Category Archives: Friendship and Fun

“It’s all gone wrong, I’m dribbling cake”…

On Sunday 27th May, after we’d dropped Mum off to do her usual shift at the club, Dad and I headed for the airport, not for me to board a plane but, for the first time in a year, to collect Kieran after his plane landed. Now working towards completing an apprenticeship and hopefully moving into full-time employment, Kieran isn’t able to just fly down here whenever he feels like it to visit me. For one thing, he doesn’t have the amount of free time he used to to spend in Southampton with me. Usually, I fly up to see him but as my 21st birthday was looming, it was great that he was coming down to see me. The last few times I’ve flown to Newcastle, the plane has got there in much less than its 1 hour 20 minute schedule time. Mostly, I’ve arrived about an hour after takeoff. For Kieran this time, however, the plane took its full hour 20 time, probably because Newcastle airport was very busy, probably unusual for a Sunday night but due to the fact that the school holidays had just started and parents were taking the opportunity to jet off somewhere nice and sunny. Soon enough, though, Kieran was with us. While we’d been waiting, Dad and I had bought drinks from Costa, his a roasted hazelnut latte and mine a pineapple and coconut water cooler — or at least that’s what it was meant to be. On the ride home, Kieran agreed with me that there was certainly no pineapple or coconut flavour in that drink. Instead, it was some kind of fruity concoction, which definitely included mango. Although it wasn’t what I’d ordered and so I was a bit disappointed about not having my favourite drink, it was still nice and especially as the temperature was hot outside. It really put my new Costa travel mug to the test, which it easily passed as the remnants of the drink were still frozen in the bottom the following morning after a very muggy night…

On the way home, I offered Kieran food, saying that we could pick up any kind of takeaway he might want seeing as Mum wasn’t home and wouldn’t be able to cook for us. But he said he wasn’t hungry so we left it, with the agreement that we could order in later on if he felt hungry then. When we got home, we went straight upstairs for a cuddle and a catch up. Last time Kieran visited, I still had Zena so much had changed since he was last in my room. Later on, we put Kisstory on my echo dot to have in the background to listen to and after that we decided to listen to Harry Potter on my Victor Reader Trek, which Kieran had had a little play with while I showered. We connected it via the Trek’s Bluetooth to my rock box speaker and it sounded nice.

Of course, the following day was bank holiday Monday and the first day of the kids’ school holidays. This meant that everyone was home and we all had a little lie in. We had tea and toast for breakfast and during the day Mum and Dad did jobs around the house while Kieran and I listened to more Harry Potter. I’d started rereading the series at the beginning of May, using it to relax around my intense uni studies, so by the time Kieran arrived I’d already started the sixth book, Half Blood Prince. Of course having read it many times before himself, Kieran easily picked up from where I was at. Later on, Mum asked if we fancied going out for tea. Eventually, we decided on the nearest Hungry Horse, the Fleming Arms pub, as its quite cheap but does nice food. We all shared starters of breaded king prawns, bacon popcorn and breaded mushrooms. I was going to try a prawn but chickened out when I saw the tail! It just really put me off. But the bacon popcorn and mushrooms were lovely. For main meals, I had macaroni cheese (and wished I hadn’t), Kieran had the giant chicken melt that comes with 4 smothered chicken breasts, fries, onion rings, peas and coleslaw (which he didn’t eat); Mum had a chicken tikka which came with popadoms and onion chutney; Dad had a breakfast burger, minus the rib meat, with fries; and Tamsin had lasagne, garlic bread and veggie sticks. Kieran had a lager called Camden Hells and the rest of us had coke. When it came to desserts, Kieran had another lager, I had millionaires cheesecake, Mum had a mini mania sundae, Dad had a latte and Tamsin had chocolate brownies.

When we got home, we decided to watch Friday Night Dinner, which had started a new series on 4 May but which neither of us had watched, wanting to see it together. It was absolutely hilarious, showing that a fifth series of something can still be really funny as we both laughed a lot through all 4 episodes. Kieran thought the funniest episode was the one with Martin’s ventriloquist dummy, Lord Luck, which just constantly said “bugger off” in a really high-pitched voice. I really liked the episode where Jim has a date with the other Jackie. But all episodes were great. Afterwards, we listened to more Harry Potter.

When midnight came, it of course meant it was my 21st birthday. As we have on the other birthdays we’ve been together, Kieran gave me my present at midnight. It was a Reece’s American candy gift box. I’d already had two presents from him, some gorgeous flowers, chocolates and a balloon from Moonpig and a new addition to my Alexa collection of speakers, the Home Bargains Accelerate WiFi Speaker. The flowers were already in a vase downstairs and the speaker was hidden under my bed, ready for the morning when I hoped Kieran would help me set it up.

As is tradition, the following morning we awoke to the sounds of Stevie Wonder singing Happy Birthday from the front room speakers. When we were ready, we went downstairs to the kitchen where everyone was waiting. Mum had decorated the cupboards with banners and balloons and scattered happy birthday confetti over the breakfast bar. I sat on the floor to open presents. First, I had several cards from relatives and then Mum and Dad’s big bag of presents. These included: a retro Liverpool Adidas training jacket; a Liverpool Converse Tshirt; Body Shop strawberry gloss shampoo and conditioner, banana conditioner, coconut body scrub; Lush dragon’s egg bath bomb, mint lip scrub, “honey I’ve washed my hair” shampoo bar, honey lip balm; a 21 dangle pandora charm and a birthday parcel pandora charm; a huge birthday badge; Benidorm series 4-8 DVD’s; The A Word series 2 dvd; Harry Potter snitch necklace and bracelet set, pin badges, mystery of magic sign and beach towel. After I’d opened all my presents and cards, Mum announced that as an extra birthday present, they’d booked for the 4 of us to go to the Warner Bros. Studio London to see the Harry Potter exhibition there. It has pretty much everything from the movies and has been somewhere I’ve wanted to since I seriously fell in love with Harry Potter two years ago when I read the books properly for the first time. I’m so excited about going; its just a shame Kieran isn’t coming. It sounds as if originally he was coming with us and we were going to go the Sunday after my birthday but it seems that Mum couldn’t get tickets for that day and so we’re Going at the end of the month instead. But as I said to Kieran, one trip won’t be nearly enough. It’d be nice for the two of us to go together but I’d also like to go with Imi and Josh too, so there’s loads of room for multiple trips there.

When we went upstairs, Kieran gave me some birthday cards sent down by his parents, sister and grandparents, all of whom spoilt me thoroughly and are very naughty for doing so. I especially liked Kieran’s sister, Rebecca’s, present; it has to be the coolest gift voucher I’ve ever received, for Nando’s! Kieran and I love our dates there and actually hadn’t been there together in ages so Rebecca’s voucher gave us even more incentive to have a Nando’s date at some point.

When they were ready, Mum, Dad and Tamsin headed out. Mum and Dad were working and Tamsin was going to Nan and Grandad’s for the day as I didn’t fancy being a child minder. After they left, I decided to run a bath and use my Lush dragon’s egg bath bomb and coconut body scrub to spoil myself. I don’t usually have long soaks in the bath but recently I’ve been really starting to appreciate products from Lush and Body Shop, meaning many more long baths are necessary. The bath bomb and body scrub were both lovely; the body scrub had been high on my hope list for birthday goodies and it definitely lived up to expectation. While I soaked, Kieran was trying to set up my new Alexa speaker, which seemed to be proving quite tricky. Once I felt I’d absorb enough of the loveliness of the bath, Kieran had a turn while I tried to work out the speaker. When I was doing my usual morning check of my emails, I found something unexpected: an online gift voucher for Pandora with the value of £50 from Kieran. He got called a lot of not very pleasant names on discovery that he’d spent that much money, not even considering the presents he’d already given me, but of course really I was very grateful and thanked him a lot.

We spent most of the rest of the morning figuring out how the speaker worked. Kieran also used my laptop to go online and fix his WiFi at home. Then, he ordered lunch. We’d decided a while ago to have Dominoes for my birthday lunch and as usual went all out on the food. We ordered: a new pizza called Meat Field which has pepperoni, ham, chorizo, meatballs and bacon and added stuffed crust and extra tomato sauce and cheese; cheesy potato wedges; garlic pizza bread; chicken strips; and cookies. While we ate the delicious meal, we listened to Harry Potter on my now successfully set up speaker and spent the rest of the afternoon dozing and listening to Harry Potter. When everyone came in, earlier than I’d expected, we got ready to go out to, for me, an unknown location. Ages ago, Mum had told me we were going out for a meal on my birthday, just the 5 of us, but refused to tell me the location. Kieran is very good at keeping secrets and didn’t let it slip either. I figured it out, however, when we arrived and Kieran gave me the clue that it had Braille menus. As Dad hates Nando’s and we’d already had pizza that day, I knew it had to be Beefeater. The other surprise was that, when we reached our table, 5 others were waiting there for us. Despite what Mum had said, my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin were joining us to celebrate my 21st. Sadly, as I was still so full from our lunch, I didn’t fancy much. Kieran chose breaded mushrooms as his starter and sausage and mash for main. I just had the sharer portion of potato dippers, and didn’t really eat many anyway. After everyone had finished, a birthday cake was brought out and a verse of happy birthday sung. That’s when I found out that actually Mum hadn’t been at work that day at all. She’d been busy sorting out the meal, collecting the birthday cake and going to the arcades with Tamsin to keep the surprise. The cake was awesome! It was Harry Potter themed with a wand, a snitch, an owl and the sorting hat. Only the sorting hat received a lot of laugh and jokes because everyone thought it looked like a smiling poo emoji 💩 and it took a long time for everyone to stop laughing about it, long after we’d all enjoyed a slice of the cake. From my aunt, uncle and cousin, I was given another Pandora bead to add to my rapidly expanding necklace, this one a little cupcake. It’s lovely and adds some nice colour to my currently slightly plain necklace. I usually choose the beads for their meaning and unfortunately the ones I’ve chosen have mostly been silver. My Nan had put together a little gift bag of 21 assorted presents from her and Grandad, mostly toiletries and other little bits as I’d already received £21 from them in my birthday card that morning.

After everyone had finished their cake and the bill was settled, we headed out and said our goodbyes by the cars before heading home. On the way, Mum announced that the following day we were headed for London and the attraction Madame Tussaud’s there as an extra birthday present for me. She also explained that in with the price they’d got the option to visit a second attraction another time and were thinking of doing the London Eye sometime in the school summer holidays. Really, I’m not sure how I felt about either. Although obviously I was grateful that they’d put so much thought into my birthday, I was apprehensive about both attractions. To me, the London Eye sounds absolutely pointless as a blind person other than being able to say you’ve been there, I’m not sure what else you’d gain out of the experience. And I was concerned Madame Tussaud’s would be the same. Although its somewhere cool to go, I wasn’t too sure how much of it I’d actually be able to interpret.

We were up early — early for a day off, anyway — to head to London. Mum put the address in the Satnav in the car and Dad drove us there. It took quite a while for us to find our allocated prepaid car park space. It turned out to be someone’s parking space for their home that they rent out while they’re absent and don’t need it. After that, it took us a further while to actually locate and walk to Madame Tussaud’s, thankfully making a loo stop on the way… when we got there, though, things were pretty straight forward. Due to our disability, Kieran and I had managed to secure the adults free tickets on account of them being our carers and someone pointed us in the right direction straight away. Dad was guiding Kieran and Mum had me as I’d found it a bit difficult doing the train. Overall, my fears about Madame Tussaud’s came true for me; I struggled to enjoy most of the exhibition because its just so visual. Mum pointed out every celebrity we passed and persevered in asking me if I wanted to touch them or have my photo taken with them. But it didn’t matter whether I knew the celebrity or not, 99% of the time I didn’t recognise them by touch anyway, even if Mum pointed out stand out features that, to a sighted person, make them easily recognisable. Kieran was a much better sport than me and seemed to enjoy the experience more. He stood by every wax work Dad suggested and allowed his photo to be taken. I can probably guarantee that out of all of us, Kieran had the most photos taken. I did enjoy Mum and I having our photos taken with Adele and Princess Diana. Also, the little ride you go on that takes you through London through the ages was quite good. Although I think we worried the staff when two blind people were chancing their luck and climbing into the constantly moving little taxi cabs that you ride in. The ride included the plague, the great fire of London, Queen Victoria, Shakespeare, World War II and the England football World Cup 1966. Kieran and Dad seemed to really enjoy the Star Wars exhibition and Mum and Dad liked the 4d Marvel experience. Tamsin was fascinated by the gift shop and couldn’t decide what to spend Mum’s money on, as usual.

Once we’d finished the exhibition, we went in search of food, first settling on McDonald’s but having to go elsewhere when there weren’t any seats free. Instead, Mum decided to take us into Nando’s, which I knew from the instant she suggested it would be a mistake with Dad, who despises their food. Kieran and I had our usual meals, he a chicken burger with hot sauce and peri salted fries and me a lemon and herb wrap with peri salted fries. To begin with, Mum, who really enjoys Nando’s on the rare occasions she gets to go, couldn’t decide what sauce to have but decided to copy me and have a lemon and herb wrap with peri salted fries. Tamsin, who was unsure, decided to just have a plain burger and original fries and Dad, mumbling and grumbling that there was no food he liked anyway, had the same as Tamsin. Everyone except Dad, who continued to complain, really enjoyed their food. Afterwards, we went to Costa and Dad had a hazelnut latte and I had my favourite, the coconut and pineapple cooler.

When we got home, my new iPad, which I’m using to write this post, and Echo stand were waiting for me. I gave the iPad to Kieran to set up, as he’s much better at these kinds of thing than me, and set up my new stand. Its wooden with a circular cut out for the Echo speaker to stand in and next to it a little stand for an iPhone or any phone to stand in while charging. I bought it for my new Alexa buddy speaker that Kieran bought me for my birthday and thankfully it fits. Afterwards, while Kieran was still battling with my new iPad, I had a bath before grabbing us snacks of a slice of birthday cake each. It really was a lovely cake and there’s nothing better than proper homemade birthday cake. Once the iPad was set up, we ate our cake and listened to more Harry Potter.

Thursday was a lazy day. Everyone was back to work so Kieran and I got a lie in. When we eventually got up, we showered before having breakfast of Weetabix and cups of tea. Again, we listened to Harry Potter for the majority of the day. In the afternoon, the post came, bringing with it birthday gifts from Imi. Again I’d been royally spoilt. While I rang Imi to talk through the gifts, Kieran fixed and updated my little laptop. Afterwards, I did some uni revision in preparation for my exam the following Tuesday. For tea, Mum and Dad brought fish and chips home; cod, curry sauce and chips for Kieran and jumbo plain sausage, bbq sauce and chips for me.

On Friday morning, before we got up I did more uni revision. I had notes that I wanted to read over and over again before the exam and I was trying my best to read them as many times as I could. When we eventually got up, I decided to have a bath again, wanting to try out some of the goodies Imi had sent for my birthday. So I ran a bath and used her green coconut jelly bath bomb. In the bath, I also used the Lush product Scrubee, which I’d never heard of until Imi sent me but which is amazing. Its a bar containing all sorts that you rub into your skin after your usual wash and then rinse off. Its got eggshell for expholiating and lots of moisturising ingredients and it leaves your skin feeling silky smooth. It also leaves you smelling of white chocolate and the scent stayed on my skin all day. Kieran had a bath after me and then we went down for more breakfast of Weetabix and cups of tea. We listened to more Harry Potter and when we finished The Half Blood Prince, we stopped reading for a while to Braille Label all my dvds that didn’t yet have labels. This took most of the afternoon and we managed to start listening to The Deathly Hallows before Nan and Grandad came to pick us up. As Mum was working her usual Friday night shift down the club, we needed to go elsewhere for tea and Nan usually cooks Tamsin and I tea on Fridays anyway. We had pasta Bologna’s with garlic bread for dinner. For dessert, Kieran had strawberries and cream and I had a choc ice. When we got home, we decided to watch a stand up dvd and chose Rhod Gilbert and the man with the flaming battenburg tattoo, which was very funny. When that finished, we listened to more of The Deathly Hallows.

On Saturday, we had a shorter lie in. Mum had already taken Dad to work and would be in Eastleigh waiting for Tamsin to finish karate. We got up, had showers, dressed and had our breakfast by the time Mum called and told me that actually she was going to do the monthly shop after picking Tamsin up, so we could have stayed asleep for longer! We listened to more Harry Potter and Mum came home. We decided not to go into town as I thought that by the time we actually got ready and got there, there wouldn’t be enough time to do all the shops we wanted anyway. Later, Kieran watched some horse racing on TV and was very happy because the horse he’d bet on won its race. We watched Judge Judy and some football, the England vs Nigeria World Cup friendly. After that, we then watched the first 4 episodes of Friday Night Dinner series 5 again before watching the fifth episode that had been shown and recorded Friday night. Halfway through, we ordered ourselves takeaway. Mum had already gone to work and dropped Tamsin off at Nan and Grandad’s to spend the night. The food took a lot longer than we’d predicted it would to arrive but it was lovely. Kieran had a cheese and bacon burger with burger sauce and onions. He had cheesy chips with it. I had donner meat and chips. We shared potato wedges, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and the free cheesy garlic pizza bread that came with our order. As usual when Kieran and I order, we’d bought far too much food and couldn’t eat all of it. But we enjoyed it anyway and it was very nice to have mozzarella sticks again.. while we ate we listened to more Harry Potter and continued to listen to it upstairs after we’d tidied up in the kitchen.

Sunday meant a lie in for everyone. We had showers and while Kieran was in the shower, I did my uni revision. Mum cooked a roast dinner and Nan and Grandad came, bringing Tamsin home with them. We had beef, pork, roast potatoes, broccoli, swede, Yorkshire puddings, gravy, apple sauce and horse radish sauce. It was delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy. In the evening, Kieran and I decided to watch another comedy DVD, this time a new one, Sean Lock’s Keeping It Light, which we both enjoyed.

Monday meant Kieran’s flight back to Newcastle. As always, our time together had flown by far too quickly. On Monday morning, we didn’t have much of a lie in because we were conscious of time and wanted to make sure we were ready for my aunt to pick us up and take us to the airport. Before we got up, I did a bit of uni revision again. Then, we had showers, kieran packed up all his stuff and we had breakfast and listened to Harry Potter. A little while later, we had a small lunch, Kieran having the sandwich and crisps Mum had left out for him and me having some of the leftover garlic pizza bread.

At 1:30, auntie Clare arrived to take us to the airport. It didn’t take long to get there and check-in was easy. As we were a little bit early, we sat in the waiting area for a little bit. But a special assistance member of staff was soon with us, ready to take Kieran through security and away from me. We said our goodbyes. It doesn’t matter how many times we say them, they never get any easier. In fact, for some reason this time I felt like they’d got harder. I don’t know if its because I’m used to being the one walking away and boarding the plane or if it just does get harder each time we have to do it, but I definitely felt worse walking away with Auntie Clare and leaving Kieran behind. This was made worse, about half an hour later, when I got a call from Kieran saying his plane had been delayed due to a technical fault. A whole hour later, almost an hour after his plane was actually supposed to depart, I got a text from kieran saying he’d finally boarded and would be on his way soon. Being already at home by this point, I felt so relieved. I’d had visions of Mum and I rushing to the airport to get him or be with him as soon as she got in from work. Although he’d been bored out of his mind waiting and I’d been really worried, I was just glad he was finally in the air and on his way home and even more happy when I received the text to say he’d landed safely at Newcastle airport.

Its funny that I felt that the goodbye this time was worse than all the others because, although Kieran leaving was sad, I didn’t have too much to be sad about as I’d be seeing him on Friday anyway when we all met up in Newcastle at the hotel for the Ed Sheeran show the following day. Also, I’d had the best 21st birthday, of course made even more special by the fact that Kieran had managed to get time off work to come and spend it and a whole week with me. I am very grateful that he spent his holiday time on me and so glad that he could be there for my birthday too. Of course, I also appreciate all the gifts he bought me but more than anything the amount of quality time we were able to spend together. Long distance relationships are difficult, its true, but they’re made much better and easier by both parties making the effort to see each other as often and for as long as they can. Kieran and I are lucky in that respect because although we have 300 miles separating us and the barriers of his job and my studies, we have always and will always make as much time as we possibly can for each other. For that, I’ll always be grateful because it is that dedication that’s kept us together. And as I received the text to say he’d landed, long after I’d been back at my rather empty-feeling house, I knew I didn’t have to be sad because we’d had the best time and another great time would surely be had at the end of the week in Newcastle.

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“Don’t tell my mother I’m eating salad, she might make me”

In the later part of last year, Kieran booked a holiday for the two of us, our first holiday together as a couple. It was a 5 night stay at one of the previously known as Vision Hotels, well-known amongst the blind community as a good place to go to get blindy friendly service and to have a nice time. Our package included the five nights in a double room, three-course meals each evening and breakfast every morning. On top of that, it included 2 trips; neither of us really knew what these trips entailed, but if they were included in the price why not. It cost £199 each for the package, which we agreed was a good deal for what it included. Kieran had heard many good reviews about the Vision Hotels whereas the ones I’d heard weren’t so glowing. So, as usual, Kieran was the optimist and I the pessimist, agreeing that if the holiday was a disaster we’d never speak of it again.

In preparation for our little break away, on Wednesday 7th February, for the first time this year I boarded a plane that took me to Newcastle, to Kieran and family for the first time in 2 months. Distance is a pain and other priorities don’t make the situation easier. With Kieran working and me trying to concentrate on uni work and my My Guide routes, it leaves not much time for us. Add into that that I’ve just become an aunt, to the most beautiful baby girl who lives in Stoke-On-Trent with her parents, big sister and brother, and its quite obvious I don’t have tons of time at my disposal. But I do my best. The flight this time wasn’t a particularly pleasant one. There was quite a bit of turbulence and for some reason we started our descent really early, over Birmingham, so it felt like we were falling for quite a while, a feeling I’m really not a fan of. The landing was pretty rough, too. We seemed to be hurtling towards the runway a lot faster than we should have been so when we hit the ground the pilot had to slam the brakes on a lot harder than usual. Soon enough, though, I was with Kieran and John and we were in the car on our way to Blyth. Comment: I must add here that I’ve never known anyone flick through tracks on an album so fast! In the time it took John to drive us from the airport to their house, which is considerably faster than most people, John skipped through all but one song on six discs of music! It was quite crazy. For once, my flight to Newcastle wasn’t accompanied by a weather warning, usually, there’s some kind of concern in place for my flight.

Wen we arrived, Lesley almost had dinner ready. We had a lovely lasagne with garlic bread. We watched an episode of The Chase before heading upstairs to bed because John and Lesley wanted to watch Silent Witness.

The following day was a lazy one. Lesley worked from home but Kieran went to work early, being picked up by a colleague who lives near to them. While Lesley worked in the dining room, I caught up on episodes of East Enders and Holby City on IPlayer on my IPad. Afterwards, I changed to Netflix and continued where I’d left off at home watching Benidorm. I’d started watching it not realising that a brand new series is starting on ITV next week, so quite a timely opportunity to start binge watching all the way from the very first episode all the way to the most recent. All 9 series! Really, I should have been cracking on with uni work, but I’d bought my big main laptop with me for Kieran to fix as once again I’d done something I had no idea what to break it. This meant that I didn’t want to risk packing my little 1kg laptop along with my hefty 2kg Toshiba and IPad. I thought it might be pushing the weight boundaries just a bit with all my clothes and other bits and pieces. This meant that although my Toshiba was present, it was currently useless and studying on my IPad was something I was hesitant to try out. For lunch, Lesley made me scrambled egg on toast, which was very nice. Afterwards, I decided I better try and do some uni work so tried doing it on my Ipad, using the OU Anywhere app and Safari. It didn’t go particularly well. I don’t know if it was just my stupidity where technology is concerned or if the website just is difficult on iOS.

Later, we had Kiev and Dauphinois potatoes, something I hadn’t tried before. They were very nice. Again, we watched The Chase and then went upstairs because John and Lesley were putting Silent Witness on. We watched Russell Howard’s Netflix special, which was very funny and posed possible titles for this post, which Ive since forgotten…

Friday was a nice day because it was Lesley’s day off and due to building work near his office Kieran had decided to work from home. This meant I had plenty of company. I watched Benidorm on Netflix on my Ipad for most of the day, feeling that trying to do more uni work on it when I’d found it so difficult was pointless. Rebecca came in before lunchtime so I gave her the moving in card and voucher I’d bought for her, which had arrived in a big parcel of essentials that morning sent by Mum. She and Darren were getting everything ready for moving into their first house the following week. Later on, Kieran had a sausage roll each which Rebecca had bought in for us. After he’d finished working, Kieran set about trying to fix his Dad’s computer. John was having problems syncing his iPod to his iTunes. Meanwhile, I got a call from an unknown number. Soon after rejecting the call, I suddenly realised it could have been Guide Dogs calling back about the case review they’d had concerning whether I could move forward with my application for a dog. I sent the number to Imi,who confirmed it was a Guide Dogs number but said it was from a fundraising branch in Gloucester. Then, not long later, my parents, who were on their way to Stoke to meet the baby, rang to say they’d had a call from the GDMI who’d assessed me in october asking for my contact details. Eventually, I convinced myself to ring the number back and it was indeed the GDMI with some very good news for me. The southampton team have agreed I’m ready for a further assessment to determine whether we all agree a Guide Dog is the most appropriate mobility aid for me. After talking to her for quite a while about everything I could think to mention, I rang Imi, who’d been waiting for the outcome, and we chatted for ages, her confirming my overall thoughts that this was very good news. By the time I was off the phone to Imi, Kieran had joined me in his room, doing everything he could think of to fix the iPod issue. We listened to Ed Sheeran’s album Plus on vinyl before heading out for a date night. Lesley and John drove us to Sambuca’s, my favourite place in Blyth, before going on to The Commissioners for dinner themselves. I had potato skins for a starter. They were quite nice but not like the potato skins I’m used to, the ones covered in melted cheese and bacon. Kieran had chilli prawns, which he enjoyed, and then a meat feast pizza with extra chilis. Of course, I had my favourite, the tuna and garlic pizza, and loved it. Kieran got a portion of chips to share but I wasn’t that keen on them as they were just like my potato skins. Lesley and John picked us up after we were done and we went back to theirs and watched Cats Does Count Down. Again, we went upstairs because they were watching more Silent Witness. We chose Frankie Boyle’s Netflix special to watch but fell asleep partway through it.

On Saturday, we had a cooked breakfast and watched some Judge Judy when we finally got up. Then, we went back upstairs so Kieran could start working through fixing my laptop. I did my packing for our holiday. Later, we went downstairs for dinner, which was Spanish chicken with jacket potato. We watched some Gavin and Stacey they were showing on Gold and then an episode of The Chase, Harry Hill’s Tea Time and Family Guy.

On Sunday, we got up early because Lesley was driving us to the Lake District for our holiday. John was supposed to be joining us but he was going to the Newcastle match later. On our way to the hotel, Lesley stopped to get Kieran and I McDonald’s. Kieran had a bacon McMuffin meal and I had a sausage McMuffin meal. This meant we both got hash browns, which are of course the best part of any mcdonalds breakfast. A little later, Lesley stopped to get herself a cup of tea. When we reached the Windermere Manor Hotel, somewhere after 11am, we were still far too early to check in so sat in the drawing room for a while. Just as Lesley was going to leave, the receptionist came and told us we could use our room now. A little while after lesley had left, a lady came up to give us a little tour of the hotel. We listened to the Newcastle and then Liverpool matches on my Ipad for the rest of the afternoon. At around 7 o’clock, we went down for dinner. We we read the menu and asked for our meal choices before being shown to a table. Kieran chose fish cake for starter, roast turkey with all the trimmings for main course and cinnamon and apple crumble with custard for pudding. I had the same starter and pudding but chose roast ham with a honey mustard sauce and all the trimmings for my main. We were offered a bread roll and butter and a glass of water before our meal, which was delicious. Although I’d been certain our evening meal was included in the package price, we hadn’t realised it’d be a three course meal. After we’d finished our puddings, we were then offered tea or coffee to finish our meal with. Kieran had coffee and I tea and we got a little chocolate mint on our saucers. Feeling very full, we went back up to our room and watched Meet The parents.

On Monday, we got up fairly early to be down for breakfast, which was from 8 until 10. No late lie ins for us… breakfast consisted of both cold and hot food with fruit juice and hot drinks. Neither of us opted for the cereal but had the cooked breakfast which consisted of bacon, sausage, hash brown, beans, mushrooms and your choice of egg. Kieran doesn’t like egg so didn’t have any but I had scrambled. The breakfast was very nice. When we were finished, we went back upstairs and watched Jeremy Kyle on ITV plus 1. Then we watched Meet the Fockers and Little Fockers before starting to read Kevin Bridges’ autobiography We Need To Talk About, which I’d read before but Kieran hadn’t. During the book, my phone rang and it was someone from HumanWare to tell me that the shipment of Victor Reader Trek units had come in so the one I’d put my name to was ready to despatch. After I’d made payment and finished the call, we ontinued listening to the audiobook until 5 o’clock when Kieran put the TV on and we watched The Chase, adverts and all!

At 6:30, we went down for dinner. Again, the menu was read to us and we gave our preferences before being guided to our table. That night, Kieran had apple and parsnip soup, chicken filet in a bacon and sweet corn butter with new potatoes, creamy potatoes, leak and cauliflower and ice cream for afters. I had cod goujons, the same main meal and then a warm waffle with chocolate sauce, cream and ice cream. I really enjoyed it all but especially the waffle. Afterwards, Kieran had a cappuccino and I tried a latte. I’m not a very big coffee fan because of the bitter taste but thought I might like a latte because its so milky. I did, after I’d put at least three sugars in! We decided to go to the bar for a drink afterwards. Kieran had a pint of beer and I a coke. When we were finished, we went up to our room and rang our mums. Then, Kieran watched Good Fellas and i went to sleep.

On Tuesday, we had the first of our two trips out so went down for breakfast earlier so that we could be in the reception area to meet the others at 9:30. Kieran had the same as the day before for breakfast, a full English minus the egg. I opted for the cereal first, having a small bowl of cornflakes. Then, I had a hash brown, scrambled egg, beans and mushrooms. When we were ready, we met with the rest of the group and boarded the mini bus. Kieran and I had a sighted guide each. We went to a little village called Grasmere. Kieran had been there before. We went for a little walk, on which I got soaked, and then went for a coffee in the garden centre’s cafe. Kieran and his guide went to the gingerbread shop Grasmere has and then we all climbed soggy back onto the bus and headed back to the hotel. When we got back, I needed to thaw out and warm up so snuggled in bed. We listened to mor of Kevin Bridges book for the rest of the afternoon. As a pre-valentines gift, Kieran had bought us two gingerbread hearts and they were so tasty. He’d also bought a tin of gingerbread to take home. We watched The Chase again before going downstairs for dinner. The routine applied again: choose our meal options from the menu which was read to us before being guided to our table. Tonight, Kieran had onion and potato soup, a beef and cabbage dish, fruit cocktail (fruit salad) and a coffee. I had cheese and onion quiche, a breaded fish dish, pancakes with sauce and a cup of tea. After, we went to the bar again and Kieran had a pint of beer and I had a pint of Strongbow, reminding myself that I don’t even like it… we went back up to our room and watched Kevin Bridges first comedy DVD A Story So Far.

On Wednesday, it was our second trip. We had breakfast the same and then met the group again at 9:30. This time, we went to a little village called Cartmel, which is famous for sticky toffee pudding. We went on a long walk around the village first before going to the famous sticky toffee pudding shop. Kieran bought a sticky toffee pudding and some sticky toffee sauce to take home and I bought a slab of homemade vanilla fudge for Mum and a smaller piece and a little bag of toffee for myself. Again, we went and sat in a coffee shop and then headed back to the mini bus to go back to the hotel. Again, I needed to thaw and dry out when we got back. We listened to more of Kevin Bridges’ book and then watched The Chase before going down for dinner. We both had mini spring rolls, pork stroganoff and chocolate fudge cake with chocolate sauce and ice cream. Kieran had a coffee and I had a cup of tea. The spring rolls were definitely my favourite starter of the week and the fudge cake was only just beaten to the top spot by the waffle because it was just that nice. In our room, I had a headache and we watched the Pordeau vs Liverpool match where Liverpool won 5-0. Then, we watched the news and Kieran watched some Family Guy.

On Thursday, we were able to have a bit of a lie in because we weren’t going anywhere. We went down for breakfast later than usual. Today, I had cornflakes, a full English, apple juice and a cup of tea. Kieran had his usual. Back in our room, we listened, and Kieran played along, to Pop Master before reading the remaining chapters of Kevin Bridges autobiography. In the afternoon, we watched some Jeremy Kyle on ITV2 before turning back for The Chase. Our final big meal of the week was nice. I had huge breaded mushrooms and kieran had chicken and potato soup for starters. Then we both chose the chicken and mushroom pie with new potatoes, dauphinois potatoes and lots of veg for our main and ice cream for pudding. We both enjoyed our meals but were a bit disappointed with the pie because, as Kieran remarked, it was “just chicken and mushrooms with a pastry hat”. It would have been nice if it had been a whole pie rather than just the pastry resting on the filling. In the end, we decided not to go for a drink in the bar, instead going up to our room. Kieran fancied a bath so ran one, having to spend a bit of time getting the water to come out right because it kept switching from the taps to the shower head. While Kieran enjoyed the bath, I started packing some of my stuff up ready for us to leave in the morning. Once Kieran was done, we decided on Chris Ramsey’s stand up show Is That Chris Ramsey to watch. It was hilarious.

Friday of course brought the end of our holiday. But despite my uncertainty we’d had a great time. We had breakfast and then went upstairs and packed. We listened to Pop Master again before gathering all our stuff and heading downstairs. We checked out and then went and sat to wait for Lesley, who arrived 5 minutes later. After she’d had a cup of tea, we set off. On our way, we stopped at a place called Brocksbushes farm cafe for lunch. Kieran and I had hunters chicken melt panini and quiche and a side of potato wedges. When we got back to theirs, thankfully the water was back on. John had had to call someone he knew from the Northumberland water board though. We went to see Rebecca and Darren’s new house but got there to find they weren’t in so just went home again. We watched two episodes of a funny Scottish show called Two Doors Down. Kieran ordered everyone takeaway: he had a tandoori special kebab which included tandoori chicken and donner meat with chips and I had donner meat and chips with a can of Doctor pepper. We watched two episodes of The Last Leg before going to bed.

On Saturday morning we had a really long lie in before going downstairs and having tea and toast for breakfast. Later, we went back upstairs and Kieran started fixing my laptop. We had Family Guy on the TV. We had dinner of chicken and chips with warm crusty bread and watched an episode of The Chase and then Ted 2.

Again on Sunday we had a really long lie in. I had a cup of tea, toast and a banana for breakfast. I started reading the Victor Reader Trek user guide properly on my laptop. Later on, we had dinner of mince and dumplings with mash and veg. We watched the Rochdale vs Tottenham FA cup match which ended 2-2. Kieran and John had some of the sticky toffee pudding and sauce Kieran had bought in Cartmel. Afterwards, we went upstairs and listened to Magic Chilled on Alexa.

Monday meant that everyone was back to work and because Kieran had fixed my laptop I was able to start catching up with the uni work I needed to do. I also caught up on the episodes of East Enders and Holby I’d missed, turning to Netflix and Benidorm afterwards. I had ham sandwiches for lunch. When they were on their way home, Kieran text me to tell me to get ready because we were going round to see Rebecca and Darren in their new house. We didn’t stay long, just for a chat and a look around their house, which they seem pretty happy with. When we got back, we went upstairs and watched Judge Judy and The Big Bang Theory. Our dinner was cornbeef and sliced potatoes. We watched some The Chase and then the Manchester City vs Wigan match which Wigan won 1-0. Kieran and I went upstairs and he sorted out my routes and landmarks on my Trekker Breeze so that I had a copy of them ready to put on my Victor Reader Trek once I got home.

Tuesday was my last day up north but it was a little different to most of my last days so far. Kieran was at work so we didn’t have a lie in or have a lazy day watching TV. Instead, I packed up all my stuff, did a little bit of uni work and watched more Benidorm. When Kieran came in, we went upstairs and had a cuddle. When it was ready, we went downstairs for dinner of sausage, chips and beans and watched an episode of Two Doors Down. Then, it was time to leave for the airport. At the airport, it took ages for assistance to arrive, meaning I got a few more minutes with Kieran. When they did come, we had to rush away because people were already boarding the flight. As usual, the goodbye was the worst part. As I’m yet to meet my new niece and need to work hard on my studies and learning my routes before this next assessment with Guide Dogs, I’m not sure when Kieran and I will see each other next. He’s working, of course, so can’t take much time off. Hopefully, it will be sometime soon. The distance is definitely the worst part of our relationship.

All the thanks as always to Lesley and John for having me to stay, putting up with me and looking after me. Special thanks to Lesley for driving us to Windermere and then coming all the way back to pick us up on the Friday. We wouldn’t have been able to have our little holiday without it so I’m very grateful. Hope I wasn’t too much of a pain and hope I can come back soon.

Of course, to Kieran, lots of love as always. Thanks for suggesting we go on holiday together and sticking with it even when I was being my usual miserable and cynical self. You were right. We had a great time and I loved that we managed to have that extra time together. It isn’t often any more that we get that long together and not often at all that we get any time just us so it was definitely worthwhile. Thank you for fixing all my stuff. I’m sorry I’m so useless with technology. Don’t know where I’d be without you. Don’t ever think i take it for granted because I never have. For the heart-shaped gingerbread and Rubius the monkey, I love them both. Not as much as you, though, of course. I hope it isn’t too long until we see each other again. I’ll try my best to be back up there as soon as I can, as soon as your poor parents are happy to have me… love you now and always.

“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.

“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!

“Taser him!”: my 3 weeks up North

Sadly, my Open University 5-month holiday has come to an end. But I was really lucky to be able to spend the last three weeks of it up north with Kieran and his family. Since I found out last year that I’d been matched with a dog from Seeing Dogs, I knew that I probably wouldn’t be visiting them up north for a while. I knew training would take near to a month and then I’d be settling into a new partnership. A lot of Guide Dog owners had warned me that the first six months of the partnership would be crucial bonding time and time spent getting used to being a team, so flying might not be the best idea. Of course, things with Seeing Dogs panned out a lot differently to how I expected them to and so I haven’t been to see Kieran since January. I’m very lucky that Kieran is lovely and whilst I trained with and got used to having Zena, he travelled down to see me. The eventual aim was always to take her up north so that I could visit Kieran and introduce her to new surroundings. But we never got that far and since she left in June, I’ve been busy trying to sort out all other aspects of my life. But at long last a visit to Blyth arrived and again, I had a very lovely time.

This visit was a bit different than the last three in that all other members of the household except me were employed and going out to work during the week. That meant that Lesley had to trust me to stay in her house and not wreck the place. This also meant that I needed to find something to entertain myself with during their working hours. Luckily and coincidentally, both my new open uni module websites opened on the fourteenth of September, two days after I flew up to stay. Having the websites open when they did meant I managed to get a really good head start on my modules. The courses didn’t actually start until 7 October but all work material was available to start studying from since the fourteenth of September. Although of course I went up north to spend that time with Kieran, having nothing else to do during the days really was beneficial for my studies. It means that now, in the first and actually introductory week to the modules, I’m five weeks ahead and starting an assignment for one and preparing to start note taking for the other. I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the academic year.

On Tuesday 12 September, after double-checking that I’d packed everything I’d need for a three-week holiday into my huge rucksack, I grabbed my Trekker Breeze and headed for the bus-stop. Dad was still working in Wolston and so I needed to meet him at the end of his work day so that we could quickly pick Mum up from work and then head for the airport. At the airport, Mum took me inside and to the check-in desk and then across to the special assistance desk, where I was told that there were already people waiting for me in the departure lounge. For this flight, I was going to be joined by Kieran’s grandparents who had spent a little while down south visiting Kieran’s aunt and family. I was through security very quickly and soon with Kieran’s grandparents. Not long after I arrived, assistance came to help us all on to the plane. It wasn’t one of the nicer flights I’ve had; it was very turbulent and in the months that I hadn’t flown, I’d forgotten just how loud the plane was. Thankfully, my earphones and music volume turned up to maximum drown out most of the plane’s droning.

When we landed, we were helped off of the plane and on to the mini bus that drove us to the entrance into the airport. Assistance left me with Kieran’s grandparents and we made our way to Lesley and Kieran who were waiting in arrivals. On our way, we dropped Kieran’s grandparents off at their house. Once indoors, it was dinner time and Lesley had made a really lovely cottage pie. We spent the evening watching episodes of The Chase and The Force Northeast.

Wednesday was a good day. Kieran had booked the day off so that we could spend my first day together. Naturally, we indulged in a late lie in. Once we were up, showered and dressed, we went downstairs and agreed on fish fingers and potato waffles for lunch, which Kieran cooked. He also gave me a Sports Direct mug of tea to go with the food, which was really nice. It was a lazy day spent in the lounge watching Judge Judy. That evening, we had fish cakes, chips and peas for dinner and watched The Chase, Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away and Paddington 24/7. Lesley baked her always lovely banana cake and we all had a slice while we watched telly.

Thursday was my first day home alone while everyone else went to work. It did feel strange dragging myself out of bed at just after 7am so that Kieran could get ready for work. Of course, I could have quite easily stayed in bed while he went to work for however long I felt like but I didn’t feel like being lazy and thought getting a head start on uni work would be more than a good idea. Before they left for work, Lesley gave me a detailed tour of the kitchen, even offering to leave a travel kettle out so that I could make tea more easily. Also, I was informed that there was a mug of carrot and coriander soup in the fridge. It was one of those plastic microwaveable mugs and definitely made heating up and drinking the very tasty soup easier. Later, Kieran arrived home earlier than usual and we watched some Nightmare Neighbour Next Door upstairs before coming down and having ravioli for dinner. Since being reintroduced to ravioli by Lesley one of the previous times I stayed, I’ve being hunting around at home trying to find similar stuff that I can have regularly. We’ve bought various different packs of ravioli but they haven’t compared to the stuff Lesley cooks. So having it on Thursday night was definitely a treat, especially with the added chunks of chorizo mixed in and the side of garlic bread accompanying it. We watched some more of The Chase and then Master Chef.

Friday was a new experience for me. It was Lesley’s day off. While she did lots of housework, I did uni work. In the morning, her parents arrived for their weekly cuppa and chat. Later, I was treated to an afternoon snack of more banana cake and a cup of tea. Just after 4pm, I went with Lesley to pick Kieran up from work. On the way, we chatted about Kieran’s childhood and I learnt quite a lot about the little person he once was.

That evening, Kieran and I had our first date night in a long time. Kieran had decided that he wanted it to be a totally independent date night so we were going to travel by taxi. Despite Lesley and John’s many offers to drive us, we stuck to Kieran’s decision of taking a taxi and had a nice driver who even helped us into the restaurant. We’d agreed on Beefeater after the amazing meals we’d enjoyed at Hereford’s branch. Kieran had booked a table earlier in the day and the service was phenomenal. We were taken to a table that seemed to have been specially selected for us because Kieran had added a note explaining that we were both blind. We were both given a copy of the Braille menu to browse. As it was date night, we decided to go all out on the food. For starters, Kieran had a prawn pan and I had potato dippers with cheese and bacon topping. Then, for main meals, Kieran had a stack burger with chips and I had a chicken melt with fries and a side of garlic bread strips which we shared. Finally, for pudding, Kieran had a strawberry frozen yoghurt with real strawberries and I had warm chocolate brownie with ice cream. Kieran’s only disappointment with the pudding was that it didn’t come with any fresh mint. When we were finally finished and the food had been paid for, Kieran ordered a taxi to take us home. Our waiter guided us to stand outside the restaurant so that we could be easily spotted by the taxi driver. When we’d been waiting quite a while, the waiter reappeared and asked whether we’d like to wait indoors and they’d keep an eye out for the taxi for us. Thinking it wouldn’t be long, we said we’d continue to wait outside. A car pulled up but nobody made a move to speak to us. We assumed that, as no one had called to us or come to get us, it couldn’t be our taxi. But the waiter came back outside and said there was a taxi there. So we moved towards it and got in. Almost from the moment we got into the car, the journey was wrong. The driver checked where we were going and asked Kieran several times for directions despite the obvious fact that he would be unable to give them. The car had a strong smell of smoke and also of drugs. As we reached Kieran’s area, the driver asked again for directions so Kieran used Google Maps to try and help locate his house. Kieran’s directions didn’t seem to be matching up with the way the driver was going. But he told us we were outside the right house so we got out of the car. It was quickly apparent that we weren’t in the right place. We wandered along the pavement with Kieran trying to find a familiar landmark with his cane to orientate us. As I could hear the car crawling along beside us, I shouted over to the driver to ask for directions to the front door. He just said we were there and after watching us for a little longer, drove off. Eventually, as Kieran couldn’t find anything at all familiar, he rang Lesley, who, after checking out of the front door, confirmed we weren’t on the street in front of the house. Eventually, through looking Kieran up on Find My Friends, Lesley realised that we were at the back of the houses and, in slippers, came to rescue us. It was a pretty traumatic way to end a really lovely evening and also a bit of a dampener on Kieran’s enthusiasm to use taxis and be independent of his parents. When we tried it in Hereford, it was so successful and being independent of parents always makes the date nights that little bit more special. So having it spoilt by that taxi driver was definitely a down point. To say all our parents were fuming was an understatement; Lesley promised that she’d be sending in a complaint first thing on Monday morning. To cheer up our evening, we went upstairs and chose Russell Howard’s Wonderbox DVD to watch.

The weekend was nice and relaxed. On Saturday morning, we had sausage sandwiches (in buns) for lunch before spending the afternoon watching football. John had gone to the Newcastle game so Kieran was keeping a close eye on that. Meanwhile, I was listening to the Liverpool match, which ended in a draw. Kieran was happy, though, because Newcastle beat Stoke 2—1. For dinner, we had a really tasty Greek lamb dish with new potatoes and cheesy broccoli. We spent the evening watching Gogglebox and then 8 out of 10 cats does count down, which John fell asleep through. He woke up for the beginning of Match Of The Day but was asleep soon after. Kieran tried to wake him up when the Newcastle game came on but it didn’t make much difference.

On Sunday, we took a trip out for dinner. We went to The Commissioners for a roast. I had pork with roast and new potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, carrots and lots of gravy. It was lovely. We spent the afternoon in the lounge and I read a book on Ibooks. Later, we went upstairs and agreed on watching Educating Yorkshire, which was shown four years ago. I remember watching some of it at college with Imi but the details were vague. As Educating Greater Manchester is currently on TV, we thought it would be good to catch up on previous series. Educating Yorkshire was very funny. We were also treated to one of my favourite things about staying at Kieran’s: Sunday night toasties! It was cheese and ham and it was delicious.

Monday was another uni day for me. Lesley left me cheese and ham sandwiches for lunch and Rebecca was home so I had a bit of company. We had beef gravy sandwiches with chips in gravy for dinner. It was very tasty. Afterwards, Kieran and I went upstairs to continuing watching Educating.

Tuesday was a bit of a mixture day. In the morning, Kieran worked from home so again I had some company. We sat together, him working and me studying, in the dining room. We had Gregg’s chicken bakes for lunch and Kieran’s grandma came to drive him to his maths class. While Kieran was at Maths, I spent the afternoon doing more uni work. When Kieran came home, he fixed some of the problems I’d been having with my laptop. Later, for dinner we had one of my favourite meals that Lesley cooks: her amazing jacket potatoes with Spanish chicken and peas. It’s the jacket potato that’s my favourite but the Spanish chicken and peas were good too. Afterwards, Kieran and I retreated upstairs to watch more Educating.

Wednesday and Thursday were a mixture of uni work, food and telly. On Wednesday, I worked on K217. In the evening, I had a shower and washed my hair while Kieran watched some Family Guy. Then, we went downstairs and had spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread for dinner and watched The Chase and Master Chef. Then, Kieran and I went upstairs to watch the final episode of Educating Yorkshire.

On Thursday, I worked on K240. In the evening, we all went out to Sambuca’s. I’d been hoping for this because they do my favourite tuna pizza. I can’t find anything similar down south and had missed it over the months I hadn’t visited. So of course I had the tuna and garlic pizza. I didn’t fancy a starter but Kieran had fish cakes. For his main, he had a meat feast pizza with chilies. When we got in, we watched Educating Greater Manchester and then Celebrity Juice.

Friday bought another day off for Lesley and again the weekly visit from her parents. I did more K217 work in the morning. For lunch, I had a slice of cheese and onion quiche, not homemade but still lovely, and then a pot of diced melon. I haven’t had melon for ages and it was really lovely. Later, Lesley and John left for a weekend at the caravan which meant Kieran and I had to fend for ourselves. Of course, this meant we were going to treat ourselves to takeaway. We agreed on pizza; I had a donner meat pizza, because it was necessary that I try one seeing as I’d never experienced it before, and Kieran had a meat feast pizza with meatballs on. We accompanied this with sides of potato wedges, cheesy chips and mozzarella sticks. The food was delicious but as always Kieran and I ordered far too much. While we ate, we watched The Simpsons and then Travels With My Father, the new series on Netflix by Jack and Michael Whitehall.

On Saturday morning, we were reluctant to drag ourselves out of bed so we watched several episodes of Judge Judy. Once we were finally up, showered and dressed, we went downstairs and agreed on sausages and potato waffles for brunch, which Kieran cooked. We watched the Master Chef final and then Sky Sports news to keep up-to-date with the football scores. Later, we watched the Liverpool vs Leicester game. Although we’d agreed on Chinese takeaway for dinner, whilst browsing on Hungry House, I’d discovered that up north you can order dessert takeaway. I am a pudding person and couldn’t resist this. So, while we watched the football, we ordered dessert. I chose a sticky toffee cake, a cream egg brownie and a banana and peanut butter milkshake. Kieran, not as much a pudding person as me, chose a strawberry cupcake, a vanilla milkshake and a glass bottle of Irn Bru. Sadly, the lady from the dessert place, Buzz Bar, rang to explain that they don’t stock cream egg brownie all year round because it’s a seasonal thing. So I chose a Snickers brownie instead. It is safe to say our pudding was delicious. Even Kieran was impressed with his cupcake and milkshake.

Once the football finished, Liverpool winning 3—2, we ordered our dinner. I chose sweet and sour chicken balls and chips while Kieran had house special chow mein with chips and gravy. We added spring rolls and special fried rice. The food was delicious but we definitely ordered far too much. While we ate our meal, we watched Reginald D Hunter’s In The Midst Of Crackers DVD, which was very funny.

Sunday’s breakfast was a funny mixture of food: I had the remainder of my toffee cake and brownie, a strawberry yoghurt and a little pie and Kieran had a little pie and some of the leftover sausage from Saturday. Later, when Lesley and John were home, we watched the Newcastle vs Brighton game, which made the men grumpy because Newcastle lost 0—1. Afterwards, we watched The Big Bang Theory, The Force Northeast and Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away. For dinner, I had another lovely jacket potato and some chicken dippers while Kieran had the leftover rice and chow mein from Saturday with some chicken dippers. Once we’d eaten, we went upstairs so Kieran could shave his face ready for work and watch a movie. We chose Hot Fuzz because neither of us had seen it. Sadly, I must have gotten just too comfy because I slept throughout most of the film!

The next week was a mixture of uni work, food and telly. Monday brought K217 work and quiche and cheese and onion crisps for lunch. Then Judge Judy, Family Guy and a sad episode of Motorway Cops where a horse was hit by a car and put to sleep upstairs when Kieran came home followed by beef and gravy sandwiches with chips and gravy for dinner. We watched Dave Gorman’s Modern Life Is Goodish, Live At The Apollo 2016 Christmas special hosted by Romesh Rangernathan and featuring Seann Walsh and then a very funny episode of Gogglebox. Tuesday was another work from home day for Kieran and Lesley. We had quiche and sandwiches for lunch before Lesley took Kieran to his maths class. When he came home, we watched Judge Judy upstairs before enjoying mince and dumplings for dinner and watching The Force Northeast and The Chase. On Wednesday, I decided to have a day off uni work and instead watched Our Girl in preparation for the new series that the BBC had just announced. When Kieran came home, we watched Judge Judy and then had chicken pie, crochet potatoes and veg for dinner. We spent the evening watching The Great British Bake Off, The Force Northeast and Police Intercepters. As I’d been lazy on Wednesday, I made sure that Thursday was a uni work day; I worked on K217. When Kieran came home, we had music channels on the telly and it was decided that we’d have fish and chips for dinner. I had a large battered sausage and chips and Kieran had fish, chips and curry sauce. It was very nice. We watched Parking Wars and Educating Greater Manchester while Kieran downloaded some films. Then, we went upstairs and started watching Come Fly With Me, which is always very funny.

Friday brought Lesley’s day off but also a day off for Kieran too. We had a nice lie in before showering and going downstairs. By the time we went downstairs, Kieran’s grandparents were there. We had fish finger sandwiches for lunch. In the afternoon, Lesley made a really tasty orange cake. Rebecca bought us Nando’s in but they’d messed up the order. I thought that Nando’s take out was nicer than the meals we’ve had in Southampton’s branch. While we ate, we watched 8 out of 10 cats does count down. Later, Lesley and John went out to the races. Kieran and I watched The Chase and The Simpsons. Later, we ordered again from Buzz Bar; Kieran had a yorky and dairymilk caramel milkshake and another bottle of Irn Bru. I chose a banoffee cheesecake and millionaire’s shortbread milkshake, a white chocolate buttons cheesecake and a white chocolate cookie. As we were watching Come Fly With Me, Lesley called to ask Kieran to order them food because they were on their way home. They wanted pizza and kebab and it came with a free cheesy garlic bread. So as well as drinking our milkshakes, we ate the free garlic bread. I put the cheesecake in the fridge to eat later and tried the cookie but it really wasn’t very nice. When Lesley and John came in, we watched Gogglebox and The Last Leg.

On Saturday, we took a long drive to a place called Haggerston Castle. We had a long wander around the caravan site and Lesley told us about how she used to go there for holidays during her childhood. We had lunch in Mash and Barrels, the on site restaurant. Kieran and I both had chicken, bacon and cheese melt baguettes with chips. Sadly, the chips weren’t very nice but the baguette was tasty. When we got in, we watched the Chelsea vs Manchester City match, which Man City won, Celebrity Juice, QI, a little bit of Casualty, Dad’s army and Only Fools And Horses before going upstairs and watching Al Murray’s One Man One Guvnor.

On Sunday, Lesley made a cooked breakfast, which was lovely. Later, we watched the Newcastle vs Liverpool match, which was the first time we’ve watched our teams play against each other since we’ve been together; it ended in a draw. Once that had finished, Lesley took us to Frankie and Benny’s for our last date night. It was my last night up north and definitely the best possible way we could have spent it. Again, as it was date night, we went all out on food. Kieran had hot wings for his starter followed by a double cheese and bacon burger with pulled pork, onion rings and chips. He had Sam Adams beer with his meal and a Godfather cocktail afterwards. I had BBQ cheese and bacon potato skins for a starter and meatball penne pasta for my main. I had a coke to go with my meal but had finished that quite quickly so ordered a salted caramel fudge brownie milkshake, which was very nice. After my main, while Kieran had his cocktail, I had a warm chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce and ice cream. I definitely thought I could manage more than I did because I wasn’t able to drink all of the milkshake and left a little bit of brownie. It really was delicious and one of the nicest meals I’ve had for a while. When we got home, we agreed on Chris Ramsey’s All Growed Up comedy DVD because it is hilarious.

Sadly, Monday meant my last day up north. In the morning, when we finally got up, we showered, dressed and then I packed all my stuff into my rucksack. We had a slice of toast each for breakfast and then I ate one of my remaining yoghurts and dug into the white chocolate buttons cheesecake from our order from Buzz Bar on Friday. I shared it with Kieran and it really was lovely. We spent the afternoon having a cuddle upstairs and listening to music. Lesley made us ravioli for dinner. It had bits of pepperoni in the sauce and was lovely. Afterwards, Lesley gave us a slice of orange cake each. Then, we gathered my belongings together and headed out the door.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I was quickly checked in and Lesley rang through at the special assistance desk. We were told to wait for someone to come. It took them quite a while to come but eventually they did. That meant the goodbyes; I hate saying goodbye to Kieran because we’re never totally sure when we’ll be able to meet up again, especially now Kieran is working. After we’d said goodbye, the assistance man led me off to security. I was through security quickly and didn’t have to wait long in the waiting room before the man returned and led me to the mini bus. He came on to the bus with me and then led me on to the plane. I put my earphones in and turned my music up loud for the flight and thankfully it wasn’t too bad.

To Lesley and John: thank you for letting me come to stay and putting up with me for so long; can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Thank you for the lovely meals, in and out. Thank you for such a nice time. PS: I did not pull down your sign…

And Kieran: as always, there’s far too much to say. Thank you, for everything, but mainly for being my person. I love you so much and can’t wait for when we can be together again. It was so lovely to see you enjoying your work so much; I’m so proud of you. You’ve done just what we said all those Tuesday afternoons at college spent imagining what life would be like out of the bubble. You’re not a statistic. For that, I love you more.

A mini break at Godwin Towers

Ever since the last time I visited, I’ve been wanting to see my sister Imi again. It’s a difficult sibling relationship given the fact that I live on the south coast and she lives very up north in Yorkshire. Before I went away to residential college [RNC Hereford] I never expected to be travelling the length of the country to visit a friend. But having a boyfriend who lives in Newcastle and a sister who lives in Yorkshire means this has become a pretty regular event. Travelling to York means a lengthy train journey whereas visiting Kieran in Blyth means a flight. I’m not sure which is preferable, really, except for the fact that travelling to Newcastle via plane takes an hour and twenty whereas a train journey to York takes a good five hours. It’s odd whenever I make that train journey to York because it feels strange to be travelling less miles but taking much longer to get there than it would for Newcastle. But every time I spend those five hours on the train is worthwhile for what awaits me.
This time when travelling to York, I had a companion. The last few times I’ve travelled, I’ve gone alone. But Josh, my favourite train buddy, was with me this time. The plan was to have a whole gang meet up but unfortunately Kieran couldn’t join us. Between them, Imi and Kieran had tried their hardest to make it so that he could join us, but it was decided that it was too difficult and impractical for him to come. I was pretty gutted as I really wanted the four of us to be together again. The last time we were all together as a gang was Christmas and that really seems a long time ago now. Plus, Imi hasn’t seen Kieran since then and Josh and I haven’t seen him since May. Although Christmas is considerably longer ago, three months is a really long time for me; since we got together, we haven’t gone so long without seeing each other. In fact, we’ve neever gone so long since knowing each other. It’s really strange and not particularly nice. Anyone who says a long distance relationship is easy is clearly a liar. There’s nothing easy about it at all; the only thing that makes it bearable for Kieran and I is the promise of seeing each other again and our nightly FaceTime conversations. But this post isn’t about us because sadly Kieran wasn’t there.
On Friday morning, after lots of planning and arranging, Josh answered I met at Southampton Central train station to get the train together up to York to see Imi. Our train was the 9:46 direct service to York. The direct trains are the best. Although having a change is sometimes convenient for refreshments and a toilet stop, direct trains usually mean you get there faster and there’s no faffing about in the middle. As a blind person, changing comes with the risk of sighted assistance not arriving to help transfer you to your connecting train. That in itself is a nerve racking experience so avoiding it is always preferable. Thankfully, on Friday we were able to do just that. Unfortunately, for a couple of hours during the journey, we had to sit separately. Josh had booked our tickets at different times because at first he hadn’t been sure whether he’d be able to stay the extra days like I was. Coincidentally, he was given holiday time from work so had days available to take. Of course,Imi and I were more than happy for him to join us for the whole stay rather than just the weekend.
Hours later, we arrived safely in York. As we were climbing down on to the platform, Imi and Mike appeared to collect us. The train station seemed to be bustling with people so I was very happy when we bundled into Mike’s car, ready to head back to theirs and settle in for our stay. The trip from the station to Mike’s house takes quite a while so we had plenty of time to chat and catch up.
As soon as we were in, we took our bags upstairs to Imi’s room and made the floor space our own. Like I did in April, I was to share Imi’s rather comfy double bed with her while Josh had the single air mattress on the floor. Imi had managed to make a pathway between the double and the air bed, which made it a little easier to get around the room. Once we’d deposited our stuff, we headed back downstairs where Mike had a pot of tea waiting. he’d bought apple juice specially for Josh; somehow, from what Imi had said, he’d inferred that apple juice was the only thing Josh drank. This made for many giggles and quiet jokes as it was all he offered Josh to drink. Not that Josh particularly seemed to mind. However, we were a little worried that the juice would send him crazy. Whilst at college, whenever Josh had apple juice, it always made him quite hyper. Some of the conversations had while he was “under the influence” of apple juice were completely bananas. It did make for a very fun time, though. Add to that excitement that we’d just disembarked from a very long train journey and Josh was seeing Imi again, after an 8 month separation, we really weren’t sure what hysteria to expect from him… Surprisingly, the apple juice had little to no effect on Josh’s behaviour, perhaps because he was already far too excited about his current situation

Around six-thirty, Mike served dinner; quorn spaghetti bolognese. This I’d been looking for ever since the last time I was treated to it, again at Mike’s when I stayed in April. Nobody at home eats any kind of quorn so I’m not privileged to have it all the time. Having it whenever I visit Imi is a real treat and a part of the stay I’m always hoping for. I wasn’t disappointed. The quorn bolognese was delicious! Imi served me a rather large helping and at first, when I noted how much she’d given me, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat it all. But I think I’d be able to eat and eat and eat quorn bolognese. It never gets old and not lovely. After serving our meal, Mike had said he was off out and to contact him if we needed him. It was quite humbling that he trusted us with his house and thought we’d all be safe and fine because we were together. Unfortunately, we may have ruined this delusion of his as not ten minutes after he left, as she carried our trays out to the kitchen, Imi dropped a plate and it shattered into fractions. Obviously, none of us have the skills, with our limited vision, to safely clear up jagged fragments of ceramic. At first, Imi asked Mike over the phone where a dustpan and brush would be. Instead, he advised her to just try and clear up some of the larger fragments that were easy to see and he’d do the rest when he came back later. But I was worried that she’d skewer her finger on a smaller piece or something so suggested she just leave it for Mike as none of us knew where a first-aid kit was located. We all agreed this was the most reasonable suggestion and settled in for a night in the lounge. Soon though we realised that not even attempting to clear up the debris, however potentially dangerous it would be to try, meant that we were unable to even go into the kitchen for a drink in fear of stepping on the pieces and doing ourselves harm. This didn’t seem so bad for a while, but then we realised Laila was really hungry and probably needed letting out to do her business.
In the end, Imi did have to ask Mike to come home. It was about 9:30 and we were all really thirsty. It seemed unfair to pull him away from his free time but also cruel not to be able to feed the dog. Thankfully, Mike was quick to come home and didn’t seem too bothered about our smashing of his crockery. He cleared up our mess and Laila was allowed her dinner. Although Mike seemed quite tired, it sounded like he’d had a nice evening out while we’d had fun at home.
The following morning, when we eventually dragged ourselves out of bed, Mike served us breakfast. Once we were ready, we bundled into the car and set off to Imi’s “favourite place on the planet” otherwise known as Burnby Hall. I wasn’t really sure what to expect apart from that we were going to be feeding fish. It was a really hot sunny day and definitely the right time to be outside. Imi bought us pots of fish pellets at the little cafe and then we went on a little walk. As we walked, she described the scenery around us and it really did sound beautiful. We stopped at first on a little platform and sat down on a metal bench. It was lovely to just be there. It gave you the relaxed feeling that there was no hurry to be anywhere else; it kind of took your worries away for a little while. I wasn’t thinking about how many emails awaited me and the voicemail on my phone that begged for my attention. Right there and then we could just be and it was just the three of us, together again at last, the way it all started at college almost four years ago. Later, we bought slices of cake from the little cafe to serve as our lunch. I chose a raspberry sparkly cake. It was delicious but very sweet and I was grateful for the free tap water on offer. We also did a lot of fish feeding there. You can sit right on the edge of the massive pond and through the pellets into the water for the giant fish to catch. If you put your hand in the water, the fish will come up to you and sucker onto your hand with their mouths. Feeding the fish was a lot of fun because every now and then they’d leap out of the water to get the pellets and soak us in water. Also, if you threw a large amount of the pellets into the water, the volume of noise the fish would make as they fought for food was incredible. At one point, Imi asked a man if he’d take a photo of the three of us sitting together on the grass with the pond in front of us. Instead of just doing it there in front of us like we expected, the man took her phone and went around to the other side of the pond and took photos from there. So there’s some really lovely photos of the three of us and Laila sitting together on the bank of the pond with it stretched out in front of us.
When we got back that evening, it was time for our girlie slumber party. We ordered pizzas from a place that Imi swore was better than Dominoes and set up a girlie movie to watch. We decided to start with the second Bridget Jones movie as Josh had only seen the first. You can’t get much more girlie than Bridget. While we watched, we ate our delicious pizza. Imi and I had tuna and sweet corn topped stuffed crust pizzas and Josh had a pepperoni stuffed crust pizza. After the second Bridget Jones movie had finished, we put on the third, Bridget Jones’ Baby. To add to the girlie vibes, Imi painted all of our nails. Originally, she did mine in pink that matched my Doctor Martens but I didn’t like it because it was a Matt paint so asked her to redo them. So they turned blue, coincidentally the same blue as the fleece sweater I wore the following day.

 

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast again before getting ready for our afternoon out. Imi had booked tickets for us to go to a folk festival in Hull at which one of our favourite singers Lucy Spraggan was headlining. There were also going to be two less known performers there one of which Imi liked a lot too. She had invited her friend Maria to join us primarily as our guide. Imi wasnt sure how well she’d be able to navigate the place so had enlisted sighted assistance. It was really lovely to meet Maria as Imi has talked about her loads over the years. The festival itself was great; I wasnt particularly fond of the first artist but loved the second and of course Lucy. It was a very different performance by Lucy than Josh and I experienced in Eastleigh when she performed with her band. We felt that she could have done with her drummer for a few of her songs as it added something extra special to the performance. But she was great nonetheless. The best part of the whole thing was the meet and greet. Not only did she recognise Josh and I, but Imi got to meet her. When Josh and I saw Lucy in Eastleigh, we’d wished Imi could have been there to share in the experience as she was the person to introduce us to Lucy at college and Lucy is her absolute hero. After the meet and greet, we all went to a little pub. I didn’t really fancy a drink so just sat and chatted with the others while they sipped at theirs.
On our way home, we popped into the local shop and Mike bought potatoes and chips to have for our tea. We settled on quorn burgers with oven chips and veggies. Mike did peas and sweetcorn so it made for quite a nice meal. Josh and I weren’t certain on the burgers. They had quite a different taste and the texture was interesting; I’m not sure if I’d particularly choose them as a meal again but they were edible and not like disgusting or anything. After the food, we just chatted for the majority of the evening.
Monday was of course bank holiday Monday so everyone was out in force. Originally, Imi had planned to take us to a beach where we’d be able to walk, as I’d hoped. But on our way Mike decided the traffic was too heavy and there was no way we’d be able to get there. So we had to go to plan b. Imi took us to a place that had a massive field area and then a woodland part. This meant a free run for Laila and pretty much a hike for us. For part of the woodland part, Laila swam in the lake and we had to walk on boards above the lake. As a totally blind person, this was definitely a test of trust.But thankfully I had my well trusted guide Imi to get us safely across. We were walking for quite some time and when we got back to the cafe we were all rather hot. On arrival back at the car, Imi discovered Laila had covered herself in a thick layer of green slime, definitely thanks to the water.
Next, we headed back to Burnby Hall. More fish feeding and cake was required. Kindly, Mike had given Imi money for our meals, which Josh and I were very grateful for. Imi and Josh decided to sample some of the mint airo cake they had on offer while I opted for a caramel slice, which, as I’d predicted, was exactly the same as a millionaire’s shortbread and therefore delicious. Sadly, Josh and Imi didn’t think much of their cake and when they’d had enough, with more fish pellets in hand we headed back to the pond to enjoy more fish feeding. It was a pretty hot day so Imi found us somewhere that was a bit shaded so that we didn’t melt completely. We were all soaked pretty quickly and Laila didn’t seem to want to settle. Plus, as she was covered in slime, Imi was eager to get her home and hosed down so as soon as we’d emptied our pots of food, we headed back to Mike’s car.
At Mike’s, Imi set to work cleaning Laila. She described the consistency of the slime as sticky and like it was growing in the dog’s fur… Overall, completely disgusting. But once Laila was washed in her fruity shampoo and sprayed with her doggy cologne, she smelt and felt lovely. Her fur was all bouncy and fluffy and the scent wafting off her was a perfume I’d be happy to wear! After Laila’s shower, it was our turns. Imi said she desperately needed one after getting soaked both at the pond and whilst washing Laila and also being covered in Laila’s acquired green slime. I wanted one because I needed a hair wash and getting into pjs of an evening is always a nice way to relac and wind down.
We agreed on Jacket potatoes with different fillings for dinner. Josh asked for cheese and beans while Imi and I settled for tuna sweetcorn mayo mix with a sprinkle of cheese. It was delicious. I don’t have jacket potatoes regularly nowadays after having to eat them almost daily at the college bistro simply because the rest of the menu was practically inedible so when offered a jacket potato nowadays I’m often skeptical about it. But Mike did well to remind me just why I love jackets; the tuna sweetcorn mayo mix topping really made it something else. I am and have always been a tuna lover but Mike really pulled it off. The sprinkling of cheese just topped it all off nicely. While we ate, we agreed to watch Angus, Thongs and perfect snogging, which is a film adaptation of every teenage girl’s favourite book series. The Louise Rennison books are every teenage girl’s wildest dreams come to life: a 14 year old girl meets a really fit boy and we see the chase unfold as she tries to grab him for herself. There’s a gang of best girlie friends, older girls who they totally think are slags and sad boring loser parents. Watching it as an adult is a strange and cringe-worthy experience. Reading those books at 14, every girl agrees with the main top girl Georgia. We all associate with her, envy her and basically want to be her. Many of the girls I knew even modelled their lives on the fictional top dog. But watching it now kind of makes you think Georgia is just a whingy complaining bitchy kid who, if she doesn’t get her own way, cries about it and plays nasty games until she does. It doesn’t really give us much hope for our younger selves; I just pray I wasn’t as bad as she’s portrayed.
After Angus, we moved onto Bridesmaids. I hadn’t seen the film in years, probably since we bought it at home on DVD. I remember it having funny moments but overall being terrible. Thankfully, watching it with Josh and Imi kind of revived it in my mind. It had far more funny parts than I gave it credit for and the cop male who the main character is falling in love with is pretty lovely. It was definitely good to watch it again and I’m pleased I can now hold it in higher esteem in my memory.
Sadly, the next day dawning meant the arrival of mine and Josh’s journey back down south. Thankfully, we had a bit more fun before the sad goodbyes came. Mike drove us into York town centre and Imi took us wandering through its streets until we came to the shop I’ve dreamt could exist for years. The Shop That Must Not Be Named is dedicated to Harry Potter merchandise. It really was a dream come true. After we’d queued for about half an hour, we were allowed inside this magical place. And that was where my bank balance decreased rapidly. There was just so much lovely stuff to buy. On the way in the car, Imi had done the sorting test quiz on me to determine which Hogwarts house I belong in; I’m a Hufflepuff just like she is. Some of the stuff I came out with was amazing. one example being the leather purse shaped as an envelope and embroidered with the Hogwarts crest, stiched so it looks like an envelope and printed with the address so that it looks like the original first acceptance letter Harry receives, inviting him to Hogwarts. I also gained a pendant of the symbol of the deathly hallows and it is made to look exactly like the necklace Luna’s father wore at Bill and Fleur’s wedding. Finally, my third favourite purchase is my time turner; it is an exact replica of the one Hermione wore in The Prisoner of Askaban. It spins, turns over and has actual sand in it so functions just like the fictional one did. It is presented in a lovely wooden case so that you can display it if you wish; I feel that the case partially represents the mirror of Erised in The Philosopher’s Stone, making the whole thing even more special. The fact that my bank balance was considerably lowered by my spending spree didn’t matter. The things I’d bought were things I could either use or wear regularly; plus, there’s never not a reason to buy Harry Potter merchandise.
Eventually, when we left my favourite shop in all the world, we headed for Cafe Nero to get a drink. I had my usual salted caramel hot chocolate, Imi had a regular hot chocolate and Josh had a Diet Coke. We all went for the little brownies in packaging at the counter rather than asking for slices from the fridge.
Once we were refreshed in Nero, we headed on to paper Chase and WH Smith’s so that Imi could buy stationary supplies for the forthcoming year at college. Then, we headed into Lush, mostly to inhale the gorgeous aromas that shop offers. Before my Harry Potter binge, I’d intended to buy some tea tree tonal water Imi highly recommended I try. Since my balance was already lowered, though, I felt the indulgence of such a luxury could wait for another time. Imi had other ideas; she bought me a bottle of the tonal water and Josh a wonderful smelling body jelly. I was really surprised she bought us gifts and wished I’d insisted on buying her the colour changing Harry Potter mug she’d liked so much in the shop.
Unfortunately, once our Lush spoiling was over, it was time to get back to the car so that Mike could drive us to the station. At the station, we registered with the assistance desk before going to get ourselves a meal before our journey. Again, Mike generously gave Imi money to pay for our food. I opted for chicken nuggets, not really fancying a burger. Sadly, when we’d finished our food, it was time for Imi and Mike to go. The car only had an hour’s parking and the prices at stations like that are crazy. So we stood beneath the York railway station sign and had one last photo before hugging tightly and turning in opposite directions. It is always difficult saying goodbye not knowing when we’ll see each other again. It feels a lot more reassuring now Imi is safely out of hospital. Saying goodbye there was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever experienced. And Miss Godwin, I have to tell you, even if you don’t see it or feel it very often, you’re doing bloody damn amazing, sis. When I think about what was happening three years ago at this very time, I can hardly believe you’re that same girl. I know I tell you all the time and you’re probably sick to your back teeth of hearing it, you are the bravest, strongest, cleverest, most amazing young lady I’ve ever met. Like you said last night, you’re a truly kickass blind woman and I’m so proud to know you, honoured to be your sister. I love visiting you so much and wish we could do it more often. If I was richer… But I promise I will see you soon. I’ll be there so much your dad will tell me to bugger off.
Thank you for such a great weekend, both of you. I’m lucky to have friends like you and it was the best way to spend the last weekend of August, the final bank holiday of the year. And I have to say, Godwin, you were absolutely spot on about those pizzas. A million times better than Dominoes. Lets do it again sometime, Yeah?

Four years

Four years ago today, my parents loaded up the boot of our car with my belongings, spread out the AA map and we headed off on the 150 mile journey to Hereford so that I could start college. I was 16 and excited about a new adventure. I was also terrified about leaving home. It had been planned for quite some time. 18 months earlier, we’d taken our first trip to Hereford to visit the college. It was so that I could decide whether it was an option for my future. After my very first tour of RNC, I had my mind set that there would be nowhere else. I was not going to local college; Hereford was my destination.

Four years on, it seems crazy that it is all memories. I left college over two years ago and have only returned because Kieran was working up there. It is safe to say that when I left two years ago I was more than ready to leave college. I wanted to be as far away from RNC as physically possible. A lot has changed since and hindsight really is a bitch. I would have done a lot of things very differently if I’d known how things would turn out. Thankfully, now I can be totally grateful for everything Ive gained out of going to residential college.

The best thing that happened because I was granted funding to go to RNC is the people I’ve met and the family I’ve gained. Because the three close friends aren’t just friends. Granted, one is now my other half but the other two are family. When we arrived in Hereford that Friday afternoon, we met another set of parents who were bringing their daughter to start her journey at residential college too. If only we’d all known then that she’d become my sister. Imi and Laila took up residence in the room neighbouring mine in our halls of residence and became a permanent resident in my life. I have written a lot about my sister over the years because she truly is an amazing person and I don’t take for granted having her in my life. Similarly, I don’t take for granted the continued presence of my good pal Josh. When we headed off to college with our then friend David, neither of us expected that ours would be the friendship that stood the test of time. David and Josh were going to be mates and do everything at college toget; I was just the third wheel. But after that very first week, that would change forever. Like Imi, Josh is a part of my life that I couldn’t do without and I am mighty pleased ours is the friendship that survived. And then of course there’s Kieran. So much that I could say about the friendship and now relationship we have. At first, he was Josh’s media buddy and just the stupidly clever lad who was in IT class and often set the task of fixing the never ending computer problems. But the more time I spent with him, the more I knew I wanted him in my life as a permanent fixture. When Josh kept inviting him to hang out with us, none of us could have known where it would lead. Kieran was there for the laughter, tears, triumphs and struggles. He supported me even when he knew I was wrong and watched my personality change as I entered into a relationship that became an engagement and changed my life. Regardless of the person I became, he continued to spend time with me and fixed any technical problem that occurred. The fact that we’re together now isnt a surprise to me on the basis of how we acted around each other and the amount of time we spent together. He really has been an irreplaceable friend and now partner. I count my blessings every day that I went to RNC, that mine and Josh’s friendship flourished beyond anything it was at school, that I gained a fantastic sister in Imi and that I now have an incredible fella in Kieran. I couldn’t have ever dreamt to be so lucky, but somehow I was.

Of course, it wasn’t just friends I was blessed with from college. I met many amazing staff members who helped me with so much. I came out of there with two C grade A Levels, an A grade AS Level and a pass at Level 3 BTEC. I was taught invaluable independence skills. Living in halls meant that I had to keep my room tidy, do my own laundry and make my own meals. Of course there was the canteen but nobody really liked eating in there. There were some lovely meals that they cooked but quite a lot of the time it was easier to cook our own food. Independent living skills gave me things I never thought I’d be able to do. I learnt how to make fresh meals. Cooking was something I’d never been able to do independently before.

It is amazing to think that that all started four years ago today. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone and I wish that I’d appreciated the place better when I was there. Granted, some of the things that really irritated me haven’t changed. If I went back now, they’d still frustrate me beyond belief. But I could have never gone to regular local college. Not because that means I’d never have had the friends I do or the independence I developed. But because they really couldn’t cater for someone like me. There was no provision in place for a blind person here. The majority of my local colleges even admitted that they weren’t sure how they would cater for me if I enrolled. Now, I could never take for granted the opportunities RNC gave me, especially because of the family I now have. I’m so glad Southampton gave me those two years of funding, that chance to grow into a completely different person. I wouldn’t have the life I do now if I hadn’t been granted funding. It was, without any shadow of a doubt, the best experience of my life.

So four years have passed since I started. So much has happened since. But today, four years exactly since my college journey began, I just wanted to write this little piece, thinking about how everything has changed since. Nothing would be the way it is for me now without RNC. If someone had told me four years ago that I’d regularly travel by plane and train independently up the country to see my other half and sister, I’d have laughed. Nobody could have predicted how much of an impact college was going to have on my life but god am I glad it did! So here’s to four years since college began. Here’s to the three amazing people I have in my life thanks to that place. Here’s for the qualifications I achieved that hopefully one day will be useful in securing me employment. Here’s to the times we shared, all the things we did. The fun was endless and the experience was priceless.

“A turd the size of Disneyland Paris”

Another lovely time has come and gone and so, even though I’m a little late in doing so, I’m going to write about it. On Wednesday the seventeenth of May, Kieran boarded a plane and flew down to Southampton on the late flight from Newcastle. Again, I stayed into babysit Tamsin, who was in bed, while Mum collected Kieran from the airport. He was coming down to stay because it was soon to be my birthday and he had arranged to go to a festival on Southampton Common with Josh. Also, we had booked to see Jon Richardson at the Mayflower Theatre that Thursday evening. It had been booked for months and we were all very much looking forward to it. Thankfully, Kieran’s plane didn’t land early like last time so Mum was there in time to pick him up. 

Unlike usual, Thursday wasn’t a particularly lazy day. Normally, on Kieran’s first day of staying, we hardly do anything. Of course, with the comedy show that evening, there was already plans for the day. We managed to fill the rest of the day with bits and pieces, too. Our usual breakfast of Weetabix and tea was nice, as always, and once we were all tidied up, I decided to take Zena out for a working walk. I wanted to try as hard as I could to keep up Zena’s work while Kieran was staying. Obviously, I’d much rather spend all my time with him, but Zena needed to be worked, too, and I didn’t really fancy any judgmental comments from anyone about how much work my dog should be doing and how lazy I was for not going out. She didn’t work very well, though; I only went to the local Co-op, which is about a twenty-minute walk there and back. Not a big walk but a decent route to keep Zena’s concentration. That part of the plan failed, anyway, as she hardly concentrated at all. But I was glad I’d taken her out for a working walk all the same.

 

After that, Kieran and I agreed to watch Jon Richardson’s Funny Magnet comedy DVD on my Ipad to prepare us for our evening. For dinner, we’d agreed to order a takeaway as we were meant to be meeting Josh around seven o’clock. As Mum doesn’t usually get home until between a quarter past and half past six, I knew there was no way she’d be able to cook us something in time. Anyway, the takeaway we were ordering from had mozzarella sticks so there was no way I could resist. In the end, Kieran decided on a cheese and bacon burger with cheesy chips and I settled on a portion of donner meat and chips. Alongside our meals, we added a cheesy garlic pizza bread, onion rings, mozzarella sticks and doughnuts to share. We had a can of fanta fruit twist each. The food was delicious; I hadn’t tasted such nice donner meat in ages. The kebab van to which I go when I want donner meat sometimes burns their meat, making it crispy. But this meat was so nice. The chips weren’t bad, either. Kieran’s burger was pretty big and he enjoyed it very much. We both picked at the sides we had to share, eating as much of them as we possibly could. There was plenty left over when we were done, though, and again we commented that whenever we order takeaway we get far too much. Eyes bigger than our bellies wasn’t really an appropriate line, but words to the same sentiment would have worked.

 

When Mum arrived home, we were already ready to go. She drove us to the theatre, where we met Josh for the show. I’d checked with Josh several times beforehand and the theatre had agreed that I would be allowed to take Zena to the show. I don’t really like leaving her with anyone. Even though they’re my family, it’s hard to trust anyone to look after her, especially as I’m trying to stick to the rules as closely as I can. To a lot of people, she’s just a cute and very affectionate dog but to me she’s the guide dog I’ve been desperate to have for years. I don’t want anything to go wrong. Plus, exposing her to atmospheres such as those at a theatre is good for both of us as a partnership. Once we were inside the theatre, Josh navigated us to a standing area, where we’d been told it would be safest to be with Zena. Beforehand, when Josh had mentioned it to me, I’d assumed that I’d just stand with Zena and the boys would sit in their paid for seats. But they both stood with me. The show was great. Jon was hilarious. We were all laughing pretty much constantly throughout. To begin with, we all stood up at the rail and I made sure Zena led down in the space behind us. But eventually our legs were aching too much and we sat down on the carpet with Zena, who was very happy with the sudden company. Every now and then, we stood up for short periods of time to listen, laugh and applaud. Each time, though, we ended up sat back down on the carpet. I felt very guilty that both boys had aching bones; after all, it was my fault for insisting that I bring Zena with us. But neither of them seemed to mind. If they did, they didn’t let on to me even once, and I appreciated that.

 

After we’d come home and I’d let Zena out to do her business, Kieran and I headed upstairs, with pints of water to drink, to watch some more comedy. During his show, Jon Richardson had mentioned his once flat mate Russell Howard several times. This had made me want to watch one of his DVD’s. So we watched the one with the strange name, Dingledodies, which was also hilarious. While we watched, I ate one of the doughnuts we’d bought with our takeaway, feeling a bit hungry. It was nice to have had such a nice evening with Kieran and Josh. It only happens when we manage to get together, but it’s always great.

 

Friday was a lazy day. We filled the day time with watching Judge Judy and The Chase and in the evening, once Mum was home, she cooked us lasagne and chips. While Mum and I caught up on East Enders and Red Water from the previous night, Kieran watched The Big Bang Theory on his phone.

 

Thankfully, Saturday was a little more active. In the morning, we watched Gogglebox, The Last Leg and more Judge. Then, when she was ready to take us, Mum drove us into town and we went on our first Nando’s date in a little while. Kieran chose the double burger with hot sauce, sides of spicy rice and peri salted chips and a beer and I had my usual of a double lemon and herb wrap with peri salted chips and a refillable coke. Unfortunately, the waiter was quite slow in serving us and I was concerned about how much time we had because Mum was just browsing the shops in town waiting to collect us so that she could then drive to pick Dad up from work when he finished at five o’clock. Although there may have been time, I declined Kieran’s offer of dessert. One day, I am going to have their frozen yoghurt like I say I will every time we go. While we ate and chatted, Zena led down underneath the table in the space free beside me. She was fairly well-behaved and I was pleased.

 

When we were home, we watched more Russell Howard, this time Right Here Right Now and Wonderbox, both of which were very funny. Kieran had some prawn cocktail crisps, which made Mum very happy as he’s the only one who eats them and we had a bit of a back log of them, while I had some sweets from the cupboard that needed eating. After the comedy was over, it was time for a serious film. Kieran had told me, after he’d watched it with his parents, that I needed to watch I Daniel Blake because I’d like it very much; he was also quite sure that it would make me cry. It certainly fulfilled that promise. The story tells of a man who has a heart problem and therefore can’t currently work. He’s desperate to go back to work but is told to claim benefits. It shows of the struggles faced by anyone contacting the DWP and how hard it is to be granted benefits. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to claim benefits and live comfortably on them certainly needs to watch this film.

 

Sunday was the final day of the Premier League, which meant a lot of football. Before the football started, we watched even more Judge and some Come Dine With Me. Then, it was football time. While I listened to commentary of the Liverpool vs Middlesborough match, Kieran listened to the Sky Sports commentary, which updated you on all the games going on. During the football, Mum cooked us a very nice spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread, which we ate in the kitchen with our earphones still in, glued to the commentary. Overall, there were 37 goals and afterwards we watched Chelsea lift the trophy and John Terry’s send-off. I was pleased, too, because Liverpool had won their game by three goals to nil which meant that they were securely in the top four of the Premier League.

 

After all the football, we watched a bit more Come Dine With Me before going downstairs and watched The Super Vet with Mum. After that, there was a count down of the greatest eighties movies on Channel 5. This lasted for three hours so we didn’t get to see all of it because Kieran wanted to watch Match Of The Day upstairs, during which I fell asleep.

 

Monday was a really hot day at 21 degrees but I managed to get out to work Zena for a little bit. On our big route to the local gym, I managed to get to the library corner, which is before you turn on to the main road that leads up to the gym, before turning back to come home. We were both really melting by the time I got home. While I’d been out, Kieran had been updating both my laptops; Windows 10 had a big update and that sort of thing is probably beyond me so it’s just easier and better for everyone if Kieran tackles it. To be fair, he offered. Out in the back garden, I groomed Zena and gave her a wash in the warm water and oil mixture a friend advised me to use to keep the really strong doggy smell she seems to have at bay. When Mum came home, she cooked us beef and caramelised onion and minted lamb burgers with chips and spaghetti hoops for tea. I didn’t like the beef burgers much and think I may have liked the lamb ones better. Kieran said both were nice. Afterwards, we watched East Enders and then The Chase before going to bed.

 

On Tuesday, we awoke to the news that there had been a terror attack in Manchester at a concert. When I awoke around four in the morning and saw the headline, I woke Kieran and told him. We were both very shocked. For the majority of the day, we watched the news headlines to see what was going on. It was incredibly scary and upsetting news, especially as the amount of casualties was confirmed and their names and ages were released. To think that those people had just gone to a concert to watch an artist they loved and had consequently lost their lives as they were leaving. It was heartbreaking as a lot of them were young people, many under the age of sixteen, and some were parents coming to collect their children from the concert. The only humbling thing about it was to see how the emergency services and general public had reacted minutes after the first panicked calls had come from the scene. The way England responds to terror attacks is incredible. Since then, a concert has been held to show that the country, and indeed the world, is standing together in the face of terrorists and that with their evil crime they haven’t accomplished anything, except for a country pulling even closer together.

 

In the evening, Kieran offered to buy everyone pizza. We bought two medium pizzas, potato wedges, BBQ chicken wings, garlic bread, cookies and coke. Everyone tucked in while we watched East Enders followed by Holby and then Wentworth.

 

Again, Wednesday was another hot day but at last I managed to take Zena on our long working walk to the gym and back. We really were melting by the time I got home. We didn’t do much for the rest of the day but when Mum got in she cooked us chicken nuggets with chips and spaghetti hoops. We all watched the Manchester United vs Ajax Europa League match.

 

Another hot day came on Thursday and Zena had managed to roll in something smelly so I had to wash her again. I used warm water with the oils in plus a squirt of baby shampoo. My hope was that the nice smell of this might take to Zena’s fur or at least remove the nasty smell she was wafting about. It was absolutely boiling in the garden, so much so that Kieran’s phone came up with a warning that it was too hot to continue functioning. In the afternoon, we finished off the Dominoes cookies and Kieran booked the table for six at Yates Southampton for my birthday the following week. After this, we watched The Chase. Then, Mum cooked us dinner of garlic pork (for me) and Chinese chicken (for Kieran) with mashed potato and carrots. We watched East Enders, The Super Vet and Red Water.

 

On Friday morning, a parcel came for me. It was flowers from Kieran and a big birthday balloon. The flowers were called unicorn dusted roses and apparently sparkled. They smelt lovely and the balloon was great. Generally, I’m not a big fan of balloons but the helium foil ones are fine. I booked a table for the two of us at Frankie and Benny’s that evening. Another date night was in order. Kieran said it was his treat and I felt a little guilty about that because I knew it would be expensive. They had a good deal on though where, if you bought two main meals, the cheaper one was free. In the end, Kieran and I ate like royalty. For a starter, I had BBQ loaded potato skins with cheese and bacon and Kieran had Louisiana hot wings. I had a peach iced tea and he had a beer. Then, for mains, I had mushroom ravioli and Kieran had spaghetti and meatballs. I had a side of a cheesy garlic pizza bread and Kieran had cheesy bacon chips. I had another iced tea because it really was that nice. The food was lovely and afterwards I couldn’t resist the warm chocolate brownies with ice cream, whipped cream and sauce. The menu has it as chocolate sauce but I asked if I could swap it for salted caramel sauce and they agreed. It was amazing! Probably one of the best puddings I’d had in a while. Instead of a pudding, Kieran chose a cocktail, which he enjoyed very much. I think it was the best date night we’d had in a while and the nicest food I’ve eaten in ages. The ravioli had been a risk because I wasn’t sure if it would be nice or not. But I was really glad I’d taken the risk; it was delicious and I know I’ll be having it again on another Frankie and Benny’s trip, along with those amazing brownies. The size of the plates that my ravioli and Kieran’s meatballs came on were unbelievable. We definitely ate more food than two people really should eat in one evening.

 

Saturday brought the festival that Kieran and Josh had bought tickets to go to together. It was on Southampton Common and I felt bad because the traffic was bad in Southampton that morning so we were late in meeting Josh at Southampton station. Thankfully, we managed to get the boys there in time.

 

The following day, Josh and Kieran came back to mine at around four and told me all about the great time they’d had. It seemed to have been even better than they’d anticipated and it was really nice to hear about everything they’d done and how much they’d enjoyed it together. After Josh left, I went downstairs to have cheese and leek pasta while Kieran had a shower. Then, we watched the film I Give It A Year, which I hadn’t seen before and Kieran recommended. It was very funny. After that finished, we watched Gogglebox and Micky Flannigan’s Back In The Game. While that was on, midnight came and went, meaning it was my twentieth birthday. Kieran gave me his presents of a new Sky remote branded with the Liverpool crest, a lovely bracelet to replace the one he’d bought at Christmas that had broken and a mug which says `everything is better with a dog`. I loved them all, especially my bracelet as I’d missed wearing the one he’d bought before. The new one looked a lot stronger. It’s metal and although the strands of it are very thin and fragile, it seems to be held together well and I’m hoping it will last a long time.

 

In the morning, we went down for breakfast where Mum and Dad gave me the presents they’d bought. Kieran and I spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out how my new Apple Watch charging stand actually worked. It had come in several pieces which fit together to make it hold the charging cable and charge the watch in nightstand mode. Eventually, we figured it out. After showering and dressing, I made sure Zena was comfortable in her little room with a full bowl of water, her Nylabone and her new Kong teddy bear, named Jim by Kieran. Then, we all bundled into the car and headed for Yates where we were joined by Josh, my grandparents, my aunt and cousin for my birthday meal. I had a southern fried chicken wrap with curly fries and a coke and Kieran had a loaded stack burger, which literally contains everything, with curly chips and a beer. Mum had bought me a pick-and-mix birthday cake which was shaped like a cupcake but the chicken in the wrap had made me feel a little queasy so the cake was far too sweet to eat. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, though. Before the wrap made me feel funny, I had fancied the toffee apple crumble from the menu so am determined to try it another time when we go to Yates again.

 

When we got home, we watched a bit of Judge Judy before changing channel to watch the brand new series of The Chase. ITV had stopped it about a month earlier and it had outraged a lot of people. But I was very happy it was back. Afterwards, we watched Pointless and then more Judge. While I had a bath, Kieran watched The IT Crowd and Family Guy through the chromecast. Downstairs, we watched East Enders, diabolically awful Britain’s Got Talent and then Can’t Pay, We’ll Take It Away. Overall, it had been a pretty great birthday. I’d been spoiled with lovely gifts, including those that had come from afar from Imi and Kieran’s family, and spent time with some of my favourite people.

 

Tuesday was another lazy day. We watched telly during the day, including Police Intercepters and The Chase. In the evening, I bought Chinese takeaway for everyone as Mum had said she fancied it the night before. We had: special fried rice, prawn crackers, curry chips, Hong Kong style sweet and sour chicken, chicken balls with sweet and sour sauce, mini spring rolls and a blackbean delight which included chicken, beef, pork and king prawns. Kieran chose the blackbean delight and prawn crackers, Tamsin wanted the chicken balls, I picked the sweet and sour chicken and we decided to share the rice, mini spring rolls and curry chips. When I was ordering the food, I asked Mum what she wanted but she just said she’d share Tamsin’s chicken balls. I was a little annoyed as it had been her idea to have the Chinese and I knew she’d normally choose her own meal; also, she didn’t end up eating much of the food, even though we had quite a bit left and Kieran had seconds. We watched East Enders, Holby and The Chase.

 

Of course, Wednesday arriving meant the end of Kieran’s stay. Two weeks had flown by so fast and I was sad that he was leaving, even more so this time because we really have no idea when we’ll see each other again. Kieran is waiting to hear back from the council where he completed his work experience trying to decide which part of the IT department he’d like to work in. They said they’d put an apprenticeship together for him and then get back to him on when he can start. I’m really pleased that the work experience is leading to something and that it will be paid work that can go on to his CV and hopefully lead to good career prospects in the area he wants to work in. It’ll be great for him to be working again as he really enjoyed his job in Worcester and the work experience he’s just finished. Sadly, employment means it’ll be harder for us to see each other. I feel very sad about that. We’ve done really well for the last almost year and a half and I only pray it can continue if either or both of us gain employment. It was quite easy when Kieran worked in Worcester because I could go and stay at the weekends once a month or so. The train journey to Hereford was quite a nice one. But I don’t think there’s any way I’ll be able to do that once he’s working in Newcastle. I wouldn’t expect him to do the same if I got a job here in Southampton because a weekend, although great, is a very short amount of time for quite an expensive flight. Although I’m not sure how we’ll manage it, I know somehow Kieran and I will find a way to see each other, however infrequent and short the time we get is. I’m sure that somehow we’ll make it work, hopefully with our parents helping out whenever they can. Most of all, though, I’m thrilled for Kieran; I’m glad he’s able to take a step in the right direction towards employment and the career he wants. I hope that I can gain employment or at the very least experience to boost my CV, too. It’s all steps in the right direction towards the future we want.

 

Before going to the airport, Dad took us to KFC so that we could have lunch. I was glad because it meant Kieran had had something more than just breakfast to eat before his flight. He’d fancied it the night before but we’d agreed on Chinese because Mum wanted it. I had a large popcorn chicken meal and Kieran had a mighty bucket for one which included chicken wings, chicken fillets and pieces of chicken with a side of gravy. We both enjoyed the food. At the airport, the check-in process was very speedy and they were ready to take Kieran through security straight away. It was a sad goodbye, but we really have had a great two weeks. I just hope the next time isn’t too far away. Long distance isn’t much fun but it’s definitely worth it for the time we get.

 

“I’m a sad sandwich with grumpy bread”

After almost two months of waiting, last week it was finally time for Kieran and I to see each other again.  Since we became a couple in January last year, Kieran and I haven’t not seen each other for longer than a few weeks.  However, this time, for various reasons, we were unable to visit each other any sooner than now.  I’ve been trying to solidify my partnership with Zena, which has been a lot harder than I anticipated, and Kieran has been job hunting.  When he left in February, there was a possibility that he’d be starting an apprenticeship at his mother’s work place sometime in March.  That didn’t come off so quickly; instead, he is going back and next week starting some work experience which we’ve all got our fingers crossed will lead into a full-time apprenticeship.  I’m really hopeful that this experience could lead into something permanent for Kieran.  He’s worked really hard for all his qualifications and the job he had last year.  It would be really lovely if another job was on the cards for him.  But at last it was time for us to see each other again.

 

Last Wednesday, Kieran boarded a plane that flew him down to Southampton Airport where Mum was planning to meet him.  But Kieran’s plane was too quick for Mum.  He landed a lot earlier than schedule predicted and Mum had to rush to get to the airport.  Thankfully, she was soon with him and they were on their way home.  By the time Kieran arrived home, it was already about twenty past ten so naturally there wasn’t much else to do with the evening other than make sure Zena had done her business, thank Mum for picking Kieran up and head on up to bed.

 

Thursday was a pretty relaxed day.  We had no plans to do anything and no rush to get up and go anywhere.  Zena seemed quite content with the lie-in, too.  Usually, we’re up promptly at seven in the morning and out walking before midday.  But Zena didn’t seem bothered with the little holiday she was getting so far.  Eventually, we dragged ourselves out of bed and went to have showers, going downstairs to have breakfast afterwards.  Mum had bought us some sausages the night before so that we could get the George Foreman out and have sausage sandwiches.  I put three each on the grill and Kieran set the timer.  When it came round to it, though, I really didn’t fancy sausages so made myself a bowl of sugar puffs.  Kieran didn’t bother to butter bread for his sausages and just ate all six as they were.  We had cups of tea with our breakfast.  We spent the majority of the day lounging upstairs, watching bits and pieces on telly.  When Mum was on her way home, I decided to ask if she’d get us kebab.  Kieran offered to pay and we said she could join us.  But as she was paying and didn’t have much money, she only bought what Kieran and I ordered.  So when she got in with it, Kieran gave her the money we’d have spent on the kebab so that she could get some more milk and herself something to eat.  So while we sat and munched our way through our kebabs, Mum and Tamsin headed out to get what was needed.  Once Mum and Tamsin came back and we’d finished our food, we headed upstairs and continued our lounging on the bed.

 

Friday was a little more productive.  We started it in the usual way, with a lie-in, showers and breakfast of Weetabix and cups of tea.  Then, while Kieran started to watch Master Chef, I took Zena out to work her up to the Co-op and back.  It is only a quick twenty-minute route but it was something.  I didn’t feel like doing the hour-long walk to the local gym because I wanted to spend my time with Kieran.  Zena didn’t seem bothered, anyway.  Once we were home, Kieran joined me downstairs and I groomed Zena.  Her fur gets quite messy all by itself so regular grooming is necessary.  After I’d finished that, we headed back upstairs and watched some more telly.

 

As planned, when Mum and Dad came in later on, Kieran and I were ready to be taken out to Pizza Hut in Hedge End for our first date night in a while.  Unfortunately, Mum and Dad were caught up in traffic so we didn’t go out as early as we’d hoped to.  But eventually we were there.  We were hoping to be served by our favourite waitress, who we’re certain is called Clare, but she didn’t seem to be there.  We were served by a different lady instead; as soon as she came to us, we ordered our drinks, a beer for Kieran and a refillable coke for me.  The beer offer Kieran usually partakes in was still on, two for six pounds, so he decided on that again.  Once the drinks arrived, we ordered the starters we’d decided on, cheese and bacon garlic bread for me and hot ribs for Kieran.  He’d been considering between popcorn shrimp and the ribs but settled on the ribs, telling me he’d definitely have the shrimp next time.  I’d meant to only have cheesy garlic bread but when the waitress asked for our starters, I couldn’t resist adding the bacon.  Thankfully, the waitress gave us some of the hand wipes they have on offer with our starters.  The food was tasty; Kieran really enjoyed his ribs and my garlic bread was lovely.  It did leave a really strong garlic taste in my mouth and I wasn’t sure it was quite right.  We’d ordered our main with the starters, a sharing Texas meat meltdown pizza with stuffed crust.  To begin with, Kieran hadn’t wanted stuffed crust but by the time we actually got to Pizza Hut and were eating, he was hungry enough for it.  We also ordered a portion of fries because they’ve been nice each time we’ve had them before and it was date night so we were going all out on our meal.  Once we’d finished our starters, the waitress cleared away our plates and cutlery before bringing out our steaming hot pizza.  The pizza was delicious, as always.  But our fries were not brought out with the pizza.  So Kieran and I decided to wait it out and see whether the waitress brought them out a few minutes later.  However, she didn’t; when she came over to ask if everything was all right with our meal, there was no mention of fries.  So Kieran asked for them.  The waitress rushed to reassure us they’d be over as quickly as possible.  They hadn’t even been put in with the order so we were given freshly cooked fries not so long later.  They were boiling hot and a little hard to eat at first.  My garlic bread had made me fuller than I’d thought it would and I wasn’t able to eat nearly as much pizza as Kieran managed.  I wanted to leave room for a pudding because Pizza Hut isn’t Pizza Hut without a cookie dough pudding.  So once we’d eaten as much pizza as we could fit in, I ordered a salted caramel cookie dough pudding and Kieran settled on a third beer.  The cookie dough was piping hot and delicious, still my favourite part of a Pizza Hut meal.  The starter and main courses were nice but the cookie dough was perfect.  Kieran seemed to enjoy his beer, too.

 

On Saturday morning, Kieran and I showered and had Weetabix breakfast as usual.  The family were out as Tamsin was at karate.  We’d planned to go for a second date meal sometime in the afternoon to the Handmade Burger Company in West Quay.  Kieran had tried it in Newcastle with his sister and loved it so I’d agreed that we could have it for a date so that I could try it.  I was a little dubious about it, though, as burgers aren’t my most favourite thing.  But I’d looked at the online menu and decided there would be something I’d like.  Annoyingly, Mum and Dad seemed to have a million and one other things they wanted to do with their Saturday so we didn’t actually end up getting to the restaurant until gone four o’clock.  We spent this time feeling very hungry and watching a mixture of telly including Master Chef, Judge Judy and The Chase.  On arrival at the restaurant, Kieran asked for the Braille menu but the waiter helping us didn’t seem at all sure whether they had one.  Kieran knew from his previous experiences that each restaurant has a Braille menu on offer so insisted that they find it for us.  Of course, Kieran was right and was presented with a Braille menu not long later.  The waitress apologised, saying it probably wasn’t the most up-to-date version of the menu but that it was all they had.  As it was Braille and had been given to us, we weren’t at all bothered.  I decided on a Hawaiian burger — a chicken breast with pineapple, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, mango salsa, mayo, lettuce, tomato and red onion — minus the mayo, lettuce, tomato and red onion and Kieran had a double cheese and bacon burger — two beef patties, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, smoky BBQ relish, mayo, lettuce, tomato and red onion — which sounded like quite a mountain of a burger to me.  I had mine with peri seasoned fries while Kieran went for Denver fries, which are chips topped with cheese, BBQ sauce and pulled pork; his chips definitely required cutlery.  Kieran went for a beer and I had a peanut butter milkshake.  Both drinks were huge and my milkshake was wonderful.  Kieran very much enjoyed his beer too.  Our food arrived not long later and we tucked in.  To begin with, I really enjoyed the burger.  I had to eat it in sections, starting with the top bun and then the chicken, bacon, cheese and mango salsa portion.  The mango salsa was nice, but a little too tangy for me so I scraped it off.  Then, the burger was quite nice.  I can quite understand why some people decide to have their burger minus the bun because I’d have easily done without it.  Kieran ate his in stages, too, but enjoyed every piece of his, managing to eat it all.  He loved his fries, too, but I wasn’t convinced by mine.  I’d thought the peri seasoning would be like the peri salted chips at Nando’s but they were nothing alike.  The Nando’s salt is fine like regular salt but the seasoning on these were flakes.  Overall, I don’t think I’d go back there, especially as the bill was so high, because I didn’t really enjoy the food that much; I think I’d eat it again minus the bun and with different chips but I think I’d just rather go somewhere else where I enjoy the food more.  If Kieran really wanted to go back, though, I’d go with him.  Even if I didn’t like the food that much, the milkshake really was delicious.

 

When we got home, we were both very full of food so we curled up on my bed and watched Gogglebox and The Last Leg, which we had recorded from the previous night.  Both were very funny and afterwards we decided to continue the comedy with a Jimmy Carr DVD in preparation for the live show we were going to see the following evening.  Kieran chose Comedian and it was a very funny DVD.

 

Sunday was a pretty relaxed day.  We had our Weetabix breakfast before returning upstairs and watching more Judge Judy.  We didn’t have much to do with the day because we were waiting for the evening.  At four thirty, we put the football on as Liverpool were playing Crystal Palace and it was something to watch.  Not long after it started, Josh arrived.  Originally, he’d agreed to come over and meet Kieran and I so that he could take us on the bus to the theatre for the Jimmy Carr show.  He’d asked if he could hang out at mine for a bit so that he and Kieran could catch up.  In the end, though, Mum had said she’d drive us to the theatre and also cook us all a meal before we went.  She’d offered spaghetti bolognese but I said chicken nuggets and chips would do as I didn’t really fancy a big meal like that.  Both lads agreed to the easy food, too.  We chatted — well, mostly the boys chatted and I tried to take in everything they were saying — until dinner was ready.  Then, we all sat downstairs and ate our food.  Josh had said he wanted to leave at about six thirty so that we could get there in time.  So once we’d finished our food and six thirty came around, we all headed out and piled into the car so that Mum could drive us to the theatre.  At the theatre, we formed the train — Josh leading me, me leading Kieran — and headed inside, telling Mum to be there about ten o’clock to pick us up.  As soon as we were in the main entrance, a member of staff came across and asked if we’d like to go and take our seats so we followed her in.  The show started around seven thirty and was brilliant.  We were all laughing the whole way through and thankfully there was generally quite a good crowd so the atmosphere in the room was great.  I’m glad that I can add Jimmy to the ever growing list of comedians that I’ve seen live.  Going to the comedy shows with Kieran and Josh is great fun and I hope we can continue to do it long after our last scheduled show in May.

 

On our way home, Kieran and I realised we felt quite hungry and I wished I’d accepted Mum’s offer of spaghetti bolognese as it would have probably filled us up a lot more.  We decided to have some snacks when we got in; Mum had given Kieran a cream egg Easter egg and he took some prawn cocktail crisps from the crisp box in the kitchen as nobody else eats them and I had some Pringles and little Millionaire’s shortbread bites.  We decided to watch Hebburn, which is still hilarious no matter how many times I’ve seen it, whilst sitting up in bed sharing our snacks.  Although it was totally junk food, it certainly filled a gap and we felt a lot better afterwards.  We watched the first episode of Hebburn and part of the second one but they kept buffering on the wifi so we decided to quit waiting for it to work.

 

Monday was a mostly lazy day.  We watched more of Hebburn after downloading it on to my Ipad, eliminating the annoying buffering.  Whilst watching Hebburn, we snacked on Pringles, sweets and more prawn cocktail crisps for Kieran.  Also, I groomed Zena because her fur was all messy again.  In the evening, Mum cooked us a really nice meal.  We’ve recently been going to a newly opened local butcher’s shop and trying different things from there.  I had some garlic pork and Kieran had some Chinese chicken.  We had it with mashed potatoes, carrots and sweet corn.  Mum had offered us gravy but from previous experience I didn’t think it went well with the meat.  My pork was nice but we seemed to have gotten a fatty batch of it because there was more fat than meat in what I was eating.  Kieran really enjoyed his chicken, saying that the skin had gone nice and crispy and the seasoning from the skin had nicely soaked through into the chicken itself.  It was definitely good to have a meal that wasn’t junk food.

 

After our meal, Kieran retreated upstairs to watch the football.  Newcastle were playing Preston and if they won, they’d instantly be promoted to the Premier League; so it was an important game for Kieran to see.  Meanwhile, I sat downstairs with Mum and Tamsin to catch up on East Enders.  Two hours later, Kieran came skipping into the living room; Newcastle had won and were promoted.  It’ll make matches next season more exciting when Liverpool and Newcastle play each other.

 

Tuesday was another lazy day.  Kieran had Weetabix and I had sugar puffs for breakfast.  I’d meant to have Weetabix but it tasted funny when I made it so I changed my mind.  While I dried my hair and during breakfast we listened to Ed Sheeran’s new album, which both Kieran and I love a lot.  We’ve not listened to it together until then, though, and it was nice to do so.  Afterwards, we put the rest of Hebburn on and finished it completely.  While we were watching it, Zena ran around the back garden, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine.

 

Upstairs, Kieran helped me to choose and order Mum’s birthday flowers.  She’s celebrating a big birthday next Thursday and I find the Moonpig website an absolute nightmare to try and navigate so Kieran lending a hand was a big help.  He also offered to pay half the price of the flowers so that they could be from both of us.  So when it came to writing a message in the little card you get, Kieran signed it from both of us.  Afterwards, we watched more Master Chef before getting ourselves some snacks.  Mum had cooked us a quiche to have for lunch so we had that with Pringles and another Easter egg which we shared.  Once Master Chef was finished, we put more of The Chase on.

 

That evening, Kieran treated us all to Chinese.  He chose chicken in black bean sauce and a tray of curry chips.  I chose chicken with cashew nuts and a special fried rice.  Mum asked for a mushroom chow mein and Tamsin wanted some chicken balls.  Kieran added prawn crackers and that made quite a full basket of food.  Kieran and I said that we’d share the tray of curry chips and special fried rice between us and anyone else who fancied them could have some too.  The Chinese was really lovely.  I had the chicken I’d chosen, some of the rice and some of the chips.  Kieran said his chicken was lovely and agreed with me about the rice and the chips.  Tamsin seemed to thoroughly enjoy her chicken balls and sweet and sour sauce too.  While we ate, Kieran listened to the Southampton versus Chelsea game and we had East Enders on the telly.

 

Sadly, today soon arrived.  We had to get up at the same time as Mum and Tamsin because Kieran’s flight was at ten past eleven.  So as soon as I realised people were awake this morning, I grumpily dragged myself out of bed.  Leaving days are always the worst, no matter how many of them we go through.  The idea of Kieran leaving is where the title of this post comes from; I said that I was grumpy and sad and grumpy which made Kieran say that I was a sad sandwich with grumpy bread.  It seemed a pretty good idea for a title for this.  Once I was up and getting dressed, Kieran reluctantly dragged himself out of bed and headed for the shower.  When we were both ready, we headed downstairs and I fed Zena before going to have my own breakfast.  We simplified it this morning, Kieran having toast and me having my usual sugar puffs.  Mum said that she’d take Tamsin to school and Dad to work before coming back to pick us up so that we could take Kieran to the airport.  We took this opportunity and used it to watch some more The Chase.  Kieran already had everything packed and there was nothing else to do.  At nine thirty, I took Zena out to do her business and we got ready for Mum to come back.  When she did, we all bundled into the car and headed for the airport.  Everything happened super speedy at the airport.  They printed off Kieran’s boarding pass and sent us to the assistance desk.  There, they said they’d take Kieran straight through security and to boarding.  So we hugged goodbye and headed in different directions.  Zena thought we were going with Kieran and tried to follow.  She seemed a little disheartened when I tugged her in the opposite direction.

 

It has been so lovely having Kieran to stay.  The additional bonuses of the date nights, takeaways, seeing Josh and the comedy show of course make it extra special.  But the most special part of the whole thing was spending time with my best friend after such a long time apart.  I guess two months isn’t really anything but it feels a lot when you’re almost three hundred miles apart in physical distance.  Talking each night doesn’t really come close to actually being together.  I’m looking forward to May a lot.  Kieran is coming down to stay for two weeks, encompassing our John Richardson comedy show and my birthday.  It’s going to be fun to see another comedian and to have Kieran here to celebrate my birthday with me.  So only three weeks to go and my love will be here again.

“You just needed to grow a pair”

I’m just back from an amazing weekend spent in Yorkshire with my sister Imi and her dad.  I really want to write about it as it was such a great time so I want to be able to reread this and remember how great it was in the future.  Plus, it was my first independent train trip successfully completed with Zena rather than a cane.  Even more importantly, it was my first time away anywhere with Zena by myself, without the help of parents and support of her trainer; although, if I’d have needed him, I knew John was only a text message away.  I hadn’t partaken in a sleepover with Zena before or taken her anywhere to stay overnight.  Even though this opportunity was taken so that I could spend good quality time with my sister, it was also a chance to test my ownership abilities and to see what Zena is like living away from home out of a backpack.

 

Before our trip, of course, I had to pack the right amount of belongings into a bag for Zena and I.  I needed enough food for Zena and clothing for myself to cover our two night stay in Yorkshire.  Despite the fact that I’d been thinking it through in my head since the day I booked the tickets, when it came to packing a bag and including all the essentials Zena would need, my brain turned to mush.  Quickly, I text Imi and asked for her experience in packing for a guide dog.  She’s been owner and mummy to Noodle for almost five years now and has worldly experience in looking after her.  As one of the best behaved and most lovingly looked after Guide Dogs I know, I knew I could count on Noodle’s teachings to Imi as an owner to be useful for me in this situation.  Obviously, I was over-thinking the whole thing; when I rattled off what I intended to bring for Zena to Imi, she reassuringly said that I seemed to have everything covered.  As it turned out, as usual I was being over cautious and packed far too much.  To be honest, though, I’m glad I over-packed our bag rather than not taking enough.  Carefully, on Wednesday morning I sat measuring out bags of food for each of Zena’s meals.  I needed five separate bags of the right amount of food for each mealtime that we’d be away for.  The previous weekend, Mum and I had gone into Tesco and bought freezer bags, the kind with the zip-lock top to keep the contents securely sealed.  Although Imi had just said `sandwich bags`, I had decided I needed those with a zip that would prevent any kind of spillage.  Train journeys are fretful at the best of times so I didn’t want to mount the additional issue of food spilt everywhere on top of everything else I already had to think about.  Although I’ve travelled many trips independently on train before, I wasn’t sure what to expect with Zena by my side rather than a cane in my hand.  I was hoping that I’d feel even more in control of the situation than I had previously.  I was worried about seating arrangements as the travel assistance people had promised that I’d be given an extra seat so that Zena could use the leg space to lie in; I was worried that the train would be so full that someone would need the seat and I’d have to make her stand in the aisle or something.  I don’t know what my rights are, as an assistance dog owner, to insist that I keep the seat for my Seeing Dog rather than allow a paying passenger to sit down.

 

Despite all my worrying, Thursday morning dawned and the day of our trip had arrived.  Zena made my morning that little bit more stressful by refusing to do a poo in her pen at her scheduled time.  As I had to go with Mum in the car so that Dad could take me to catch my train, I didn’t have loads of time to encourage Zena to go.  She probably picked up on the fact that I was pretty nervous and the tension in the atmosphere was probably what caused her to refuse.  But I had other things to worry about.  We needed to be on time for everything.  However, the fact that we were about to embark on a five-hour direct train journey up North and she hadn’t been to toilet did worry me a lot.  The idea of her being so desperate that she went on the train flashed in my head.  I had no idea what I’d do if that happened.  I guess I’d just have to act really incapable and hope that a member of the train crew came to my aid.  Thankfully, that wasn’t necessary.  On our way to the train station, we stopped off at a Tesco so that I could buy supplies for the journey in case I got hungry or thirsty.  I ended up coming out of the shop after purchasing two packets of star bursts, a packet of Jaffacakes, some BBQ Pringles, some Thornton’s chocolate brownies and a bottle of Doctor Pepper.  Why I thought I needed that much sugary rubbish I have no idea but it all sounded good to me at 9am on Thursday morning.  Once we’d dropped Mum off at work, Dad drove us to the train station where we went in, requested assistance and were told to wait in their waiting room.  Right on time, the assistance person came to help me board the train.  At first, they offered me two seats where there was hardly any leg room so I politely pointed out that there was no way my dog, who was definitely giving me the `are you mad, mum?` stare, was going to fit into that tiny gap.  So he helped me along the carriage to a table seat, which of course had masses of room for Zena, who seemed much more optimistic about this arrangement.  As the train pulled out of the station and I dug around for a star burst to settle myself in, I realised that I’d already made my first travel error; I’d left my unopened bottle of Doctor Pepper in the car.  Disappointed, I text my parents to ask them to put it in the fridge so that I could have it went I came home.  Not long after I’d got comfortable and had started to listen to music, the train manager tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that actually I was sitting in someone’s reserved seats and as the table seats are quite popular, he imagined that they’d be booked for the majority of the journey.  As I was travelling for three quarters of the entire train journey, he suggested that he move me to somewhere where I’d be less likely in someone else’s way.  I was a little put out by the tone he used, like I was in the way, but I can understand what he meant and he was trying to be kind about it.  He found Zena and I two seats that had more leg room than the original one the assistance man offered us.  Eager to be settled again, I just accepted, hoping it would be comfortable enough for my nonplused dog.  As it turned out, it was a much better seat choice for us both.  Zena was comfortable and I spent the journey munching on star bursts and listening to my Spotify playlists.

 

On arrival in York, I was more than happy to exit the train.  After a quick toilet stop, I was with Imi’s dad, Mike, and we were heading for the car.  Imi and I had agreed that Zena would go in the boot while she sat in the front with Noodle in the foot well until they’d been acquainted.  As they were going to be spending all their time together over the next couple of days, we needed Zena and Noodle to get along like a house on fire.  It took us a little while to get to where we needed to pick Imi up from her therapy session.  She had warned me the night before, whilst checking that I was good with a quorn diet during my stay, that she may be worn out afterwards.  I was good with that because, firstly, she couldn’t help it, and secondly, I knew I’d be pretty shattered after the train trip anyway.  It took us a little while to get to the train station.  I was quite surprised because Zena settled down without fuss in the boot of Mike’s car and didn’t make a single sound until she spotted Imi and Noodle heading in our direction.  Quickly, Imi clambered in the front while Mike loaded her luggage — and I say luggage because there was loads of it! — on to the backseat beside me.  We chatted about all sorts on the way home, mostly my journey and Imi’s session.  When we arrived at Mike’s, Imi set up the plan for she and I to head inside with Noodle and Zena while Mike carried our bags inside.  Although this was the best idea any of us had, I was still a little dubious about how Zena would react.  Usually, whenever she sees any kind of dog out and about, she frantically pulls in their direction.  Stumbling our way to the front door, I was glad when I was in the safety of the living room.  Once Mike had bought our bags in, he set about making us our first cup of tea of the weekend, the first of thousands, I think.  Once we’d settled in and finished our first cup, Imi showed me upstairs to the bathroom so that I could shower and change.  We’d decided to get clean and comfy before we settled down in the lounge before dinner.  While I showered, Imi took the two dogs out into the back garden.  She wanted to start collecting photos of our stay; we always have loads of photos when we get together but many more were required seeing as Zena was with us.  Many many cute pictures of the two dogs were necessary.  After I was done in the bathroom, we swapped places; Imi jumped in the shower while I was left on babysitting duty of the two girls.  During my turn in the shower, Imi had given them both a meaty treat from the bag of Pedigree Tasty Bites she had.  Zena had never had these before but it was quite clear she was already in love with them.  Both dogs edged further and further towards the bed, trying to stretch their necks towards the bag that was way out of their reach.  Thankfully, Imi was soon back from her shower the we were able to escape from the room with the tempting doggy treats.  We went downstairs, where we were treated to even more tea.  Zena seemed to decide that she wanted tea too, so I had to use my lead to attach her to the chair so that she wouldn’t dip her nose into it.

 

Eventually, we agreed on quorn sausages with sweet potato chips and veggies for tea, of course accompanied by copious amounts of tea.  After we’d eaten a rather nice dinner, we fed the dogs theirs.  I was a little worried about whether they’d actually eat their own food or find each other’s irresistible.  Thankfully, with Imi and I stood between the two of them as a kind of human barrier, we managed to make sure that they ate their own food.  It also seemed that Zena was intent on making sure that there was no food or water left for Noodle.  After she’d emptied her own bowl and Noodle had wandered away from hers, Zena darted in and licked the bowl clean.  I think Noodle had made sure she hadn’t left any remainders for the taking, but Zena couldn’t miss anything.  Then, she darted in front of Noodle to take her fill from the water dish, which meant that she emptied it and then waited for more.  That was when Imi and Mike discovered the disaster that is Zena’s beard; she splashed water all over the kitchen floor.  Thankfully, Mike didn’t seem too fazed by Zena’s mess and we were all soon comfortable in the lounge again.  Eventually, we settled on watching Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, one of our all-time favourite films from our younger teenage years and a major bonding point from college.  While we watched, I took charge of Imi’s BrailleNote Touch, HumanWare’s new note taker for the blind.  It is supposed to be the massive upgrade to the BrailleNote Apex that I’ve loved for years.  However, it doesn’t seem to be the machine I’ve been dreaming of for years.  It is a combination of the Apex and an Android tablet, supposedly having the force and power of Android behind it.  Unfortunately, it’s so full of bugs and problems that it’s pretty frustrating to try and use.  I much prefer my Apex to it and even though I haven’t spent a long time trying to learn how to use the Touch, I know I wouldn’t love it like my Apex until it has had a lot of updates and fixes.  Imi had asked me to update it, but I had to wait for the battery to be charged to at least 20 percent before I could perform the update.  As the battery had been completely flat when I’d tried to turn the device on and seemed to be charging at snail’s pace, I was in for a long wait.  One positive to that, of course, meant that I could enjoy the film and conversation with Imi and Mike, which was highly entertaining, so much so that the film took doubly long to watch than the run time says it should.

 

At bedtime, Imi let the two dogs out into the back garden and we hoped they’d do what they needed to before we headed upstairs.  Once upstairs, we decided on Come Fly With Me on Imi’s Ipad to send us off to sleep.  No sooner had she pressed play on the first episode than had Imi fallen sound asleep.

 

The following morning, we got up, dressed and then headed downstairs.  Once Imi had let the girls out to do their business, Mike offered us breakfast of tea and croissants.  After we’d eaten, I checked on the Touch.  It had fully charged overnight so I updated the voices and fixed the incorrect time before putting it to sleep.  At around eleven thirty, we decided to head out.  Our only plan for our time had been to take Zena and Noodle for a free run.  Imi packed a rucksack of bits and pieces we may need and I took my little shoulder bag.  On our way out, we posed with the dogs both in harness for Mike to take some photos to add to our album.  Then, we were off.  For the first part of the route, both dogs worked, Zena walking behind Noodle and actually working quite well.  I’d expected her to be an absolute nightmare as working so close to another dog and human would surely be overwhelming for her.  As I’ve said, she’s usually pretty erratic around other dogs and as Imi was becoming ever more familiar to her, I thought she’d act how she usually does when I want her to work around any other member of the family.  But she was almost perfect.  I say almost because she was absolutely useless at finding curbs.  But we made it safely to the little convenience store where Imi bought us snacks and drinks to take with us on our little adventure.

 

Our `little` adventure turned into an almost 8 mile walk through some really gorgeous scenery.  I don’t need to have seen our surroundings to know it was beautiful.  As soon as we were away from the road, I put Zena’s play collar, bells and all, on and we let the two girls free.  They ran off eagerly, happy to be allowed to be dogs.  Zena doesn’t get many free runs at home, so this deluxe free run with a brand new friend was an extra special treat for her.  It was pretty special for me too.  I love spending time with Imi but spending it walking through lovely open spaces in the country chatting about whatever came to mind was amazing.  I love long rambling walks with no hurry to go anywhere in particular.  Zena seemed to love it, too.  She and Noodle ran and frolicked with abandon, checking every now and then that they were still with us.  Imi snapped countless pictures of them to add to our album and some pictures of the two of us as well.  About five kilometres in, Imi found a patch of ground for us to sit on.  She laid her coat of it and we sat to eat some of our snacks and take a lot of much needed liquid in.  For snacks we had crisps, chocolate brownies and star bursts; I had a Doctor Pepper and Imi had a Ribena.  As we headed off again, we encountered a couple with a horse called Rodney.  He wasn’t a very happy horse.  Imi and I backed away with the dogs on leads and stood facing in the opposite direction to Rodney and his humans while they tried to maneuver him passed us.  Neither Imi nor I like horses much so this was a bit of a nerve racking experience, especially as Rodney didn’t seem keen on moving on.  Once he was gone, we hurried the dogs on in the opposite direction and we were soon far away from him.  The rest of the walk was thankfully Rodney free and by the time we were working the dogs back to Mike’s house, we were all tired out.  Once indoors, after discarding our muddy shoes on the front doorstep, we let the dogs drink as much water as they wanted.  Then, we settled in the living room for what we hoped would be a long relaxing rest of the day.  Both dogs all but threw themselves down on to the carpeted floor and pretty much refused to move for the rest of the day.  After a quick check, I discovered that I’d walked over 18 thousand steps, my brand new record for one day on Fitbit.  No wonder the dogs were snoozing.  While we rested our aching feet, we watched a film on Netflix called Tallulah.  It’s a Netflix original about a teenage girl who lives out of a van with her boyfriend.  When she stumbles into a hotel and is asked by a neglectful alcoholic mother to look after her toddler, she stays.  It seems as if she is only staying so that she can take some money and any valuables in sight, but when the mother comes back and passes out almost instantly, Tallulah gets out of there as quickly as she can, taking baby Madison with her.  The rest of the film is all about how Tallulah pretends that Madison is her daughter and the daughter of her ex boyfriend.  She goes to his mother’s house and lives there temporarily, soaking up the atmosphere of food and care.  But eventually the secret is out and Tallulah tries to run away with Madison.  But Madison has a fever and Tallulah takes to a hospital, hoping for treatment.  There, the police arrive and arrest her and the baby is handed back to her real mother.  The film ending is a bit of an anticlimax as the last thing we see of Tallulah is her being arrested and the last thing we know about Madison is that she is back with her mother.  I wanted a better ending than that!

 

That evening, we decided to have quorn bolognese for dinner.  During our walk, Imi had asked, hypothetically speaking, if I had a gun to my head what would I choose, takeaway pizza or homemade quorn bolognese? As we’d planned to have Burger King the following afternoon at the train station before my trip home, I thought the bolognese option was the better.  As much as I love a good pizza, with Imi is the only place I get quorn bolognese and I absolutely love it; there was no way I was passing on that golden opportunity.  Obligingly, Mike made us the most delicious quorn bolognese, which we both devoured hungrily.  After our lovely long walk, we were both ravenous.  The bolognese certainly fixed that.  For the rest of the evening, we chatted about all sorts whilst watching Friday Night Dinner.  Whilst watching, I sat and sorted out Imi’s Kindle Fire.  Almost two years ago, we both decided we’d quite like one and after I’d bought one for myself and liked it, I asked Kieran, Cameron and Josh if they wanted to club together with me as an extra special birthday gift for Imi’s eighteenth.  They agreed and we bought the yellow Kindle Fire.  Her reaction on her birthday was priceless; in fact, she hit me rather hard, but it was a happy response despite the ferocity.  Unfortunately, at the time when we bought the Kindle Fires, the Voice View speech software wasn’t at its best.  It has since been improved and is a lot better than before.  However, this put Imi off and she didn’t fall in love with the little yellow machine the way we’d predicted.  Before Christmas, I sold my yellow friend because I wasn’t using it enough and Imi had found a different Kindle that looked a lot better.  It was just a reading device without all the extras that the Fire offers and a lot thinner and lighter than the Fire.  So we both took the plunge and bought one.  I liked it but didn’t like how you had to connect a bluetooth device every time you wanted to use it because it didn’t feature its own speaker.  I should have known before I bought it that that drawback would frustrate me beyond belief.  Checking that Imi still had her yellow friend, I sold the newer Kindle and asked if I could buy her Fire from her.  She was more than eager to get rid of it and insisted I didn’t pay her for it.  So during Friday Night Dinner, I sat and erased it from her Amazon account, adding mine to it and setting it up as new.  I updated it so that the Voice View software was a lot better.

 

Saturday was a bit of a lazy day.  When we got up, I jumped in the shower before going downstairs to join Imi and Mike.  Mike made us tea and toast for breakfast and we sat watching more Friday Night Dinner from where we’d left off the previous evening.  During this, I downloaded as many books as I could onto the Kindle, hoping that they’d keep me entertained during my train journey home.  When it came to getting ready for our trip to the train station, Zena decided that her stomach needed emptying.  She was sick all over Imi’s bedroom floor.  Quickly, we called Mike to come and help us and I took Zena downstairs to let her have a drink and go into the garden.  She did this before following me back upstairs and promptly emptying everything else she’d just taken in on to the floor.  Mike was great, coming in and cleaning it to the best of his ability seeing as we were on a tight schedule to get to the station.

 

On the way, Zena was again sick in the car.  I felt awful because Mike had been so hospitable and lovely to me during my stay, insisting that I should come back and stay again.  Thankfully, after listening to some Ed Sheeran and The Script on the way, we were soon at the station.  After nipping to the loos, we headed to the assistance desk and I requested the assistance I’d booked.  We had quite a while before my train was due so we headed to Burger King where Mike kindly bought us dinner.  I had a chicken nugget meal and Imi had a fish burger meal.  The food was lovely and soothed my irritation at Zena’s outburst.  Even after everything, she was still scavenging for food off of the station floor.  Sadly, it was soon time to go back to the assistance desk.  A lady came to help me and said that I needed to get on the train early because it was already in and she had to send it off.  So I hugged Mike and Imi goodbye, sad to be going already.  It was such a great weekend and so nice to spend loads of time with Imi.  It was lovely for Zena to spend time with Noodle, too.  Since I’ve had her, she hasn’t had an opportunity to spend time with another dog, let alone another trained dog.  They worked well together when we wanted them to and played happily together for the rest of the time.  Zena certainly loves her cousin.  I hope we can go back soon and they can come down south in the summer.

 

To Mike: thank you for having me to stay.  Thank you for dealing with all the bodily fluids we threw your way, not literally thank goodness.  Thank you for the yummy food and the countless cups of tea.  Sorry for all my teasing.  Thanks for cleaning my muddy shoes.  Thank you for ferrying me to and from the train station and for giving me the opportunity to spend time with your daughter.

 

To Imi: thank you so much for having me to stay.  Thanks for all the advice for Zena and for supporting me with her throwing up everywhere even though I know it was hard for you to cope with.  Thank you for the snacks on our walk on Friday and for taking me along such a lovely walk.  I love spending time with you any time we can and can’t wait for next time.  Thank you for the Kindle, the `little yellow bastard` is enjoying Southampton.  You will always remain to be one of the most incredibly brave, kind, caring, clever, wonderful people I’ve ever met.  I’m so lucky that you’re my sister.  Sisters for life, always.  I’m sorry if I ask too many questions and probe where I shouldn’t.  Never be shy to tell me to shut up and get lost, I won’t be offended.  Love you lots and lots.