All posts by A5Paige

About A5Paige

I'm 20, from the South Coast of the UK, registered blind and just feel like rambling... An open university student working towards a BA Health and Social Care degree; loyal Liverpool FC fan; pretty lousy computer user. Follow me on Twitter @A5Paige or subscribe if you fancy being updated with my babbling

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 9

As promised, Jenny arrived at mine yesterday morning at our agreed time of 9:30 so that we could have our 9th My Guide session. although we usually stick to our once weekly session on a Thursday morning, this week that wouldn’t have been possible as I’m flying up to Newcastle to stay with Kieran and family for a fortnight from tonight onwards. kindly, Jenny offered to rearrange what would have otherwise been a missed session into happening two days earlier. that way, I only miss one session while I’m away.

I’m really grateful that Jenny did offer this as we had a great session – at least, we did after I got myself together! I almost left the house without my Trekker Breeze and once I’d quickly grabbed that, I almost walked away down the path without locking up the house… Safe to say those weren’t the brightest five minutes of my day! But once everything was done, we were on our way and things were going well. I remembered a lot of the first part of the route, getting from my house down onto the shore, a lot better than I have in previous weeks. I remembered where to turn, where to cross and mostly which direction I should be walking in. Once walking along the shore path, it becomes simple for quite a stretch: walk straight forward. Literally, that is all you have to do for quite a while. Next time I walk it, I’m going to time the part that is just a straight path. It makes up about 70% of the walk though. After the really long straight stretch, we then had Jenny’s least favourite part of the route: the little bit where on my left hand side there is about a two foot drop… Jenny worries that my cane might not find the edge before my feet do and to be fair it’s not totally impossible, especially with the angles I usually walk towards it. I’m not too fazed; I haven’t fallen off it and broken both my ankles yet. Although if I did slip off the edge, I’m sure that would be the painful result. After we’ve passed that little worrying patch, we’re onto crossing roads and actually getting into the shopping highstreet of Woolston. It doesn’t take a lot but there are a couple of busy crossings where I have to concentrate and be patient a lot. After that, it’s just the straight path of the highstreet and walking until I find the obstacle of Coffee Mac’s outdoor seating. It’s a good landmark, actually, to tell me I’ve reached our destination. On the way to that, though, today I walked into some scaffolding. There’s work being done to one of the shops near Coffee Mac’s so its unavoidable. Jenny had to guide me around it as one of the poles was diagonal and there was no way for my cane to find it before my face. A hazard of being a blind person I suppose. In Coffee Mac’s, because it was just so cold and because I felt things were going really well, I decided to branch out on my usual apple juice and accessorise it with a slice of banana loaf, my favourite type of cake. Plus, its got bananas in it, hasn’t it? Surely that makes it a little healthier! Right there I felt so cold that I didn’t care. I wanted cake so I was having cake. It was a good decision. The banana loaf was super tasty. They put nuts, I think walnut, in their recipe which adds a little extra flavour and texture to the cake. Usually, banana loaf is quite moist and a bit sloppy. The nuts added a bit of crunch and solidity to it. They were definitely a good addition to the banana loaf I’m used to. The slice was pretty generous, too, but I couldn’t help scoffing the lot. It was just so nice! I’m just a sucker for anything sweet.

The return journey went well. Jenny didn’t have to steer me around the scaffolding on the way back because my cane hit an upright pole so I was able to swerve out towards the curb to avoid it. The rest of the walk went well. I felt I mostly remembered turnings/crossings/the general direction well. There’s definitely improvement each week even if it is only gradual. Any is good. Route learning isn’t simple for me. I wish my brain could just remember a route after a couple of tries like some people I know. But it just doesn’t have the capability. A few years ago, I’d have said it was me being stubborn. I hated using my cane. Still do. But now I want to learn routes. I want to be able to get out and about to differing destinations so that I have a valid workload for a dog. Plus, its always better the more places you know to get to independently.

As we walked back towards Jenny’s least favourite part of the route, the ankle breaking drop, she had an idea to alter the route a little to make it safer. Instead of walking towards the drop. I go in a different direction and cross a road. This means I completely avoid the drop part altogether. One more crossing on a route where there are few doesn’t make much difference. The last section of the route went fine; the long straight stretch along the shore and then the few road crossings to my house. Most of the crossings and turnings at this point I remembered well too. When we reached my front gate, Jenny and I agreed to meet in two weeks from this Thursday once I’m home from Newcastle. I’m hopeful that although its in two weeks time, I’ll still remember most of the route quite well. We’ve been learning it a few weeks now so it shouldn’t all be lost on me. As of yet, I haven’t heard a whisper from Guide Dogs about the case review meeting. There’s of course the strong possibility that it hasn’t even happened yet. Hopefully, I’ll have heard something really soon. Things are going so well route learning that I’m hopeful the good news will continue from Guide Dogs too. But who knows? All I know is that I’m off to Newcastle for two weeks and don’t intend to think about routes for a second while I’m away.

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Mobility Update: My Guide Session 8

Since writing only 2 days ago, I’ve had some exciting news! As I said last time, Jenny contacted the leader of Southampton’s My Guide service to inquire whether the route we’re currently doing and the ones I plan to learn in the future would make me eligible for a guide dog. Ever since I very first applied for a guide dog all those years ago in 2011, their response has been that I don’t have enough routes and don’t go out enough independently to make up a workload for a dog. When I was a naive 14 year old, I thought this was ridiculous! I went to school every day, didn’t I? I could walk to the bus-stop and corner shop, too, if I wanted. And I’d even learnt how to get to my Nan and Grandad’s, then living in Woolston themselves, via a bus journey and some walking. Why on earth would they say I didn’t have enough routes or a big enough workload? I’d spent my whole six-week school summer holiday working with a mobility officer from Southampton’s sensory services, aided by a member of the Guide Dogs team. How could they say these things? In comparison, now I can see I was the ridiculous one. Yes, I did try really hard that summer and honestly, at the time, that was massive progress for me, a kid who didn’t leave the house unless I was attached to a parent. But it wasn’t nearly enough. I’m still yet to learn what is, but I’m much better prepared now, much closer to that target than I’ve ever been before. Anyway, the exciting news… so the leader of My Guide replied to Jenny’s request properly yesterday, to both of us. When a text message came through from her, I thought maybe it was just a little checkup on how Jenny and I are getting on. But she doesn’t need to check up. Jenny has given her full details on how we’re doing, my progress and my ambitions. She passed Jenny’s message onto several members of staff at Southampton’s Guide Dogs team, including the GDMI who assessed and crushed my world in October. They’ve agreed to take my case to the case review sometime next week to see if they can take my application for a guide dog forward. I couldn’t have hoped for anything anywhere near this good so soon into my work with the My Guide service. I predicted that perhaps I’d ask the leader of My Guide for some kind of review around my birthday or something. Not get one 8 weeks after I started working with Jenny. The case review meeting will take place sometime next week according to the leader of My Guide’s text. That’s really exciting! There could be plenty of outcomes of the review, but the main two options I think are either they’ll say I’m doing well but not yet far enough for them to be able to reconsider my application for a dog, or, they’ll say yes, I’ve done really well and they can reconsider my application now. If they reconsider my application and plan to move it forward, I’m guessing that means that they’ll consider putting me on the waiting list for a dog. But I could be wrong. Both my guide dog know-alls, Imi and Tiny, have both seemed quite positive about the text messages and the possible outcomes I could get. Imi, in fact, said she hopes I’m being positive now. I am. As soon as the My Guide leader text, i was imagining having a Guide Dog, being put on the list, having the yes answer… but perhaps I’ve got it all wrong. I guess I’ll find out next week.

As for today, Jenny had our 8th My Guide session, doing the new route for the third time, the second time me trying to learn it. I felt, considering everything, that it went really well. I feel like I’m picking it up really well to say its only the second proper time I’ve walked it myself. Jenny and I agreed that she’d have as little input as possible, just let me get on with it and only telling me if I’d gone the wrong way. Mostly I did well. Jenny only had to correct me a couple of times. It took about an hour to get there. As always, we stopped off in Coffee Mac’s for our little break, me having my apple juice and Jenny her coffee. She’s started asking me to see if I can locate a table once we’re in the shop and its quite easy to find the one we always sit at. As long as every time I go in there its free ‘ll be ok… we popped into see Dad quickly afterward. That entails me crossing the road and walking along to Dad’s shop. He was ok and we didn’t stay long.

The return journey went just as well, with Jenny correcting me whenever necessary. It felt longer walking on the way home but according to Jenny’s watch it was actually shorter. I know I felt more tired when I reached my front door than I did on arriving at Coffee Mac’s. it shows just how lucky I am to have been matched with such a good volunteer that Jenny offered to meet me next Tuesday to do our ninth session. I’m flying up to Kieran’s next Wednesday so will be away for our usual Thursday session. I really didn’t expect Jenny to say she could meet me on an alternative day but feel really grateful that she is. Hopefully, we can continue the good run we’re on with learning this route. Also, hopefully next week I’ll have news from Guide Dogs. But whatever the outcome, I’m just going to carry on. Of course, if they do say i haven’t done enough yet and need to carry on learning, I’ll be a bit disappointed that it isn’t a straight away yes answer. But my plan was to learn routes until at least May so if they ask me to carry on I haven’t lost anything. If its a yes answer, I’m so much more lucky than I thought I was. Maybe by the next time I write my next My Guide update, I’ll have the outcome.

Mobility Update My Guide Session 7

Last week’s session was a positive one. After changing the route, I’d been really concerned that as it seemed a lot shorter and less complicated than the one we tried first, Guide Dogs might not be happy with it. However, it is so much simpler so a lot easier to learn. I haven’t got it anywhere near fully remembered yet, but this week was really our first session of learning it so that isn’t a concern. Last week, we just tested out the route, walking the way Jenny guessed would work. But we tried out a few different things, meaning that we hadn’t actually done the full route properly. But on thursday we did. With my Trekker Breeze on and recording, we headed out on the new route.

As I’d thought last week, it is so much simpler than the first route into Woolston we tried. Jenny counted an approximate 25 crossings in total for that route and there’s only got to be 5 or so in this new route. That’s not me saying I want to take the easy way out, because I don’t, but it just seems daft to persevere with a route I was struggling so much with when there’s an easier option that will get me to the same destination with less hassle. Plus, the walk along Weston shore is lovely; it’ll be really beautiful in the sunny summer, if we get one. It is pretty much one straight path all the way to Woolston. I don’t even have to swap to the opposite side of the road or anything like that. But it still takes about an hour each way, which of course is still a fair walking distance and good exercise for me. Yes, the other route was more challenging and gave me more to think about, but the simplicity of this one isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Again, we stopped for our usual break in Coffee Mac’s, feeling quite pleased with how the route was going so far. Because of that optimism, I decided to have a little extra in the shape of a cheese and bacon panini to go with my apple juice. I kind of got fed up of hot chocolate – I’ve never been the biggest fan, only liking it occasionally – and the apple juice is healthier. But I was hungry and things were going well so I felt a snack was deserved. Jenny clearly agreed because she went for a toasted tea cake to go with her coffee. Sadly, I was disappointed with my panini. There was just something about it that tasted funny. I think next time we have a great session I’ll stick to my reward of a slice of cake. Jenny said she enjoyed her tea cake, though, so that was good.

The return journey was good, too. There a couple of tricky patches along the route but there nothing in comparison to the difficulties in the other route to Woolston. I’m certain they’ll be easily ironed out after a few weeks’ practice of this route. Another thing that reassured me that this route is a good choice was by my friend Jemma. She lives in southampton also, actually in the same area as me, and has a gorgeous German SHepherd Guide Dog. It just so happened that as we were walking towards home, they were waiting to catch a bus at the bus-stop nearer to there place that I pass on my way home. We stopped so that I could say hello and I told Jemma that I was in the process of learning the route into Woolston. She asked which way we go and we explained. It turns out that the new route is the route Jemma uses if shes walking into Woolston. This gave me huge reassurance because if she uses that route with her Guide Dog then Guide Dogs can’t object to me sticking with it.

Jenny has passed on my concerns about this route to the leader of My Guide, who replied and said she’d forward these onto the GDMI to find out whether the route would be good enough and also if I’m doing enough. Hopefully, they’ll get back to Jenny soon and we’ll have an answer. I’m hoping it’ll be a positive one after all the hard work I’m putting into learning these routes. Sadly, Dad and I couldn’t go out on our walk last Wednesday to continue learning the route to my sister’s school because the weather was just too bad. To begin with, we’d thought it could be ok, but then the wind really picked up and there was just no point in trying. I’m just really hoping that the weather holds off tomorrow so that we can get out. It’s not an over complicated route, either, but its still going to take me a few tries to learn it so the more times were able to get out there practising it the better. Plus, I’m flying up to visit Kieran and family next Wednesday evening for a fortnight so I’m going to miss at least one My Guide opportunity and definitely two walks with Dad. It isn’t a big deal, really, because I feel like I’m making leaps and bounds in progress but I’m impatient so for me any sessions missed I’ll want to make up for, the more sessions I miss, the longer it’ll take in the long run for me to learn these routes and therefore be accepted fo a dog. Obviously, visiting Kieran is important to. He’s my other half, my fella, and we don’t get that much time together considering the almost 300 miles separating Weston from Blyth. So I’ll take any opportunity i can to see him, even if that does mean sacrificing precious route learning time. Ive waited this long for a Guide Dog, I’m sure a couple extra weeks in the long term shouldn’t make a massive difference. As long as I get there after all this effort, that’s all that really matters. As the new Woolston route and the route to my sister’s school are both going well, I don’t think I’ve got too much to worry about. Plus, next week I have my employment support session and the lady is just going to follow me to the library this time. Then, as long as shes happy that I’m familiar enough with the route, next time I’ll do it by myself and meet her there. The library route isn’t much in comparison to the Woolston route, but doing it completely independently for a purpose is definitely a step in the right direction.

So everything is going smoothly and I’m making progress in all areas of mobility. Plus, people have been contacted to make sure that this time it’ll be a positive response after all my hard work. I couldn’t have hoped for things to be going any better. Hopefully, tomorrow Dad and I will make more progress with the route to my sister’s school and on Thursday Jenny and I will continue the process of learning the new Woolston route. Fingers crossed I have more positivity to report on next time…

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 6

Yesterday’s My Guide session was different to say the least. At first, Jenny and I were a bit dubious about how it would go as the ground was quite frosty and Jenny was worried it’d be too slippery underfoot. Thankfully, it wasn’t and we were able to continue with the session as normal. Except, it wasn’t a normal session. We changed the whole arrangement of things from what we have been doing to something SO MUCH BETTER!

If you’re up-to-date with my My Guide session post – which, if you aren’t, I don’t blame you, I just waffle on and this is more for my entertainment and satisfaction than anything else! – then you’ll know that since Jenny and I started working together we’ve been working on a route from my home into Woolston, the nearest little shopping street. Well the route Jenny picked out, we tested and I agreed on was quite complicated to say the least. Ive never been good at learning routes; I don’t know why, its just not one of my strong points. So this new complex route was definitely a challenge. A month into walking it by myself and we both felt I was making progress considering how much there was to learn and remember. But today Jenny suggested something else, something I wish we’d thought of before I stressed over the complicated route. There’s a much more straightforward and easy route into Woolston. Instead of approximately 25 crossings (Jenny counted), this is one straight road that leads into Woolston. It takes about an hour each way, we’re going to time it next week to get a definite time frame, and is so straightforward I’m hopeful I could have it memorised fairly soon. After last week’s horrible session, this was such a relief. Maybe its me taking the easy way out. But it shouldn’t matter. It’s still a lengthy route, although less complicated, and still leads me to the intended destination. Also, it means I get to walk for longer beside the shore, which will be glorious in summer. Jenny also spotted that there’s a stretch of green that could make a great short free run spot parallel to the route I’m walking.

It worried me a little, though. As its so simple, it takes less time to get to Woolston. Jenny suggested that some of this was probably due to the amount of time I spent judging if roads were safe to cross on the other route; its complexities made it naturally longer. I decided that I’d check the results of my Fitbit, which tracks steps, floors climbed, distance walked and active minutes, that night against previous weeks’ totals for our sessions. The results were quite different. Where usually its at least 14000 steps and well over 4 miles, nearly 6 sometimes, those results showed just over 12000 steps and less than 4 miles. I don’t know if its just because the route is less complicated; it must be because technically I’m still going from the same starting point to the same destination. I’m just concerned this could be a problem. Should I be focusing on the more complicated route because it presents a challenge and is definitely longer? Or is the fact that the other route is easier and more of a convenience, sadly making it shorter, more worthwhile to pursue? I talked this over with Jenny while we sat in Coffee Mac’s again, she with her coffee and me my apple juice. She tried to reassure me that, even if it was a bit shorter, the principle of the route was the walking thing and as I had the outward and return route it still took quite a long time so would provide a lengthy working time for any future guide dog. Looking at my Fitbit results, though, it looks as if the easier route cuts out quite a lot of mileage. I just can’t work out if that’s a bad thing or whether it shouldn’t be a problem. If someone who knows about these things could shed some light for me, I’d be greatly appreciated.

It was a lovely route though, especially as the weather was quite nice. On the return journey it did get a bit windy but mostly it was nice. Before we headed home, Jenny and i popped across the road to say hello to Dad in his carpet shop. I’d told Jenny all about the progress Dad and I had been making with our Wednesday walks and she seemed pleased. While we’d been sat in the coffee shop, she had written down a list of all my known and potential routes. It’s becoming quite a list. For known routes we currently have:

Short routes:

1. Walk to local bus-stop, barely 3 minutes;

2. 2. Walk to nearby Co-op, about 10 minutes each way.

3. 3. Bus route to Woolston. Although of course this doesn’t involve much walking, only onto the bus from home (shown above) and off the other end to wherever I want to go e.g. coffee shop, Co-op or see Dad, I consider it as a route as before now I wouldn’t be considering things like that.

4. 4. Bus route into town centre/shops: again, dozens involve much walking but opens up lots of opportunities e.g. meeting a friend, going to a coffee shop, getting myself lunch;

5. 5. Route from home to library = about 25 minutes each way, I’ll time it properly when I do it next week;

6. 6. Home to Mayfield Park = about 25-ish minutes each way with a free run in the middle;

7. 7. Route from home to the gym/leisure centre = about 30 minutes each way, I’ll time it properly when I go next;

8. 8. Route from home to news agents = about 35 minutes each way. I’ll time it properly when Dad and I do our next walk;

9. Routes I’m learning:

10. 1. Route from home to sister’s school = about 45-50 minutes each way. Dad and I will time it properly next time we do our walk as last week was the first time.

11. 2. Route from home to Woolston (now changed to newer less complicated route) = 55 minutes to an hour each way. We only did a test run of this yesterday so wil record it to my Trekker Breeze and time it properly after that.

12. 3. Home to Nan’s = no idea how long, Dad estimates at least an hour each way. We’re going to learn this after we’ve learnt the school.

13. 4. Home to Victoria Country Park = no idea how long. Jenny suggested it yesterday and as it was Zena’s favourite free run spot and would create another probably long route I thought why not.

14. 5. Home to archery’s park = I’m not sure. We’ve started to learn it via the long and complicate route we were using but Jenny says there are several different ways to get there. There’s a possibility of eventually learning them all for variation.

15. 6. Home to Dominoes Pizza/Co-op = probably as long as the library route as they’re an extension of it, although I’m considering learning how to get there using part of the complicated route we were using.

16. 7. Home to train station to airport = no idea. It would be mostly transport but I think it’d be a handy one to have under my belt. I’d have to get my usual bus from home into Woolston, then another bus from Woolston to opposite outside southampton central statin. Then get inside the station, find a member of staff and be put on the train to southampton airport parkway station. From there, disembark and get assistance to take me the exit. Then learn from the exit, along the road and across into airport arrivals hall. This idea was planted by John nearly a year ago when I was training with Zena. Although it sounds complicated with all those steps it should actually be quite straightforward.

So there’s quite a lot to be getting on with. I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten some in that list. We discussed loads esterday and I wish I had an in-built notebook to record all thoughts. Jenny was taking notes in a book herself so if I’ve forgotten anything she’ll have it written down. I’m still going with the idea that I’ll inform Guide Dogs once I’ve learnt the route to Woolston and ask to be put on the waiting list for a dog and in the meantime, while I’m waiting, continue to work through that list of routes with Jenny that we’ve compiled. I feel that’s a reasonable request, especially considering how long the waiting list can be and my insistence that Jenny and I will continue working on more routes. By the time I hopefully get matched with a guide dog, I should have so many routes we’ll be too busy! I should at least have a much wider choice than I did with Zena. Really, I already do. And if that isn’t seen as progress and dedication, I don’t know what could be.

So next Thursday Jenny and I have our seventh session. We’re going to be working on the new and improved route into Woolston. As it is so simple, I’m feeling very optimistic about it. I just hope its simplicity won’t reflect badly on me. I still intend to use fractions of that old route, just not the whole thing to get to Woolston. In time, with learning fractions of it for other destinations I might even crack the whole thing into Woolston. It would be a good walking alternative to get there in the winter because our new and improved one would be quite chilly in the winter where its mostly open spaces. I’m really thrilled with these massive leaps we’ve suddenly made today. Its like one of those breakthrough moments and it couldn’t have come at a better time after last week’s disaster. But as Jenny said, its all learning and I will still be using parts of that complicated route so nothing was wasted. Hopefully next week will be even more positive…

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 5

My fifth My Guide session took place last Thursday. As always, Jenny and I set out on the route optimistically because things had gone so well previously. But this session was different. I don’t know if I wasn’t in the right mindset or if other things were on my mind too much but things just felt different. And they went from bad to worse with cars parking on pavements, my cane getting caught in bushes/behind poles and posts. I even misjudged a couple of crossings and slipped off the curb. I quickly corrected myself but that wasn’t the point; I don’t do these things. Even though I’m still having mobility sessions, they’re primarily so I can learn routes. By almost everyone who has ever assessed my mobility, I’ve always been complimented on having good long cane skills. It was always the lack of wanting to use them that was frowned upon. So these little niggles annoyed me. They’re nothing massive and its no big deal in the grand scheme really but its irritating to be making these mistakes when I feel so close to achieving what I’ve been working towards for so long.

The outbound walk was the worst. My cane just got caught behind and on so much. It was frustrating beyond belief. Add to that the cars parked on pavements and it made the whole thing pretty unpleasant. I admire Jenny’s patience and calmness. I’d have got fed up with me if I was someone trying to help. I was fed up of me being me! The cars parked on the pavements weren’t major ones. They didn’t block the whole path, they just made an inconvenience along my journey I could have done without. If there’s an obstacle on the pavement, be it bin, parked car or uncovered man hole or whatever it is, it makes you have to slow down and reassess everything. You have to work out which angles to carry on, whether the gap is actually safe enough for you to pass through and then how to manoeuvre yourself through the situation. Usually, there’s more than enough room but if not, you’ve then got to work out if its safe for you to venture out into the road, carefully skirt closely around the car and then get back onto the path. And if this is a main road then this can become horrendous and extremely dangerous. Thankfully, there was none of the worst case scenario situations for me on Thursday. That would have really topped off my bad mood nicely.

By the time we reached our little coffee shop in Woolston, I was thoroughly frustrated with the whole event. I just wanted to be indoors somewhere not having to think about routes or possibilities or progress. Because it felt like, even though I’d remembered a lot of the crossings, landmarks and turnings on the route correctly, we’d actually taken two steps backward in terms of progress. In hindsight, perhaps that feeling was over-exaggerated at the time. I feel better about the whole thing now we’re nearly a week on from it than I did at the time. It made me question everything, especially when the fact that Guide Dogs still hold all the power of my dream came to mind. Although I’m putting all this effort in and wholeheartedly intend to continue to do so, when I approach Guide Dogs again and tell them I feel I’m ready to continue with my application, that I’d like to be reconsidered as now ready and enough for one of their dogs they could so easily say no, I’m not ready yet, I still don’t have enough routes, the workload isn’t big enough, am I sure this is what I want? It’s crushing. The thought that I could make all this massive progress – because, for me, it really is huge in comparison to what I’m used to – and they could still say no… Most of the time I really have to put that thought out of my mind otherwise it gets me really down. The idea that it could be years until I get accepted for a dog hurts and makes all this seem pointless.

Jenny tried to boost my spirits by saying how good things were looking with the route. I just wasn’t feeling it. It was nice to still have someone else having faith in me, though, and the feeling that even if it felt rubbish to me, it still looked like progress to Jenny was good news. This is all thought of in hindsight, mind. By the time I reached the sanctuary of my bedroom on Thursday afternoon, I was wholeheartedly deflated and down about the whole situation. The return trip was better. Although, not long into it the wired Aftershokz headphones I have to use with my Trekker Breeze died completely. I never carry the extra external little clip on speaker with me because the headphones never fully lose charge. So I was caught out. I tried clipping the Breeze’s belt clip onto the collar of my coat and positioning the in-built speaker next to my ear. But it just made everything clumsy and awkward and I couldn’t hear the announcements the Breeze was speaking even then. Reluctantly admitting defeat, I switched it off and put it in my pocket, cursing myself for not charging the headphones. Unfortunately, with them there’s no way of knowing when their battery is low so its always risky taking them out. But their battery lasts such a long time that I always forget it must need charging at some point. Strangely, from then onward the route seemed to go quite well. I remembered crossings, landmarks and turnings well and Jenny seemed quite impressed, drawing on how I must be retaining most of the route well now as I wasn’t asking her for too many hints and the Breeze was unavailable to give me reminders. It felt quite good doing some of the route without my Breeze. But I wouldn’t want to be out often without it. The reassurance it gives is so comforting and having it there as backup should anything disastrous happen is such a support. Maybe I should be able to do it without the Breeze. But I don’t see why having that extra safety net should be an issue. I always make sure the Breeze has enough charge and only on stupid occasions like this do things like the headphones battery dying happen. The GPS signal is always clear enough for the Breeze to get an accurate enough reading and that’s enough for me. I don’t rely on it. I intend to have this route fully memorised before I even consider approaching Guide Dogs again. But having it as support and guidance if I need it is nice and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. I wish I’d discovered Trekker Breeze sooner. Maybe then I’d have been further in this journey than I am currently. Maybe it’d have given me the confidence to learn routes and get out of the house years ago like I should have. Who knows? It didn’t happen.

Now looking back on the day in hindsight I can see it wasn’t as bad as I felt at the time. It is pretty disheartening though when things go wrong. Coincidentally, the night before it happened, I was talking to my ex cricket captain and constant adviser Tiny about my plans of making progress with this whole thing and he mentioned that I shouldn’t get too down if a bad session came along. I’m so glad he said that before it happened because it helped me get the resolve of “oh well, next session will be better and this isn’t the end of everything”. On Thursday night, I messaged Tiny, and Imi too, voicing my fears about Guide Dogs still saying no even after I put all this effort in and the feeling of knowing it might all be nothing despite my progress. Tiny’s response was the best. Although I struggled to agree with him on Thursday night I understand what he meant. He said that basically I needed to see the smaller goals and achievements in the whole thing as well as aiming toward my end goal of a guide dog. He had a point even if I couldn’t see it at the time through my disappointment at the way the day had gone. It made me think though. If I hadn’t been out learning a new route, what would I have been doing? Sat at home at my desk studying, most likely, just how I do every weekday. I wouldn’t have been in the company of a nice person, inhaling all the fresh air, being outside or having a drink in a nice little coffee shop with friendly staff. Those are the small blessings in this situation. But on Thursday it was hard to see how those things mattered in the grand scheme of things. And that point is still valid. The only reason I’m doing all this is so that Guide Dogs finally accept me as adequate and eligible for one of their dogs. It’s so I can have the independence I got a glimpse of when I had zena and none of the other positives matter. In the long run, if Guide Dogs were to decline my application again, I wouldn’t be looking back thinking “wow how lucky was I to be spending all that time outside learning a new really long route”. I’d be thinking “what a waste of time!”. I’ll forever be grateful that Jenny agreed to be my volunteer, that shes spending so much of her own personal time each week helping me towards my goal. But if that goal is never achieved, I won’t be glad I spent all this time trying to reach it. I’ll be gutted. Mainly because I spent so much time working so damn hard doing what they told me I needed to do for it then to be said not to be enough. How they could do that, I don’t know. But anything is possible and the fact I’ve not had a yes yet makes me cynical. Hopefully that cynicism will be wiped away after all this hard work and they’ll say yes straight away, acknowledging the effort I’ve put in which clearly shows how much I want a dog, how dedicated I will be to the partnership if only they give me a chance. I was dedicated to Zena. I was, just not many other people seem to see that. I tried 1000% my best with her. The whole thing just fell apart. The fact shes now living as a pet is testament to the fact I definitely made the right decision for both of us. She was miserable, I wasn’t safe in her care and eventually we’re both going to have our rightful places, she as a pet and I with a new dog who loves guiding and keeps me safe always. I just have to be positive, I guess. That’s always been one of my big problems. Always too miserable and cynical. Why shouldn’t Guide Dogs accept me onto the waiting list after this long route is accomplished? I’ll have done everything they asked of me. That’s how I need to think. A quiet confidence that this time, after all this work, it’ll all pay off.

Jenny and I have another session on Friday. I’m glad I waited until today to write this so I was in a better frame of mind to put things into words. It would have been a very angry post if I’d written it on Thursday afternoon like I’d planned. Luckily, other things have been going well. Last Wednesday, Dad and I walked the route up to the news agents he’s been teaching me. I didn’t need any prompting or guidance. So that route is done. On the way back, we walked via Mayfield Park, the spot I’d predicted would be great for a free run. I wasn’t wrong. It was perfect. I think, once the dog and I had a solid partnership, I’d even be able to take it for a run by myself. The park is enclosed and I’d be able to walk in a straight line along the perimeter of the park while the dog was off lead and get to the exit safely. Ive tried it with dad. So I’m really happy with that route and its been completed a lot quicker than I expected. In addition to that, today Dad and I tried a new route. It was to my sister’s secondary school. We’ve already tried one way, that takes you up and over a train bridge. But, although this way was longer, it was so much easier. It’s an extension of the gym/news agents route, which is great, and the new additional part isn’t complicated at all. After a few tries, I’m positive I’ll have it figured out and memorised. It means that, if I wanted to, I could meet my sister from school. More than that, its another at least 45 minute each way route that I know. This one even has a decent destination. Its a win win all round. While doing that route, I realised, as an extension of that, I’d be able to learn how to walk from my house to my grandparents’ house. I was planning to learn the bus route there with Jenny after we’ve finished the Woolston route but Dad says he can show me the route on foot. If I can memorise that, I think I’d learn the bus route as a backup. More and more possibilities of routes seem to be opening up and its such a nice feeling, especially as the more routes i have the happier Guide Dogs should be about my eligibility and commitment for a dog. It’ll all take time, I know, but progress is more than steady even with the blips in my fifth My Guide session. There’s the chance that my sixth could be the best yet. I guess I’ll find out Friday. For now, though, I’m going to stay positive. After the progress I have been making with the Woolston route and the leaps and bounds Dad and I are making with our routes, I can’t be disappointed. In fact, things are going better than I hoped. Fingers crossed everything stays positive.

PS: I’ve fixed the glove issue. Ive discovered that I can wear the fingerless gloves I have with the flap pulled over making them into mittens and its still almost as safe using my cane. I don’t lose much sensitivity at all and, best of all, my hands keep toasty. See, silver lining in every rain cloud…

“Can I tell you something?”

I was the girl who knew absolutely nothing about computers and he was the guy who knew everything about them. We were put into ICT skills lessons together. Why he was tasked to do skills lessons in the area he was clearly flying in is still a mystery to me. But they were compulsory to everyone so he had no choice. I was way out of my depth. I barely knew how to power on my trusty old Toshiba laptop, let alone complete the tasks set on the worksheets by our teacher. She quickly figured this out and, one Friday afternoon when I was desperate for my Gmail account to be linked to my laptop, she set this super smart guy the task. To his credit, he didn’t complain once. To begin with, he told me what I needed to do. Go to this place, that setting, enter that etc. But I had no idea what keys to press let alone these unknown parts of my computer he wanted access to. Tiring of my inability in the area he was so competent, he slid the laptop out from under my hands, pulled my earphones out of the socket and plugged in his own. His fingers tapped crazily fast over the keyboard and less than an hour later, by the time our lesson finished, my Gmail was up and running smoothly.

That’s how it started. After that, whenever I had any difficulty with my laptop. Which was practically every lesson, the smart lad who knew it all would be told to sit beside me and “help” me. He helped me, that’s for sure, by taking the bloody machine out from under my hands and fixing the problem. In fact, the teacher knew he knew so much and that the tasks set to the rest of us were pointless for him that she basically set him the task of teaching me how to use a computer. Whether he wanted to or not, he had no choice. In the end, though, if he hadn’t sat in the seat beside me at the beginning of the lesson, by the end of it he’d have wheeled his chair over next to mine, usually to fix something minor on my PC, but sometimes to talk to me. By the spring term, he didn’t sit anywhere but next to me and he didn’t do any of the tasks we were supposed to, just Fixing everything I needed fixing, showing me how to do things I needed to know how to do. But more than that, by the spring term, he’d become my friend, a friend I looked forward to spending time with, a friend who would bring BBQ Pringles down to my college room on a Tuesday night as payment for us to have him there. Not that he knew, but that was far from necessary. As well as being my IT buddy, he was Josh’s media pal. They’d struck up a proper friendship before I even knew who he was and it was already clear to me, before I even realised it, that this lad was going to be hanging around a lot.

And he did. 4 and a half years later, he’s more than the best friend I’ve ever had. Two years ago today, in a hotel room in RNC’s Gardner Hall, we changed our lives without even knowing it. It had been his 19th birthday and Josh and I had travelled up by train to see him. Oh how excited I was! I hadn’t seen him since october when he’d got his special Cisco award. I’d been the proudest best friend in all the world that night, listening to them up on stage promising him the world and explaining to the audience how much he’d achieved. He was amazing, and gobsmacked apparently. But it all started way before that night in Gardner, when poor Josh was feeling so ill from all the fast food and fizzy drink we’d consumed. It started long long before anyone else knew it did, in our first year in fact. It started just before I got engaged to another. Not anything serious or that makes me a terrible person. Just a feeling that this IT guy was someone special, someone important who deserved the world. But he wanted a girlfriend. So I tasked myself to finding one, wondering why on earth I was doing it. But I did it anyway. He was happy for a little while, until he wasn’t and he was sobbing on my shoulder. From that day onward, we were friends, really friends. It seemed I’d repaid him for all the IT support, not that I ever could.

Then there was the summer term of that first year, full of sunshine and laughter. Friday afternoon and the three of us running through the college campus, the boys singing MCFly or Busted and me laughing so hard, wondering how I’d managed to get such amazing friends as these. Then, the Friday before the May half term and my 17th birthday, he came to me with a box of Maltesers. Despite the rules, we sat in our weekly Friday afternoon IT session that week and scuffed our way through the whole box.

The second year brought changes for us all, four became three when our sister from another mister had to go to a place none of us could get to. The only thing that kept us in touch was the letters, oh how we wrote them, on the bright yellow paper in size 36 bold font. He and I were feeling the harshness of long distance relationships, mine almost a year old and his barely begun. But it gave us a further connection. We spent many an evening complaining about distance. If only we’d known then! And Josh, poor Johs, received the backlash of most of my misery of being at college; because everyone knew it was the last place on earth I wanted to be. And yet the both took it, Josh retaliating as much as he could manage and our loyal friend staying with us both through it all, even when we weren’t talking to each other. He could have told me to get lost, god knows he should have, but he never.

We spent Saturday and Sunday mornings, of course way after 10am, sleepily drinking cups of tea. He’d make sausage sandwiches on the George foreman or I’d put fish fingers in the oven and we’d have them in sandwiches. Or if we were feeling brave, we’d go to the college canteen and have a risky cooked breakfast there. Many afternoons, we’d be in my college room, him sprawled out on my bed and me sat at my desk, his IPod on shuffle, complaining about distance, the bad food, the rubbish water pressure in the showers. Many many Friday and Saturday night the three of us spent in one of our rooms, eating takeaway and watching some kind of comedy. We met up every lunchtime, forming a little queue Josh then him then me, noting the awful radio station playing and waiting to take our lunch of a jacket potato with rubbery cheese and not enough beans, if we were lucky. We celebrated each other’s birthdays, ate each other’s food and generally loved each other’s company, even if Josh and I were arguing.

But I was waiting to leave and that last day didn’t come soon enough in my opinion. That last Friday, I wore my T-shirt the boys had bought me for my 18th, a bright yellow thing, in homage to Imi’s bright paper, bearing the phrase “shiny happy people” which had been our group nickname for a long while, since his dad made a comment that stuck. I went through the day, saying all my goodbyes and regretting that I hadn’t appreciated this more, had been in such a rush to go home to my fiancé. After I’d left my last lesson, IT, we all got ready and headed to Hereford’s branch of Yates where we ate good food, chatted about all the fun we’d had and took our final college photo together, in which my shiny happy people T-shirt is proudly displayed. Then, when we were back at college, after the boys had paid for my meal insistently, the snuck duvets and pillows into my big C floor room and bedded down on them, using blankets to keep warm. It was our little sleepover, our last night, our final time of being the shiny happy people, students at the royal national college for the blind together. I was leaving and it was too late to change my mind. But as I lay there in my bed, talking to those boys about anything and everything that had happened in those last eighteen months, I really wish I could have. Right then, I wasn’t desperate to be home with my fiancé. Right then, I wanted to pause time and not let tomorrow come. The only thing that was missing, that would have added sparkle to our night, was Imi. But we’d fixed that by catching a train to York and spending her 18th birthday with her.

Then, Saturday morning had arrived, my parents and fiancé were there, all the belongings I’d been packing into bags for the last eighteen months were packed into the boot of the car for the last time and I was saying my last two goodbyes. Josh, I was sure I’d see again. We lived in the same city. But the other one, he who’d become the best friend I’d ever had, he who’d fixed all my problems, been by my side through everything those last two years, he who’d held me when I cried and laughed the loudest with me. I wasn’t sure. He was from the north, after all, and I the south. So as I hugged him goodbye the tightest, I wondered for the millionth time that morning why I’d been in such a hurry to leave.As we drove away, me wondering if we’d ever have times like those again and if I’d be able to see my best friend again, two text messages came through on my phone, one from each of the boys, both telling me how much my friendship meant to them, how they were sad I’d left and that they missed me already. But his was the one that had me secretly wiping tears away, that had me saving it in my notes to look back on. It was the loveliest sweetest most thoughtful message he’d ever sent me. And in that moment I knew we had to keep in touch, he’d begged me to in the message, and see each other again.

And we did. In September that year, he sent me a text message, another one, that was to change our friendship irreversibly, that changed all my future plans, everything I’d based my life on. The text simply read: “Can I tell you something?” And so I replied, “Of course”. And so he did. That I was lovely and that, despite everything, his feelings were more than friendly. I knew he was with his parents at the caravan and that he’d had a few to drink. It was late on a Saturday night and I was with my fiancé and his mum at theirs. I needed him to be 100% sure about what he was saying before he said it. So I told him thank you but that we should talk in the morning if, then, he wanted to continue the conversation. He did. We did. He told me that he’d felt that way sometime but that of course I was engaged and happy and he didn’t want this to change our friendship, he just wanted me to know. And I knew. In my response, I told him so. I told him, if it was allowed to love two people at once, then I undoubtedly did. But I told him he needed someone better, a good person who could give him the whole world. I told him he deserved happiness like no one else I knew. But that of course that person couldn’t be me. And he said he understood and would we still be friends. Of course we would, I told him, there was no way I was letting him go. But that afternoon I had Imi on the phone. I’d told her in frantic texts what had happened. She clearly thought I was mad. She knew things I hadn’t acknowledged yet. She knew I loved him without me even having to confirm it. But I told her I was happy, had plans and wasn’t changing anything. I told her he and I would remain friends, best friends. But she didn’t believe a word of it. And deep down, neither did I.

Then october came, his award, the happiness. But the awkwardness too. We hadn’t seen each other since he told me “something” but we’d been quite in touch, calling regularly, him fixing my many IT problems so regularly we were hardly not in touch. We’d been texting daily, more than we ever had before. When he’d returned to college as a mature student in September, my only feelings were hope for him to be amazing and being gutted, utterly gutted, I couldn’t be there with him.

And of course, then January 8th arrived. Our train ride to Hereford, our reunion, his birthday. It was amazing, so good to see each other again, so good having all three of us together again, the shiny happy people reunited. We ate fish and chips like we used to many Fridays after IT, we gave presents and we went to their bar. That was where everything changed. Imi, who had gotten thoroughly frustrated with my situation, as I’d been increasingly more miserable since September, had me agreeing to send messages that changed us. That Sunday, after tearful hugs goodbye and promising I’d sort everything, I was on a train home with Josh in a whirlwind. And 2 days later everything was sorted, although not nicely, but sorted. And we were a couple. He my fella.

Now we’re here, 2 years on to the day we rearranged everything. It’s been a crazy two years, but the best two years. We couldn’t have expected it to be this good. I never expected to be this lucky. We’ve had many date nights, watched countless movies and comedies and TV shows. We’ve bought mountains of presents, train and plane tickets. I left college never even thinking I’d see him again, let alone dreaming I’d have stayed at his parents’ house as his girlfriend 5 times. But I have. That guy who walked into IT and continues to fix my never ending tech problems has changed my whole world. And I couldn’t give a toss what anyone else thinks. I don’t care if this is soppy or cliché or too much. I don’t care who reads it. Because I love him. He is, undoubtedly, the best friend I will and have ever had. He is kind and smart and funny and all the things I’ve ever dreamed of in a partner. He puts up with me when I’m miserable or grumpy. He puts up with my stupidity with computers and has done far longer than anyone else ever has. He treats me like a princess even if he doesn’t know it. And he is all I’ve ever wanted. He makes me the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m prouder of all his achievements than I’ve ever been of anything. We’ve had our moments in these last two years but thankfully there haven’t been many and we’ve always fixed things. I believe we always will. And I’m not an idiot; I of all people know couples have their problems, their differences. But he’s been there for me through absolutely everything. He supports me always, especially when he knows I’m wrong. He’s taught me so much, least of all the use of a computer how he was tasked so long ago. He makes me smile when no one else can and makes things better when everyone else can’t. He gives me strength at the worst times and praise at the best times. He, without even meaning to I think, has become my rock. I can rely on him whenever I need and he almost always has the answer. We may be 8 miles under 300 miles apart most of the time but he is always with me and despite how difficult distance is, and believe me when I say it is, its worth it for what we have. And it always will be. He always will be.

Kieran what more can I say. You’ve been my fella a long time and my best friend even longer. I will always support you in the choices you make and am here for you should ever you need me. I love you more than I can say and am so glad I took a chance on us. You’re the best risk I nearly didn’t take and I will never regret how we did things, however much of a mess I made at the start. We’ve had the best first two years and I’m betting on many, many more. But even if we don’t, you’ll always be my best friend, the one who fixed everything before I even knew it was broken with one simple text message. Well, my person, can I tell you something? I love you. I loved you then, love you still; always have, always will. Thank you for the best times. Thank you for the hopes and dreams. I’m looking forward to it all. You are my army, fighting my corner always, and I will only ever be one call away, still falling for you. Happy two years.

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 4

Our My Guide session today was probably the best we’ve had so far. This morning, I had been a bit worried that Jenny might call and say the weather was looking too bad and we needed to postpone or rearrange. However, at 9:30 when I was in my Hivis coat and my Trekker Breeze was all set up, Jenny arrived at my door. She said that actually the weather was looking quite promising, with no rain forecast whatsoever and only increasing winds later on. It was breezy but nothing to strong. Actually, it was quite a comfortable morning to be out route learning. I came back this afternoon with a buzz I hadn’t felt before.

The outward route was definitely better than it has been so far. I seemed to be remembering so much more of the route and Jenny didn’t seem to be prompting me as much. Also, we decided to let me gauge when it was safe to cross roads. Before now, Jenny has been telling me when its safe to cross so I can concentrate on learning the route. But shes letting me have more control over the route and that’s nice; but I think this point in my learning of the route is the right time for me to start paying attention to other factors than just which direction Im going in. I thought I was quite good at judging when it was safe to cross, if a little impatient. Jenny kept advising that I wait for cars to pass or get closer before deciding to cross. She didn’t let me cross unless she thought it was safe, though, so I wasn’t in any danger.

On reaching Woolston, the sun started to shine. I was feeling really positive about how the route had gone so far. Jenny told me that things looked to be going well. I’m surprised how far I’ve come already. I feel like I’m picking things up quite quickly and didn’t think things would progress this fast. I’m nowhere near completing the route or knowing it by heart but more and more of it is adding up in my head. We stopped in Coffee Mack for a drink again. I was tempted to have a slice of cake but am saving it for a more momentous occasion in the route’s progress. However, I did have a luxury hot chocolate with marshmallows again. I’m glad I’m walking so much on this route otherwise the calories from the hot chocolate so often would be impacting upon my waistline! But I feel it’s a nice treat for my progress with the routes. Also, its nice for Jenny and I to have a sit down midway through the route to cool off a bit. Plus, I feel it takes up quite a lot of my concentration and brain power to learn routes and this is the most complex route I’ve ever learnt. But its so rewarding to learn it. Imagining how I’ll use it in the future is so nice, especially as the route is slowly coming together in my head. And of course I’m lucky to have been matched with such a nice volunteer as Jenny.

This week, the return journey was just as good as the outward rather than better, which was nice. It went really well. I chose good points to cross, mostly, and didn’t need pointers constantly. But when we got back to Weston Shore, there was flooding across the road and pavement, meaning we couldn’t continue with the route. Also, as the forecast had predicted, the wind had picked up considerably. As we had to go off route to get back to my house, Jenny guided me. As we walked, the wind became quite fierce, buffeting us about. Thankfully, Jenny got us back to my house safely. We agreed to meet the same time next week to continue with this route. On our way back, I suggested to Jenny that maybe next week we could take a detour off the route in to the Archery’s park, which was a separate destination to learn how to get to. The park was a place I used to go to regularly when I was little to play in but I know it’d make a great place with a free run. Coincidentally, it turns out the park is on route to Woolston so I’m learning two routes in one really. But so far I’ve concentrated on learning the route into Woolston instead of exploring the inside of the park’s perimeter. Jenny agreed, as long as it hasn’t been raining otherwise the park would be extremely muddy.

I couldn’t be happier with how my learning with a My Guide volunteer is going. I never thought it would be this positive and have to thank everyone who encouraged me to take this opportunity. A little bit of me wishes I’d stuck with it last January when I was matched with a volunteer because maybe by now I’d be on the Guide Dogs waiting list or even have a guide dog. But everything happens for a reason. If I’d pursued with My Guide then then I wouldn’t be matched with Jenny or have had Zena in my life. Things might not have progressed so well learning routes last year as they have now. I’m even more determined to get a dog now than I ever have been before and I think that’s helping fuel my desire to learn these routes perfectly. Because I definitely wouldn’t do it otherwise, with no disrespect to Jenny. But its certainly nice being so motivated to do something, and something that’s going to benefit me so much in the long term. Hopefully, next Thursday will further the progress I felt I made. Maybe, as Jenny joked today, we’ll even have good weather and blazing sunshine for our session. At least the first option may happen…

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 3

My latest My Guide session took place just before Christmas on the 21st of December. That date was also my assignment deadline date for one of my Open University modules. This meant that I was under quite a bit of pressure to get everything done in time for Christmas. Luckily, I managed to get further ahead quicker than I’d expected to and so by the time Jenny knocked on my front door at 9:30 on Thursday my assignment was complete and submitted. This meant that I could put my full concentration into learning the new route.

It was a much nicer morning outside this time. There was barely any wind and the temperature was extremely mild for late December. This meant that as we walked along the shore I could hear Jenny perfectly. I remembered a little bit more of the forward route than I had the previous week. My Trekker was incredibly helpful with its audio landmarks and guidance. It isn’t 100% accurate, but then what GPS device is? For technology that’s several years ago, I think its accuracy is pretty decent. I’m still waiting to hear from HumanWare on my Victor Reader Trek but now we’re in the new year and they said to expect to hear from them in the new year so hopefully it’ll be any time now.

We had coffee in the little coffee shop we’d stopped in last week. Again their luxury hot chocolate was lovely. The man who runs it knows my dad and recognised me as his daughter. He provided us with great service and Jenny told me about the food they have on offer which includes jacket potatoes, paninis and slices of all different kinds of cake. The fact that they sell banana loaf caught my attention. It is my ultimate favourite cake and I think that I’ll treat myself to a piece when I’ve accomplished a bit more of the route. I think I’ll have banana loaf as a treat when I’ve retained more of the route in my head.

Again, the return route was even better than anything I’ve managed so far. I remembered more landmarks and which direction to go in. We re-recorded a few of the landmarks on my Trekker to try and make the route a bit more accurate next time. It felt good to be retaining more information about the route. While we walked, Jenny took notes of the route in a notebook; she recorded which directions I needed to turn at certain points along the route and particular landmarks to look out for that signal particular parts in the route. She agreed to email them across to me and I plan to spend some time reading over and over them so I can maybe remember some of them while walking the route. The hope is that they might help me learn it.

By the time I reached my front gate, I was feeling quite positive about the route and the gradual progress I seem to be making. My biggest worry, however, is that I will have forgotten the small amount of information I’ve retained so far over the gap of the Christmas period. My only hope is that my brain will be better than I’m expecting and remember more while I’m walking the route again. My next session is scheduled for Thursday at 9:30. The weather forecast predicts the weather is going to be quite horrible so I’m just hoping its not so bad that we have to reschedule. The more sessions I have, the quicker I can remember this route and add it to my list of routes I know. I can only hope that Thursday’s session goes well and that I make more progress. If not and I’ve forgotten some parts, I hope Thursday’s session gives me an opportunity to get back to the stage I was at before Christmas.

New year’s eve 2017

So today is new year’s eve, meaning tomorrow is a brand new year. At midnight, we’ll enter 2018. For many, tonight will be about partying. I know a lot of people who usually drink a lot of alcohol and have a lot of fun in pubs and clubs with friends and family. Usually, I spend the evening all cosy at home with at least my Mum and sister Tamsin, sometimes accompanied by my Dad too. The last couple of years, its only been Mum, Tamsin and me, not really fussed about staying up til midnight but doing it anyway, watching rubbish TV until about ten to midnight when Mum changes the channel and we watch the count down to new year. I can’t remember a year when I haven’t watched the last ten minutes of the year flutter by on TV. Then, when Big Ben chimes in London and the fireworks start, I’ll wish whoever I’m nearest a happy new year. Some years, Mum and I have gone to stand out on our front porch to watch the fireworks nearby going off. Most years, they’re still going an hour later. This new yer’s, though, I’m not going to spend the last ten minutes of the year sat with my Mum, waiting for Big Ben’s bongs. I’ll be home, but Mum, Dad and my not so little any more sister won’t. Recently, Mum returned to her younger days role of barmaid at our local social club. She was a barmaid in 1995 when she met my dad and I don’t think I realised, until lately, just how much she enjoyed the job. Originally, she said she was only taking it to earn a bit extra money to pay for Christmas, so that it didn’t have to use up all the money from her monthly wages. But it’s a week after Christmas now and there’s no signs of her stopping working. Of course, if she enjoys it that much then I’m more than happy for her. Why wouldn’t I be? It gets her out of the house doing something she once enjoyed very much and socialising with people she maybe wouldn’t meet otherwise; and as an added bonus, shes earning money for it. But it means that on top of her 9:30am to 6:00pm job at Salon Supplies, shes now working several nights a week, usually from 6pm to 11:30pm or later. Mostly, shes working weekends. It means shes a lot more tiered than she was and we’re seeing her less than we were. But it seems to be working. The ship’s still floating, just about. But tonight, the club is hosting a new year’s party, which Mum, who has already been given the role of top bar staff, is running. So that means shes not here. Dad and Tamsin aren’t, either, because they’re going to the party. Many people know my hatred of all things related to alcohol and loud noise so the club tonight would be my worst kind of nightmare. I wish the fact that my family were all going to be there was enough to convince me to endure it. But I just can’t. I’m pretty gutted though, mostly that I won’t be spending it with my Mum, who I can only remember not spending new year’s with once in all my twenty years. There may have been more when I was little but the only year I remember was in 2014 when I reluctantly decided to spend it with my then fiancé and his mum. Even though we had a nice time, I felt weird about not being with my Mum. I guess it’s a bit daft really. I’m sure they’ll all have a nice time here and I probably will too. My pal Josh is coming over to stay and Mum’s bought us a whole buffet load of food to munch through. Josh has agreed we can watch the Big Ben fireworks and even my sister Imi has said she should be available for FaceTime at some point. So it should be a nice night and its nice that I’ll have someone to spend it with. Otherwise, I’d have been on my own and probably gone to bed early. New year’s isn’t a big deal or anything. I don’t want a huge party and loads of alcohol. I just like spending it with those who mean the most. Of course, one year that meant I thought I wanted to spend it with the person I then thought I was going to marry. Obviously, now things are different. If I could, I’d have all my favourite people in the world in one room. Although I can’t have my family tonight, Im lucky to have Josh, who has been my friend 10 years next year.

Mostly, 2017 has been a great year for me. Ive been able to spend as much time as I possibly can with Kieran, I was given the chance to experience what having a guide dog is like and I’ve been to loads of great places. In June, I fulfilled a lifelong ambition of taking Mum to see one of her favourite bands live. The Take That concert is definitely one of my favourite nights of 2017. I expected them to be good and for Mum to enjoy it, but I didn’t anticipate quite how much. They were brilliant and Mum had a great time. We drove up to London together and spent a whole afternoon moseying around the O2. It’s huge! I wish I’d known how much it contained before we travelled. We were able to have Nando’s and spend the whole afternoon browsing everything else the O2 had on offer. After we were through security, we were taken straight to the front of the queue and let in quickly. Due to my haste to just get Mum some tickets for Take That, I hadn’t secured us very good seats, in fact they were the last row! But Mum didn’t seem the slightest bit bothered. She seemed to love the whole night. She was singing and dancing to every song. When I booked the tickets, I’d hoped it would be good and she’d enjoy herself, but I couldn’t have imagined how much. We got band merchandise and they sang all the best songs. What more could I have asked for? Even more than that, I had a rare opportunity to just spend some time with my Mum. Having a little sister and Dad means that is a real rarity but I do enjoy it when it happens.

Another opportunity for a just us day came 4 months later when we headed to London again, this time to see my all-time favourite band live. In 2011, whilst sitting in a Land Rover on its way to Salisbury with four people who mean a lot to me despite how little we talk these days, I was fully introduced to Train and to what will always be my favourite album of theirs, Save Me San Francisco. Ever since, I’ve collected every album of theirs I can find and loved them. So when I booked the tickets, I couldn’t have been more excited. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for Mum, who had only agreed to come because I needed someone to drive me and someone to be there with me. But even she still says they were amazing and she thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Once again I’d underestimated how much there would be to do once we reached London. This time, we were destined for the Hammersmith Apollo, a place I’d seen many comedian play on Tv. The Apollo was surrounded by loads, including two shopping centres. So Mum and I spent a few hours browsing everything before we had to queue to get inside. Once again, we were rushed straight to the front of the queue and got in a lot faster than others. I was even able to buy Train merchandise, something I hadn’t found before then. I got a T shirt with the tour dates on and a zip-up hoodie with them printed on too. Even I couldn’t have hoped Train to be quite as amazing as they were. Making my night perfect, they sang my all-time favourite song of theirs, Parachute. Mum managed to record loads of great videos, which I now forever have to replay one of my best nights of the year.

Of course it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention Zena a bit when talking about my 2017. She shaped the whole first half of my year. In January, I was excitedly anticipating her arrival and in February I was training and qualifying with her. March, April, May and June were spent trying to keep our partnership afloat and finally admitting it wasn’t working out. July was spent wishing she wasn’t gone and wondering if I’d done the right thing. By august, I was back in contact with Guide Dogs, asking to be assessed for one of their dogs. And I’ve spent the last few months working as hard as I can to learn new routes so that I’ll be enough for one of their dogs. It is true, I’ve become obsessed with being a Guide Dog owner, but now I think it is all for the right reasons. Zena gave me that. Although she never should have been a guide and I’m now thrilled shes retired as a pet, she showed me I was right all along: guide dog mobility is my favourite and best way to be independent. I’m now doing things I wouldn’t have dared to before zena and so although the whole having her is a bittersweet part of the year, overall I’m glad it happened. I got the opportunity to be mummy to a beautiful doggy for 5 months and in return she taught me the best ways to look after, groom, feed, walk and love a dog. When I evemtually get another guide dog, I know i’ll be able to put everything, good and bad, that she taught me into being a much better owner and dog mummy. I just hope that, wherever she is now, her new family are looking after her with the best care and loving her like I did. Because although we had a lot more bad than good, I love that girlie more than I can put into words. I know, though, that when I eventually get matched with a Guide Dog, it’ll be a much better partnership than Zena and I could ever have achieved. That, more than anything, is why I’m glad I didn’t persevere with Seeing Dogs and am persevering learning new routes with my lovely My Guide volunteer. The end result will be what I want and that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

Ive also managed to see my sister Imi twice this year and both times we had great fun. Josh and I have been meeting up weekly since early this year. We’ve also added more comedians to my seen live list: Shappi Khorsandi, Jon Richardson and Jimmy Carr were all incredible. Josh and I also went to see Lucy Spraggan live and saw her a second time with Imi up north. Ive continued to play cricket for Hampshire VICC and even got awarded “man of the match” for one of the games I played. Kieran and I have been lucky to see each other as much as we have due to my qualification with Zena and his gaining employment. That’s our dedication to each other. In 9 days time, we’ll have been a couple for two years. We’ve had the best times and I’m hoping 2018 provides many more.

Already, it is looking like 2018 is going to be a year full of great things. We are already booked to see Shappi Khorsandi and Kevin Bridges again. Josh and I will also be adding John Bishop to our seen comedians list. In June, the four of us (Josh, Imi, Kieran and I) are going to have what promises to be one of the best nights of our lives seeing Ed Sheeran live in Newcastle. I’m hoping perhaps 2018 may be the year I finally go to Anfield to see Liverpool play.

But the biggest thing that is going to happen to my family is scheduled for the 2nd of February. My big brother, Grant, who moved away almost 13 years ago has now found a lovely lady to settle down with. Along with her two gorgeous children, Grant and his girlfriend now have a lovely little house and in February, four is going to become five. I’m going to be an auntie to a niece, who I can assure you I will spoil. Grant and I haven’t really been close for years and I wanted to rectify this. So in September, after a lot of talking, I went up to stay with the little family for a weekend. That was then I wholeheartedly new how excited I was about being an auntie. Because not only will I gain a baby niece in February, my brother’s first born and my dad’s first grandchild, but I have a new honorary niece and nephew. Grant’s girlfriend’s children are adorable and I’m blessed that she’s adopted me as their auntie Paige. I couldn’t have hoped for more. So in 2018 I intend to be spending a lot of time in Stoke-On-Trent with my nieces and nephew.

Lastly, my progress with my studies has been constant this year. I haven’t had any wobbles about changing course or quitting. Ive completed K118, my second Level 1 health and social care module just how I planned to and moved onto Level 2 with K217 and K240, achieving good scores in the first assignments for both. In 2018, I hope to continue steadily with both until I finish and pass them before moving onto Level 3 in october and starting my final two modules of OU study. By this point in two years, I hope to be sitting here with a good level degree and employment. But who knows?

So 2018 looks like it’s going to be a good year. I hope all of my family and friends remain healthy and hope 2018 brings good things for everyone, too. I’m hopeful, if I work hard on my routes, that I’ll get on the Guide Dogs waiting list sometime next year too. I’m not over ambitious, I don’t expect to have a new dog by this time next year. But you never know. I hope that I get to spend lots of time with all those who mean the most. And maybe, this time next year, Mum won’t be working and we can bring 2019 in together. Maybe.

“Alexa, play Christmas songs”…

On the 22nd of last month, with my huge rucksack on my back, I was dropped off at the airport by my parents so that I could board a plane to fly to Newcastle to visit Kieran and family. Like last time, there were weather warnings in place and there was pretty bad turbulence during the flight. When we landed and disembarked, I discovered that it was pouring with rain. I thought it was funny how, every time I travel to Newcastle, there is always some kind of weather issue, whether it be raining when I arrive or a severe weather warning be in place at the time I’m due to fly. As I was leaving the aeroplane, the cabin staff stopped me, a little baffled as a man who also required assistance had just left the aircraft and the assistance mini bus had driven away. Hurriedly, the cabin staff radioed to find out what was happening, asking why I hadn’t been collected as well. Apparently, the assistance staff weren’t aware there was more than one passenger requiring help. Quickly, the mini bus rushed back to us and the staff helped me on board, apologising profusely for the mistake. The thing that annoyed me about the situation was that I had ensured my assistance was booked for the whole journey and, as I found out on the short journey from the plane to the airport entrance, the other passenger had not. His wife remarked that they weren’t used to this kind of luxury but were very much enjoying it especially considering the rain. Thankfully, at the airport entrance, the wife offered to guide her husband while the member of assistance staff who had arrived to help guided me. Kieran and his parents were waiting in arrivals for me and it was great to see them again despite the fact that I was a bit soggy from the rain.

When we arrived at theirs, Kieran and I took my luggage straight upstairs. Then, when we came back down, it was time for dinner: a tasty pasta bolognese with garlic bread on the side accompanied by entertainment of Master Chef and Dave Gorman’s Modern Life Is Good-ish.

On Thursday, Kieran had a day off. It’s always nice when I fly up to stay that he has the first day I’m there off so that we can spend it together. After a long lie in, showering and getting dressed, we went down for breakfast, which turned into a lunch of butter milk chicken thighs and chips cooked by Kieran. The chicken was a new find by Lesley, which Kieran really enjoyed; I thought it wasn’t bad. During the afternoon, we watched episodes of Judge Judy and caught up on missed I’m a Celebrity. When Lesley and John came in from work, we decided to go out for dinner and to my favourite place in Blyth: the Italian restaurant Sambuca’s. Of course, I didn’t even need Lesley to give me a recap of the menu when we arrived. I just checked that the tuna and garlic pizza was still available and, when she confirmed it was, had my order right there. This time, nobody had starters, just mains and drinks. Kieran ordered pizza too, a meat feast pizza with added chilis and mushrooms, which he said was nice. When we got in, we watched Master Chef with Lesley and John before going upstairs to watch I’m A Celebrity on the plus 1 channel.

Friday saw Kieran back to work but Lesley’s day off. We got up at 6am because Kieran was being picked up early by his work colleague. While Lesley did housework, I started on my uni work. I was hoping that my stay up north would provide endless hours of study opportunity just like it had for the beginning of both modules in September. Friday proved that it just might as I managed to do a whole week’s worth of the online activities for K217. I’d decided to focus on K217 because it had an assessment deadline a lot closer than K240. K240 didn’t have one until February, by which time K217 would have another. Plus, the deadline was scheduled for four days before Christmas so I needed to make sure I wasn’t going to be late for that one. Studying over the festive period didn’t sound like much fun. A little later on, Kieran’s grandparents arrived for their usual Friday cup of tea and a chat. It was nice to see them again. After they left, Lesley made lunch of cornbeef sandwiches and chip stick crisps. A little later on, I went out with Lesley to do a little bit of Christmas shopping. It was absolutely manic in the shop, making it quite difficult for Lesley to maneuver me and the trolley through the tight spaces down the aisles. Not long after we arrived home, Kieran was dropped off. We went upstairs and listened to Pink’s new album Beautiful Trauma. Later, we went back downstairs and Kieran bought everyone takeaway: he had a donner and chicken mixed kebab and I had donner meat and chips. While we ate, we watched Man Down, Have I Got News For you, Gogglebox and The Last Leg. I hadn’t seen Man Down before and found it very funny. It’s already on its fourth series and Kieran said I would have to watch the others so that I could understand the full story. We went upstairs and decided to watch some comedy, settling on Sarah Millican’s Homebird live, which sadly we fell asleep partway through.

Saturday was cooked breakfast day. Lesley cooked for everyone before taking John to the train station so that he could go to the Newcastle match. Upstairs, Kieran tested out his new Hi-fi. During the afternoon, he listened to the Newcastle vs Watford match on his radio, which ended 0—3, while I did online Christmas shopping and read a book through Overdrive. Later, Kieran put the Liverpool vs Chelsea match on the telly for us to watch. At half time, we went with Lesley to meet John at their local pub The South Beach. While we were there, Kieran gave me the earphone to his little radio so that I could continue listening to the Liverpool match, which ended in a 1—1 draw. When we arrived back, Lesley served Spanish chicken, jacket potato and peas for dinner. We watched The Chase and The Likely Lads with Lesley and John before going upstairs and watched Russell Howard’s Wonderbox. It has my favourite sketch in it about the lion who speaks. Russell Howard puts on a brilliant accent and says `I … am … so … cold` and `David Attenborough came to see me and I did not roar`.

On Sunday morning, we had a long lie in. After showering and getting dressed, we went downstairs and had cups of tea. While Kieran did things on his laptop, including sorting through his 178 unread emails, I did more online Christmas shopping; we had Judge Judy on in the background. Lesley cooked a really delicious roast pork with mashed potato, broccoli, carrots and Yorkshire puddings. Later on, we went upstairs and watched some I’m A Celebrity. Also, Kieran had a shave ready for work. We listened to a bit of Famous Five Go To Treasure Island through his Echo and ordered dessert from my favourite ordering option Buzz Bar. I don’t know if it is a northern thing or if I just live in the wrong part of the south but in Blyth you can order dessert through Just Eat or Hungry House. I chose a dairy milk with flake added in milkshake, a slice of Malteser cheesecake and a slice of cookie dough tower cake. I planned to save the slice of cake to eat during the day on Monday. Kieran chose a dairy milk and milky bar milkshake, a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a bottle of Irnbru. However, not long after I’d placed the order, a phone call came to say that they’d ran out of Irnbru so Kieran had coke instead. We ate our pudding downstairs in the dining room while watching more I’m A Celebrity on the ITV Hub on Kieran’s Ipad. Then, we went back upstairs and listened to some Kistory before watching more I’m A Celebrity.

Monday meant everyone was back to work and I was back to studying. I didn’t actually do any online work but looked over the study planners and assignment timetables so that I knew what I was up against and could make a plan of how to tackle things. Afterwards, I caught up on episodes of East Enders and The A Word on Iplayer. Lesley had left me some cold pork sandwiches for lunch so I had them and the rest of my cookie dough cake, which sadly wasn’t very nice. I spent the rest of the afternoon listening to my book on Overdrive. When Kieran came home, we went upstairs and listened to Paloma Faith’s new album, Architect, and then some more of the Famous Five book. We had dinner of pie, chips and beans for dinner and watched The Chase and The Sheriffs Are Coming before going upstairs and watching I’m A Celebrity and listened to more Famous Five.

Kieran worked from home on Tuesday which meant I had some company. Lesley had bought a box of Weetabix for me to have for breakfast so that was what I had on Tuesday. While Kieran worked, I studied more towards K217. For lunch, Kieran had sandwiches and soup but I just had the sandwiches because I didn’t feel like both. Then, Kieran’s grandma came to take him to his maths class. While he was out, I read more of my Overdrive book. When Kieran came home, we went upstairs and watched some Judge Judy. We had mince and dumplings for dinner. Kieran listened to Newcastle vs West Brom which ended 2—2 and then we watched Manchester United vs Watford which had a final score of 4—2, Family Guy and Master Chef.

I decided to have a day off studying on Wednesday. I just didn’t feel motivated to do anything. Instead, I caught up on East Enders, Holby City and The A Word on Iplayer before reading some more of my book. I had my soup from the day before for lunch. That night, we had ravioli with chorizo for dinner. I was very sad to discover that my absolute ravioli that only Lesley buys is no longer made. But it was all right in the end because the replacement ravioli she’d bought was nice, too. While we ate, we watched Master Chef before going upstairs because they were watched Peaky Blinders. We watched I’m A Celebrity.

Thursday was another day of lacking study motivation for me. It’s really annoying when I feel like that because I’m fully aware of looming deadlines and the need to stay on top of things. Instead, I read more books and had more soup for lunch. When Kieran came home, we went upstairs and listened to some more Famous Five. For dinner, we had chicken and mushroom pie, mash and broccoli for dinner. We watched Master Chef and The Chase before going back upstairs and continuing listening to Famous Five.

Somehow, Friday the 1st of December had arrived. This meant that Kieran put Christmas music on as soon as we were awake. While Lesley took him to work and I started on K217 study, I listened to Christmas music channels on the telly. Later, Kieran’s grandparents came round for their weekly chat. Lesley made lunch of chopped pork sandwiches. I read more of my Overdrive book for the rest of the afternoon before Kieran came home. Lesley agreed to take us out so we could go on a date night. We agreed on Frankie and Benny’s because there were some deals on and it was one of our good places to go. While we enjoyed date night, Lesley and John had a Nando’s next door. We ordered drinks of a coke and a Sam Adams beer. Then, we chose starters of mozzarella sticks and Louisiana hot wings. Kieran chose a meat lover’s burger with chips and I had a New York Giant’s pizza with a side of garlic bread to share. Afterwards, Kieran had a Long Island iced tea cocktail and I had my favourite pudding of warm chocolate brownies with salted caramel sauce. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy the pizza as much as I’d hoped to. I’ve always loved their garlic bread and Kieran said their pizzas were made on the same base so I assumed I’d like them equally; but I just didn’t. The sauce wasn’t very nice, either, and it just put me off. Kieran enjoyed his burger very much, though, and the other parts of the meal made it up for me. Once indoors and feeling very full, we watched Gogglebox, Family Guy and The Last Leg with Lesley and John.

On Saturday, Lesley and John went to the races while Kieran and I stayed at theirs. After we’d showered and dressed, we listened to the first half of Newcastle vs Chelsea on Kieran’s Echo upstairs. Then, we went downstairs for breakfast: Kieran having sausage sandwiches and me sticking to Weetabix because I just didn’t fancy sausage. We caught up on I’m A Celebrity and I had a banana and Kieran had a Gregg’s festive bake as snacks. I listened to the Brighton vs Liverpool match, which ended 1—5. After that, we watched the Arsenal vs Manchester United match which had a result of 1—3. When Lesley text to say she and John were staying out and having a meal, we decided to order takeaway; Kieran chose a chicken special kebab with chips and I had donner meat and chips. We agreed on onion rings to share and because we’d spent over a certain amount, we got a free cheesy garlic bread. I added a doctor pepper, too, but Kieran said he’d have something we already had in. The food was lovely. We watched Jack Whitehall’s Netflix special At Large, which was very funny. When Lesley and John came in, we watched some Family Guy and then went upstairs to listen to some more Famous Five.

Sunday was a lazy day for Kieran and I. However, Lesley spent the majority of the day putting up Christmas decorations. For lunch, I had a mini pie and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. I read some more of my Overdrive book. Then, we went upstairs and listened to more Famous Five. We went downstairs for dinner and I had breaded chicken with waffles while everyone else had curry. We watched Man Down and Dave Gorman’s Modern Life Is Good-ish. Then, we retreated back upstairs so that Kieran could have a shave ready for work and we could catch up on I’m A Celebrity.

Kieran was back to work on Monday and I started work on my second assignment for K217. Afterwards, I caught up on East Enders and started watching Employable Me. When that was finished, I listened to some podcasts. Later, after Kieran came home, we went upstairs and continued listening to Famous Five. For dinner, we had jacket potato with bacon and beans and watched The Chase. Then, we went upstairs and watched the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special because Lesley was watching Strictly. Once that was finished, we browsed which films were audio described on Netflix before watching I’m A Celebrity.

Tuesday meant another day working from home for Kieran. While he worked, I took more notes for my assignment. Then, while Kieran was at maths, I listened to some more podcasts. When Kieran came home, he wasn’t feeling very well so we went upstairs and listened to Christmas music. We had chicken and chips with peas, gravy and crusty bread for dinner while watching The Chase. To help himself feel better, Kieran ran himself a bath while I listened to Lucy Spraggan on his Echo. Afterwards, we curled up together and watched I’m A Celebrity.

Sadly, Wednesday arriving meant my last day in Blyth for 2017. Kindly, Kieran had decided to have the day off so that we could spend it together before I left. Before we got up, we listened to Christmas music. Then, Kieran had crumpets and I had toast with a Sports Direct mug of tea for breakfast. We watched Master Chef and one of Kieran’s favourite episodes of Dave Gorman’s Modern Life Is Good-ish while munching through a box of whine gums. We went back upstairs and had cuddles while listening to Ed Sheeran’s Divided By and then Paloma Faith’s Fall To Grace on Kieran’s new Hi-fi. Once Lesley was home, we went downstairs and had tea of sausage, chips and beans. John came in a little while later and had his and we watched The Chase. After that, I made sure I’d packed everything and then we bundled in the car and headed for the airport. John had Dire Straits on in the car and it was the first time I recognised music from his Ipod!

Soon, though, we were at the airport. Checking in was easy and then at the assistance desk Lesley rang for help. They arrived not long after and it was time for the worst part, goodbye. Some might think, after saying goodbye countless times now, Kieran and I would be used to it, used to the fact that our relationship is based on distance. But I can speak on behalf of both of us when I say it never gets easier. In fact, I’d say it’s getting harder. In January, Kieran and I will have officially been together two years. In some ways, it doesn’t seem that long ago but in others, it feels like we’ve been together much, much longer. I know without question that I’m blessed to have had these two years with Kieran and I’m hopeful we’ll have many, many more. I’m just certain he feels the same.

As always, to Lesley and John, all the thanks in the world for having me, for the laughter and the fun, all the meals in and out. I always appreciate you putting up with me and look forward to coming back one day soon.

Kieran, there’s far too much to say. Thank you for everything but mainly for being my person. I love you more than I can say and I can’t believe we’ve almost had two years together already. I hope you and the whole family have a super Christmas and I can’t wait for our gift exchange tonight at midnight. I hope, one day, we won’t be almost 300 miles apart during the festivities and can open each other’s presents on Christmas morning like you’re supposed to, rather than over FaceTime in the first moments of Christmas morning. One day, there won’t be any distance. But for now, I wouldn’t change it for the world. When we decided to do this almost two years ago, we knew what we were getting into and what it would mean when you went home. Truthfully, it’s been great and we couldn’t have hoped for better. I never expected anything as good.

Oh and Lesley, you can ask Siri or Alexa or anyone you feel like to play Christmas songs now, it’s passed the 1st of December!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!