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.