Tuesday, 20 November 2012

3 Years

Friday marked three years since Calvin and I began our partnership together. It honestly feels a hell of a lot longer though. Now, I don’t have enough material to have a week dedicated to Guide Dog posts this year, in fact I was even concerned I wouldn’t have enough material to write a single post, however, I should have known Calvin wouldn’t let me down.

He still makes me laugh on a regular basis, such as storing his toys on the radiator in the living room, which is ideally placed under the bay window, so at a low level for him. You often hear him clawing at the radiator, as he puts his tennis balls or other balls on there, which fit snugly in the slot, so he struggles to get them back out. After a while he will come over and put his chin on my lap and give me the saddest puppy dog face going, so I have to go and help him get them out. He never learns from his mistakes though. He also amuses me when he wants to play ball. A normal dog would drop the ball when you say give so you can throw it for them. Calvin wants you to throw it for him to, but when you try and get it off him, he teases you by moving his head at the last second, so you can’t get it or smacks your hand away playfully with his paw!

Calvin is still keeping me on my toes and our most recent incident, involved me fishing myself out of my local brook! We were walking along happily, when Calvin’s pace picked up and tail started wagging excitedly, which always means he’s spotted another dog. We came to a small side road, I think it’s actually the entrance to something, so he stopped at the curb as he should. We proceeded to cross, but so did a man with his dog, which he said was a puppy, as if I cared and Calvin lost concentration, as he insisted on greeting the other canine. I was dragging him away, as he ignored my commands to continue and found myself standing on a grass verge when we reached the other side of the road. I know there are grass verges each side of the path and since Calvin was still ignoring my commands to find the way, as he looked longingly back at the other dog, I guessed, judging by the traffic that I needed to go left to get back on track. However, I obviously guessed incorrectly, as the next thing I knew, splash, I stepped into the brook, thankfully, which wasn’t very deep, around knee height. It took a split second to register what had happened, I didn’t even know the brook began there, I thought it was further up where it is barred off. I found myself still gripping Calvin’s lead who just stood at the top staring down at me, with an expression of confusion I’m sure. I heard the man with the dog come rushing back who must have heard my yell of shock and was offering his help, but by the time he reached me, I had already hoisted myself back out. He was like I’ll help you back on to the path, I just wanted to tell him to leave me alone, as Calvin began to play with the other dog again! I was disorientated afterwards and just walked for a while not noticing where I was, trying to get over the shock. I totally saw the funny side, but was lucky not to get hurt and not lose my phone, keys or sat nav out of my pockets. Eventually I must have come back down to earth, as the sat nav announced a road leading completely in the wrong direction to my house. I’m not even sure how I got over there, as we would have definitely had to cross a few roads. I walked home in a daze, hoping my jeans didn’t look too bad, it was raining at least, so I had a reason to be a bit wet! Calvin manages to surprise me yet again!

With regards to his work in general, in September, he decided that he no longer sits at curbs and chooses to stand instead. He has tried this a few times in the past, but I have always had to make him sit again, as he would cross roads without stopping. He has managed to master the art of stopping at curbs now, most of the time, so I am letting him get away with it. You hear lots of stories about Guide Dogs getting arthritis in their back legs from having to sit all of the time hence why I am letting it go. Some dogs now are trained not to sit at curbs at all anyway.

Thanks Calvin for three thrilling years!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

VICTA Weekend

It has been a long time since I met new people and went on a trip for the visually impaired. When I was sixteen, I had my first experience of meeting other visually impaired people properly when I went on a Spanish Exchange with RNIB. The year after I went to the International Computer Camp (ICC) in Berlin with Look. Both international experiences were amazing socially and brought a whole new side to me out, a confident me. After ICC I started RNC (Royal National College for the blind) in Hereford and so was surrounded by the visually impaired on a daily basis. I was supposed to attend VIEWS in Paris with Look the following summer, but pulled out, as I doubted my independence levels. Thereafter, I was in a relationship with another visually impaired person for over two years and to be quite honest without going into details, wanted a clean break from the VI world. I however, did not detach myself completely and have been going on holidays with three close VI friends for the past few years, which I have previously blogged about.

I never really intended to delve into the VI world again, but an event on Face Book intrigued me. A friend shared an event from the charity VICTA Children who I had never really heard of before and they were running an eighteen to twenty-five year old weekend in March. If nothing else the activities were to my liking and the fee nominal, so I thought even if I didn’t like the people I would be able to enjoy myself. Nevertheless, I pulled out, as I always put my athletics first and had Talent Squad training on the same weekend. They were running a second weekend in October so I transferred to that instead.

I was quite apprehensive about going, as the thought of meeting new people was daunting, I convinced myself only those with no lives would attend and I had no idea if VICTA as a charity were any good or not!

Thankfully, I was met at the train station, as promised and Calvin was delighted to discover he had a playmate for the weekend, Fliss. Calvin is never nervous about meeting newbies! The first thing one of the participants said to me was that they recognised me from the documentary ‘Blind Young Things’ and my heart sank just a little bit, remembering that I was quite well-known in the VI world for that and worried that everyone would have a preconception of me.

We arrived at the accommodation and had lunch where there were lots of awkward silences, whilst I secretly panicked about the mischief Calvin was causing running around like a loon and thought I would never find my way around what seemed a complicated building, only because it was unfamiliar of course. We were shown around the building in pairs and I pretended I had mastered the layout in my head, yet in truthfulness felt quite baffled, but didn’t want to convey my weakness! We had an ice breaker activity in the afternoon and somehow I found myself in group one, so on cooking duty for the evening meal. It wasn’t as bad as I feared though, I only had to open a few cans of tomatoes!

After dinner, the awkward silences continued and we all declared how sleepy we felt, simply because we weren’t really interacting with each other! One of the volunteers suggested a game of Trivial Pursuit and I was quick to count myself in, as the competitive me came flooding out. This is when I began to enjoy myself, the mood was light hearted, conversation flowed more easily and the time past much faster. Before then, it was going to be a very long weekend!

On Saturday morning the first activity was canoeing. I had only tried it once before, so was looking forward to doing it again. On the whole it was fun, accidently and on purpose splashing each other, the only downside was the bitter wind. In the afternoon we did crate building and despite my ten thousand layers was still cold so managed to bag myself the instructor’s jacket! Crate building was pretty good, you are harnessed up and stack the crates on top of each other, climbing as you go until you fall off, run out of crates, you can’t build any higher or people find it funny to knock the stack down with you on top! After that we did a dissent, which is like the zip wire, although instead of going horizontal you go vertical. Listening to others jump off first it sounded extremely fast and scary, but once I plucked up the courage to step, note not jump off of the platform, it really wasn’t too bad or fast. It does go faster the heavier you are, so I probably got off lightly! We had a takeaway that evening and amused ourselves with karaoke on the X-Box, which past the time nicely.

On Sunday morning, we were supposed to do rowing, but this got cancelled, so we did orienteering instead. My group lost, but we weren’t really interested in winning and to be fair most of the time was spent fishing Calvin out of lakes, cringing at what he was rolling and diving in and taking bets on who out of him and Fliss would win tug with branches! I was so glad that Fliss’s owner offered to wash Calvin for me, he was a real swamp dog! In the afternoon, we were meant to do caving, but they lost the key, it was a man made cave, therefore we just did archery. Nobody managed to hit the balloons on the targets and it was quite a bit of sitting around involving me moaning how cold I was and everyone offering me their jackets, but I manned up and declined! That night we had a pub dinner, which was actually quite tasty and spent the rest of the evening just chatting. It was commented that I was such a happy person, which amused me greatly, as my mum always gets excited when I smile on the rare occasion and then I realised on reflection, I had become that confident Selina who only appears on trips for the visually impaired.

I honestly had a brilliant time, it was so refreshing to meet new people, you obviously get on better with some people than others, but everyone was good company in general. As testimony to my nice time, VICTA are holding a Christmas meal/party next month and I have booked to go. Partly because I want to buy a new dress, but mostly because I am eager to have another great experience. Thank you VICTA and all the new lovely people I met!

Where does a horse put its bit?! (Trivial Pursuit)

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Nicki Minaj

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Nicki Minaj in concert. The concert was enjoyable overall, but perhaps i’m not quite cool enough to appreciate her fully!

I love her hits like Starships, Pound the Alarm and Super Base and even like some of her naughtier stuff on her Pink Friday albums. However, although I know she is a rapper by trade, I wasn’t prepared for the vast amount of hard core rapping. What made me feel even more out of place was that the crowd seemed to know all of the words to these raps that I had never heard of in my life!

I found I had a similar experience with one of the support acts Tyga. Personally, I had never heard of the bloke before, yet the crowd were mad for him and filled in the pauses in his songs. I’m definitely not down with it!

The other support act was Misha B and since she was from X Factor was more on my level. I thought she was great and proves that these reality shows can dig up some great talent, even if the public don’t vote for them to win.

Overall it was a good experience, I don’t think i’ll be rushing to see her again though, sorry Nicki!

When you know you are great, you have no need to hate

Final Year

I am finally in my last year of my English Language and Literature degree with The Open University. After being on track for a First, the final assessments (OES) on my last two modules, A215 Creative Writing and E301 The Art of English, dropped my marks from a 2.1 to a 2.2 for each module. This means I am now on course to get a 2.2 classification despite scoring Distinctions on my first three modules. I didn’t expect to get Distinctions this time, but thought I would end up with at least 2.1s, as my actual assignments were in that region throughout. What’s more frustrating is that I was happy with my final assessments, which are worth 50% of your grade for the year, so I have no idea where I went wrong. My final module with the OU is EA300 Children’s Literature and whatever I score on that will determine my degree classification.

A215 Creative Writing
TMA 01 77%
TMA 02 76%
TMA 03 78%
TMA 04 82%
TMA 05 78%
OCAs 78%
OES 57%
Grade 3 Pass

E301 The Art of English
TMA 01 59%
TMA 02 76%
TMA 03 84%
TMA 04 85%
TMA 05 80%
TMA 06 74%
OCAs 78%
OES 60%
Grade 3 Pass

Success is never final and failure is never complete