmingham and Exeter. The plan was to meet Katie on the train from Birmingham and Jenny at Exeter. However, true to form the trains got delayed. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait longer at Birmingham than necessary, as they put on an emergency train, but it did mean I arrived an hour earlier than Katie and Jenny.

I have of course travelled on the train with Calvin before, the furthest being Newcastle. However, since the last time we travelled I’m sure he’s grown! With his bum stuck underneath the furthest seat from the aisle, his front paws and head still seemed to be sticking out. At Birmingham New Street the assistance guy found Calvin hysterical. When getting assistance you’re always offered an arm to be guided or you can follow. In an unfamiliar, noisy and busy place like Birmingham I always get guided. The assistance guy was amused that Calvin was sniffy, picked up a leaflet and barked at some random person or thing. Excluding the barking, this behaviour is nothing new to me, but I was a little surprised that the assistance guy hadn’t come across any other Guide Dog like Calvin. They can’t all be perfect little workers, surely!

Anyway, we eventually arrived in Teignmouth where the hotel staff collected us. Beth wasn’t due to arrive until later, so I had the Coach House where we were staying in the grounds of the hotel to myself. When we arrived, I stressed that Calvin would be bursting for a busy, so they lead us to a spending pen. Once Calvin had finished he sprinted off, obviously distressing after the long journey and no intention of coming back! It was the guy’s fault to be honest for leaving the gate of the pen open. I had no treats or whistle handy, so couldn’t really do much when Calvin ignored my enthusiastic calls. He was eventually caught.

Since it was a hotel for the blind I was expecting the Coach House to be really accessible! However, the spiral staircase and far from simple layout of bedrooms had me baffled for a while. You couldn’t even trail the walls, as pictures hung there threatening to fall off! Calvin seemed quite stressed out, most likely due to the free run being cut short, but he also couldn’t understand what we were doing in this strange place that must have smelt of a thousand dogs. He panted and followed me adjitated. However, about an hour later when Jaynie arrived, he felt right at home.

Beth’s flight was delayed, but when she arrived she was greeted by pink balloons that made my fingers swell up from my rubbish attempt of tying knots, L plates and a bride to be sash. We played truth or dare, which was funny and eye opening at the same time! We also played how well do you know the bride, where every time we got a question wrong Beth got to open a novelty gift. The ones I bought included hunk soap, nipple tassels and ring for sex bell!

I was absolutely exhausted, as Calvin didn’t sleep very well, fidgeting as he obviously needed a busy and I took him in the end about 6am. We went rock climbing, which is an activity I love, but haven’t done for about 4 years. I was convinced Calvin would be climbing up the wall with me, but I supposed that could have happened if he hadn’t been benched to something secure. Sandie and Jaynie were fine being benched to a seat, but not Calvin who dragged it across the floor when I moved away from him! He was benched on his own for a while and when I was traversing (going across the wall, not up) he cried, but at least resisted from barking. When we moved to another room, he was benched with Sandie and Jaynie and after a couple of minutes was happy enough to play with them and ignore me. I’ve always been pretty good at rock climbing for some unknown reason and I was pleased to find I still had the natural ability. I raced up the wall, but had to stop and wait a few times as they couldn’t belay quickly enough. We only got 2 up climbs, which was a shame, but I enjoyed what I did get to do.

That evening we all got dressed up and went for an Italian. I was a buzzy bee with wings, head boppers, hair clips one in my hair one on my dress and stripy tights. I also tied a bumble be to Calvin’s lead, so he could look suitably silly too! We also had a butterfly, lady bird, fairy and an angel. Notice the wings theme!

Another rough night and Calvin needing a busy during it. I woke up with a cold, sneezing, blocked up and shivery. The plan was to take the dogs for a free run on the beach, but the tide was high and extremely wild by the sounds of the crashing waves. I wish I lived near a beach though, as I love listening to the waves! We strolled into town or in Calvin’s case dragged me into town. His guiding skills when following others is pretty poor. I understand he wants to keep up and be in front, but when we don’t know where we’re going it’s better to be behind. So, he didn’t stop at curbs or steps and I constantly used the double arm steady technique to try and keep control of him. We went into a few tacky seaside shops, but most things were closed on a Sunday. We then went for cream tea, however, I had soup! When we got back, Katie and Jenny went swimming, which I couldn’t do because of my ankle being strapped up, so I ended up having a nap instead along with Beth.

We had a roast for dinner, watched the X Factor results, bitched a little and then finished off by playing how well do you know the bride game again.

I was up at 5.30am, thanks to the lovely Calvin who apparently is rubbish at crossing his paws and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was excited to meet Calvin’s puppy walkers, but nervous at the same time. I waited for them in the hotel bar and heard the receptionist bring a couple through. They came up behind Calvin, who for once when approached by people stayed lying on the ground. I said his name, he gazed at them for a few seconds and then the penny dropped with a big old splash! Calvin didn’t know who to turn to Dave or Sue and so jumped on them alternately. I was worried for a moment that he couldn’t remember them at all! We decided to go for a walk, so they could watch Calvin in action, plus the weather was gorgeous. We got out of the hotel and there were a set of steps to the left that Calvin immediately took me to. Apparently, if you went up those steps and walked through the park it would take you to the puppy walkers house! Calvin’s memory was on top form and was dying to follow the yellow brick road!

Instead, we walked up by the sea front, which made me feel like I was on holiday. Calvin took me to every set of steps so he could go down to the beach, but we had to walk up a way, as the tide was still high. He got a good run, dipping his paws in the sea, they said he never did like going in fully, but he was daring and had a little splash. We then went to a cafe that he always went to and knew the way of course. He was very lively and found it difficult to stay sitting down, but I think I can let him off just this once! From the cafe he tried taking me back to the puppy walkers house, but we made our way to the hotel. Since there was a little time before we had to catch the train we let Calvin off in the first park that we went by. Just before calling him back, Mr reliving his youth, dived and rolled in some badger pooh! The puppy walkers giggled that they forgot he used to do that! He still does it now! Other things he still does is hold as many toys in his mouth at once, malt a lot, jump up on people and chew his toys!

I also found out that Calvin’s original trainer was in Worcester not Leamington Spa. I knew he changed trainers after a month, but thought he was always at Leamington. They commented that he was a cleverdog from the beginning, remembering instructions first time. I think it was great for the puppy walkers, Calvin and myself to meet up for all different reasons.

I would leave it there, but have one final story to share about my journey home. I planned to use the toilet at Birmingham New Street, but found with an hour to go on the journey that I was bursting. I was waiting for the ticket man or catering trolley to come through so I could ask where they were and if they could hold Calvin for me. However, nothing. So, Calvin and I got up, went out one end of the carriage, but there didn’t seem to be one there. I couldn’t find the button to go through to the next carriage, so went back where I came from and out the other end. I could tell there was a toilet there, by feeling around, but couldn’t find the door. So, back in the carriage, asked the luggage holder if they knew where the door was, no response, so walked further up the carriage and asked a human! A nice lady put my hand on the button to open the door and I started to panicthat it was one of those stupid electronic toilets. I got in feeling frantically around to find the button to close the door, setting the automatic sink off in the process soaking my arm. I still couldn’t find the button, but the door eventually shut itself. I knew it needed locking, but prayed nobody would enter the carriage, as the sensor on the outside would open it again. Trousers were done up without any intruders, but then I needed to find the button to get back out! I found one that made an alarm sound, but kept feeling around and finally found the correct buttons. I opened the door to get out and the ticket man was standing there and asked if I was ok! I played it cool and said yeah fine thanks, rushing off as fast as I could with Calvin back to our seats! Whoever thought electronic toilets were a good idea need shooting!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Fingers Crossed

Today, at UK Athletics they’ll be discussing which athletes will be given funding for next year. This year I received Sports Aid funding and I’m hoping for the same financial support next year. At the beginning of the season the aim was to get on to the World Class Performance Programme, but due to my guide runner issues, lack of competition and injury I’m fairly certain I haven’t met the standards.

A few weeks ago I sent a letter to UKA explaining my disastrous year and where I’m at now. I can only hope they will be understanding and still recognise the potential I believe I have, to make it on a world stage.

I don’t think I’ll hear the outcome today, but hopefully over the next week. My current situation with training is that we’re working on building up the strength in my ankle, although it appears strong when tested. I’ve had it strapped up for the past week and a half and will continue to do so until I’m pain free and sprinting again!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Just Updating

Well what do I have to report. My ankle still hurts everyday and even the private sector don’t know what’s causing the pain. So, no running for me until god knows when, which is very frustrating, but out of my control. I’ve still been keeping fit, bike sessions for speed and endurance and regular gym for strength work.

Earlier this week I had my first uni exam and I can’t believe how stressed out I was about it. It went ok in the end and I get my results back in December. I can’t believe I’m starting my second year of uni already. I’m doing Approaching Literature, which has 10 books to read, such as Pride and Prejudice, The Color Purple, Frankenstein and a whole host of Shakespeare urgh! At the end of the month I’ll start a short course in ‘Start Writing Fiction’, which will test my creative writing skills, whether they exist or not and determine whether or not I do the Creative Writing module next year.

Calvin’s working behaviour isn’t the best at the moment, we’ve gotten lost twice this week, he keeps trying to chase leaves and is generally a nightmare. Hoping it’s just a phase, I’ve had him for nearly a year now.

Don’t really have much else to write, I did plan to do a review of the Common Wealth Games, but due to my exam didn’t take notes on all medals, dramas and highlights. I did enjoy watching it though!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Taking Calvin Home

At the end of next month I’m going down to Devon for Beth’s hen do. Dawlish in Devon is where my Calvin spent his first year of life with his puppy walkers. Therefore, I contacted them and enquired whether they wanted to meet up. I believe the puppy walkers are the unsungheros of Guide Dogs, as without them people like me wouldn’t be able to have the amazing gift of a Guide Dog.

They replied promptly and said they would love to meet up. Apparently Teignmouth, where the hen do is taking place is only 5mins away and where Calvin did lots of walks both on the coast and main roads. I can’t wait to take Calvin down there to see his reaction, which will obviously be pure excitement no doubt! It will be great to meet his puppy walkers and find out a bit more about how he became the affectionate, playful, comical and mischievous dog he is today!

They also emailed me some photos of when Calvin was a puppy, which I’ll try and upload for everyone to coo at!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

The Unexpected

The latest theatre production I saw was Bustin’ Out. I only booked it because it was classed as a musical and sounded comical. My innocence therefore didn’t realise it would be two fat Australians prancing around topless for the entire show! The musical aspect was songs about boobs and whilst it was funny in some places, I cringed in others!

Calvin came along and when he got bored of crumb searching underneath the seats he would pop his head up and have a peek at the action, typical male! However, prior to going into the theatre, there was a small incident. Since my family and I had gone for a meal before the show I felt Calvin needed a spend before we went in. The theatre is connected to a park, but we just found a grass patch by the car park. Out of nowhere a dog appeared off lead and so immediately we decided to find another spot. Yet, the other dog followed with menacing growls. My mum tried to get in the middle to block the other dog, but I told her to move out of the way so Calvin could stand his ground. I dropped the harness and held onto his lead whilst they sized each other up. The loose dog went for Calvin, but he quickly moved out of the way spinning me in a circle. Seconds after the owner appeared and apologised unsympathetically and removed his dog. Calvin had a bit of a shake but was happy enough to continue working. It did get my heart racing, but I’m glad I didn’t panic and let Calvin stand up for himself. Thankfully no injury was done, but the following day when I worked Calvin in the village he did a little jog past any barking dog and when somebody slammed a car door he tried to leg it. He’s seems back to his usual confident self now though.

Friday, 17 September 2010

MRI Results

On Wednesday I finally picked up my MRI results for my ankle. It only took the NHS 6 months to give me a scan. The physio thought I had synovitis, but this did not show up. The only thing that did was some bone bruising. It has been 7 months since I sprained my ankle and to still have bone bruising on a sprain that hardly had any swelling is strange.

The NHS had no useful advice and after I insisted I was still unable to run pain free and generally walk around these days without some sort of ache, he said he would refer me to a sports doctor. Only, he doesn’t know how long this will take, where a sports doctor could be found within the NHS and failed to be able to even use a telephone and Google. The nurse had to help him!

All of this is highly unhelpful and with winter training approaching and no idea of when I can run again, I’m feeling next year slipping away from me already. I’ve decided I can wait no longer and will go private to get a quicker and more informed answer with regards to my injury.

I really hope this all gets resolved soon, as I’m frustrated I’ve achieved literally nothing this year and want to prove my ability next year.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Libby Clegg

Libby Clegg is a T12 athlete meaning she is partially sighted, but still needs a guide runner. She won Silver at the last Paralympics over 100m and hopes to repeat her podium form in 2012. She now trains at Loughborough, the same place as me and because of this I have benefited from the expertise of her guide and coach. She recently did an interview for UK Athletics and I thought I’d share it, as I feel it’s very honest, as well as informative. It raises some good issues regarding visually impaired athletics, as well as general VI day-to-day life. You can view the article here:

Libby Clegg’s interview for UKA

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Countdown Begins

Today marks 2 years to go until the official opening ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games! Of course it’s my dream to be there and participating, but that will require allot of dedication between now and then, which I’m willing to give!

To kick off the countdown a series of programmes are being shown on Channel 4 who have won the television rights for the games. It all started yesterday with ‘That Paralympic Show’, which will be on for the next 10 weeks. The aim of the show is to introduce the public to Paralympic sports and athletes. Tonight, there is a documentary called Inside Incredible Athletes at 9pm. It features 7 Paralympic hopefuls, including the blade runner, Oscar Pistorious and amputee Stefanie Reid who I’ve raced earlier this year. On a visually impaired front, Dave Clark from England’s blind 5 aside football team is also on the programme.

Regarding my plans for the next 2 years, I’m going to do everything I can to get there. Next Wednesday, I finally have an MRI scan booked for my ankle that I sprained back in February. The results of that will determine whether I compete in one more competition this year and winter training preparations.

Sunday, 8 August 2010


I recently received my grade for my first module at uni. I would say first year, but one module at 60points is equal to half a year, even though it took me a year.

Anyway, for AA100 The Arts Past and Present I gained a distinction, which is the highest mark you can get. So obviously I was over the moon!

Assignment Results:
TMA 01 – 85%
TMA 02 – 85%
TMA 03 – 81%
TMA 04 – 88%
TMA 05 – 70%
TMA 06 – 81%
TMA 07 – 88%
Average (OCAs) – 82%
ECA (OEs) – 86%
Total – 84%

You normally need 85 %for a distinction overall, but they gave me one anyway!

Thursday, 5 August 2010

European Athletics Championships

The 20th European Athletics Championships were held in Barcelona for 6 days from Tuesday 27 July to Sunday 1 August. Britain had hopes of 10 – 15 medals and actually exceeded the amount of medals ever won by the team coming home with a well deserved 18.

The medal rush kicked off in the men’s 10000m where Mo Farah and Chris Thompson raced home in first and second place respectively. Mo then later went on to win the 5000m in style too and was completely over whelmed when he crossed the finish line. Unfortunately for the women, Jo Pavey was ruled out of the 5 and 10000m after picking up a toe injury.

In the other long distance events Hatti Dean smashed her PB in the steeple chase by 8 seconds, but unfortunately just missed out on a medal in 4th and just over a second outside of the British Record. The women won a bronze in the marathon team event, but this wasn’t’t counted on the official medal table for some complicated reason I won’t bore you with!

GB did well in the middle distances, excluding the men’s 1500m where 3 British finalists completely messed up their tactics and failed to bring home a medal. World Champion silver medallist Lisa Debriskey was unlucky to finish in 4th in the women’s 1500m after recently returning from an injury. Jenny Meadows did it for the girls in the 800m holding on for a bronze and Michael Rimmer was out sprinted for the win in the men’s version of the event, but grabbed a silver.

Now we come onto the sprints. My favourite events of course! Let’s start with the men’s 100m where Dwain Chambers was favourite for gold along with Christophe Lemaitre, a Frenchman and first white man to dip under 10secs. The final wasn’t won in a particular fast time, but Lemaitre came out on top and 4 athletes behind all clocked exactly the same time, 10.18secs. This resulted in Mark Lewis Francis, former World Junior Champion and GB hopeful snatching the silver and Chambers given 5th place. Lemaitre also won the 200m, by 100th of a second from Welshman Christian Malcolm. Laura Turner failed to make the final of the women’s 100m along with Emily Freeman in the 200m. The men’s 400m was really exciting, as it was more of a mind game than them running a great time. Michael Bingham got the silver and Martyn Rooney the bronze even though they both were given the same time.

There was disappointment in the hurdles, as 4th place World Championship performer, Will Sharman false started in the 110m semi finals. However, Britain still got gold with Andy Turner powering his way to the finish. There was more Welsh glory in the 400m hurdles, as David Green and Rhys Williams got a 1 – 2 finish. Perri Shakes Drayton continued the success in the women’s 400m hurdles and won a surprise bronze.

In the field events, Common Wealthand World Champion Phillips Idowu added European gold to his collection of titles in the triple jump. Chris Tomlinson jumped his way into bronze position in the long jump and Martyn Bernard was awarded the same colour medal in the high jump. On the women’s front no medals were won, but heptathlete Jess Ennis jumped, ran and threw her way to gold.

Finally, the relays had their ups and downs. The men and women both had awful baton changes in the 4 x 100m and failed to make the final. However, the men and women both medalled in the 4 x 400m with a shiny silver and bronze.

Overall, it was an amazing few days of European athletics. The next major event will be the Common Wealth Games in October, which promises to be jam packed with great performances too!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Is it a it a it's Calvin...

Earlier today I was winning the 200m in Nottingham, when Calvin, my adorable Guide Dog managed to break free from where he was tied up. He came charging across the track, fortunately didn’t impede any other athletes, but knocked me flying, as he raced towards me. I landed heavily on my knees, thankfully only grazing them, but I was in such a state of shock. Calvin didn’t break his lead, but it just goes to show he gets far too excited still when I’m running. The official allowed me to run again about 20mins later on my own, but I only managed 33.2secs in the gusty wind.

My 100m hadn’t gone much better earlier on, with a 16sec flat run, into an evil head wind and muddy puddles, but I won!

I had the Charnwood Open last Wednesday and only did the 100m, which was a disappointing 15.7secs. So things aren’t going too well really. My next competition isn’t until 15th August and I only have 3 more races to gain the funding standards. Right now I’m not on schedule and feel frustrated. I will go training on Monday and talk to my coach, but not sure how I can improve in such a short space of time.

My birthday is on Tuesday, but no major plans arranged. I’m tempted to go to the gym as normal!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Gateshead Disability Challenge

My fourth athletics competition of the season took place in Gateshead a day after the Diamond League event held at the same venue. Originally, they were asking for specific standards, which would have meant I wouldn’t have been able to run, as I’m having a bad season. However, these were dropped.

This was the first time I would run with the same guide, as the previous three competitions have all been with different people. My cousin got married on Saturday, so we couldn’t travel up to Gateshead until afterwards, resulting in arriving there at 11.30pm. Things didn’t go well the next morning, as they moved my race forward without notifying anyone and when we arrived at the track at 10am, they had called my race. It was essential I had a good warm up because of my calf still not 100%, but I wasn’t able to do anything. I got a couple of runs in down on the track before the start, but then felt even more stressed when the official was harping on at me to use blocks, which I am still learning. I rounded off my bad luck with a false start and held back the second time around.

Bang, I felt like I was being dragged all the way and gripped onto the guide rope as tight as I could. Realistically I should have been able to stay up with her, but I was slow off the start. This put me off balance a little. I came last, but that was expected as I was racing five time Paralympian Tracey Hinton and silver Paralympic medallist Libby Clegg. My time came out at 15.22, my best this season, a tenth off my PB and a tenth off funding. I should have started the season with this sort of time.

My calf felt really tight after I had finished and did a good warm up before my 200m. Bang, I was in lane one so chasing all the way and wasn’t going around the bend at all. I kept barging my guide. As we came onto the home straight, I straightened up and kicked hard at 80m, on reflection I should have kicked again at 50m, but I thought I had really messed up since I had allot of energy left. So, I was really surprised to get a PB of 32.35secs, a tenth of a second off of funding. I know if I get the bend right I can smash that time.

Overall it wasn’t a bad day, but I’m so behind of schedule through injury, lack of guide runner and racing that the World Champs qualification standards look out of my reach. However, I should be able to secure my funding by the end of the season.

I trained on Monday and I was in agony with my calf. Yesterday and today I’m icing it every two hours, stretching it out as much as possible and massaging it too. I’m racing again tonight in the Charnwood Open and then again on Saturday. I probs shouldn’t be running on it at all, but I’ve missed far too many races.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Unlucky Is My Middle Name

The past few weeks have been a mixed bag of good, bad and the ugly! I’ve had to miss three athletics comps, which is very frustrating, as I’m just not getting the races in this year. Two were missed because I couldn’t get a guide runner and the most recent because I managed to tear a couple of ligaments in my calf! I have had two other comps though, but neither were very successful. The Charnwood Open was over before it began, as on my first stride the guide rope fell out of my guide’s hand. In a disability event I would have been disqualified on the spot, but after freezing, stunned and confused, my guide just grabbed my hand, but it was all too late really! The time came out at 16.8secs! The other comp was the Metro Games and although I won both of my races with ease, the times didn’t reflect a good performance. I’m still not sure of my 200m time, but the 100m was 16.01secs and there is no reason why I should be running that slow anymore!

On a brighter note I do have a new guide runner, so that is something! I’m running in Gateshead this weekend, followed by the Charnwood Open mid-week and then in Nottingham next weekend. Three comps in a row should help me get some race fitness. This is all assuming my calf is fixed!

On other things, still working hard at uni with an assignment due on Wednesday. Calvin and I are having a bit of a rough time, it doesn’t help that my road is swamped with road works, but we also had a two hour getting lost adventure, Calvin had an accident in the food court as he watered the floor, I have a fat lip after he walked me into someone and I’m getting very tired of his scavenging.

Anyway, life goes on and fifth teen days until my 22nd birthday, not that I have anything planned yet!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

May Bank Holiday

My bank holiday weekend was spent up in Newcastle, where the main aim was to see Westlife in concert. I went up to Beth’s on the Saturday, had lunch, shortly followed by dinner and then an evening of Eurovision. I’m a big fan of the singing competition, but my favourite never wins. This year was no different, as I quite liked Cyprus’s entry, yet Germany won. Germany’s song wasn’t terrible though and it’s about time a country that funds the event actually won. We came erm...last, the Europeans really don’t like us! In my opinion surely Iceland should have been bottom of the table, spreading their volcanic ash?!

Sunday was spent on the beach, that sounds quite nice, but it was really windy and freezing. The dogs got to have a play, but I wasn’t impressed that Calvin had a worm dangling from his mouth! Disgusting! The afternoon was spent browsing a few shops and a quiet evening in.

Monday daytime was a quiet one and around 5pm we went to grab some dinner before the concert. Westlife were due on at 8.30pm, but with two support acts prior to them. American boy band, Wow, were really not very Wow. They were all under 18 and attempting to be a young Backstreet Boys. I might have had a bit more respect for them, if they had bothered to sing live and not mime. The second support were female Irish group, Wonderland who included Kean’s wife. They reminded me of The Corrs and I found myself drifting off whilst listening to them! Booooooring!

Finally, at 9pm Westlife came on stage. This was my fourth time seeing them and they didn’t fail to excite. They sang a few songs from their new album, all of their classics and some upbeat modern numbers too, including Black Eyed Peas and Beyonce. The only let down were the drunken, loud mouthed, past it women behind us. Their alcoholic beverages drenched my coat and bag, along with Beth and Jenny’s stuff too.

Overall, I thought Westlife were grate and would go and see them again in a flash!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

International Debut

In lane 5 representing Great Britain and Northern Ireland Selina Litt, are exciting words that I will always remember. For that moment I was care free and a broad smile took over my face.

My first international competition was the Knowsley Disability Challenge on 22/23 May. I’d never been to Liverpool before, so it made it that more interesting. On the Saturday was my 100m and the Sunday my 200m.

I went into the weekend feeling confident, as I was running with Jor’dan. We had only ever had a couple of runs together, literally over 40m, but she’s quick, so I didn’t need to worry about my guide being behind me!

Bang! After the drive phase my heart sank, Tash who has a PB of 14.5 was already a good 5m ahead of me. I carried on running to my best ability, mine and Jor’dan’s arms weren’t quite in sink, but my lane sticker got stuck to my hand so I was trying to shake it off. With 10m left to go, my hand slipped out of the guide rope, but I kept running to the finish. Afterwards I found out it’s ok to let go of the guide rope with just 10m to go, as long as your guide is in within 50cm of you. So, thankfully I wasn’t disqualified! I ran 15.49 and felt disappointed. I really thought I was going to run a PB, sub 15secs time. However, on reflection, under the circumstances it wasn’t so tragic, as it was my fastest electronic time to date.

Bang! It’s Sunday and the sun was still shining strong, but with a unwelcome breeze! I had nothing to lose in this race, but it seemed to take ages before I came out of my drive. Jor’dan told me afterwards she had extended it a further 5m so I had less time running upright in the wind, but this does take energy out of you. Since I was in lane 1, I was a bit hesitant of clipping the curb and was chasing all of the way the other athletes. As I hit the home straight, the wind just took my breath away, 50m to go I had no kick, 10m left it just seemed 10m too far! I ran 33.27, my second quickest time for the distance and quickest electronic time. I’m definitely lacking in speed endurance, but I did have a cold a week prior, which wouldn’t have helped. Again mine and Jor’dan’s arms weren’t in sink, but mainly because I was fading and she was doing her best to drag me! I’m still not taking the bend to the best of my ability, which is also losing me time.

Overall, it was a good experience and it’s a shame my times weren’t better. Last night when I was running in training on my own, I felt so quick. There’s big difference in speed when solo and with a guide. There’s allot of technical aspects to guide running, which I don’t think people appreciate.

Looking ahead, I’ve still not got my qualification times for funding, need to drop four tenths off my 100m and a second off my 200m. Certainly not impossible as I’m only 2 races in. Next comp could be in Cardiff on 12/13 June. However, I won’t find out until 2 June if i’ve been selected.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Puppy Walkers

Puppy walkers are an essential part of a Guide Dog’s life. They do all of the hard early work for the first year, training them to spend on command, sitting, coming back on a whistle, not eating food before given permission and all the other things you need to train a regular dog to do. They do it voluntarily and most likely don’t get the credit they deserve.

I wrote a letter to Calvin’s puppy walkers shortly after we qualified, but didn’t get around to sending the letter and some photos until a few weeks ago. When I received an email in my inbox earlier with the subject of Calvin, I assumed it was from Guide Dogs bugging me about not sending any work reports for him still! However, I was pleasantly surprised to see it was from his puppy walkers who live down in Devon.

Here’s what they wrote:
Hi Selina,

How lovely to hear from you, and to tell us about Calvin. Sorry we haven't replied sooner, but we have been on holiday and have been very busy at work and with our son's wedding preparations.We have another Guide Dog puppy, too, called Amos.

Calvin was very special to us, so we are glad you love him too! We thought he would be a tough act to follow, but Amos is also a great dog! We are so glad Calvin is in a good home.

This is just a brief reply, so we will write properly soon, and sort out some photos for you and your family & friends.
Do you have special software for reading emails, or are you helped by others? Even Calvin can’t read or use the computer yet, can he?!

It's so nice to hear from you - we have had only one letter from a new owner before, and we heard nothing else after our reply, and, as you know, it is entirely up to you, the owners, to decide if you want to stay in touch with the Puppy Walkers. We have had 5 dogs for the long term -all lovely dogs -and we have had many, many more for short stays in between We are very busy with a big family and a Learning Disability Care Home to run, but the dogs do nearly everything with us.We'll tell you more ASAP.

So,we will write again, or call you, soon.

Kind regards,
Sue and Dai

So it sounds like Calvin was brought up in a busy environment. Explains his over friendliness to anyone who catches his eye! It will be interesting to learn what he got up to, as a pup and I bet he looked soooooo cute as an ickle baby!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Guide Dog of the Year and Paralympic Champion? Er perhaps not!

Sheffield Shambles:
Last Friday, Calvin and I ventured to Sheffield. This was the furthest we’ve travelled together solo. We were just going up for the day to meet Beth, Jenny and co who were there for the annual Aniridia Network meeting, which was being held on the Saturday.

We caught the train from Leicester station, which was a few mins late, but no big deal really. Calvin was quite well behaved, but beyond the tracks could apparently see someone spraying some sort of disinfectant that he must have been able to smell causing a couple of growls. Once on the train he was such a fidget. We’ve only ever done 10min journeys, excluding the tube, but the seating layout is different. Fair enough he has to have his frantic search under the seats to see what crumbs he can salvage, but then he wants to face the aisle so he can nose at everyone. The last time I checked, dogs can’t walk backwards, so when I usher him in he’s not facing his preferred way. He got comfy for a couple of mins in a nice tight ball so I had plenty of leg space. Next thing I know people are stepping over something in the aisle! He had only managed to sneak under my legs and was sprawled out in the middle of the train! He clearly thought, oooh there’s a nice big space there I can lie in! So, I went through the process of getting him back in, but he continued to fidget and force his way back into the aisle for the duration of the journey. It was one of the longest hour’s of my life!

When the train pulled into the station, I was more than happy to get off and Mr Fidget couldn’t wait either. We followed the mass crowd towards the exit and were rescued by an assistance guy who walked us to the front of the station. Calvin was quite calm, stopped properly at all of the steps and followed the guy all properly. Then he saw Jaynie, Jenny’s Guide Dog. All of his Christmases had come at once. Jaynie is a very calm, cool and collected Guide Dog and you could sense her rolling her eyes at Calvin who was bounding along, ready to have a party. He took his excitement out on Jenny, showing me up successfully by jumping up at her several times. It was one of those moments where you deny being connected in any shape or form to your child!

Next, Beth comes along with Sandie, a Guide Dog who is getting on a bit, but hasn’t forgotten her youth! At this point Calvin thinks I’m the best person in the world bringing him to this dog fest and greets Beth and Sandie accordingly. Sandie was clearly love struck by Calvin and the pair flirted for a while.

We left the station in pursuit of the hotel where the others would be staying. Calvin had a spring in his step and pulled so much, which I struggled to control. He insisted charging ahead, which wasn’t very sociable and didn’t help when I had no idea where we were heading. We arrived at the hotel and my arm was ready to drop off. Calvin and Sandie started playing in harness in reception, whilst Jaynie stood disapprovingly. I would like to say it was Sandie who was the bad influence urging Calvin to play and as if he’s going to refuse!

Calvin and his bitches got to have a play in Beth’s room where they fought over who was top dog. Calvin was fed and then attempted to climb into the bin where I had disposed the bag his food was in. The next challenge was spending him on concrete. At home he will do it no problem, but when out is a fuss pot and is only willing to do it on grass. It took him a while to oblige, but finally did a quick splash and dash!

We ate a pleasant dinner in the hotel and it was then time for me to get back to the station. Calvin pulled and pulled all the way there and I assume he needed a spend, but when we finally reached some grass he just stood there and wouldn’t move for ages. He’s a big drinker, so needs spending quite a bit. He fidgeted all the way back home and a creepy man started speaking to me. Somehow by the end of it Calvin changed his name to Selina!

I knew he must be bursting for a spend when we arrived and he nearly sent me flying when he didn’t stop at the stairs. I took him by the bike stand out of the way and didn’t need to be asked to do a busy. I felt like I was standing there for half an hour whilst the river flowed!

I took him as soon as we got in and another half hour waterfall was in full flow. About 20mins later it was bedtime, but took him again and yet another stream was produced!

Calvin sleeps downstairs in the extension at night and the door is closed. He’s always been happy with the arrangement and it’s worked fine. However, he mustn’t have been able to cross his paws for much longer and broke down the door during the night. I heard him shake at the bottom of the stairs and confused went down to see how he had got there. I took him to spend and was surprised to witness yet another waterfall that made him whimper. He must have been holding for so long that it was now painful to pass water! I did feel for him, but I couldn’t have spent him much more than I did. For the rest of Saturday I took him hourly, just so he could flush everything out and he was fine by the end of the day. I learnt a hell of allot!

Competition Catastrophe:
Last Sunday saw my first athletics competition of the season. Of course it was freezing, windy and threatening to rain! It was being held down in Middlesex, North London and as usual I entered the 100 and 200m. Nerves filled my stomach and I was dying to get it over and done with! This year is so important for me, I just need 15.1secs for 100m, which I ran last year and 32.25secs for 200m, which I came so close to last season in order to secure my World Class funding. I’ve been running so well on my own due to a lack of guide runner and know for sure I should smash the required times.

However, I went down with Amy who is great at taking me to the gym, but isn’t the quickest of runners. I stayed positive, knowing I might not run as well as I am capable of, but looked to at least reach the necessary standards. I felt even sicker when I discovered Tracey Hinton, 5 times Paralympian and Britain’s No.1 for totally blind athletes would be racing against me! I’m No.2 in the country, but have obviously not achieved anything within her league yet!

Bang! Well I thought there should have been a bang by now! I false started! I desperately wanted to get a good start. I didn’t panic and thought maybe I’ve just put pressure on the rest of the field, which might work to my advantage! Bang! I got an excellent start, but wait where is my guide?! Still on the start line?! I’m 20m up the track! Considering we’re attached by a band, this isn’t good! I felt like I had to stop and wait for her. The result being a 15.93 run, last place and frustration!

Afterwards, whilst waiting for my time that The Head Coach of the GB Paralympic Team went to get, since he was eager to see if I had managed the standard, I spoke to Tracey’s guide. Nice bloke, gave me some hints on how guide running should be done and basically told Amy she was too slow for me! Tracey ran 13.85 and was disappointed! She should have been in my shoes! I felt silly!

A 3hour wait for the 200m, which I was determined to give my best shot. No false start this time, but yet again my guide was behind me! I swear it felt like I was running in a zigzag, our arms weren’t in sink and I was off balance because of it. I reached the finish line, 100m behind everyone else and felt like screaming! 35.1secs compared to Tracey’s 28.5! I was a good 3secs off of my own PB. After getting my time I tried to make a quick exit, but Tracey’s guide collared me to find out my time! Talk about rubbing salt into the wound!

What I did learn was that I can’t run with Amy again, as she’s just too slow. However, I don’t have anyone else despite advertising. On a slightly positive note it’s a better start than last year where I ran 16.9 and 36.9 in my opening race, but it’s far from my full potential.

On May 22/23 I have been invited to an international competition being held in Liverpool prior to the Paralympic World Cup. This is both an amazing opportunity and a vital event. I can’t afford to show myself up. Thankfully, Jor’dan who is the second quickest female at my club is helping me out. We’ve only had a couple of runs together, but it feels fast. I just want my times, then I don’t care if I run badly for the rest of the season!

Saturday, 1 May 2010


I used to be a Brownie, never a Rainbow or Girl Guide, but a proud Brownie! I was a Seconder and a Sixer in the Pixie pack. The best pack to be in of course!

These days however, the packs have animal names instead. Not quite as exciting and mystical if you ask me, but c’est la vie!

Just after I got back from holiday I was asked to do a talk about visual impairment at Brownies. I’d never really done anything like it before, but looked forward to educating the kids who were working towards their Disability Awareness badge.

Naturally, I took Calvin along who was ecstatic at the sight of little people! I also took my colour detector, talking dictionary, laptop with Hal, playing cards, pink cane and Braille magazine. Instead of lecturing them I asked if they knew what each item was, explained in more detail what it did and then let them have a play. Calvin was left until last and I got him to walk me around the hall and find the door. Afterwards, I let the girls have a go with him. I know I shouldn’t, but it actually worked really well. Calvin was surprisingly well behaved and after each Brownie squealed forward he proceeded to take them around the hall. They weren’t blind folded, so pretty safe.

A couple of days ago I was stunned to have three thank you cards posted to me. Bless them, they’d made them tactile and left sweet messages. I thought Calvin would have taken all the glory, but I got a few positive mentions too. They’ve got their badge now and hopefully they did learn something on the way!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Still Alive

I’m not doing very well with this blog this year! Anyway lots to say!

I had a great time despite being ill for the first few days, assignment writing and some rain. It was great to see my Grandma and absorb the sun rays! I bought some gorge summer dresses, 2 tops and a bracelet. The hotel was fairly nice, but I didn’t rate the food.

Well, after rushing 2 assignments on hol I got 78% for my first year 2 assignment and goes towards my final grade. 70% for the course I started last Oct and my lowest mark to date. I just received my grade for my second second year assignment of 76%, so on course for a 2.1 at the min. Last night I submitted my 6th assignment for AA100 and have just 2 left before I finish my first year. I will then carry on with U211 over the summer. I’m not explaining myself very well, but I know what I mean!

I was absolutely mortified when I returned from my holiday to collect a fat and ungroomed Calvin. He’d be sent to borders who were over 80years old and the promised extra training he was meant to have never happened. I gave him a good groom when I got back and cut his food, but it took just over a week to get his weight back and coat shiny.

He turned 2 on March 19th and was spoilt with toys, salmon and a free run. Regarding his work, I think I’ve just gotten used to fighting him. He still sniffs and I’ve had to change my route home cos we kept getting lost. Calvin’s latest trick is to play dead before bed. His last spend at night is a joke! He lies on his side, excited speech, belly rubs, toys, stern voice, nothing works to get him up. Treats did, but I decided he can’t have a treat every night before bed! So I have to open the patio door, stand outside and knock on the window for him! He’s got such a personality.

Well that sprained ankle of mine is still causing me hassle. I’ve just started running on it again, but it doesn’t last long. I was meant to have my first comp of the season next week, but my coach has said I can’t race until the end of May now. I’m also having some issues with my guide runner and currently in the process of advertising for a new one. On a bright note I’ve been awarded £1000 Sports Aid funding.

I haven’t got much happening this month, just lots of studying and more assignment writing. May should be more exciting, as I’m going to see Wicked the musical and Westlife in concert.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Short and Sour

I’ve been meaning to update for ages. Will keep it short.

Good things:
Erm...88% on last assignment
Going to Mauritius on Friday
And er I think that’s all!

Bad things:
Computer broke
Got tonsillitis at the min
Had a cold at the beginning of the month
Sprained my ankle 3 weeks ago and still can’t run on it
Calvin’s all depressed cos i’m ill and just sits outside of my room all day
Having to miss submitting my next assignment through illness
Mauritius currently has a cyclone
And I think i’m gonna stop there before I depress myself!

Blog after hol x

Saturday, 16 January 2010

A Frosty Reception

I’ve had nothing but a frosty reception from the New Year so far. Let’s hope things will improve.

I got my third assignment back and scored 81%. Still a good mark of course, but my lowest to date. I’m currently working on my forth assignment, which is about the composer Shostakovich. I’m not into classical music, but i’ve appreciated his work.

Where do I start with the naughty little dog to put it politely! Three times this week he’s got into his food! He managed to remove a big heavy box, catalogues and the lid in order to delve in. It’s been an absolute joke and now the food is being stored on the dining table out of reach. Punishment has involved a cut in his portion sizes this week, but it’s also been a punishment for me as he’s been really thirsty from eating the dry food and needing to spend more regularly.

Argh, when will the frost and black ice disappear! I’ve only managed to work Calvin twice this year. Once in London for my Moorfields appointment and to be fair to him he worked well in the busy city. The other time was when I went sale shopping last weekend. That wasn’t as successful as he walked under a table in a shop and my hand scraped across the metal, which swelled up beautifully. My road is still bad so not sure when i’ll be able to work him again.

Has been cancelled most of this year so far due to the weather. I think I’m having serious withdrawal symptoms that isn’t helping my mood! I decided not to run in my first indoor competition last weekend as I felt I hadn’t trained enough with my guide runner.

Let’s get January out of the way and start afresh in Feb!

Friday, 1 January 2010

2010 Already?!

I don't know where the past few weeks have gone. Time to catch up!

What fun we've been having getting lost every other day and near death experiences. Calvin hasn't quite grasped he's meant to work curb to curb for some reason and finds it funny to cut corners so he can get an extended walk. Of course when we have gotten lost it's been a nightmare trying to find a single person on the street. It has knocked my confidence a fair bit regarding working him and is something I'm going to have to bring up with the trainer when she calls next week.

Calvin's other favourite thing to do when working other than growling at the dogs playing on the park, is refusing to go the long way around. I.e. we always walk over the bridge by the train station instead of walking across the track in order to prevent killing ourselves. Well, Danger Mouse doesn't want to walk over the bridge and merrily trots along straight pass the steps. Bribery has failed with meat and cheese treats, which surely isn't right! We recently had a near death experience as I cued Calvin in to find the steps. The siren began indicating that a train was coming and suddenly I feel the track under my feet. I go to turnaround in panic, but the barrier behind us had already come down. Some guy shouted at me to go straight ahead and we got through before the barrier came down in front of us, but it was a petrifying experience. Another thing I need to bring up with the trainer.

On a brighter note the sniffing has calmed down, but he is still a nosey parker and takes detours up peoples drives. On Xmas Day I fell flat on my ass thanks to Calvin spotting a cat, no consideration for the black ice!

Free runs have been fun at the time, as we've found Fosse Meadows where he can go wild and play with loads of other dogs, but somebody has a liking for mud baths. This has resulted in 2 baths since he stunk!

Open University:
I got my second assignment back a couple of weeks ago. I equalled my first score with 85% again, which I was thrilled with. I just submitted my third assignment yesterday. But not certain I'll be able to keep the great marks up.

Was the latest musical I saw at the theatre. It featured Tommy Steels who is way before my time playing the lead. It wasn't the best of musicals, but I guess it was all in the Xmas spirit!

Now there's something I haven't blogged about in a while. I've taken Calvin a couple of times now and the first was so embarrassing. The cute little Guide Dog barked his head off insisting I had forgotten him and was sure he was meant to be running around with me. The trainer came out just before Xmas to sort this problem. He's still not completely relaxed at the track yet, but hopefully he'll get used to it soon.

Speaking of running, it is going quite well as far as I can tell. I should be entering my first indoor competition later this month and the summer season starts again in April.

Is history! The year began pretty slowly with a hundred and one rejections for jobs, which I eventually gave up on and started my degree with the OU. My birthday was fairly good, but since I spent my 16th in Miami and 18th in Italy it was always going to be hard to beat. I have travelled around from Blackpool, Bognor, Hartlepool and Turkey for fun times. Then, all of my athletics competitions took me to Ireland, London, Wigan, Bristol and Nottingham. I achieved 15.1secs for the 100m and 32.4secs for the 200m. Other sports wise Ferrari had an unlucky season, but the GB Team in Berlin did amazing at the athletics World Champs. Last but not least to finish off my year I finally got that all-important phone call. Calvin came along all bushy tailed and puppy dog eyes and we're having a roller coaster of a time!

Is going to be a good year for sure! I'm off to Mauritius next month, athletics comps start in April until September and I'm definitely getting the World Champs qualification times. I'm seeing Westlife in concert in May, I'm hoping to go to Paris for my 22nd, I intend to keep working hard on my degree and to round off the year I'm seeing JLS live. I'm also going to fix my Guide Dog, priority number one!

I would just like to thank everyone who reads my blog whether you comment or not. I've enjoyed writing and receiving feedback. Here's to the best year to come!!!!!!!!!!!