Saturday, 21 December 2013

Catching Up

Considering I am no longer studying, I feel like I am constantly busy, but as the year is drawing to a close I have found some time to update this blog.

Adam Hills:
Back in October, how time flies, I saw the comedian and presenter of The Last Leg live at The Curve in Leicester. I have never been to a stand up show before and was pleasantly surprised. I spent the entire time in stitches and can safely say I enjoyed every second. Touch the frog!

Space Centre:
There isn’t really anything special about Leicester, but we do have The Space Centre. I have a vague memory of going when it first opened and recently went again. I was expecting it to be dull and to be quite honest the majority of it was. To be fair there are a few interactive things to experience, although a lot of it is just information printed everywhere. There was a film narrated by Rupert Grint about life on other planets, only I found I didn’t really care! Oh well, I feel like I have done my duty as a Leicester resident by visiting more than once now!

The Mouse Trap:
It has been a long time since I saw a non-musical at the theatre, so when I saw that The Mouse Trap was coming to DeMontfort Hall, I thought why not. It was a slow start to the play and I was feeling disappointed. However, by the interval I was gripped, trying to work out ‘who done it’. I won’t give the culprit away, I’ll just say I didn’t guess it correctly. Definitely worth a watch, a classic murder mystery.

Everybody get up singing’...a week after The Mouse Trap I saw 5ive live at DeMontfort Hall. I had already seen them earlier in the year at The Big Reunion Tour so knew they wouldn’t disappoint. It was a great night to be nostalgic, singing and dancing the night away!

I like to think I am a bit of a dare devil. If someone asked me to do a sky dive though, I am not sure I would say yes. A simulated sky dive on the other hand, count me in! Airkix at Milton Keynes is where you get to do just that and oh my god was it amazing! You only get two goes, lasting around a minute, but it is honestly worth every penny. The whole concept of it fascinated me, you are not attached to anything, you just go into the wind tunnel and fly! It was a little bit daunting not being able to see or hear, but the instructors were great and it was nice to see that they weren’t fazed by visually impaired participants. The feeling of flying was epic and on my second go they spun me around and upside down, I feared for a split second that I might actually throw up! And now would I do a real sky dive? Maybe...

I have started playing the only sport designed specifically for the visually impaired again. I had only attended a handful of goalball training sessions, before taking part in a novice tournament for Nottingham. I really wish I could play without being competitive, after all I took goalball up as a hobby and not to take seriously like I do my athletics. Throw me into a competition situation and all I can think about is destroying the opposition! After doing a solo sport for so long, I do find the team aspect of goalball very difficult. I can’t destroy the enemy on my own, as hard as I try. I played centre all day, which was a huge responsibility and unfortunately due to a combination of nerves and inexperience my team lost the first two games, but we won the second two. Nottingham A finished fourth overall, whilst my team Nottingham B finished ninth (there were twelve teams in total). I have the bug for goalball now and look forward to the next tournament where I know we can do much better.

To think I used to write a week’s worth of posts about him! Calvin and I have now been a partnership for four years and I am not sure what I would do without him. He still has a mischievous personality and has gained quite a reputation for himself. It is very difficult to find someone who doesn’t fall for his puppy dog eyes and general cheekiness. Unfortunately, this year Calvin has had a few fits, which are horrible to watch. He doesn’t have an official diagnosis, but both the vets and Guide Dogs suspect epilepsy. Thankfully, he can still work on the days he doesn’t fit, which is ninety nine percent of the time, so all is good. He will never fit in harness, as they occur when the dog is at rest. Calvin does like to sulk afterwards, but I can’t blame him. Fingers crossed we have many more years together walking in wonky lines down the street!

F1 2013:
Yawn! Vettel, Vettel, Vettel! What a boring championship it was this year. It is sad to see Webber retire from the sport, always the nearly man and equally a shame to lose Massa from Team Ferrari. Nevertheless, we are getting The Ice Man Raikanan back, which means Ferrari are definitely going to be the most vicious team on the grid next year. It is going to be gripping watching who is the better driver between Alonso and Raikanan. Hopefully we can clinch the title too!

Absolute torture! I know pantomimes are supposed to be light hearted and all that, but earlier this week I had the most bizarre three hours of my life. Ok Aladdin was played by a female, totally normal for panto. What I couldn’t get my head around was the show being set in China, two genies, a pet panda, getting soaked by water pistols and not even a hint of a magic carpet ride! Every time Wishy Washy came on stage he would say ‘hi guys you’re number one’ and we would have to say ‘Wishy Washy you are peng’! Weird! Aladdin you weren’t peng!

Another activity I used to do back in the day was piano lessons. I only ever got my Grade One, how I don’t know. I seem to have so many musical friends and to be quite honest envy their talent for music, as much as I love to hear them all play. So I decided that I would try and be talented too! I can play Jingle Bells and Walking in the Air from The Snowman already, I am impressed with myself. I do like challenges.

Speaking of challenges, I have made the executive decision that I want to be a secondary school English teacher. I am currently in the process of submitting my application to begin in September 2014 and will keep you updated on my progress. Growing up is scary!

I am still training hard six days per week. I am doing indoors next year for the first time, which is quite exciting, mainly because I know I will run a PB!

Just to finish off this post, my favourite quote of the moment is ‘don’t give up on what you want most, for what you want now’.

Season’s greetings!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

3 Festivals 1 Weekend

From Friday 1 to Monday 4 November, I went on my third Victa weekend of the year.

Friday – Halloween
After aqua zorbing on the lake, which I had previously done in March, the Halloween themed activities began. Pumpkin carving was first on the agenda, something that I have never done before, I am not sure if this makes me deprived as a child. I have never been great with my hands, so my pumpkin carving skills were pretty non-existent. One of the volunteers actually did my face design for me under my instruction. I was feeling moody for some unknown reason and chose to have a pumpkin with a sad face. Turns out this was creative genius and I won £25 worth of ITunes vouchers. Can’t complain at that!

The evening was spent toasting marshmallows, drinking punch, singing and generally relaxing around a fire outside. We also had to do fancy dress, so I came as the devil.

Saturday – Christmas
The daytime activities included fencing, which naturally I kicked ass at and canoeing, which naturally I froze to death doing. Again, these were activities I had done on previous Victa trips. It definitely seemed far too early to be listening to Christmas songs however, it was quite an enjoyable night. Last Train Home provided the musical entertainment, the buffet was lush and we even got presents.

Sunday – Bonfire
We did random party games in the morning and the set activity was rock climbing in the afternoon. That evening we went to a bonfire display, which wasn’t the most VI friendly event. I saw a flash of light in about every hundred fireworks, more than what most people could see! Afterwards we had a nice meal at ZZizzi’s.

Monday – Reality
By the final day of Victa weekends I always feel dead on my feet after the consecutive late nights. We went for a morning stroll around the complex, I refused to let Calvin join us, as he had already rolled in fox pooh three times already and I wasn’t prepared to have to wash him yet again! The Victa team ordered in McDonalds for lunch, something I very very rarely eat these days.

Overall, it was a nice opportunity to catch up with old friends, make a few new ones and all at a ridiculously reasonable price.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


On 20 September I graduated at the Barbican in London. I think I am glad that I went to my graduation, although I wasn’t that fussed about going. It was an interesting experience. On arrival they gave you your certificate, which made me think, is there any actual need to go to the ceremony now?! I went to collect my gown and was disappointed to discover that we didn’t get a hat. However, for the official photos they let you borrow a hat and fake scroll.

They sat Calvin and me on the front row, I’m guessing so it would be easier for us to get on stage. What they didn’t pre-empt was that Calvin would sprawl directly in front of the steps exactly where everyone needed to go to walk across the stage. Several times I tried to move him, but he was having none of it therefore, everyone had to hop over him.

When Calvin and I were called up to exchange envelopes (that is the graduation part) I was fully expecting him to do something to make me cringe. Surprisingly, he strode across the stage in Guide Dog mode. The applause we received was much longer than most people, I wanted the ground to swallow me up, as I blushed with embarrassment!

Overall, I have had an amazing four years with The Open University and studying towards a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature has to be one of the best life decisions I have made to date. Getting a First was just a bonus!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Swindon Shenanigans

I went on the Victa family weekend from 23-26 August, only I didn’t go with my family, as an over 18 I was able to attend alone. As always with Victa events, I had an incredible time, surviving on minimal sleep and laughing for 4 days straight!

When arriving at the PGL centre where we would be staying, I knew instantly that it would be a challenge to find my way around the place. The venue is very large so it can cater for literally hundreds of people and felt quite maze like in its layout. It wasn’t too daunting though, as everybody was in the same situation and I knew I had friends willing to help out.

Somehow I managed to arrive last to my room meaning I had to settle for the top bunk. I don’t mind the top bunk too much, but without fail I’ll wake up in the night needing to spend a penny, so climbing up and down the ladder when half asleep is always a risky business!

Meal time reminded me of a school canteen where you had to queue up, get your own tray and select from the limited options. However, once I had collared someone to carry my tray for me (balancing a tray in one hand and controlling a Guide Dog who decided he didn’t fancy working for the entire weekend was never going to work,) I discovered the food wasn’t really too bad.

In the evening we had a welcome meeting before being split into our groups for ice breaker activities. There was a bar on site that sold very reasonably priced drinks so most people levitated there afterwards.

Activities started at 9 sharp. My group were on the low ropes to begin. I guess it was ok, it was basically a variety of tyres, beams, nets etc the sort of thing you find in a good park and you had to navigate your way over, under and through. Of course I managed to do the majority with ease. Next was rock climbing, as most people know one of my favourite activities. I asked one of my competitive friends if he fancied racing me, I honestly thought I would have a good chance of winning despite him being partially sighted and male. Unfortunately, I got beaten and demanded a rematch allowing me to have a 7 second head start to make it fairer. I felt the pressure, as I frantically raced to the top and managed to just beat him! I love racing!

In the afternoon our first activity was fencing. This was something I had never tried before and Calvin found quite distressing, as he clearly thought I was being killed. Initially it was pretty good fun, we didn’t really listen to the instructor and just tried to stab each other as much as possible! It was quite entertaining fighting a guy who thought he couldn’t hit me back because I was female! His loss! To finish the day we did zip wire. Calvin naturally wanted to run alongside me as I shot through the air! I felt sorry for whoever had to hold him!

Even though all of the information said to bring old clothes, spare clothes, spare trainers for wet activities, I never considered for a second that I would actually be getting wet! I still thought as I made my way to raft building that morning I would be able to get away with it. I left Calvin in the room, as I definitely didn’t want a wet dog! It was raining, which immediately made staying dry impossible. After constructing the most secure raft I was assured we wouldn’t fall in. I wasn’t taking any risks though and refused to get on. When one of my friends literally picked me up and plonked me on the raft kicking and screaming of course, I wished for a split second that I weighed a hundred stones so I could still have my feet safely on dry land. I’m not a strong swimmer hence not being good with water and despite having a life jacket when the instructor pointed out that the water would reach my shoulders I was freaking out. It was going to be ok mind, as we wouldn’t get wet as the raft nervously bobbed on the water. One of the volunteers thought it funny to splash us from the side. I got wet. He then decided to capsize the raft, I held on for dear life as everyone else toppled into the water. However, the second time I fell in, went under and when I tried to push up in a major panic, I found the raft was blocking my exit! It felt like an age that I was drowning for, although it was probably only a few seconds. I emerged and was chucked into the instructor’s canoe in order to recover from my ordeal. Typical! As some time passed I was waiting on the side. One of my friend’s said he’d guide me and the beep guided me into the water! I was far from impressed! On reflection after my near death experience I am glad that I did do it, as traumatic as it was. I used my hair dryer to dry my trainers too, so all was fine!

In the afternoon the sun came out. Aero ball was the first activity where you jump on a trampoline and try and shoot a ball into a hoop. I decided to skip this one with my detached retina, jumping isn’t the best for my eyes. Vertical challenge ended the day, which I really enjoyed, I guess because it involved climbing. A rickety ladder, tyres, beams and a cargo net got you to the top. I was a little paranoid, as the same friend who I raced rock climbing and plonked me on the raft thought it would be funny to fiddle with my harness straps making me get it checked a million times first! Calvin cried the whole time I was climbing, which made me wonder if he knew something I didn’t and at any moment I would plunge to my death. It was all good though!

The final night was a bit of a blur. A friend gave me a tube of Smarties to consume. I don’t eat chocolate much these days being a dedicated athlete and all, so I think they made me a little hyper. I broke all staying up records and didn’t go to bed until 4am. I have no idea how I functioned the next day!

I really didn’t bring enough clothes. I had no idea we had activities on the final morning. The first one was trapeze. I went first in the group, too tired to protest otherwise and when I reached the top and held the bar I expected to fall to the ground. Yet to my surprise nothing happened! I just swung there. I got told to let go and again I thought I would fall to the floor, however, I was just held in the air. That was it! I couldn’t believe I had woken up for that! The last activity was the giant swing. To mine and the girl’s amusement who I went on with because she is bigger than me, the swing had a see-saw effect, I was sort of hanging in the air on my side whilst she was lower down. I pulled the cord to release us and my stomach did somersaults as we whizzed through the air, the wind whipping at our faces. It was fun! A fun finish to a fun filled weekend!

Thanks to Victa, all of the volunteers and all of my lovely blinkie friends!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Devon Delights

Last Wednesday until Saturday Calvin and I went down to Teignmouth to stay at the Cliffden Hotel. The Cliffden is one of four Vision hotels in the UK that specialise in catering for the visually impaired. I have stayed at the hotel once before, but not in the actual building. For my friend’s hen do, we stayed in the self-catering Coach House. It was therefore nice to experience another side of the hotel and Teignmouth itself.

I only stayed for three nights, but everybody I met up with excluding one other stopped for a week. I thought a week would be far too long, yet on reflection, the time flew by before I knew it. Five out of the nine in our group I met back in March on the Action residential, so it was lovely to catch up with them all again and make a few more new friends too.

After missing my connection at Birmingham New Street by the skin of my teeth, an unwelcome extra hour was added to my train journey. On the bright side, this gave me time to finish the third book in the Fifty Shades of Grey series (those books are over rated in my opinion, but a must read nonetheless). Calvin and I arrived in the late afternoon and a few wanted a light or in some cases a substantial snack before dinner. We therefore took the short walk to the beachside cafe where we hoped the dogs could have a free run too. Unfortunately for Calvin and Mitsey, the tide was in, so we couldn’t let them off.

In the evening some went back to the beach, only I’m a bit of a wimp or sensible, you decide (I don’t like going out at night) and chose to have a quiet drink in the hotel instead.

I was stupidly excited about going to the beach! What was more exciting was that the weather was lush! After some people struggled to drag themselves out of bed, we made it. It was the first time I had taken Calvin to the beach since his dog attack, so I was wary about letting him off. Much to Calvin’s disappointment, I kept him on the long lead, as the beach was very busy and he had no Guide Dog friends to protect him. Calvin displayed his disapproval by digging holes in the sand that we took turns to fall in to. We had lunch at a tasty chip shop and went back to the beach in the afternoon. I left Calvin at the hotel for the afternoon session.

One of my new male friend’s amused me in the afternoon by purchasing a pink bucket with a pirate crab pictured on the front with a yellow spade to match. He then proceeded to try and build a sand castle on a slope, although to be quite honest, I’m not sure it would have been much better on a flat piece of sand! I thought I could do better, only when I tipped the bucket over to make the castle, the sand ended up more in a pile than a solid shape, fail! The remainder of the afternoon’s entertainment slash panic was provided by another friend who is totally blind and was left to fend for himself in the sea! When you go away with other visually impaired people, you really have to trust in each other! Around half an hour later, after I had had several heart attacks with worry, said friend casually emerged out of the sea and wondered towards us, oblivious to the frenzy that he had caused. He had gone for a long paddle, none of us could see him and feared he was lost at sea!

That evening I did venture out since we had a set destination in mind, a local bar. One thing that has to be said for Teignmouth as a town, they are just as VI aware as the hotel. People seriously go above and beyond to help you out, which makes everything that much more enjoyable. So a pleasant evening was had.

A relaxing morning was spent on the beach, (Calvin got to have a free run with Edey) followed by most consuming more chips. I was saving myself for afternoon tea that has to be done when you’re in Devon! We caught the bus to Dawlish, a nearby town and found a tea room. I did have my sights set on cheese scones, only they had run out so I had to settle for sweet ones. I won’t moan, as they were pretty scrummy. I donated my tea after hearing how inviting the hot chocolate was, it came with cream, a flake and marshmallow. So naturally, I had to have one, it was worth it!

On the last night some went to Spray Point, I can’t remember what is special about that place, as I didn’t go, whilst a few of us tortured ourselves listening to the karaoke. None of us participated, just judged. After we got our hearing back, we played a few party games to pass the time, which worked well until the others returned.

Everybody went swimming, except for me. This is because I met up with Calvin’s puppy walkers who live nearby. I met up with them the last time I was in Teignmouth too, a few years before. Calvin recognised them, which is lovely for them and filled me with pride, well, I was just pleased he didn’t show me up and make out that they were complete strangers! Calvin had an epic run on the beach and splash in the sea, which tired him out nicely for the train journey home.

Overall, it was a great few days to unwind, chill out and have some laughs with some fun and funny people. One of the guy’s I met helps run a radio station called Dodge Radio. I like their slogan on their website, which says ‘dodge the world, enjoy the music’! I am a bad friend and haven’t yet taken a listen, I’m assured they play a wide variety to suit all though, just click here to take a listen.

Monday, 5 August 2013

First Class

I started my degree with The Open University when I was 21, the year most of my friends graduated. It took me 4 years to complete a BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature. Despite being late to the party, I am glad that I did it. I never expected to actually get a First Class degree! I don’t know if it sounds boastful of me to say, but I feel like I deserve the grade. I have always been regarded as an intelligent individual, but cleverness has never come naturally to me. My ethos with anything is to continuously work hard and you will be rewarded in the long term. Ok, enough with my attempt to be modest since I am clearly failing. I am amazing! I don’t usually play on my disability however, on this occasion I am not ashamed to say to achieve a First as a non-disabled person is excellent, but to achieve one after gradually losing your sight is simply exceptional! I am so so so proud of myself!

EA300 Children’s Literature module results:
TMA 01 – 75%
TMA 02 – 82%
TMA 03 – 85%
TMA 04 – 85%
TMA 05 – 85%
TMA 06 – 80%
OCAs – 82%
EMA – 86%
Overall – Distinction
Degree Classification – First Class Honours BA (Hons) English Language and Literature

My graduation is on 20 September in London!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dog Attack

Since having Calvin, I have heard a lot about Guide Dogs getting attacked and know that lots of work is being done to try and change the law, so that dog owners are prosecuted for not controlling their pets. However, in the nearly four years I have had Calvin, I never really expected him to be a victim with his bolshie attitude. How wrong was I!

Last Friday, we went down to Dorset, as on Saturday it was my birthday and I have dreamed of going to Monkey World for years. I love monkeys! Recently, the weather has been amazing and therefore it seemed logical to spend some time on the beach. Naturally, Calvin was beside himself with excitement as soon as he smelt the sea air. He was puppy walked in Devon and so spent a lot of the time free running by the sea.

Conveniently, our hotel appeared to be across the road from the dog section of the beach. So we let Calvin off the lead, as we followed the ramps down to the shore. When we got on the beach, Calvin clocked the sea and went bounding towards it. Another dog was playing in the sea with its owner, nowhere near where Calvin was heading. For no apparent reason whatsoever, the dog aggressively pinned Calvin down on the sand before he could make it to the water and attacked. The owner was fairly swift to restrain his dog, but Calvin came limping over with a heart breaking cry. Calvin didn’t even try to fight back.

The beach was packed and therefore herds of people came over to check if Calvin was ok. The owner of the dog also came to check, only after the initial shock Calvin seemed fine with no visible injuries. Much to Calvin’s dismay, thereafter I kept him on the lead. I hate going in the sea, but went in with him so he could have a little paddle. It must have been around twenty minutes later, my mum noticed that Calvin was bleeding on his back.

We asked the lifeguard, some people from the council and other dog owners if they knew where the nearest vets were. Nobody was helpful. I called Guide Dogs to see what I should do, thankfully, it was just before five. I was told to report it to the police who would have details of the nearest vets. The police gave me an incident number, but had no details for the vets. So I had to call the dog warden for the area who gave me the number for the emergency vets that was no use because it didn’t open until seven. I eventually text a friend and got a number that was constantly engaged, luckily we found the practice in the yellow pages and drove there instead.

It was nearing seven by the time Calvin actually got seen. The vet took him away to shave around the wound and to see if it needed stapling. When I got him back, it turned out he had two bite wounds that the vet decided not to staple and said would heal itself. Calvin was given an antibiotic injection along with a pain killer jab and antibiotic tablets for six days. Due to the positioning of the wounds, I am unable to work him, as the harness would touch the affected area.

This meant on Saturday, I had Calvin on the lead and had to be guided around Monkey World. I did not expect Calvin to freak at the sight of monkeys. He was crying and jumping all over me when we reached the gibbon enclosure. I thought it was going to be an extremely long day! We went to one of the chimp enclosures next. Turns out, that chimps aren’t too keen on dogs either. They began banging on the windows, which made Calvin and some kids cry. We moved swiftly away, only we had to pass the outside enclosure before we were clear of them. Without warning, I felt bullets being fired at us! Several of the chimps had trooped together and were picking gravel up from the floor and sling shotting it at us through the fencing! They have powerful shots let me tell you! Calvin began to growl and bark as we hot footed it away! Poor Calvin wasn’t having a great weekend!

Apparently, once you have been attacked by chimps, no other monkey can faze you! Afterwards Calvin was eager to visit all of the other types of monkeys who were intrigued to see him too. Everywhere we went, the monkeys would appear and follow Calvin as we walked along. To be fair none of the other apes felt inclined to throw stones!

So, I had an eventful birthday, not exactly how I planned. Calvin is ok within himself, but it is frustrating that I can’t work him for a while.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Live Shows

Back in May I went to see The Big Reunion Tour at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham with some friends. We were transported back to the nineties and early noughties, which in a nutshell was epic! Atomic Kitten, B*Witched, The Honeys, Liberty X, 911, 5ive and Blue all provided hit after hit that kept us dancing, singing and reminiscing all night! When I was younger, I saw Blue three times in concert, my friend and I had a slightly unhealthy obsession with Duncan Matthew James! Thinking about it, I don’t think I have actually grown out of that and would definitely consider seeing Blue again, as whilst all of the bands were amazing, Blue took the roof off in my opinion! I have however, booked to see 5ive tour on their own, which I am certain will be another great night.

It felt like an age since I had been to the theatre, Christmas time in fact when I saw Grease. So although I hadn’t heard of the musical Dreamboats and Petticoats, I was eager to see it. The show was jam packed with apparent hits from the sixties, only other than ‘Let’s Twist Again’ I’m ashamed to say I didn’t recognise any! It was quite a generic love story, the humour seemed amateur at times, but if you view it light heartedly, it was an alright show. There must have been some pop star that was big back in the day, as lots of old women got very excited when I can only assume he started performing his old hits!

I attended my first festival! Admittedly, I didn’t do the whole camping thing and only went for one day, but everyone has to start somewhere! My friends are in a band called The Last Train Home and after entering a competition for unsigned artists made it through to the final meaning they had the chance to perform in the Rhythm Tent at the Godiva Festival in Coventry. I had heard some of their music on Sound Cloud in the past, yet had never seen them play live. I can honestly say I was more than impressed! They write their own material, play their own instruments and have amazing vocals too (oh and they are both blind as well). It’s so lovely having such talented friends and I have pre-booked them to play at my non-existent wedding in the distant future, although there is some dispute over fees! Surely their wedding present to me should be that they play for free!

On a serious note, if you are interested in checking out The Last Train Home and their music (I highly recommend it) just click here to go to their Sound Cloud page.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


How has it been 3weeks already since I got back from Tunisia?! I went with my family to the 5star Amir Palace Hotel for a week from 5-12 June.

I say 5 star, only I have certainly stayed in better 5 star hotels. Upon arrival we had no porter to help us with our luggage to go to our rooms, I guess this saved us money on a tip! We had 2 rooms as usual and we walked into one to find a wardrobe door hanging off and the other was not made up. So a complaint was made and we were upgraded to rooms with a sea view. I had to giggle to myself inside when the guy who changed our room for us strode over to open the balcony door and asked if I agreed with him about the view being beautiful! I’m sure it was, so nodded enthusiastically and declared ‘wow yes its lovely’!

As with any hotel, you do find that the food gets repetitive. Breakfast was ok most of the time, I love the various pastries you get on holiday and the turkey sausages became a firm favourite. Apparently a firm favourite with most of the guests, as it was a battle against the Russians every meal time for food! I think only the British queue. This would have gotten you nowhere in Amir Palace, as if you didn’t grab the food first, it was often found that they didn’t replenish it. Meat in sauce with rice was the meal of choice or rather lack of choice every lunchtime and evening! I went wild on some days and swapped rice for pasta! One positive aspect about the food was the good quality chocolate ice-cream available in the evenings, although again, you had to be quick to get it. I found it quite strange that they gave you a square spoon to eat the ice-cream, funnily enough, eating it was a challenge! I really don’t know what use a square spoon could have in any situation! Oh and once you had the food on your table, if you blinked for a second, a waiter may have swiped it from under your nose assuming you were finished despite your plate being full! It was crazy the amount of times this happened to guests!

One thing I can’t complain about was the weather. It was hot everyday. You couldn’t really feel the heat either so didn’t have to sit in a pool of sweat as there was a constant breeze, well gale force wind at times, but mostly just a light wind! My family and I got into a bit of a routine. Each morning was spent with my parents playing tennis on the cracked hard court, stopping now and then to fix the net that kept collapsing if the ball hit it too forcefully. Whilst they were busy with that, I did a circuits session on the side of the court, convinced I could tease my six pack into showing its face (I have been trying to get a six pack for months), only my stomach still refuses to show any definition. My brother was content with sunbathing. The afternoons were spent by the pool or the beach where I listened/read my audio/Braille books. It was absolute bliss. We did venture out of the hotel twice to the neighbouring towns. Nothing was really bought though, as we were bombarded by the locals to ‘looky looky’ ‘no hassle’ (only we are clearly hassling you) and being told they had ‘Asda price’.

Despite the flaws of the hotel, which just added entertainment to the trip more than anything, I had a really nice break. It is a shame that we are not having much of a summer here, as I long to just sit in the garden and relax since I currently have no uni stress. Thankfully, it is not long until I’m away again though, as I am going to Egypt on a Nile cruise with Victa at the beginning of October. Bring on the sunshine!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Racing to the Top

I am finally getting around to updating this blog, after I finished uni last week.

8 May – Lee Valley
Unfortunately, the wind was gusting and so meant both of my 100m races were illegal. Illegal in that whilst they appear on The Power of 10 (official results website), the times are not eligible for official PBs, qualification standards or world rankings. I ran satisfying times of 14.14 and 14.16, even more satisfying because my guide runner arrived stupidly late, literally as I was walking to the start line, meaning I was unable to warm up properly. So I knew if I had had the opportunity to prepare, the results would have been even more pleasing.

18 May – Chelmsford
For some reason nobody was at the competition! There was only one other person in my race, which was a little frustrating, although on the bright side the weather conditions were great. I was then stunned and disgusted to discover the clock stopped at 14.97. There was once appoint in my athletics career that I would have been over joyed by this result, only I know in training, I physically don’t run that slowly anymore. Everybody else’s times seemed suspiciously slow too, so I can only conclude that the electronic timing system was broken.

26 May – Leicester
After Chelmsford I came down with a cold, of course the same week my final uni assignment was due, just to make the experience that little bit more traumatic! So prior to racing at my home track in Leicester, I hadn’t trained all week, but I did have the relief of finishing my degree. I was running with mainstream athletes meaning I was in a very fast race and let myself down, as I forgot about my usual strategy and tried to turn my legs over as fast as possible instead, a fatal move! I was somewhat surprised to find I had managed to run a legal PB of 14.29 into a head wind. I knew there was still more in the tank.

1 June – Bedford
On Wednesday my guide runner injured himself. He hoped he would be ok to race yesterday, but turns out it was more serious than first hoped. On Thursday, I trained with my coach as my guide runner, he is an ex international guide runner, so has some experience at least. I have run with him in training the odd time before and usually hate it, yet on Thursday we seemed to get the rhythm going, making him my backup plan for the weekend. Going into yesterday’s race, I honestly had no expectations. Our first 100m felt awful! I drifted away from him, our synchronisation was never synchronised and this made trying to execute the race way more difficult than it should have been. However, something must have gone right, as I smashed my PB with 14.06. This gave me confidence going into the next race and meant we were drawn in the quicker heat giving strong competition. The execution and synchronisation was a million times better the second time around, but before I could celebrate that fact, I had face planted the track! The officials had clumsily left cones just after the finish line in my lane, so whilst I was slowing down I crashed into them and went flying. There was no chance of my guide runner saving me, as he has to pull back before the finish line to ensure I cross first. My knee swelled up quite dramatically and is currently playing host to a giant bruise. Bending my knee and walking is painful. Nevertheless, I can forgive this since I ran 13.93!

13.93! The first time I have broken the 14sec barrier! The second A standard in one day for the World Champs! And excitingly takes me top of the British and European rankings for the first time ever!

Whilst I am now injured, it isn’t too significant as I am going on holiday on Wednesday, so a break from training was already planned. Hopefully when I get back, both me and my guide will be back to full fitness and I look forward to trying to remain consistent for the remainder of the season. It just goes to show hard work does truly pay off though!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Short and Sweet Story

Just stumbled across more of my creative writing for uni that I thought I would share. I think it is pretty evident that I live with my head in the clouds and certainly do read too much chick lit and watch too many chick flicks! I think I wrote this back in 2010! It’s pure cheese!

Sweet Nothings

Dear James

I don’t know where to start. I’m writing this letter because it’s easier to put down in words how I really feel. I know you say I can always tell you anything, but this way you’ll have to listen to me from beginning to end without interrupting me, sweet talking me and moving on to another subject without actually helping me with what my original problem was. I know you don’t mean to do that and you think everything is ok after we’ve talked, but most of the time it’s not.

I love you. Maybe I should have started the letter with that, but honestly I do love you and the past three and a half years have been good. Now, you’re probably thinking if they have been good, why on earth have I run away.

Please don’t be angry with me. I was just in our bedroom sorting out clothes for the wash. I saw you had a pile of worn clothes you hadn’t put away, so I went to check they were all clean. Most of the clothes stunk of smoke. I expect from Rich’s house, when will that man pack the cigarettes in! Anyway, I went to empty the pockets of your navy blue jacket, the one with the massive hole in the lining from when the dog decided to drag it off the radiator and, well, I found something.

It’s beautiful! I had no idea you were thinking of...! We’ve never really discussed it. I don’t know when you were thinking of, you know...but...I don’t think I can. Sorry. I love you, I do, I just never thought I would be in a relationship like ours.

We are good together, rarely argue, have a laugh, but you’re more like my best friend and not prince in shining armour. Do you understand? We enjoy each other’s company, yet there is no spark anymore. I really am so sorry.

I feel like I’m being too vague and I bet you are confused and hurt right now. I’ll try and explain properly. When I was a teenager, I always thought I would marry someone who was tall, dark and handsome. Yes, I know that’s a typical teenage view and you scored one out of three at least (handsome, with your powder blue eyes and that smile that gives you dimples to die for!). I suppose there is nothing wrong with being five foot eight, although I do feel silly when I wear heels, and I think the whole dark thing is neither here nor there. I mean you can’t help turning into a lobster after five minutes in the sun!

But seriously, I don’t think you show me much affection these days. I look at other couples and sigh, as he goes to wipe something off of her face, they walk down the street hand in hand or you hear him saying how beautiful she is. Maybe I watch too many chick flicks and read too much romantic fiction, but there are just so many little things I wish we shared.

It would be great to get a sweet text now and then, just to say “I love you”, instead of you’ll be home late from work, or to cuddle up at night instead of you complaining how hot you are and rolling over; to go for a stroll on the beach without needing to be anywhere other than with each other; to be surprised once in a while with flowers; to take the dog for a walk together; to have a song; to share a slow dance. Just to be that couple that other people look at and wish they were like us.

Am I being silly? I want you, but I want all of the little things too. Oh I’m so confused .

I’ll be at my Mum’s.

All my love

Tess x

The reader of the letter folded it in four, let out a deep sigh, ran their fingers through their thick blonde hair and flopped back in the sofa. It was fast approaching night fall and the wind whistled, howled and whined down the chimney on what was an unusually cold day in July. James Mansell was twenty-six years old and ran his own web designing business with his best friend from school, Richard Wise. Since it was just the two of them, he often worked late to meet deadlines and keep his clients happy. Today was no exception, and to avoid having to go in over the weekend, he hadn’t left the office until 8pm. When he got home he was looking forward to ordering a takeaway and settling down for an early night after a hectic week. So, when he arrived home to a blacked out house, Tess’s car not in the drive, the dog barking madly and an envelope stuck to the fridge door with his name on it, he was bewildered.
He read the letter over and over again, trying to comprehend every single word before giving up and admitting defeat. He never realised that they had relationship problems. Tess said [for] herself they were like best friends! And as for the ring, how on earth was he going to explain that it wasn’t for her. He sniggered to himself that it was a good job she wasn’t ready for marriage, as he wasn’t either, but his smile soon turned sour when he realised he might have lost her forever.
James’s stomach growled fiercely, which caused him to glance at the clock on the wall. It was just after midnight [already]. He had been lost in thought for hours, trying to figure out how to resolve this mess. He concluded that it was far too late to call Tess now, so grabbed a microwave meal before heading to bed. He couldn’t sleep well, tossing and turning and wishing that the empty space next to him was filled by his gorgeous, curvy, soft-skinned “Tessy Bear”.
The sunlight peeped through a gap in the curtain about 6am and James decided to get up and get dressed. He pulled out a crisp white shirt, a blue tie that matched his eyes, a blazer and smart trousers. He scarcely dressed this smartly even for work. After waking up it took him a while to shake off his tiredness, but once he had showered he picked up speed and raced to get out of the door.
The silver BMW of James Mansell screeched down the road heading at rapid speed towards the town. An hour or so later it was seen surging in the direction of Honeycone Beach. At approximately 8.30am Tess Thompson’s mobile began to ring.
‘Hello?’ she said in a sleepy tone.
‘Tessy, listen, I don’t want to get married either!’ came the voice of James in a rushed, happy tone.
‘James? But...’ said Tess.
‘Ssssh, I was looking after the ring for Rich, he didn’t want me to tell anyone he was going to propose to Wendy. Forget about that anyway, meet me by the flags at Honeycone Beach in 10 minutes.’
‘James...what’s going on? I don’t want that stroll now!’ Tess said in more of an alert, but confused tone.
‘Never mind that, just meet me.’ James hung up the phone laughing.

Tess was left holding the phone to her ear, feeling baffled and unsure . He had obviously received her letter, but why did she need to go to the beach so urgently and why did he sound so cheerful. She paused and then thought about the ring. She smacked her hand to her mouth in shock, as it registered that she wasn’t going to be proposed to. Feeling slightly angry, but still bewildered, she made her way to Honey Cone Beach to meet James.

James waited nervously, checking his watch constantly and shuffled from one foot to the other. The wind was still strong and the waves crashed against the sand violently. The flags of every colour of the rainbow also rattled vigorously above his head. Twenty-five minutes had passed since the phone call and there was still no sign of Tess. James rubbed his eyes wearily and thought he would give it five more minutes .
Just when James was about to call it a day, a distant figure emerged at the top of the steps leading down to the beach. The figure paused, scanning the scene, before proceeding to jog down the steps. James watched the figure growing bigger, clearer and more beautiful with every stride. A broad smile filled his face, as he began striding towards his lover. He swept her off of her feet and spun her around, as she squealed with delight and the wind made her long brown hair wisp all over her face. James delicately placed Tess on a blanket, presented her with a single red rose, popped open a bottle of champagne and whispered in her ear.
‘I love you, Miss Thompson’. Tess giggled like a child and before she could respond, James leaned forward and gave her a kiss that took the words right out of her mouth.

Word Count: 1517

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

2013 Athletics Season - On Your Marks, Set, Gooooooooooooo

They say 13 is unlucky for some and for someone who has an aversion to odd numbers, I would tend to agree. However, in 2013 I am hoping that 13 defies its superstition and proves to be a magical number after all. My athletics target for this year is not to go to the IPC World Championships or qualify for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, although both would be amazing, my aim is to simply run 100m in 13 point something seconds.

I am an athlete who at the end of the 2012 season managed to gain a legal PB of 14.61. Sceptics would say to knock over half a second off of your time is a tall order in sprinting terms, only they don’t know about the training I have been putting in. This has been the first year ever where I have had an uninterrupted winter with the same guide runner. I made the difficult decision to leave my training group in the summer, in order to get one to one coaching. This can be very isolating and heavy going at times, with your every step being analysed. I also discovered the trauma of throwing up during training sessions, where you push your body to the limit and beyond. I am not saying I have trained to my maximum yet, but if I fail to achieve my single goal this year, then I think I would begin to question my entire athletics ambitions. Only I know I won’t need to worry about doing that, I am that confident!

I am not set up to race yet, my gym sessions haven’t changed and I have only done a handful of block sessions. Nevertheless, I got itchy feet after seeing most people began their season in the first week of April. I decided I had nothing to lose and chose to run at my local open at the last minute. This was on Sunday and the day was full of drama.

I realised on the way to the track that I had forgotten my blocks, a bad start, but not too disastrous, as most meets supply a limited amount. Then I got a text from my guide runner saying he was going to be late, as an accident on the motorway meant the motorway had been closed, but he would get there as soon as he could. There was some redemption when I went to register, finding out that the 100m races were actually starting half an hour later than I thought. My guide arrived, we had a slow long warm-up, somehow misjudging the time however and not getting the chance to do a few block starts before they started to announce the races. Usually, at this open meet, I find myself in one of the first five heats running with the little kids, as races are graded on personal best performances. This time I wasn’t. This was no big deal, just made me think that lots of new people had taken up athletics, as a result of London 2012. Races six, seven and eight past and still my number hadn’t been called. We knew there was a problem at this point, as in the eighth race, the T11 British and European number one, my biggest rival had for whatever reason decided to come down to my local open, even though she lives nowhere near me and of course she is faster than me, so I should have been in an earlier race. My guide questions the announcer, my number isn’t on the list. He goes up to registration and it turns out that even though my number was 270, they had written it as 210 on the start list and I should have been in heat seven. It further turned out that three others from my old training group had been missed out too, so they put on an extra race for us.

During all of this, I was trying to stay as calm as possible. Before a race you have the opportunity to test out your blocks and I chuckled to myself inside, as I nearly face planted the track when I was trying mine out. I thought today is what it is, I have nothing to lose, lots of things are going wrong, but what can you do. Being in lanes one and two, I knew I would be able to hear where people were in the race, as my guide runs on my left, so everyone was to my right.

I got a poor start, I knew this would happen though, as it had been happening in training, so I knew what to do. I got up to speed as fast as I could, focussing on trying to overtake my guide, which is actually impossible, as he is much faster than me, but helps me to accelerate. My body felt so tight and I knew I wasn’t striding out effectively and yet I could also feel that it was a close race, so did not dare to adjust my running style. I made the best of what I was doing at the time. I crossed the line in second place and beat athletes who had better PBs than me, which I knew instantly was a positive result. My guide raced me to the line, knowing he had to pull back, but left it late as possible in order to get the best time out of me. The track official strode over, warned that it was close, but I did just cross the line first.

It was a bit of a shock then when I went to get my result and it said disqualified next to my number! I forgot things weren’t going my way that day! I went into to see the photo finish official who highlighted that my guide crossed the line first by 0.02secs ahead of me. He was able to tell me my time though, which was 14.22 with an illegal following wind of 4.3, so despite it being a PB it can’t really count for anything. I relayed how the track judge said it was ok, but accepted the disqualification. A little while later, I went back in and asked if they could verify the result anyway since the first official said it was fine and it turned out that they had already undisqualified me because of that reason! So my result stands!

To my further amazement, I found out that the British and European No.1 had also run 14.22 only she had a legal wind, so her result is effectively better than mine. Nevertheless, to run exactly the same time as her on our first race out, at the same track, within a few minutes of each other is some major achievement for me. Things are looking good! I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.

My favourite song at the moment is On My Way by Charlie Brown. Listen to the lyrics!

Might not be on top of the world, but hey, I’m on my way...

Monday, 15 April 2013

A Poetic View

I have just remembered that I never posted the poetry I submitted as part of my final assessment for my Creative Writing module with the OU last year. I scored dreadfully, I have no idea why because personally I believe they aren’t too bad! They are about being visually impaired, the first takes a light-hearted approach, whilst the second portrays the darker side of being blind. Enjoy!

Mind’s Eye

I’d love to see your face again -
Your spots and wrinkles too,
To handwrite with a pen,
Or draw an entire zoo.

I think I would find it strange,
Taking in all the views,
I wonder if everything’s changed?
I really don’t have a clue!

Oh it would be nice to sit in bed,
And read a paperback book,
The Braille ones are as heavy as lead,
And where to store them, I’m stuck!

In my world everything speaks,
I’ve got gadgets and gizmos galore,
So being blind isn’t that bleak,
Honest, the deals not that raw.

I don’t have to see the gory things,
Like spiders, blood and sick,
There’s no pressure for me to spread my wings,
Or do anything real quick.

It would be amazing to see once more,
Even just for a day,
But I appreciate having seen before,
And I’m happy either way!

Line Count: 24


Placed in the corner of a room,
They always think I need to be sitting down,
It’s my eyes that don’t work,
Not my legs I rage inside!

They all break into epic laughter,
At what I have no idea,
Invisible in the corner,
Unable to share in the joy.

I want to get up and go,
Go home or mix in the crowd,
But I’m too scared to move from the corner,
Because I can’t see what’s around.

The music begins to boom,
My ears are now blinded too,
Feeling more trapped in the corner,
I long for a knight in shining armour.

A muffled voice calls my name,
Relief, as I’m not forgotten after all,
I start a conversation,
But it turns out I’m just talking to the corner.

Line Count: 20
Total Line Count: 44

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Victa Weekend No.2

Last week I was at another Victa weekend and had another great time. I didn’t arrive until the Saturday morning, as I saw One Direction live in concert the night before. This meant I missed rock climbing, which I love to do, but at least it wasn’t an activity I haven’t tried before.

I was a bit gutted that as soon as I arrived I found myself on wash up duty, when I hadn’t even eaten the breakfast! Talk about bad timing! The first activity of the day was cup cake making and we had to work with someone we hadn’t met before, which wasn’t many people for me. I’m not really the baking type, but everyone loves to eat the raw cake mixture right?! Anyway, somehow me and my partner won the great Victa bake off and got £25 worth of iTunes vouchers each. This is lovely, only I don’t own an iPod, ipad, ifone or any Apple product, as they are way too techy for me!

I can only describe the weather as blizzard conditions, as we trudged out in the snow for aqua zorbing. I was quite excited about this activity, although scared at the same time. You are stuffed into an inflatable ball and pushed onto a lake where the aim is to try and stay on your feet and run around like a hamster! I didn’t really stay on my feet and had images of the ball bursting at any second with Calvin desperate to pounce on it, but it was good fun. A very strange feeling.

The evening was spent at the pub where we had a poor tasting meal in my opinion, but lots of laughs were had. When we got back to the centre, I pushed the boat out and stayed up until 2.30am. Usually I’m in bed at 10pm at home, call me a light weight or boring, I don’t mind!

Sunday was meant to be spent tandem cycling and white water tubing, but the snowy conditions meant they got cancelled. Instead we went to the Snowdome and did sledging on tea trays! I crashed a few times, rolled off a few times and got stuck halfway down the hill on occasion (I think from being too light), but this all contributed to the enjoyment.

The final night was spent doing awful karaoke and I was in bed by 11, as I fell asleep in the living room! Late nights and me just don’t mix.

Overall, it was nice to see people I had met previously, meet new lovely people and try activities I hadn’t done before. The atmosphere always has a relaxed edge, which makes the weekend even better. I’m running out of superlatives, you get my drift!

Fun fun fun!

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Olly and One D

Last month I went to see Olly Murs at the Capital FM Arena in Nottingham. There’s something about Olly when you see him on TV that says he’s a nice guy, but to be honest I didn’t have very high expectations of his concert prior to going. His current album is good, although not amazing and when you are a solo artist, it is much more difficult to command the stage. I like his music though, so thought I would give him a try.

To my pleasant surprise, I really enjoyed his show! He came across as a very genuine, down to earth, cheeky chappy. You could tell he was loving performing. Olly not only sang and dance, but played instruments too. I was very impressed and entertained throughout.

Last Friday, I saw another X Factor act, One Direction. I am fully aware of the fact that I am far too old to like the band, as everyone who knows me teases me for liking them, but their music is amazing! There are not many albums you get where you actually appreciate every song. I’m not going to lie, I was stupidly excited about seeing them at Birmingham’s LG Arena.

I am a bit of a concert veteran now, so thought I knew what to expect. However, nothing could have prepared me for the One Direction fans, who I can only describe as mental teenagers! Gigs are usually loud, but these girls took the word loud to a whole new level! The band weren’t even on stage and the fans were going wild at every music video played, even the adverts! I don’t know if it’s because I am at the ancient age of 24, but I was quickly finding the fans irritating and hoped they wouldn’t just scream through the whole concert, as I genuinely wanted to listen to the boys sing!

When One D came on stage, I was immediately disappointed. They must have turned the sound up to its maximum to account for the loony fans, which meant the vocals were drowned out and you couldn’t really understand what they were singing. The sound was better on the ballads, but every upbeat song was muffled. When the boys went to get changed they played a video and I have no idea what it was about, as the crowd just screamed all the way through it. I guess One D didn’t particularly need to interact with the audience with them going insane at everything, but I wish they had managed to say more than ‘Birmingham’ ‘we love you Birmingham’.

My conclusion was that the boys need a break and the fans need their heads’ testing! I can’t imagine what it must be like for them having to deal with those crazy girls 24/7. Sort of feel sorry for them! I thought I would love their concert, only I don’t think I’ll be rushing back until their fans grow up. Still love their music of course.

I’m next seeing The Big Reunion Tour in May. At least the fans there should be my age, I am so excited about being able to re-live my youth!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Action Weekend

On Friday 8 March to Monday 11 March I went on an 18-25year old weekend with Action for the Blind. We stayed at the Windermere Manor Hotel in the Lake District and despite the arctic conditions, I had a great time.

The event was heavily subsidised by The Big Lottery fund, meaning for accommodation, food, activities and travel (they paid for my train ticket), I only had to pay a nominal £50.

I had never been away with Action before, so as with anything new I was a little unsure of what to expect, but prior to the weekend some of my anxieties were silenced, as they sent out countless emails. They also set up a Face Book group giving participants the opportunity to get to know each other before the event, which was a good idea, only I think everyone found it a bit socially awkward trying to interact with strangers! Personally, I was making judgements about people in my head, eyeing up who I thought I would like and who I wouldn’t!

After sprinting through New Street with Calvin and the assistance guy to catch my ‘impossible’ connection, which I caught with a good minute to spare, I had quite a relaxing train journey up north. On arrival at Windermere several of us were on the same train and were promptly met by Action staff and escorted to the hotel.

Once everyone had arrived, brief introductions were made and one thing I learnt was that the staff made it very clear that they wanted everyone to be as independent as possible in order to gain the confidence to re-visit the hotel at a later date unsupervised. I am not sure why this panicked me, I am fairly independent and have been away with visually impaired friends to unfamiliar places loads of times, but something in those words caused me to secretly stress inside. We were split into small groups for a mobility session and I prayed Calvin was paying attention because the hotel felt like a rabbit warren to me! I had no intention of revealing this to anyone though, as nobody else was openly fretting!

Before dinner we had the chance to go swimming in the hotel pool. Some children were having swimming lessons at the time, so we were restricted to a small section and to my amusement we all just kept swimming into each other! A couple of us used the sauna afterwards where we met Mr Romania (one of the waiter’s at the hotel) who would become a somewhat strange, yet comical addition to the weekend.

After dinner, a quiz and bingo were organised in the bar. Somehow we ended up having a girl’s only team and named ourselves ‘The Ladies of the Manor’. I love a good quiz, well anything competitive really and was certain we were going to win...but we didn’t. Brushing that to aside, bingo was up next. I had never played Braille bingo before and embarrassingly spent the first game asking for help, as I couldn’t read my numbers not realising that I had the card the wrong way around! I had my card the correct way around for the subsequent games, not that it made any difference, as I didn’t win anyway.

Feeling slightly disgruntled at my losing ways (I am a sore loser), I went to spend Calvin in the designated spending pen before bed. As I opened the gate to put him back on the lead, he legged it! I must have been calling his name for what felt like an eternity, yet there was no sign of him. I had flashes of him being run over in my head and was ready to crumple to the floor when he casually comes sprinting back after his adventure. I think the hotel is well enclosed, but I didn’t know this at the time. Once I got back to my room (which thankfully I didn’t have to share), I am not ashamed to say I sat on my bed and allowed a few tears to roll down my cheeks, wishing I had never come on the weekend and longed to go home. It is one thing to look after yourself and another to look after a loon of a dog too!

At home the first thing I do every morning is spend Calvin. I was tempted to make him cross his paws until I could go to the pen with the other Guide Dog owner at breakfast time, but felt guilty, so ventured out in my pjs. I am not sure if Calvin had developed amnesia over night, but we spent ages trying to find our way out of the hotel. He kept taking me to people’s bedroom doors instead of the doors to get to the stairs and then outside. Being unfamiliar with the layout myself, I did feel a bit helpless. I am not sure when or how, but a set of stairs appeared through a doorway and I thought we were sorted. However, in my half asleep state we reached a door to go outside, which I don’t believe was the same door we used to walk to the pen. I had no idea where we were, I hit a railing and noticed that there were bushes behind it, so I told Calvin to just do his busy in the bushes whilst I kept him on the lead! I think this makes me a bad person, I was relieved I didn’t have to worry about losing him though!

That morning the weather was beyond grim and we were given the choice of either doing canoeing or rock climbing indoors. I got out voted, so canoeing it was. I think I enjoyed it on reflection, I definitely didn’t feel like I was having fun at the time with my hands and feet feeling like they were ready to drop off at any point! The weather didn’t bother Calvin who I heard caused a suitable amount of mayhem, I expected no less! Apparently he went for a splash in the lake, escaped into a field of horses and point blank refused to be put back on his lead when he was having a blast.

The afternoon was spent doing workshops on funding, campaigning and education. When I applied for the weekend I thought it was going to be all social, so was surprised by the timetabled workshops. Nevertheless, it was interesting to hear other people’s experiences that we perhaps wouldn’t have spoken about otherwise.

In the evening we went to a Chinese restaurant and went to the pub afterwards where half the group stayed for the remainder of the night and the other half, including myself went back to the hotel bar. It was nice that the group split in two, as I had the opportunity to talk to others I hadn’t had the chance to before. I made sure someone came out with me that night to spend Calvin before bed, just to ensure I didn’t have to go through the previous night’s trauma! Of course it was fine this time though.

I had figured out that they close the doors late at night (3 sets between the stairs and my room) and leave them closed until a certain time in the morning, which I think may have baffled Calvin and me the day before. So now I had that all worked out, I had no problems navigating my way around the hotel and can stop boring you with that! The morning was spent doing a hand massage workshop and then we had a long workshop on ‘the wonderful world of work’. We had two options in the afternoon, to either go for a walk ‘on the wild side’ or stroll into town. I wasn’t really up for letting Calvin get muddy, so made the slightly selfish decision to go into town.

Although initially hard work to begin with, I really enjoyed working Calvin in a new place and especially on our way into town. You can’t beat the feeling of striding out down the street. Calvin and I stopped at every curb to wait for the others to catch up and see which way to go next. I wasn’t even walking at full speed with him and still we must have been walking four to five times faster than everyone else. We went into a little boutique shop, which had lots of inspirational quotes printed on various items to buy (I will put my favourite at the bottom of this post) and then collapsed in a cafe aptly named ‘Lazy Daisy’. I can only describe the hot chocolate I had as heavenly! It was regular hot chocolate with vanilla, cream, marshmallows and I even got a chocolate spoon to stir in and it melted away! I’m not sure if I appreciated it more because being a dedicated athlete and all that, I don’t really have chocolate these days or whether because it was so bitter outside, the hot drink was exactly what I needed. Either way, it was lush!

After dinner was disco and karaoke night. Personally, this was my favourite activity. By this time in the weekend we all knew each other much better, the conversation flowed more easily and we could generally have a good laugh. I was always going to do karaoke, but wanted a few people to go first. I ended up doing Barbie Girl with one of the male participants as my Ken, only I think he got stage fright or something, so it was more like a solo. If you fancy a giggle, one of the girl’s recorded it and posted it to Sound Cloud just click here.

We had a technology workshop in the morning, which confirmed my impatience of touch screens as we had the opportunity to try out different tablet devices. We were all on the same train home, getting off at various places to catch our respective connections. All in all it was a hectic, but enjoyable weekend where I met some genuinely lovely people.

Action for the Blind run various residentials throughout the year for different age groups. I would definitely recommend them if you are looking for a new experience or want to meet new people.

‘When it rains, look for rainbows and when it’s dark, look for stars’

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Last Leg

I am not usually the type of person who enjoys comedians on TV, as I find the humour forced and the gags scripted. However, The Last Leg on Friday nights’ has become essential TV watching!

It is presented by Australian disabled comedian, Adam Hills who is a single leg amputee. He is joined on the panel by disabled journalist Alex Brooker and fellow comedian Josh Widdicombe and together they review the news of the last seven days. The Last Leg originally began when the Paralympics were on last summer, but I only caught it the odd time, as I was much too focused on watching the actual sports.

I particularly like their #isitok feature where the public can tweet in some politically incorrect questions. If you don’t have a life and in on a Friday night like me, catch it on Channel 4 at 9.30pm. It is seriously funny!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Talking Freeview + Recorder

I thought I pretty much owned every talking product I needed to get by in life. Speech software for my computer, Talks on my mobile, talking scales, talking colour detector, talking alarm clock and of course my sat nav speaks too. However, only by chance did I hear that you can make your TV talk as well!

We have had a Freeview recorder for a good few years now and I guess it was a little frustrating not always knowing what was on TV and unable to play programmes when home alone, but I can’t say I was overly bothered. When our current system began failing, it just seemed logical to purchase the TV Onics talking Freeview + recorder.

Now we’ve had it for about a month, I wish I had gotten one sooner! It is actually great to know what’s on TV, set my own recordings, watch what I want when I want, have the ability to pause, fast forward and rewind TV knowing where I am in a show and best of all it was relatively simple to set up and is dead easy to use.

There is also a button on the remote control that allows you to turn on and off audio description. This is something I have always had an aversion to when I have briefly seen it in action, finding that it can give too much information and irritating that someone is talking over a programme. Nevertheless, I have been trialling it out on shows, such as Home and Away and Holby City, as well as the odd film and it’s growing on me. I am learning to laugh it off when it gives descriptions, such as ‘heavily tattooed Heath is doing such and such’, as I already know he has tattoos and the detailed information doesn’t really contribute to the plot. I suppose they are trying to help you build up a picture in your head of individual characters though. Audio description isn’t available on all programmes, but a surprising high amount seem to have it and you can know which ones have and haven’t from the shows synopsis.

No product is perfect and a couple of features that let this one down is that you can’t view your planned recordings in one go, the talking lady interrupts your programme to let you know when she’s starting to record a programme and more often than not it doesn’t just come on when you press the power button! Despite these minor issues, the benefits certainly outweigh the negatives.

The TV Onics talking Freeview + recorder can be purchased from RNIB, click here for more information.

Friday, 11 January 2013

The Year of 13

One thing I do love about blogging is being able to look back and appreciate all of the events that have happened. I often wonder if I am too honest on here, but if I sugar coated my life, I would only create false memories and an inaccurate account of real life to others. I always find myself embarrassed when people say they read this blog, the most unexpected people say they do, yet there’s something quite exciting about people taking the time to see how my life is progressing.

Well, despite not making the London 2012 Paralympics, which meant so much to me, I am still going to proclaim that it has been one of the most amazing years ever!

Competing in the Olympic stadium against the best athletes in the world has to be my highlight of the year by far! Then sitting in that same stadium for both the Olympics and Paralympics was just epic. Having the games here, in our country, is something that will never be forgotten.

Regarding my athletics ambitions, I have no intention of quitting just yet. I am more than satisfied seeing my name on the IPC World Rankings for 2012, stating that I am No.2 in Europe and No.21 in the World for the T11 100m and No.5 in Europe and No.21 in the World for the T11 200m.

I feel it is going to be an important year for me both academically and with regards to my athletics. I am finally going to graduate, which I am delighted about, but hope I achieve the degree classification that best echoes the hard work I have put in. Then with my athletics, I am not aiming for the World Championships in Lyon, as I am learning how the athletics system works (only athletes who are funded are most likely to be taken), but I have my own personal targets I want to achieve. To give you a bit of an insight, one will be to run the qualification standard for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealths, but that is as much as I am giving away right now. I mean I would hate to set myself up to fail...that’s not like me at all (winks)!

One thing I can tell you is that I have this terrible hunger to fulfil my dreams and you just know I am not going to stop until I no longer have to dream! Hell, I know loads of people think I am deluded, but it really doesn’t matter what others think, you can really do that cliché of doing anything you put your mind to.

A massive thank you to everyone who reads these ramblings and also to everyone who follows me on Twitter! May 2013 prove to be everything you hope for and more!