Category Archives: Friendship and Fun

“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.

“I think Robbie needs to leave Take That … again”

For me, 2017 has started pretty well. From the fourth to the thirteenth day of this year, I’ve been in Blyth, spending time with Kieran and his family, mostly to celebrate his twentieth birthday, but partially to celebrate our first year anniversary. It doesn’t seem possible that it’s a year since Josh and I travelled up to Hereford for a weekend to celebrate Kieran’s birthday at the college and stayed overnight in Gardner. But apparently it is; it seems the year that changed my whole life has passed by so quickly. And it may sound like a cliche to say that that weekend changed my life but it really did, and of course for the better.

On Wednesday fourth January, as arranged, I headed to the airport with Dad and Tamsin to check in for my plane to Newcastle. My flight wasn’t until a quarter to seven, but the special assistance staff like you to be there an hour before your flight and Dad needed to pick Mum up for six o’clock so I had to go to the airport early. We left home at just gone five o’clock because Dad wanted to beat the traffic on our way. When we arrived, we went straight to the Flybe check in desk and I was given my boarding pass with no problems. The lady also printed out my assistance request, which we took to the special assistance desk and handed over. They said I would be taken through security by someone at around a quarter past six and so we had time to get a drink if we wanted. Dad had hoped for a coffee and Tamsin decided she wanted a hot chocolate so we went to sit outside the little Costa shop in the arrivals hall. I thought it best that I didn’t have a drink because I didn’t have long until I needed to go through security so wouldn’t have time to drink a hot drink before then. Once Dad and Tamsin had their drinks, Dad decided they’d leave to go and pick Mum up, hopeful that they’d get to her in time even though it was already six o’clock. So I just sat and waited for assistance to come. Not long after Dad had left, a member of the special assistance team came to help me through security, which, as I put my cane in the tray that went through the metal detector on the conveyor rather than with me, was no problem. Once through security, I didn’t have long to wait for boarding. A lady helped me through the gate and I waited with another disabled lady who needed a ramp on to the plane. I was taken on first, because they didn’t have a ramp ready, and seated again no problem by the stewardess on board.

Unlike the first time I flew up to Newcastle, the flight was pretty easy. I turned the volume up on my Ipod so that the music mainly drown out the sound of the plane’s engines. I didn’t even listen to the announcements that came over the tannoy, except for the one that said we were preparing for landing. As we hit the runway, I was thrilled; I always get a feeling of relief when the plane lands, because we’ve safely arrived. As soon as we were allowed, I turned my phone on and sent Kieran a text, telling him we’d landed. He said that they were on their way but not quite there yet. I was sure they had time. I had to wait for all the other passengers to leave the plane first and then get the little mini bus from the runway to the airport.

As I’d predicted, by the time I reached the arrivals hall, Kieran and his parents were there waiting for me. It was so good to see them all. I never like the flights to or from Newcastle so seeing the people on the other side is always lovely. This was amplified by the people who were there. We headed for the car park straight away and I was glad to be travelling by road rather than sky, even if by road meant by John’s driving, which is usually slightly terrifying. I’d definitely take that over flying any day of the week, though.

Back at theirs, Kieran and I took my stuff upstairs while Lesley made me some dinner. They’d already had theirs before coming to collect me from the airport but Lesley had put me some by, which was great because I hadn’t had time to have food before the flight and was pretty hungry by that point, despite the fact that I’d been eating my way through my bag of rhubarb and custard boiled sweets for the entirety of the flight. The chicken and lentil dinner that I ate sat in front of the TV was lovely. Boiling hot and tasty, it easily took away the funny feeling flying gives my stomach.

Thursday was a pretty lazy day, as all first days of time spent together seem to be for Kieran and I. We didn’t get up until late and even then we dawdled in showering and getting ready. Downstairs, Kieran decided on chicken nuggets and chips from the freezer for lunch. This seemed just perfect to me as I was rather hungry. We ate our lunch in front of the telly and spent the majority of the afternoon there, too, sitting in the same places long after Lesley and John came home from work. That evening, Lesley made us homemade burgers with chips for dinner. As we sat eating them, Kieran commented on the little bit of salad he had in his burger and Lesley remarked that she’d put it in because she knew he’d eat it; I grinned because I knew she knows that it would be pointless giving me leafy stuff or tomatoes in my burger because there is no way I’d eat it.

Friday was another lazy day. As always, Lesley wasn’t working and had intended on going out shopping because she had a voucher to spend. But in the end, as the weather was pretty miserable and Kieran and I hadn’t come downstairs until late, none of us could be bothered. Instead, we sat and ate fish finger sandwiches for lunch, making conversation for most of the afternoon. When John came in from work later on, he was surprised to find the TV turned off and us all sat there. While we stayed where we were, he headed for the cross trainer in the dining room as he’s decided to diet. Not long after he’d started his exercise, John started to sing along with the music he was listening to through his headphones. He had us all laughing with his pronunciation of the word arranged. Later, when we told him about this, he put the song on through his Ipod speaker to prove that the word was originally sung that way. It wasn’t, which made John’s singing even funnier. That evening, Kieran and I shared a pepperoni pizza between us, which was very nice. We watched some more TV, including Big Fat Quiz, which was quite funny.

On Saturday, John went to watch the football at Newcastle. Meanwhile, Lesley decided it was time Kieran and I got out of the house. We put our shoes and coats on and headed out for a walk to the nearby beach. There, we sat outside the little fish and chip shop and shared a portion of fish bites, chicken nuggets and chips. I wasn’t that hungry so just stuck to the chips. Once the food was gone, we continued on our walk, now heading for Kieran’s grandparents’ house. It was a really nice walk and we talked about how it was perfect for cyclists and dog walkers. It made me think about how, if I’d been a sighted person, I’d have loved to cycle everywhere. I always liked riding around on my bike at my grandparents’ house and loved the tandem riding sessions that secondary school arranged. The walk also added nicely to our Fitbit step count and Kieran even decided to set up a weekend challenge because of the walk. At Kieran’s grandparents, his gran offered us cups of tea and after deciding not to have a drink with lunch, I wasn’t going to refuse the offer. On our way to their house, we’d met John, who had realised on his way home that he didn’t have a key with him. Luckily, Kieran had grabbed his key on our way out so handed it over to John, who agreed to come and pick us up when we were ready to go. As it happened, John sent Kieran’s sister Rebecca to come and get us because she’d just walked come in herself. One of her work colleagues was coming to hand over some stuff for work, so she was in a bit of a rush to pick us up before they arrived. As it happened, Rebecca ended up at the wrong relative’s house. She’d mistaken which grandparent’s house John had meant when he’d told her to come and pick us up. As she was in a hurry to meet her colleague, Kieran’s gran offered to drive us home to ease the situation. This did solve the problem, but when we were almost halfway home, she realised she’d forgotten to give Kieran his birthday cards in the confusion in the change of plan as we left the house.

That night, as it was Saturday night and Kieran’s birthday the following morning, everyone agreed on a takeaway and on pizza. Kieran suggested a local place that they liked called Juliet’s. There, you choose which toppings you want on your pizza so you have whatever you want. Kieran was having some kind of meat feast pizza and I decided to have the same because I wasn’t completely sure how many toppings you could have on your own pizza. Anyway, the meaty pizza sounded nice and it was the kind of thing I’d have chosen when making a pizza myself. Not long after the pizza had arrived, we were trying to find something to watch when John decided on a program called Heburn, which I’d never heard of. They were all surprised about this and insisted that we watch it. I’m glad they did because Heburn is brilliant! Heburn is where the title of this post comes from, too. The pizza was brilliant as well. The toppings were more than enough but not too much at the same time.

When Sunday came, it was Kieran’s birthday. He was in no rush to get up and before we had showers, I gave him the presents I’d posted up to him. I’d bought him a portable USB phone charger, new braided lightning cable, metal Apple Watch strap and box of Maltesers. I also had cards from my parents and grandparents. Mum had sent Kieran an Itunes voucher and a box of assorted sweets. Nan and Grandad put a ten pound note in a card for him. After he’d finished opening his presents, Kieran headed for the shower while I tidied up and found clothes for the day.

Downstairs, Lesley served us cooked breakfast for brunch. The hash browns on it were lovely. During the afternoon, we watched the football on telly. It was Liverpool versus Plymouth in a cup match which unfortunately ended in a draw. After Rebecca had come in from work, Kieran’s grandparents arrived with their cards for him. Then, Lesley bought out a birthday cake complete with candle for Kieran. The cake was lovely; it was sponge with cream and chocolate topping.

When everyone was ready later on, and Rebecca’s boyfriend, Darren, had arrived, we headed out for the arranged meal to celebrate Kieran’s birthday. He’d decided on TGI Fridays and had booked a table earlier that day. He’d also been given an offer for six free cocktails because it was his birthday. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to them a lot. As it always is, the food at TGI Fridays were great. We all had starters and main meals. I chose mozzarella dippers, which Kieran promised would be like the mozzarella sticks I used to love in Hereford, followed by sesame seed chicken strips with Jack Daniels glaze with fries. I think the last time I had a meal at a TGI’s was for Mum’s birthday last May. It’s quite expensive to eat there so we only go on really special occasions. I wish we had more of them to go for because there’s so much on the menu to choose from and the food is always nice. As Kieran had promised, the mozzarella dippers were just like the sticks from takeaways in Hereford. I couldn’t eat all of them — because I knew that if I did there was no way I’d be able to manage much of the main meal I’d already ordered — so shared them out with Lesley and Kieran. Kieran himself had chosen a shrimp starter and a burger called The Warrior. Its title suggests how big it was. Usually, Kieran manages most of the food he chooses but this burger beat him. It contained two beef burgers, mozzarella dippers, two types of cheese, bacon, caramelised onions and mayonnaise. It was also served with onion rings. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their food, too. When we told the waitress that we didn’t want puddings, she bought out a slice of birthday cake for Kieran to take away but said that as it was only her and us there, she wouldn’t sing to him.

After we got back, John put Heburn on. We were starting season two and it was as good as the first had been.

The next day brought our one year anniversary. As I said above, it hardly seems possible that we are a year on from last January already, a year on from when everything that had been building up for so long had exploded and changed everything. We had a really great weekend that first weekend in Hereford — and the second had been wonderful a month later, too. It seems odd now that it took us so long this time last year to get to the point that we did. Now, you’d have never thought Kieran and I felt awkward about taking the leap from best friends to being a couple, felt really strange about somehow explaining this to our families. We’d bought each other anniversary gifts. I hadn’t had a clue what to buy Kieran as I’d exhausted all good ideas for his Christmas and birthday gifts. So I had to make do with my final idea for an anniversary present. I decided on an aftershave gift set for Kieran. He chose much more inventive gifts for me; I got a giant box of Maltesers, a packet of strawberry laces and a cuddly toy monkey who has a beanie lavender scented belly. He’s actually one of those that you can put in the microwave and heat up to keep you warm. Kieran chose it because I’ve said so many times how it’s cold here most afternoons while I’m doing my uni work. So Cuddles the microwave monkey is to keep me warm. For our anniversary breakfast, we had Lesley’s homemade carrot and coriander soup, which we sat and ate in the dining room whilst listening to the Jack and Michael Whitehall autobiography that we’d started at mine before Christmas. We spent the rest of the afternoon curled up on Kieran’s bed listening to the audiobook and sharing the strawberry laces. That evening, we had mince and dumplings for dinner and Rebecca and Darren joined us. Afterwards, once John had come home from his refereeing, we watched the last few episodes of Heburn. It ends brilliantly and I’m glad they didn’t continue making episodes after the final one, a Christmas special, because I think there were no more ideas and they would have ruined it.

On Tuesday evening, after a suggestion from Lesley, we went out on a spontaneous date night. We went to Sambuca’s, the Italian restaurant we’ve been to before. I think Lesley suggested it because we’d been in the house since coming home on Sunday night from the birthday meal. Kieran decided that we should have starters. So I chose garlic bread and he had prawns. For our main meals, Kieran chose steak with prawns and torizo and I had the tuna and garlic pizza I’d had last time. As it had been then, it was delicious. Kieran thoroughly enjoyed his steak, too. It was really nice to be out on a date night by ourselves and really lovely of Lesley to suggest it for us. It was extra special as we could celebrate our year anniversary. Also, it was the first date night we’ve had so far in Blyth. I hope we can have more.

The following morning, I ate some of the leftover pizza I’d bought home from our date night. Kieran had some more of the soup that Lesley had made. As I hadn’t done any since arriving a week before, I decided that I needed to spend the remainder of the afternoon doing some uni work. So I got out my little laptop and settled on the sofa to do some work. I didn’t get loads done but I did manage to move forward with the online activities from the point I’d been stuck at for quite some time. I was glad that I was making progress again. Before Christmas, I’d lost the motivation to persevere with online activities. It all seemed to have become so tedious. There was two months until my next assignment submission date so I’d become lazy. Doing work with company was nice, too. I was able to pause every now and then to chat to Kieran. It was much nicer than doing it alone. That evening, Lesley cooked us fish cakes and chips. The fish cakes were lovely. They were the ones I’d had there before, with cheese in the middle. After we’d eaten, I decided to try and find some commentary for the football match that was on. It was Southampton versus Liverpool so one of my favourite matches. The Liverpool FC website had its own commentary so I listened to that. Unfortunately, it was another bad game for Liverpool. In fact, it was one of the worst I’ve experienced in a while. Liverpool lost to Southampton. Luckily, there’s a second leg to this round of the cup so there’s a chance for Liverpool to score more goals and beat Southampton to the next round of the cup.

On Thursday, Kieran had to go for an appointment to the doctors for his ESA sick note. I stayed behind and started doing uni work. But I received a text message from John, Zena’s trainer, to say that he was planning to start our training on the thirtieth of this month. I was thrilled. I’d been hoping to hear from him soon as he’d predicted that we’d start training at the beginning of February. I text Imi to tell her and she rang me so that we could chat about it. By the time we’d finished talking, Kieran was home. Together, we decided that we’d go out for lunch. Lesley had taken the day off so she could take Kieran to his appointment. We ended up at a Hungry Horse pub in Cramlington called The Seven Oaks. I had macaroni cheese, which came with garlic bread, and Kieran had chicken with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce. Lesley had a starter of garlic mushrooms and then a jacket potato. The food there was lovely too. Afterwards, we went into the shopping centre in Cramlington, going into Sainsbury’s, Boots and a butcher’s shop where Lesley bought sausage. When we arrived back, I decided to do more uni work. Later, we had the sausage Lesley had bought earlier for dinner, sausage and mash with veg. After dinner, Kieran and I decided to go upstairs and we watched the new Josh Widdicombe DVD `What do I do now?` which Kieran had received for Christmas. It was a good DVD, but we both fell asleep during it.

Friday arriving meant I had to prepare to go home. I’d booked the return flight at the same time as I’d booked the incoming flight so that I didn’t end up staying for several weeks again. I didn’t want to stay that long every time I visited — I’d never meant to stay that long in one go before anyway — because it’s not really fair to ask someone to put me up for that long. Once we dragged ourselves out of bed, I packed up all my stuff while Kieran had a shower before having a shower myself. When I came back into the bedroom, Kieran told me to hurry because his grandparents were waiting downstairs. As soon as I’d finished drying my hair, Kieran headed downstairs to see them while I did my eye drops and sorted the last few bits and pieces of my stuff out. Once I’d finished, I headed downstairs. Lesley and Kieran dashed out to the post office quickly because it was due to close soon and they had parcels to collect. Meanwhile, I sat chatting with Kieran’s grandparents and drinking the cup of tea left for me. When they came back, it turned out they’d also gone to the pharmacy and a sweet shop. Kieran brought back a paper bag of cola cubes for me. I’d mentioned them to them the previous day in Sainsbury’s but they didn’t have any. I was really pleased with the cola cubes and knew they’d be great that evening on the plane. After Kieran’s grandparents had left, Lesley cooked Kieran and I some pasties and potato waffles. I had a steak pasty while Kieran had one of the sausage and bean melts. After we’d eaten, we went upstairs and Kieran worked for a while on his laptop while we listened to music. They’d decided that they were going to have a meal once they’d come back from dropping me at the airport. A little later on, Lesley bought up cups of tea and a plate of homemade cookies for us. The cookies were lovely. While Lesley was upstairs, I asked for a toasty for my dinner. I knew I needed to eat something before the plane and we hadn’t had toasties yet. Around six o’clock, Lesley called us down and I had a cheese and ham toasty for dinner. Not long after I’d finished eating, Lesley said we should probably get ready and set off for the airport because the roads were bad due to the weather conditions. It had snowed the night before and I’d checked online with Flybe that my flight was still going ahead. We reached the airport early and I was checked in quickly. The special assistance staff took quite a while to come and meet us but as soon as they were there, I had to say goodbye and go with them. Saying goodbye was rubbish as it usually is, even more so as I’m not sure when Kieran and I are going to see each other again. As I’m Seeing Dog training over the next month, I’m not going to be able to go up to Blyth again for a while. I’ll need to settle myself and Zena into a routine and get us used to each other. Also, it’s a lot of learning for us both so changing the surroundings so dramatically and taking her on a plane to Blyth, where I know no routes at all to walk her on, probably isn’t a very good idea. I hope, though, that once we’re settled and I’m confident with what I’m doing, I’ll be able to go up and spend time with Kieran and family again, as long as Lesley and John don’t mind having Zena too. Until then, I hope Kieran will come down to see me because, even though it’s only Monday now, I miss him already. Long distance sucks. But I had a really great time in Blyth again. It was great to spend time with Kieran and all the family and I hope that, once everything has settled down here, I can go back and visit again.

To Lesley and John: Thank you lots for having me to stay again. Thank you for all the lovely food, for doing my laundry, for all the meals out and for introducing me to Heburn. I really appreciate you having me and it’s nice to spend time with you all. Thank you for suggesting we go out for date night. PS: I was told you found J and L rather funny so thought, well, meh to you both!

To Kieran: Thank you for our year. It has been a really great year and although I have not loved every minute, we have had some truly amazing times. Thank you for putting up with me, with my never ending tech questions and my forever planning miles ahead. Thank you for the date night dinners, the comedy gigs, the cuddles, the laughs, the support, kindness and love. Thank you for being you, the person I fell in love with well over a year ago now. When I realised I’d fallen in love with my best friend, I knew that wasn’t going to go away. But never did I dream he’d feel the same. How wrong was I, eh? It is the most incredible thing and I don’t intend for it to change. I look forward to the future that is ahead of us, despite the struggles we may have now staying motivated in, for you, finding a job and, for me, my university studies and search for an apprenticeship as well as all of the headaches the distance brings. One day, hopefully we won’t have the distance. Even if we do, it is already worth it. I love you very much — and I don’t care if anyone thinks I’m soppy or slushy because I mean it and I like telling you.

“Please don’t mount my sister in front of me”…

Over the last week, I’ve crammed more into my daily life than I have in the last month. Another meet-up has come and gone and again I want to write about it, especially as the gang was fully reunited for an evening.

Last Wednesday, Kieran boarded an early flight that brought him into Southampton Airport at around 10 am. Just like last time, Dad and I were waiting there to meet him and were slightly happier than last time because we’d found a free car park. Usually, the airport parking costs over a fiver, so finding free parking was an extra bonus to the day.

Kieran was slightly later off the plane than last time. I think it must have been a full flight; either that or Southampton’s assistance staff weren’t doing a great job. They were better than last time, according to Kieran, because the person who brought him out to us actually guided him properly. From our experience, the staff at Southampton have no idea how to guide a blind person. They aren’t dangerous but they don’t use the preferred sighted guide by elbow method that people are taught to use. However he was guided, he arrived in the arrivals hall without problem and with his suitcase, ready for a week’s stay at mine before Christmas. The moment we met up, I was smiling. As of that moment, Kieran and I have managed to see each other at least once a month for every month this year. Seeing as we live at polar ends of the country and he was working for six of those months, I think that’s bloody good going. If we can manage half of that next year we’ll be lucky. I’m incredibly glad that for the first eleven months of our relationship, we’ve been able to see each other once a month. Distance is difficult at the best of times, especially when six months previous to the beginning of our relationship we spent almost every day of the last two years together. But we’ve managed it, and that makes me happier than anything.

Dad had decided that before he took us home, he was going to take us for breakfast at one of his favourite little cafes in Eastleigh. To begin with, Kieran insisted that he didn’t want anything to eat and would just have a coke because he’d had a sandwich earlier that morning. But eventually we persuaded him to have something and he settled for a bowl of chips. I insisted that he should have something to eat because we wouldn’t be eating until about 7 pm that evening. I chose a pesto, cheese and tomato baguette. This was a risky move for me because I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it because of the pieces of tomato. My hope was that there would be more pesto and cheese than tomato and I’d be able to cope. Thankfully, that was the case and I managed to pluck out the bits of tomato I came across. The pesto and cheese combination was rather tasty and I remember thinking how I need to have more pesto in my diet. From experience with Imi, pesto pasta is one of the nicest meals and pizza topped with pesto is delicious. But I have to rely on visits to Imi for my pesto fix because nobody at home will eat it so we don’t buy it. Dad enjoyed his breakfast and Kieran munched his way through the chips so breakfast was a success.

On our way home, we popped into see my Great Nan, who seemed pretty thrilled to see all three of us and agreed that she would definitely come down to ours for Christmas dinner. This is a result where she is concerned because for as long as I can remember she’s refused to go to anyone’s for Christmas dinner. She even relented and agreed to come to Nan’s for the Boxing Day festivities too, saying that she didn’t want to upset us all by declining the offer. After that, we headed home. Dad didn’t have much planned for the day. He didn’t even need to collect Tamsin from school because my grandparents were taking her to my cousin’s Christmas performance in the evening. So the only thing that was scheduled was Mum coming home from work later on. Kieran and I spent the afternoon lounging on my bed having a cuddle and catching up.

On Thursday, we went to Nan and Grandad’s for roast dinner. They picked us up on their way from collecting Tamsin from school. Nan had offered to cook a roast as a little Christmas celebration for Kieran as we aren’t spending Christmas together and Nan wanted to give him her little sack of gifts. It was quite early when we got to theirs and as we wouldn’t be eating until at least six-thirty, the time did seem to drag by a little bit, especially as my sister hadn’t brought her headphones with her, meaning we had to listen to all the videos she was watching on her phone. Kieran and I were both trying to preserve phone battery, too, as we hadn’t brought a charger with us, mainly because Nan always gives a funny response whenever you ask to charge something in her house. It probably has something to do with the fact that Dad now lives there and uses up a lot of electricity. I don’t doubt that their electric bill has increased quite a lot since he moved in last year.

Before Mum and Dad came in from work, Nan gave Kieran his Christmas presents. She’d only bought him toiletries, chocolates and some socks, but it was nice that she included him in her people to buy presents for list. The liquids, like the shower gel and shampoo, have to stay at mine because Kieran couldn’t take them back on the plane because of the restrictions. As Kieran said, though, it saves me from having to buy him new supplies when his current ones run out.

When Mum and Dad did come in, we all sat down to eat together. Nan had cooked roast chicken with all the trimmings and it was nice. Afterwards, she’d bought an eat and mess cheesecake for pudding, which I really didn’t fancy after the big dinner I’d eaten. Kieran and Mum both said it was tasty, though, but very sweet due to the massive chunks of white chocolate in it.

Friday was a quiet day. In the evening, though, Mum and Dad took Kieran and I out to Hedge End to Pizza Hut for our last date night of the year. We’d agreed on Pizza Hut again as Dad had suggested it and we’ve loved all our Pizza Hut dates before. We were hoping to be served by the same waitress we’ve had the last two times as she’s been really great. Sadly, we were served by another lady who, to begin with, didn’t seem quite as friendly as our usual lady. It took her a long time to come and take our food and drink orders. Eventually, we were able to order. Kieran had a pint and I had a refillable coke. Then, we decided to partake in a deal Kieran had received via email that meant we each got an individual pizza, starter and drink for 15 pounds. This meant that even though we were ordering more food than usual, the bill would be considerably cheaper — not that that is a consideration when we’re out on date night because money is not even worried about. Date night is about going all out and spoiling each other to celebrate what we have. As well as all the items in the deal, we also ordered a bucket of fries to go alongside our pizzas as we’ve loved them previously. We both ordered the same pizza, the Texas meat meltdown, because we absolutely loved it last time. The other BBQ pizza that we’ve had before is nice, too, but we both really fancied that one. When our starters arrived, Kieran tucked into his chicken wings and I thoroughly enjoyed my cheesy garlic bread. As Kieran pointed out when the waitress had moved away, after I’d quickly remembered to add the fries to our order, I hadn’t asked for bacon and cheesy garlic bread, which is what we’d had before and what I’d meant to ask for. It didn’t matter though because the cheesy garlic bread minus the bacon was yum. As we were finishing our starters, the waitress came back to tell us that our pizzas were ready so did we want them then or did we want to wait. I quickly said we’d have them then as I thought that if we left it, they’d either go cold or be put underneath one of those heat lamp things and dry out. I’m glad I chose that option because the pizzas were absolutely gorgeous! They were so freshly cooked and really hot. As we ate our pizzas, we realised that the fries hadn’t come out. When the waitress came back to check that everything was good with our meals, Kieran explained this and she said she’d bring them out straight away. They came out, piping hot, and were delicious too. Because of the delay to bringing out the fries, the waitress said she’d taken them off our bill. They were that much nicer because they were free.

When we’d had enough of our pizzas, the waitress packed them into a box for us to take away with us. When she came back, she informed us that because of the delay in bringing out our food, they were giving us free puddings if we wanted them. I was already planning to have cookie dough, because it isn’t a good Pizza Hut meal if I don’t, and Kieran agreed to have cheesecake. He was already thinking about it but definitely decided to go for it because it was free. Again, the puddings were extra tasty because they were free. We went home full to bursting with pizza and pudding that night, another successful and delicious date night.

Saturday was the start of our crazy weekend. We already had panto planned for Saturday night and then a stay in a hotel with Imi and Josh interrupted by a Seann Walsh comedy show scheduled for Sunday. The arrangements for the stay in the hotel had been a bit of a nightmare as the comedy show was already planned and nobody was sure how we were going to make it work. Of course, we knew we had to because opportunities to see Imi aren’t regular, especially ones where she is driven down to see us. So, on Saturday evening after Dad had come home from work, we bundled into the car and headed for the Mayflower Theatre where we were meeting Josh and his mum for panto. It was Robin Hood featuring East Enders’ stars Jessie Wallace and Shane Richie, better known as Cat and Alfie Moon. They’re not in the show at the moment but have always been two of my all-time favourite characters so when Josh suggested that we should all see panto together this year and explained that it featured them, I knew that we just had to. Josh already said that his mum would probably like to go and I knew my Mum and Tamsin would probably enjoy it so we planned it for all of us. As Kieran was already coming down for Seann Walsh the following night, he didn’t really have much choice but to come to see the show too. Even though my ears were ringing for quite a while afterwards due to the almost too loud sound effects, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, even more so because of Jessie and Shane. There were so many East Enders references, which I absolutely loved, and the other characters were great too. Shane played Robin Hood and Jessie played Maid Marion, so it was great to have them as a couple just like in East Enders. The sighted members of our group enjoyed the 3d segment of the show, too.

On Sunday, Mum took Kieran and I into town so that we could have Nando’s before meeting Josh and Imi at the hotel. We’d agreed on Nando’s because we both loved it and have mostly had great service from them in the Southampton branch. We were seated relatively quickly and ordered straight away, declining the menu as we already knew what we wanted. Kieran had his usual double chicken burger with hot sauce and sides of spicy rice and peri salted chips. I had my double chicken wrap with lemon and herb sauce, no lettuce and a side of peri salted chips. Kieran decided to have a Portuguese beer and I stuck with the refillable coke, knowing I’d probably need the second and third helpings. As always, the food was great. I was really glad I had said no lettuce because it made the wrap so much nicer. The peri salted chips were good, too. Kieran enjoyed his burger and was glad that the hot sauce helped to clear his blocked nose.

Once we’d finished our meal, Mum came to get us and drove us to the hotel to meet Imi and Josh. To begin with, we were unsure whether we’d come to the right Premier Inn, but then Imi and Josh appeared. Imi told Mum she had gifts for her and Tamsin up in our room so Mum brought Tamsin, who was very excited to see Imi and Noodle, into the hotel and we all went up to the room. Quickly, Imi gave Mum and Tamsin their gifts and then they left us to it, with Mum offering her taxi services for that evening if we got stuck. Immediately, Imi offered everyone a cup of tea, which Kieran and I accepted, and set about making it. She’d bought a lot of supplies to see us through the evening. Once the tea was made, Imi and I headed to the neighbouring Co-op with Noodle because Imi wanted to buy something to eat. The Co-op really is next-door to the hotel and Imi had no problem finding it. She chose a wrap, some satsumas and a couple of bottles of diet coke. Back at the hotel, Kieran and Josh had made themselves comfortable on the big double bed in one of our two adjoining rooms so we settled in around them. Not long later, we decided to swap presents, doing our mini Christmas that we’d planned. We’d all bought each other really nice gifts. I was really pleased with mine from Josh and Imi. The only strange part of our mini Christmas was that Kieran and I weren’t swapping gifts. We’d put our presents to each other in the post because there was no other way to get them to each other. Imi bought Josh a massive make-up set, which she immediately opened and insisted on painting his nails. Josh refused as he was working on Tuesday and there wasn’t a clear nail varnish in the set. So then, to try and encourage him, I let Imi paint my nails in the natural colour. I never have my nails painted because I chew them but I like having it done because it’s a funny feeling when the varnish is being applied and it smells lovely. To make them set quicker, Imi made me run my hands under the cold tap in the bathroom. Her trick seemed to work because not long later my nails were dry and the varnish was completely smooth.

At around a quarter past six, Josh said that we needed to get our stuff together and head out for the comedy show. We had to walk to catch a bus which would take us to the Nuffield Theatre, about a half hour ride from the hotel. It felt weird leaving Imi behind in the hotel and I felt sad that the comedy show clashed with our time with Imi. But there was nothing we could do about it. We all like the comedian we were going to see and the tickets were booked and paid for. The walk to the bus-stop was pretty speedy for our three-man train because Josh wanted to make sure that we arrived in time for the right band. The bus ride to the theatre was fine; there was auditory announcements on the bus and they were different to the ones I’m used to on the First Bus services I’ve used before. These announcements were spoken by the Daniel voice that we’re all so used to from our screen readers. It was funny listening to him tell us which stops we were approaching along the way. Once we reached the correct bus stop, Josh guided us both into the theatre and to our seats no problem. As he’s volunteered at the theatre for over a year now, he’s very familiar with the layout and also the other staff who work there, a few of which he said hello to on our way. The warm-up act for the show was a one-liner comedian. He was funny, but one-line jokes aren’t really my thing. He had some good material, though, and was definitely a good warm-up act. Seann himself was brilliant! We were all laughing throughout the whole show and at one point Kieran and Josh started a clap where they only clapped once and that circulated around the audience for the rest of the show, making everyone sound very sarcastic in their response to Seann’s jokes.

Back at the hotel, Imi was waiting up for us. It took us a little while to figure out the lift, and only managed to get up to our floor with the help of someone else. The boys couldn’t get into the room, either, but Imi came and opened the door, laughing at us for our incompetence. For the rest of the evening and the majority of the night, we munched our way through the snacks we’d bought and chatted about all sorts. At one point, Imi, Kieran and I were laying on the big double bed and Josh was on the sofa/single bed when Kieran and I were having a hug. Imi came out with the hysterical line `please don’t mount my sister in front of me!` which, as it was the politest offering we had, has been taken as the title. The other option `Dickhead!` didn’t quite seem appropriate, especially as I’ve refused to use similar titles in the past. It was almost five in the morning by the time we fell asleep. Josh curled up under a single duvet on the sofa bed and the three of us snuggled down together on the big bed. Imi seemed quite content curled up beside Kieran and I, even if it did take me about half an hour to actually lay on her pillow rather than underneath my chin. Nights like these happened a lot at college and it was nice to share the experience again. Some of the conversations that late at night were hilarious, including naming certain parts of the body Mildred and Derek and Imi taking an earring out and deciding it was a little mouse. Despite my persistence, she refused to put the earring back in and placed it on the bedside table. Whether she actually remembered to pick it up in the morning, I have no idea.

The following morning, we ate pringles and had cups of tea for breakfast whilst packing up the room. Imi’s dad had said that he wanted to be on the road no later than eleven am because they had the long trek back to York. As Imi packed, she let me have a little play with her brand-new Braillenote, HumanWare’s recently released BrailleNote Touch. I am very jealous that she has this device as it’s amazing and the next generation in Braillenotes, a massive step forward from my beloved Apex. However, I’m really glad that Imi managed to get funding for it because I think it’ll benefit her hugely. She’s already in love with it so that already shows. Sadly, at around ten thirty, Imi’s dad had packed up the car and it was time to say our goodbyes. With tight hugs and promises to see each other soon, we went in separate directions. I’m hopeful that, if I qualify with Zena in the new year, I’ll be able to go and visit Imi at her foster house again with hopefully the boys joining me.

We’d agreed to walk into town and get some lunch. We decided on Burger King because we were all tired from the time we’d just had and it was simple to get to. Both Josh and Kieran had bacon double cheese burger meals and I had a six chicken nuggets meal. The cashier offered to bring it over to us, which was helpful as we were laden down with shopping bags and rucksacks. When the food was brought to our table, Josh headed off and filled our paper cups up with fizzy from the machine. Then, we all tucked into our food. I don’t think I’ve had their nuggets before, but they were lovely, much nicer than other fast food places’ are. The boys seemed to enjoy their burgers, too. Afterwards, we headed for the bus. Josh wasn’t entirely sure where the no. 11 bus-stop was and my directions weren’t the clearest so we ended up wandering around town looking for no. 11 bus-stops. In the end, Josh looked it up online and found the bus-stop that I’d been trying to direct him to. We went to it and he realised how my directions made sense. The no. 11 bus has auditory announcements so getting home was no problem. There is always a little worry when you first get on the bus whether the announcements are going to be turned on. Thankfully, they were and we reached my bus-stop in no time.

We’d all decided to have showers so as soon as we were home, I set everything up and got Josh a spare towel out. While Kieran and I had our showers, Josh watched the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special on Netflix. He’d been disappointed because at his new flat they haven’t yet got wifi so he hasn’t been able to watch it. By the time we had all had showers, the Christmas special was finished and we decided to continue watching Gavin and Stacey, going on to series three. By the time Josh decided to head off and catch his bus, we were on the last episode of Gavin and Stacey. I decided to put The Royal Family on after it because we’d started watching it when I was at Kieran’s and I wanted to continue watching it. As I was tidying up around the room, I realised that Josh had left his socks behind. Quickly, I sent him a text, hoping he hadn’t yet caught his bus, and he came back to pick them up. This was all pretty amusing because last time he stayed he left – T-shirt behind, which I’d only just given back to him.

Tuesday was a lazy day. I was feeling quite ill with a cold and aches and pains, I think brought on from lack of sleep from the night before and the air conditioning in the hotel. Kieran and I drifted in and out of sleep all day, catching up on what we’d missed Sunday night. Then, when Mum came in, we ordered a Chinese for the three of us to share. Kieran had had the idea on Saturday night, saying it would be nice if we joined together and bought Chinese for the three of us. It was lovely! We ordered eight dishes and it cost 30 pounds. I had curry chips, Hong Kong style sweet and sour chicken, special fried rice and mini spring rolls. Kieran chose satay chicken and had a portion of curry chips too. He shared the rice and mini spring rolls. Mum chose a mushroom chow mein and shared some of the rice, spring rolls and curry chips. Owe all thoroughly enjoyed and ate until we were full. After our food, Mum gave Kieran his Christmas present that was bought for his stays at ours. Countless times, I’d suggested to him that he bought a pair of his pyjamas from home, which he rarely wears, down to mine so that we Mum needs to do the washing he has something to change into. But he’d hadn’t gotten round to it. So for Christmas Mum bought him a pair of blue checkered pyjamas. Funnily enough, in teenage romance stories that I’ve read, all the boys have worn blue checkered pyjamas. It made me smile because now Kieran has a pair. They fit, too, which is an extra bonus.

Sadly, Wednesday had arrived and it was time for Kieran to prepare for his flight home. After we were showered and dressed, we headed downstairs and set up the George Foreman for our breakfast. We’d agreed on fish fingers and potato waffles because it was better than Weetabix and I wanted Kieran to have proper food because his flight. The fish fingers and potato waffles went down nicely with our giant mugs of tea. While we ate, we continued our audiobook reading of `Him and Me` by Jack and Michael Whitehall, which we’d started the previous afternoon when we’d not been sleeping. It is a highly entertaining book and I intend to continue reading it during the Christmas break, when I can actually take time off from studying to enjoy a book. Grandad came right on time at midday and we hurried to get ready for our trip to the airport. The trip to the airport turned into a bit of a nightmare. Grandad didn’t know where the airport was and it took the aid of Google Maps on Kieran’s phone to get us there. Even then, we had quite through the train station to get to the airport because we’d parked on the wrong side.

Thankfully, once we’d made it out of the train station, the airport was in sight and once inside, Grandad found the Flybe check-in desk with ease. The lady there checked Kieran in, gave him his boarding pass and pointed us in the direction of the special assistance desk. An assistant immediately came to help Kieran. Quickly, we hugged and kissed goodbye, realising there probably wouldn’t be another chance, and then headed in different directions. Grandad had thought that the toilets and security were in the same direction but they weren’t so we didn’t get another chance to speak to each other.

I spent the rest of the day with Nan and Grandad and as we were heading for the shops, I saw a tweet on my phone from Kieran, ranting about the useless assistance person who had helped him but left his luggage in security and held up the whole plane. Thankfully, Kieran was reunited with his case and they were away. He is going to complain, though, because that shouldn’t happen.

So it really was a busy week and a really nice last meet up of the year. More are planned for the new year. My flights are already booked for a week’s stay in Blyth in January to celebrate Kieran’s birthday and our year anniversary. Then, in April and May we already have comedy shows booked and we’re hoping to fit other trips in around that. It was really lovely to spend time with three of my favourite people. Panto and Seann Walsh were great and all our meals were nice. Spending the night in the hotel with Imi was an extra special part of the week, despite our struggles to arrange it.

To Josh: Thank you for arranging Seann Walsh and the panto; for your insistence that we meet up with Imi; for your great company. It was really good to see you.

To Imi: Thank you for your hilarity; for coming down to see us; for the lovely Christmas gifts; for putting up with us. It was so nice to have you in Southampton and to be able to have mini Christmas together.

To Imi’s dad: Thank you for making the trip from York to Southampton so that we could all spend time with Imi. Thank you for paying for one of the rooms so that it wouldn’t be so expensive for all of us.

To Kieran: Thank you for everything. For coming to visit; for continuing to pay for expensive plane tickets so that we can see each other; for the Christmas presents that I can’t wait to open; for the Nando’s. I can’t wait to see you again in January and for us to be able to spend your birthday and our one year anniversary together. I love you very much and I am really glad that our already amazing friendship has grown into this pretty incredible relationship. In January when we took the plunge, I’m not sure either of us thought we’d get this far. I’m sure the parents and other family members definitely didn’t. But hey, we did it! Fingers crossed we can continue to because you’re definitely the best risk I’ve ever taken, no doubt.

“Audio description for the blindies at the back, please”

This post is a little overdue and I wasn’t sure whether I should bother to write it seeing as I’ve now been home two weeks already.  But I wanted to write it because I like writing about the times I spend with the most important people in my life so spending a month with Kieran obviously fits into that category.  The last month has been a little crazy.  In addition to completely changing my Open Uni degree and finding out that I’ve been matched with an assistance dog from Seeing Dogs, I’ve spent the last month with Kieran, both here in Southampton and also up in Blyth.  We’ve been together 10 months now and in those, we’ve never spent more than three weeks together before.  Well now we’ve beaten that.  All except two days, we spent a whole month together and managed to come out of it still intact and not feeling any different about each other.  As it has been a whole month and I’m not the best at remembering everything that has happened, I won’t be writing a day by day account of what we did.  I’m going to write the parts I remember best.

 

On the 19th of October, Kieran caught a morning flight down from Newcastle Airport to Southampton Airport, where Dad, Tamsin and I were waiting for him.  We spent the majority of the day at mine while Dad took Tamsin for her check-up at the hospital.  Then, quite tea-time, we went to my grandparents’ (Dad’s parents) as Nan had prepared a stew for dinner.  Usually, I absolutely adore Nan’s stews.  I’ve never met anyone who’s made a nicer stew than my Nan does.  Unfortunately, for some reason it wasn’t quite as nice as it usually is that evening.  The following day, Kieran and I found out just how dodgy Nan’s stew actually had been; at the time, Kieran had said he thought the meat tasted a bit off so Thursday was proof of that.

 

On Friday evening, we had a lovely KFC for dinner before settling in for a long night of entertainment and fundraising with Stand Up To Cancer on Channel 4.  One of its hosts was Adam Hills, who we love from The Last Leg and his comedy DVD’s and who we were very much looking forward to seeing with Josh at the Mayflower Theatre on Sunday evening.  The Adam Hills show had been the main reason for Kieran coming down to stay and the catalyst for us to decide that he would stay at mine for a week before we’d both fly back up to Newcastle together so that I could stay up there for a little while and we could spend a bit more time together.  The Stand Up To Cancer program was brilliant and very moving.  Both Kieran and I donated — me having to use the website because my phone was being difficult about sending text messages.  There was one particular story that had us both choked up about a man whose wife had been diagnosed with cancer and passed away and then shortly afterwards their youngest son was diagnosed with cancer.  On the video, he talked about how he’d told his son that it was OK to let go and that his mummy was waiting for him.  It just made me think how fortunate I am to have such a great network of family and friends and how lucky we are to not be suffering at this time with things like that family had.

 

Saturday evening bought another nice meal out and another date night for Kieran and I.  We’d both fancied a Pizza Hut before Kieran flew down so had agreed to make that our next date.  Mum drove us out to Hedge End, where we went for our previous Pizza Hut date night, where we were served by the same waitress as before.  She was absolutely fantastic again.  This time, she didn’t even ask us if we wanted our pizza sliced or on a low board.  She just brought us hand wipes with our starter and immediately offered me refills of my coke when it was empty.  We had the platter that we’d chosen last time, which included garlic bread, chicken wings and chicken bites.  This time, though, I asked if we could swap the chicken bites for the cheesy bites on the vegetarian platter.  Kieran had told me that these were lovely and a bit like the mozzarella sticks I loved from takeaways in Hereford.  Again, the platter was absolutely gorgeous and the cheesy bites were a much better option than the chicken bites I had last time.  Personally, I would prefer them without the little onion bits in them but that’s just because I’m fussy.  Also, we were convinced that we’d been given extra garlic bread compared to last time, too, which made the platter that tiny bit nicer.  After our starter, we shared the Texas Meat Meltdown pizza with a bucket of fries alongside it.  We decided on the different pizza this time because it had chorizo on it.  It also had a BBQ base, spicy sausage, chicken and pepperoni.  We added stuffed crust, because I really fancied it, and then we had a perfect pizza.  And wow, it was! I think it’s probably the best pizza I’ve ever had at Pizza Hut and it certainly made for a great main course for our date night.  The crunchy fries made a great addition to the meal, too, because their fries are really nice.  As always, I had to finish off my meal with a hot cookie dough pudding, because it wouldn’t be Pizza Hut if I didn’t have cookie dough.  Anyway, it was date night so we always go all out for it.  Kieran had taken advantage of a beer offer they had on, where you got two bottles of beer for a discounted price, so he drank that while I munched my way through my cookie dough pudding.  There was a funny moment, too, because when I came to order my pudding, I couldn’t remember what the cookie was called, and the lady knew that I liked the salted caramel cookie dough because she remembered my choice from last time.  When Mum came to collect us, she thanked the waitress and they had a little chat about how it’s nice for Mum, as a parent, to be able to bring us out and leave us to have our date night privately in the safe hands of somebody who’s good at accommodating our VI needs and treating us like normal human beings at the same time.  The lady really seemed to like serving us and said she hoped she’d see us out on another date again in the future.  We’ve agreed that we’ll definitely go back, mostly for the lovely food but partially to see if we can be served by that waitress again.

 

Sunday arrived, bringing with it our much anticipated Adam Hills’ show.  We’d agreed to meet Josh early so that we could go for a drink but that still wasn’t until the evening.  During the day, we went into town with Mum and Tamsin because I wanted to buy some new trainers.  Kieran’s mum, L, had told him about a new wall climbing thing opening up at a leisure centre near to them and he’d agreed to try it out while I was staying so that we could go together.  I expected it to be like the rock climbing walls I’ve been on before in that they’d be rough and tare my shoes to pieces.  So I thought that I should buy a cheap pair of trainers that I wouldn’t mind ruining whilst climbing.  Also, I intended to wear a pair of tracksuit bottoms whilst climbing but jeans for the rest of my stay and I wanted a pair of trainers that would be all right for both.  Mum had found a pair the previous day and I’d agreed to buy them.  While we were out trainer-shopping, we also went for a McDonald’s mainly because Kieran had said he wanted to try their Brazilian stack, which he enjoyed a lot.  After we’d finished eating lunch, we went and bought the trainers that Mum had found.  They had velcro on, meaning I didn’t have to bother with my lace toggles for them, and I wasn’t too bothered about the fact that they were going to get wrecked when we went climbing.

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon at home watching bits and pieces on TV.  Then, when we were ready, Mum drove us back into town to meet Josh for our drink before the show.  I decided that I didn’t want anything to drink because I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d get to the loo if I needed it.  But Josh and Kieran had a pint each and we sat and chatted — well, mainly they chatted about things I had no clue of and I listened and tried to participate where possible.  But that’s fine; it’s usually the way things go when they get together.  When they were finished, we headed for the Mayflower and were helped by a kind member of staff to our seats.  As we’d hoped, the Adam Hills’ show was absolutely brilliant.  It was one of the shows he was doing as a part of his tour and I can’t wait to be able to buy it on DVD and watch it again.  At the beginning of the show, he commented on how the people of Southampton seemed to love taking photos of themselves before and during his show and posting them on Twitter to show him.  We then spent a good half hour of the show going through photos that people were taking as he spoke.  Josh tweeted a couple of times, the first time with a picture of his feet and a caption of `the blindies at the back aren’t good at taking photos` and then a second with a request for `audio description for the blindies`.  Adam read both of these out and then went on to describe each photo that came in.  At moments during the show, he must have remembered Josh’s tweet because he kept explaining visual things for us, which we all thought was pretty awesome.  After the show, he was doing a collection for one of the local cancer charities in the foyer of the theatre so that the audience could go and donate and meet him.  The three of us joined the very long queue to donate whatever we could and meet Adam.  Then, a kind member of the public invited us forward, meaning that we skipped about half the queue.  I think Mum was quite pleased about this as she had to wait quite a while longer for us to be done.  In the end, we got to meet Adam.  We had a photo taken with him in his dressing gown and he signed our tickets.  Kieran also had the rather genius idea to ask him to sign his radar key (the key he uses to access accessible toilets) and so I asked for mine to be signed too.  So we had tickets and radar keys signed by Adam and a photo with him.  He also realised that we were the blind people he’d been describing for and he spoke a little bit about the audio description he’d done for the paralympics this year.

 

When we got home, we told Dad all about the evening before going up to bed, trying our best to be quiet because Tamsin was in bed.  We were still buzzing from the events of the show and marvelling that we’d actually met, had a photo with and had our things signed by actual Adam Hills, the guy we watch every Friday night on The Last Leg.

 

On Monday morning, we got up and had showers and breakfast pretty quick because Mum was due to be back at some point so that we could all go to Nando’s together.  I also needed town again because I’d found that the nice pair of trainers I’d bought yesterday, that I assumed would fit as they were my size, didn’t fit.  When Mum came back, we bundled into the car and headed for Nando’s.  Once there, we went through the slightly drawn out process of working out what everyone wanted.  When Kieran and I go by ourselves, it’s pretty smile to order as I always have the same and Kieran mostly does.  I had my usual of a double chicken with lemon and herb wrap minus the lettuce (yes! I remembered this time!) with peri salted chips.  Kieran had the hot chicken burger with spicy rice and peri salted chips.  Mum tried a pitta with mango and lime sauce, which I didn’t even know existed until then.  Josh decided to be adventurous, stepping outside his plain comfort zone and trying lemon and herb chicken.  He decided not to go for the peri salted chips just in case they were too much.  He did try one of ours, though, and decided that he’d probably be OK with them for a meal.  Tamsin hadn’t had Nando’s before and doesn’t like spicy food at all so she stuck with a plain wrap and had sweet potato fries with it.  As always, the food was delicious and everyone enjoyed it.  Mum decided that she liked the mango and lime sauce but that she’d probably go for lemon and herb or medium next time.  I’m glad she likes Nando’s because the only time I get to go is when I’m with Kieran so having another excuse to go is definitely a bonus.

 

After Nando’s, we went to Sports Direct and swapped the trainers for a pair that I checked fit.  Then, we headed for the car and, for Josh, the bus-stop.

 

When Wednesday came, it was time to fly up North to go and stay with L and J for, again, and unknown amount of time.  I packed my rucksack to within and inch of its life, having to leave my laptop out because it made the weight exceed the allowance by quite a bit.  Thankfully, I was able to take my Apex and Kieran offered to loan me one of his laptops so I knew I’d still be able to do some uni work at some point.  At around five o’clock, we headed for the airport.  When we arrived, we had to go to the check-in desk first and were given our boarding passes.  Then, we went to the assistance desk where a man asked us to wait in a seating area and that someone would come and help us soon.  Dad had to head off to go and pick Mum up from work so left us sat down waiting for the member of staff.  In the end, two came to help us and we were taken through security with no real issues, except that the machine went off for both of us.  We were checked and obviously found to be of no harm.  We were then taken to the departure gate and through on to the plane.  I have to say that I think that plane journey was the worst I’d ever experienced.  Kieran was great at talking about random things to calm my mind but it really wasn’t pleasant.  I had rhubarb and custard boiled sweets to help with my ears and they seemed OK mostly.  The majority of the flight was spent imagining that the pilot, whose name was Keith, was from Newcastle and had the strongest Geordie accent ever.  This did keep me amused for quite a while.  Thankfully, soon enough the flight was over and, once everyone else was off the plane, we were helped off by the stewardess and into a little mini bus which drove us to one of the entrances to the airport.  We were then guided through the airport to where J and L were waiting.  After that flight, it was really good to see them and even better to be in L’s new car, even if J was driving!

 

Back at theirs, L cooked us dinner of jacket potato, which, as always, was lovely.

 

In the end, I stayed in Blyth for almost three weeks, again! I hadn’t really thought of how long I planned to stay and didn’t really have anything planned to rush home for.  J and L didn’t seem to mind me still being there — or if they did, they did a very good job of hiding it — even if I still can’t not laugh at J’s jokes.  I thought the most spoken phrase for that stay was “don’t laugh at him” which, of course, didn’t mean that I did stop, however hard I actually tried to.  We spent the majority of the time watching telly and eating nice food.  My favourites again were the jacket potatoes, ravioli, quiche, soup, roast beef and roast lamb.  J also cooked his chicken and rice dish which was lovely.

 

On my first weekend, J and L decided to take us to their caravan.  We were going to go in March when I was visiting but hadn’t in the end so I was interested to see what the place was like this time round.  It turns out the caravan is pretty nice.  I had some fun with the shower, not realising that you have to have the water on full to keep the temperature warm.  L cooked a pretty awesome cooked breakfast on the Saturday morning.  On Saturday afternoon, we went to a nearby pub and spent the afternoon sat inside.  It’s only a little pub and very cosy, with a proper fire and everything.  Everyone in the pub seemed to know each other and all the kids were playing with each other.  It was also good to have wifi for a little while, even though the mobile signal at the caravan is superb.  In fact, I think it’s still the best phone signal I’ve had since I transferred to Three.  On the way back from the pub, we grabbed fish and chips for our tea.  L and I shared a portion of chips as I knew I wouldn’t eat a whole portion by myself and L said she wouldn’t either.  I had a pineapple ring with mine, which I haven’t had for ages, and it was lovely.  Mine and Kieran’s makeshift bed in the caravan was very comfy.  The kitchen table transforms into a bed and L had pillows and duvets for us.  It was quite a lot bigger than Kieran’s single that we’d been sharing and the luxury of space was nice.  However, the cosiness of a single bed is nice too and once we worked out comfortable places for us both, we slept fine.  It was a really nice weekend away.

 

We went out for dinner a couple of times, the first time to Sambuca’s where I tried something I’d never had before: tuna on pizza.  It was a risky move because I wasn’t sure whether I’d like hot tuna on a pizza but, as it turns out, I loved it.  I’ll definitely be having tuna on a pizza again.  Then, the following week, we went to a pub not far from theirs.  I chose pizza there, too, but this time a ham and pineapple one.  This turned into quite a disaster because I didn’t do a very good job of pulling the slices apart and L had to help me out in the end.  I felt a bit daft, to be fair, because apparently the pizza was sliced fine and I had just made a right mess of it.  Despite this, the pizza was really lovely.  The following day, Kieran and I had lunch out at Wetherspoons while L did the shopping.  It was like a mini date.  I was very sad because it seems Wetherspoons have taken their macaroni cheese off of the menu so it’s no longer available.  I’d gone in with this as my default meal, and because I really fancied a macaroni cheese, and L had to come back to the table where I was waiting to ask what I wanted instead.  She quickly read through the pub classics section of the menu from which I chose lasagne, forgetting the vital point that lasagne comes in where big piece when you eat out.  It’s only because the people who cook me food at their homes are lovely that means it’s in pieces by the time I have to eat it.  Usually, the lasagne comes with salad, which I asked L to change, and chips.  The lasagne and the chips minus the salad was lovely, even if I did have to use my really terrible cutlery skills to hack at the lasagne.  I was quite pleased, though, because I didn’t make a mess at all and managed to eat the lasagne without covering myself in it.

 

While I was up there, I also tackled the trial of switching university degrees, which had turned into a bit of a disaster.  Eventually, though, I was registered and ready to go.  For a few days, I used Kieran’s little netbook, which he doesn’t use, that he’d set up for me to do my studies on.  However, Argos had some offers on and I’d decided that it was probably a good idea if I bought myself a little lightweight laptop for future use when travelling.  I looked all over the place online, not really sure of what I wanted.  In the end, though, the Argos deal was the one I went for.  My new little laptop is an Acer, which pleased my sister and Kieran immensely I think as before now I’ve never dared to go anywhere other than Toshiba, and it’s actually a two-in-one.  The Argos information on the laptop said that it weighed well under a kilogram, which was exactly what I was looking for, and it came fully loaded with Windows 10.  It had decent enough internals for what I wanted — Kieran approved, anyway, so that was all the confirmation I needed.  On the Friday that we had Wetherspoons, we went along to Argos, because L needed a new iron too, and collected the laptop.  Kieran and L had helped me to place it with the fast track option on the Argos app and I was really thrilled with the service.  All I had to do was show the confirmation email to the member of staff at the collection desk and they handed over the laptop.  After we’d finished shopping and eating, L took us for a walk along Blyth beach, which seemed like a really lovely beach.  The only down side was that it was quite cold and I hadn’t packed a coat.  But that didn’t make much of a difference.  The walk was still nice and it added nicely to my Fitbit steps.

 

Our climbing experience happened a week after I arrived in Blyth.  It was nothing like we expected.  Like I said, I’d expected rough rock climbing walls because that’s what I’d tried before.  These were quite smooth walls and there were quite a few of us in the room.  Kieran and I were the oldest customers and I’m glad L was there with us because there weren’t that many instructors there to help out.  Originally, I thought that we’d have to wear helmets so had asked L and Mum what I should do with my hair.  L had advised I try a low ponytail and Mum had said just leave it down.  I tried the low ponytail in the morning and it didn’t work very well because of the layers in my hair.  So I left it down.  Typically, when we got there, the instructor said that having long hair tied back was compulsory.  I hadn’t even taken a hairband with me but kindly one of the mums gave me one.  As the walls were smooth, my trainers were still in pristine condition when we finished.  We were strapped into harnesses and allowed to choose whichever wall we wanted to climb.  We tried a few but neither of us really got the hang of it.  Kieran was better than I was and I’m still amazed at how the kids were able to climb some of the walls.  L explained how they just shot up the wall looking like they had no difficulty in doing it at all.

 

On my last night in Blyth, I’m A Celeb started.  We always watch it at home so I was hopeful that they would watch it too.  I think J was persuaded by the possibility of Danny Baker featuring on the show.  So with toasties and hot chocolate, we watched I’m A Celeb in the lounge.  While I was there, we also watched an incredible amount of Judge Judy as well as Celebrity Juice; The Last Leg; Gogglebox; Can’t Pay, We’ll Take It Away; Nightmare Neighbour; Family Guy; The Big Bang Theory; The Royal Family…  I’m sure there were plenty more but I just can’t remember them.  One afternoon, L was watching the new Bridget Jones movie, so of course I had to join in after loving it at the cinema earlier in the month.  Also, we watched the England vs Scotland match on my last Friday night there.  England won.  We spent a bit more time with Kieran’s sister during my stay this time and I met her boyfriend, too.  He, Kieran and J all had bets on for the football match so were all pleased with the victory.  We went to visit Kieran’s grandparents a couple of times, too.  I found their sofa buying situation very amusing.

 

Thankfully, my flight home wasn’t as horrible as the first one had been.  I think, as I knew what to expect and had music on, I was able to relax better.  I also had a very nice stewardess who kept coming to check that I was OK throughout the flight.  It has to be said, though, that the assistance at Newcastle are a lot better than those at Southampton.  They know how to guide properly and don’t make you walk through the security machine with your cane.  It didn’t go off that time, so I think the canes are what set it off.  I didn’t have to take all of my jewellery and Fitbit off at Newcastle, either, which made things a lot easier and quicker.  Mum was waiting for me at the other end and seemed pleased to have me home.  I don’t think they expected me to stay in Blyth as long as I did, but I had a lot of fun.

 

So, we had a really super month together.  I have no idea when we’ll get that long together again with me studying and looking for an apprenticeship and Kieran hunting for a job.  I’m hopeful that it will happen again sometime soon, though, because the distance really isn’t easy, however long we get when we’re together.  Luckily, we already have the next meet-up planned.  Kieran is coming down for a week in December because we have panto and a Seann Walsh gig to go to with Josh.  Josh’s mum, my Mum and Tamsin are also coming to panto.  It will be nice to see Kieran before Christmas and to have that small amount of time together.  It’ll be the last time we see each other this year, the year that has been really crazy but really amazing for us.  When we see each other after December, we’ll have been together a year.  It doesn’t seem possible that we’ve almost had eleven months already.  We’ve been very lucky in the almost eleven months we’ve had and I can only hope we continue to be lucky in the months, and hopefully years, to come.

 

Thank you to Mum for having Kieran and I for the first week, for taxiing us around and for joining us for Nando’s.

 

Thank you to Dad for helping us to the airport for our flight.

 

A really huge thank you to L and J for having me to stay for almost three weeks.  Thank you for the meals out and the nice stay at the caravan.  Thank you for all the nice meals cooked, clothes washed, taxiing about and great company.  I really enjoyed coming to stay and I hope I wasn’t too much of a pain, even if I didn’t stop laughing at J’s bad jokes.  I hope I can come and stay again soon.

 

To Kieran, thank you for coming to stay, for having me to stay and for putting up with me for so long.  I know I can be a headache sometimes so I think you’re amazing for putting up with me.  Thank you too for my beautiful flowers that I received on Friday.  They’re here on my desk as I write this and I love them, nowhere near as much as I love you, of course.  I hope we have a great time in December and for all the times to come.  I am a very lucky girl to have you and however hard the distance is, I won’t give up, promise.  See you in two weeks, Mr Little.

“There isn’t a colonoscopy channel yet…”

So, the last weekend together for a few weeks has come and gone.  Thankfully, this has been the final one achieved by train travel because, as I sit writing this very second, Kieran is stranded at Reading train station after assistance forgot to help him board his connection to Hereford half an hour ago.  He’s since found staff and has been told that he can get on a later train that will take him to Newport where he has to wait a further half hour to board a connection to Hereford.  Eventually, some time this evening he’ll be back in Hereford.  It’s a little beyond a joke now seeing as I had issues in Reading and Oxford two weeks ago.  As soon as Kieran dropped that he had a 40 minute wait at Reading into conversation this morning, I was immediately worried that assistance would screw up.  They seem generally useless at long gaps between alighting one train and boarding your connection.  It’s such a shame, too, because Reading kind of redeemed themselves for me last week when I managed to get on the Hereford connection with no issues at all.  But again it seems like they’ve proved themselves to be ridiculously rubbish at their job.  All I can hope now is that Kieran’s assistance, arranged on the spot by the station and himself via Twitter, is perfect at Newport.  To be fair, Newport have been my absolute favourite station for assistance since I started travelling by train.  I’ve never had even a slight hiccup there.  I can only hope they act the same for Kieran tonight when he finally gets there.  I was joking last week when I said that I couldn’t wait to start flying up and down the country to cut the distance between Kieran and I but after today I’m really not any more.  After the last few disasters with assistance, I’m not really sad to see the back of needing to travel by train to see each other.  Airports won’t have the choice of being as useless because if they forgot to board us on to our flights, they’d be in serious trouble as flights are nowhere near as frequent as the trains and the issue would be a lot harder to resolve than assistance at train stations make it seem when they’ve made the error.  We have to be grateful that services like travel assistance on the trains exists, of course, because without them we wouldn’t be able to travel around the country on the railways like we do but it’s on days like this when errors like this occur that you can’t help but be angry with the system.  Disabled travel assistance is booked over the phone and logged into an online system so it seems ridiculous that things like this can ever happen.  But they seem to be quite often lately.

 

On Thursday evening, Kieran travelled down to Southampton via Oxford to spend the weekend here with me.  Dad picked him up from the station on his way home from work and when they arrived, Dad had decided that he was ordering delivery pizza for everyone despite the fact that Mum had already been cooking Kieran’s dinner and preparing food for Dad.  Kieran chose chicken strippers and potato wedges as he said he wasn’t hungry enough for a whole pizza.  The food arrived quite late and we sat in the kitchen so Kieran could eat.  Dad had ordered pizza and garlic bread, too, which he offered to us both but which neither of us fancied.  I’d already had a mash-up dinner of quiche, garlic bread, potato waffles and a couple of mini sausage rolls earlier on so was already full.  When Kieran finished his food, we went upstairs and curled up together on my bed for a cuddle and a chat.  Plus, Kieran was pretty tired after the train journey and his day spent at work.

 

On Friday morning, similar to the last two weekends, we had no rush at all to get up and be ready for anything.  We had nothing planned at all and nobody would be home until at least six o’clock that evening so we had nothing to do for anyone else either.  The only things that were on the agenda were eating Weetabix and having showers, but all in good time.  Eventually, after drifting in and out of sleep, chatting a bit and having lots of cuddles, we dragged ourselves out of bed long after midday, making no rush to do anything at all.  We’d agreed to swap our usual routine around today to see if we could save my brain from feeling scrambled.  So instead of going for showers first, we went downstairs in dressing gowns and pyjamas to complete one half of the agenda: scoffing Weetabix.  First, I needed to find everything we needed for breakfast: the two massive tea mugs, box of Yorkshire tea bags, sweeteners, box of Weetabix, liquid level indicator, milk, bowls, jug and spoons.  While I set about making my Weetabix (the weird way) and putting some ready in a bowl for Kieran, he made the tea (because I cannot be trusted with a kettle).  Between us, we managed to successfully make breakfast.  While we did this, we listened to Capital South Coast through the Tune In app on my Ipad.

 

After everything from breakfast was cleared away, we went back upstairs, had showers and got ready for the day.  We continued to listen to Capital, streaming it through my Chromecast onto the docking station, while Kieran tried to solve some problems I was having with my laptop.  Lately, I hadn’t been able to use either my Brailliant braille display or BrailleNote Apex as a braille display with my laptop.  I hadn’t been able to pair either of them with JAWS or NVDA and I was hoping Kieran would be able to get one of them working.  At first, it looked like he’d succeeded with the Apex but then it kept disconnecting itself and he couldn’t get the connection to remain active.  So we moved onto my Brailliant where he discovered that the drivers installed to use it via Bluetooth and USB were corrupt.  He tried reinstalling them but the corrupt ones just wouldn’t be removed.  So there was nothing he could do for either device.  I was glad for Kieran’s efforts to try and get things working because I really miss having a braille display alongside my computer but it doesn’t look like I’m getting that back any time soon, which is a bit annoying as both devices should work fine as braille displays, especially the Brailliant as that is its sole purpose.  The fact that I have something that doesn’t fulfil it’s requirements through either available connection is pretty frustrating, especially as I can’t really afford to replace it and nobody is buying it off me for the lowest price I can possibly sell it.  Then again, I’ve never gotten on well with technology that involves computers so I guess this is just my payback for hating computers for so long and stubbornly refusing to use them — now that I can, the way I like to use them is impossible.  While Kieran was trying to make things work, the chromecast decided it wanted to join the temperamental club and stopped allowing us to stream the radio to the dock.  So we decided to give up on the radio and watch some telly instead.  I used my Apple TV to open Netflix and from there we agreed on Live At The Apollo, which Kieran has already seen and I’d said I wanted to watch at some point.  Kieran said that originally Netflix had all series of the show but now there are only a few.  This didn’t bother me too much as it was something good to watch and there were multiple episodes to keep us entertained for a while anyway.

 

We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching Live At The Apollo, laughing a lot at all of the comedians’ performances.  When my grandparents arrived with my sister at a quarter past six and then my parents came in at twenty to seven, I guessed when needed to be polite and go down to see everyone.  Once Nan and Grandad were gone, it was time to work out what we wanted for dinner.  I volunteered my money for any takeaway service as it seemed a bit late by then for Mum’s original proposal of pie and mash, which was a shame as Kieran and I had both been looking forward to it quite a lot.  In the end, we all agreed on getting food in from the kebab van that we sometimes go to after my cricket training and that was originally discovered after Mum and I attended my first concert in 2011.  Kieran had a donner kebab with chips, Mum had a chicken kebab with chips and all the trimmings, Dad had donner meat and chips with all the trimmings and I had donner meat with chips.  When Mum arrived back with it, the food was piping hot and delicious.  We didn’t add any salt to it this time so didn’t feel in as much mortal danger as we usually do when we eat those kebabs.  Everyone enjoyed their food and for Kieran and I it filled up ever growing hunger holes inside us after only having Weetabix that day.  Admittedly, by the time we’d eaten the Weetabix that afternoon and then had the kebab in the evening, there wouldn’t have been time for another meal between the two but we still felt pretty hungry by the time dinner time arrived.

 

After we’d finished eating, we went back upstairs and continued where we’d left off with Live At The Apollo.  We didn’t really see the point in watching anything else seeing as we were enjoying that already.  We watched it until we got bored and were tired enough to settle down for sleep.

 

On Saturday morning, we couldn’t stay in bed as late as we had on Friday because there was the possibility that Mum would be home from picking Tamsin up from karate around eleven thirty.  I heard them all leave around eight thirty and from then on I drifted in and out of sleep, aware that we needed to be up at a decent time unless we wanted to be judged by Mum and not do anything at all again that day.  Around ten o’clock, we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and went for showers, not particularly rushing but not being as slow as Friday either.  I’d said that it was probably better for us to shower and get dressed first and eat breakfast afterwards because it made us look more presentable for when Mum came in rather than seeming like we’d only just dragged ourselves out of bed.  We made our breakfast of Weetabix and big mugs of tea again and listened this time to Kiss FM for Kisstory, which we always enjoy.  When that finished, we headed back upstairs and Kieran set about getting my laptop ready so that we could watch the football.  Liverpool were playing Swansea so it seemed like a good thing to do.  Mum had already text me to tell me that she hadn’t managed to get her nails done while Tamsin was at karate so had gone to do it straight afterwards and would then be going to meet Dad for lunch.  It seemed as if our efforts to get up and be ready were unnecessary.  Of course, we’d already done that by then so there was nothing we could do about it.

 

To begin with, the football match wasn’t very exciting.  Swansea scored first and Liverpool didn’t seem to make much effort to equalise for a while.  And then they did.  When the match finished at half past two, the score was 2—1 and Liverpool had done it, creeping up the Premier League table to second place, a spot they haven’t been in for quite some time.  It was a close game, though, and Swansea could have easily equalised.  Obviously, I was pretty glad they didn’t.  After the game finished, Kieran turned to Sky Sports News so we could see what else was going on.  By this point, Mum had come home and checked with us what we wanted to do.  We’d agreed that we’d go to Nando’s and use our vouchers for free meals and make it a date afternoon.  It wouldn’t be possible to go for a date night because Nando’s wasn’t open late enough and Dad was working until six so we’d be being an inconvenience.  Anyway, date afternoon seemed good enough.  A free date afternoon seemed no less than perfect.

 

So when Mum and Tamsin were ready to go, we all bundled into the car and headed for the city centre and Nando’s.  Mum had some shopping to do in town anyway so it seemed like everything would work.  The only thing we hadn’t managed to work into the schedule was the food shopping, which needed doing as we were low on supplies and pay day had come and gone.  Although Southampton football team weren’t playing and there wasn’t any massive events going on in the city centre, it seemed extremely busy even for a Saturday when we arrived and Mum struggled to find a parking space.  Thankfully, we got one in the end and made our way through West Quay and up to the food court where we discovered we had a ten to fifteen minute wait for a table.  The guy we spoke to didn’t seem particularly sure whether staff would be able to seat us and take our orders from the table.  Although I was a bit irritated with that response, Kieran reminded me that it isn’t a compulsory part of the service and that we’ve just been lucky the times we went to that Nando’s because they’ve been very accommodating.  Just in case staff weren’t able to help us, Mum waited with us.  Thankfully, we were taken to our seats and a waiter did come and take our orders and even refilled our drinks for us.  Kieran had a double chicken burger with hot sauce and sides of spicy rice and peri salted chips.  I had a double chicken wrap with lemon and herb sauce and sides of garlic bread and peri salted chips.  We’d been looking forward to our Nando’s dinner date a lot and the food lived up to expectation; it was delicious as always.  Being granted the extra service was nice, too, as the restaurant was overflowing with customers and they really didn’t seem like they had the staff to spare to help us.

 

Once we finally finished our meals, it was nearing five thirty and I knew Mum would need to get going soon so we could pick Dad up from work.  She came to collect us once she’d finished her shopping and we headed down to the car.  After we’d picked Dad up from work, we headed straight home.  Dad had suggested that we all go do the food shopping from there but Mum said that she didn’t want to drag us all round the supermarket.  I was a little disappointed as I was a bit fed-up of being inside.  As I spend the majority of my time in my bedroom and my studies start back up tomorrow, I didn’t really fancy the additional time in my room when there was the possibility of wandering around a supermarket, putting in suggestions of things I’d like to buy to eat.  Plus, it meant extra Fitbit steps — and I was nearing my daily target of 5000 — and Swarm coins.  I know, what an exciting life I lead! But Mum was pretty adamant that we weren’t all going.  So we just went home.  About ten minutes after we’d got in, Mum headed back out by herself to do the shopping.  It felt a bit strange not going with her as I’m always there for the monthly food shop and laying on my bed watching telly seemed a bit lazy.  But Kieran and I had agreed to watch Gogglebox, as he hadn’t seen the first episode of the new series and the second had been shown the previous evening, and that soon had me sucked in and laughing a lot.  Anyway, I’d wanted to watch the first episode of the new series with Kieran because there was a couple from Bristol on it who I’d found very amusing and thought he’d like too; turns out I was right.  When we’d both episodes, we decided to watch a comedy DVD.  I’d bought a few new ones online a little while ago and hadn’t gotten around to watching any of them yet.  We settled on Adam Hills’ 2012 show Inflatable, which was filmed in Australia.  It was quite interesting to see him perform in his own country, to notice how much more comfortable he seemed there.  Some of the jokes he made in it were repeated in his next show, Happyism, recorded the following year but we guessed that was because they were made in two different countries.  Either way, it was very funny and added some giggles to the evening.  By the time Inflatable finished, it was quite late and we snuggled down to go to sleep.

 

On Sunday, we had things scheduled that were unavoidable.  Saturday had been my great-Nan’s 90th birthday so we were off out with the entire side of her family for a celebration meal at a posh pub.  The time had been set for midday because Nan usually eats her main meal at eleven in the morning and midday was the earliest anyone could bear starting the meal.  Thankfully, the pub didn’t start serving food or drink until midday so we weren’t able to start ordering until then anyway.  We arrived early, as usual, and were able to go inside and be seated at our reserved table.  We kind of had a whole reserved room; there was a conservatory-style thing on the back of the pub and that was ours for the afternoon.  Someone had paid extra to add balloons to the room.  By the time all of the aunties, uncles and cousins piled into the room, bringing with them their gifts and flowers, it was pretty crowded and pretty noisy.  We’d managed to decide what we wanted to eat and drink before everyone arrived so it wasn’t long before we were all ordering.  I ordered a chicken kiev with curly fries.  Normally, the chicken kiev is served with a jacket potato, salad and coleslaw but I really didn’t want any of that.  Plus, Kieran had found the menu online and as soon as I discovered they did curly fries, I knew I had to find a way to have them in my meal; it made up for not having Perfect the previous weekend in Hereford when I’d really fancied curly fries, too.  Kieran was undecided until the last minute, flitting between chili or sausage and mash.  To be fair, for me there’s no competition there, especially as it was cheesy mash that came with the sausages.  But Kieran likes his spicy stuff and the chili did tempt him.  Right until the last minute, I thought he was going to choose the chili but then, when Dad asked, he said sausages and mash.

 

While we waited for our meals to arrive, my aunt decided that she wanted to take some family photos with everyone involved.  She’d bought my Nan a photo frame with several sections in it for her birthday and wanted to get some up-to-date photos to fill it with and I guess what better time to do that than when everyone is together celebrating her 90th birthday.  There were several variations of the group photo taken and then the group was split into smaller groups depending on which part of the family you were in.  Thankfully, the photos were finally over and we were able to go back inside and relax around the table.  Not long later, our food arrived.  Although the prices of our meals seemed a little ridiculous, the food did taste amazing.  My curly fries and chicken kiev, with garlic butter, were absolutely mouth-watering.  The curly fries definitely lived up to what I’d been looking forward to and the kiev was a nice change to my usual choices of macaroni cheese or ham and chips.  Kieran seemed to thoroughly enjoy his sausage and mash, with all the trimmings, and was finished before any of the rest of us.  A while after we’d finished our meals, puddings were ordered.  Neither Kieran nor I wanted anything else to eat.  However, by the time everyone had finished their puddings, I was starting to wish I’d ordered something.  However, we were then all presented with a slice of birthday cake, made by my aunt’s next-door neighbour who bakes cakes professionally.  It was very nice cake, although I was a little unsure about the butter cream filling.  It’s probably because I haven’t had decent birthday cake in ages.  The last few birthday cakes we’ve had have come from Tesco’s bakery aisle so this really did make a nice change.  By the time we’d finished our cake, it was getting on for three o’clock.  As we’d arrived at the pub at half past eleven, it was starting to feel like we’d been there forever.  Thankfully, we were finally saying our goodbyes and heading out of the pub at a quarter past three.

 

Back at home, all Kieran and I wanted to do was curl up on my bed with some telly on in the background and drift off for an afternoon snooze.  Mum and Dad, on the other hand, were taking Tamsin up to Nan’s because she was staying overnight and then going out to Sprinkles for some ice cream.  If we hadn’t stayed at the pub for so long, we probably would have gone to Sprinkles but we were too sleepy to want to.  We settled for more Live At The Apollo on telly and, predictably, both of us drifted in and out of sleep during it.  When Mum and Dad came back, they offered us some tea but neither of us were hungry.  A little while later, we switched from watching Live At The Apollo to watching Outnumbered, mainly because Kieran didn’t like the next act on the current episode of Live At The Apollo and partially because I was a bit bored of it.  I had flicked through my Netflix list of things to watch and we’d settled on Outnumbered from the last place that I’d been watching it.  I’d started from the first episode of the first series and watched on from there one day while battling with my OU exam.  Kieran seemed OK with this so it worked for both of us.  In the end, we watched quite a few episodes of Outnumbered, laughing a lot and commenting on how Jake, Ben and Karen were like children we knew.  Whilst watching Outnumbered was where the title of this blog entry came from.  Originally, we’d had a title first from Adam Hills and then Live At The Apollo but then Outnumbered’s offering seemed a lot funnier.  It comes from an episode where Pete is going to have a colonoscopy and one of the children asks whether it’ll be shown on TV.  To this, Pete replies that there isn’t a colonoscopy channel yet…  This made Kieran and I laugh a lot and seemed the best idea that we had for a title.  We finally settled down to go to sleep around one o’clock, tiring of Outnumbered but agreeing that we’d continue watching it next time Kieran came down to stay, which is already arranged to be at the end of this month for the Adam Hills’ comedy show at the Mayflower Theatre.  Originally, Josh asked Kieran if he’d be interested in going and Kieran told me about it.  So I gently nudged my way into going too.  Neither of the guys seem to mind and it means that Kieran has another excuse to come down and stay and Josh can stay over the night of the show.  Together, Kieran and I have paid for the three of us to go, treating it as Josh’s birthday present as he hasn’t given us any other ideas of what to get him.

 

On Monday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed as early as we could bear to, at ten o’clock to have showers and eat breakfast before Kieran had to pack everything up and we waited for Grandad to pick us up to take Kieran to catch his train.  Of course Monday had come too soon so it was only natural that we shouldn’t want to get up.  But we had to.  We took our time having showers and getting ready.  Kieran packed up his belongings in his rucksack and laptop bag and we went down for breakfast.  I took the George Foreman down so that we could have sausage sandwiches for breakfast.  We listened to Capital South Coast again while we made breakfast.  I set the George Foreman up and put the sausages into cook.  Then, I got our massive tea mugs and plates for the sausages out of the cupboard, grabbing the tea bags and sweeteners from the cupboard next-door.  Kieran made the tea while the sausages cooked and I buttered bread for the sandwiches.  We gave the sausages twenty-five minutes to cook, not wanting to undercook them and make ourselves ill.  When Kieran placed the sausages on the bread and made it into sandwiches, we noticed that the sausages, if anything, were overcooked and a little burnt.  But they tasted great and together with our massive mugs of tea they made a great breakfast.  While I continued to drink my tea, Kieran volunteered to do the washing-up and even though I insisted he shouldn’t, he did it anyway.  As usual, we left the George Foreman to cool and the work surfaces to be cleaned because it gave me something to do when I got home from the train station later on.

 

Upstairs, Kieran had everything packed up, including his clean washing which Mum had left on the arm of the sofa for us to collect.  We tidied up the bedroom and continued listening to the radio.  Grandad arrived at a quarter past twelve, even though we’d arranged to meet here to go to the station at half past one.  However, Grandad was happy to sit in the back garden absorbing the sunshine with the cat until it was time to go.  We bundled Kieran’s stuff on to the front seat of Grandad’s little car and then climbed in the back.  The traffic wasn’t too bad getting across the bridge and into town.  The last few times Grandad has driven us to the station, the roads have been pretty busy and we’ve been quite tight on time once or twice.  But today we had plenty of time.  A member of staff at the station led us to the waiting room and told us that assistance would come for Kieran before his train arrived.  At a quarter past two, assistance came as promised and led Kieran out onto the platform with us following.  As the train pulled in alongside the platform, I quickly gave Kieran a hug and kiss goodbye.  The moment we separated, the assistance guy was leading Kieran onto the train.  Grandad and I waited on the platform until the train was gone even though, as Grandad realised, Kieran wouldn’t see us waving him off.

 

So after another great weekend, my holiday from studying is finally over.  The module actually officially started on Saturday but there was no way I was starting my studies then.  But today has come.  As soon as this is proofread and posted, I’ll be straight on the module website, working out where to start this brand-new module.  It seems crazy to think that I’m minutes away from starting my third Open University module and my second year of university study.  In a month’s time, I’ll be considering which module to start in February and whether I’ll be able to complete two in a year again.  If I can cope well with the workload and there isn’t too many problems, I should be able to achieve my goal of two modules per year for a second time.  This time next year, I’m hoping I’ll be starting my third and final year of university and seriously working out what I’m going to do when it’s over.  As holidays go, though, I think I’ve managed to have a pretty amazing one.  My first weekend spent in York with my sister and the following three spent with my fella.  What more could a woman want? There were plenty of trains involved and several mishaps with assistance but I had a great time.  As I’m writing now, Kieran is on his morning commute to work, after getting home last night at around eight o’clock.  Thankfully, Newport lived up to expectation and there wasn’t any more hiccups with Kieran’s journey.  I’m very glad about that.  I’m very glad we’ve been able to have this time, too, these three weekends together.  It’s the most time we’ve spent together since my three weeks in Blyth back in March and it was nice to have so much time and nothing to worry about apart from catching the train.  Having no study deadlines has been amazing and I’m not looking forward to getting back into the tight schedules The Open University gives.  But it’s all a part of the decision I made.  A year after originally starting, I finally feel like I made the right one.  However tough this year is and the one to follow, having the freedom to live every other aspect of my life around my studies will always be the right choice.  Even if I fail from here onward, I don’t think I could regret choosing The Open University because it has meant that I’ve been able to spend loads of my time with my family and friends whilst completing two sixty-credit modules and nobody can ask for more than that.

 

Thank you for the most amazing three weekends, Mr Little.  They’ve been the best I could have hoped for and even though I’d wanted to spend them all with you, I didn’t expect that we’d actually manage it.  But we have and I’m more than grateful for that.  I can’t wait for the end of the month for you to come down again.  Adam Hills is going to be a lot of fun with Josh.  Have a great last week at work despite the cold outside and the temptation to stay in bed and a super safe journey home on Friday.  I love you very much and am looking forward to travelling up north to spend more time with you.  If someone had told me this time last year that we’d be here doing this crazy thing then I’d have laughed at them.  In fact, even when somebody suggested as much, I firmly threw that idea away.  How ridiculous could someone be! But they were right and we were wrong and nothing could make me happier.  I’ll be wrong for a very long time if this is the result.

“That’s the Welsh for you, mate. Filth, the lot of them”

For what I’m honestly praying was the last time, last Friday I boarded a train that was scheduled to take me from Southampton to Hereford, through Reading.  Last time I did this trip, it became a bit of a nightmare, in fact the worst train journeys I’ve ever experienced and hope aren’t replicated.  Thankfully, this week’s train transfers were a much soother experience.  On Friday morning, Dad took me to the train station again, repeating the previous week’s events exactly.  Even though he was supposed to be at work by ten, he waited on the platform with me and the assistance lady until the train pulled in.  The assistance lady found me my reserved seat and I settled in for the less than an hour ride to Reading.  This time, an Irish bloke sat next to me, boarding the train a few stops later but also destined for Reading.  He didn’t have much to say but offered me help exiting the train when we stopped at the station.  This time, as soon as I was on the platform, assistance met me and walked with me to the platform where my connection was due ten minutes later.  They waited with me, which was a relief after the last two times, and helped me board the train when it arrived.  This time, Reading was a success!

 

Thankfully, the train didn’t seem so drawn out this week.  I had my book — this time Malorie Blackman’s Double Cross, as I’ve been rereading the Noughts and Crosses series — to keep me occupied and before I knew it we were pulling into Hereford and the assistance guy was boarding the train to meet me.  I’ve never had that before.  He helped me off the train, through the station and out to the taxis where one was waiting.  This taxi didn’t smell too bad unlike the last one I’d been in in Hereford had.  We were at the college in speedy quick time as there was no traffic on the roads at all and again Kieran was waiting outside.  We headed into Gardner and up to his room where I dumped my rucksack and ran for the loo while he tried to get his Apple TV remote working with his Mac again.  Quite a few tense minutes later, he concluded that the battery must be dead because he hadn’t been able to make it work at all.  We had to give up on the TV remote idea because Kieran had no batteries that fit into it.  Instead, to listen to some of his music, he used the remote app on his phone to control it playing on his Mac, which worked quite well as it meant we could lie on the bed and have a cuddle while it played on the floor over by the window.

 

Usually, when we visit each other we have some kind of plan for something we’re going to do with the weekend, normally with the first night at least.  This time, we’d skipped planning for the first night altogether and come up with a good idea for the second.  We’d agreed that another date night was in order and decided on the Beefeater as it had been amazing in May when we’d stayed at the Premier Inn there.  Plus, as this was to be our last weekend in Hereford together, we wanted to include a special date night.  Before we could enjoy that, though, we had to work out some food plans for Friday night as we were both pretty hungry.  Randomly, I’d said to Kieran that for some reason I fancied curly fries and he said that Perfect did them.  So we’d agreed to order from Perfect as Kieran fancied a kebab.  Then, we discovered that for some reason Perfect was offline on Just Eat and so we couldn’t order it through them.  Kieran had said that we could order it through Hungry House instead, as Perfect is available on there too, but that on Hungry House with a kebab he wouldn’t get the option of no sauce like you do on Just Eat.  So we looked around for other places.  We’d pretty much settled for Munchies, looking through options of what to have, when the conversation of what we were going to eat on Sunday evening and have for breakfast on Monday morning arose.  We’d agreed that we didn’t really fancy the journey to Wetherspoons as it means extra taxis and unnecessary money spent and then Teresa had replied to my email saying that she could meet us around eleven o’clock on Monday morning if I wanted to see her before I left.  This meant that we wouldn’t be going anywhere for food on Monday before my train and there aren’t many, if any, delivery options available that early in the day.  Eventually, we decided that we’d have Munchies on Sunday night so that I could order a big pizza and have the leftovers on Monday morning before my train.  As Kieran fancied a kebab, we turned to Hereford Charcoal Grill, who do excellent kebabs.  Kieran had a doner kebab, no salad and sauce, with chips and I had doner meat and chips.  We shared onion rings.  As we both had large meals, there was no need to have loads of sides.  Their menu didn’t have a massive selection anyway.  Before we’d ordered the food and had been listening to Kieran’s music, he’d suggested that we watch Gavin and Stacey, starting from the first episode, all the way through.  Obviously, I wasn’t about to say no.  So as we sat eating our kebabs on Kieran’s hotel room carpet, Kieran put Gavin and Stacey on and that started our entertainment for the evening.  As always, the food was lovely and Gavin and Stacey was funny.

 

Of course, unless we’d wanted to stay awake all night, there’s no way we could watch all three series’ and the Christmas special of Gavin and Stacey in one night.  But that was fine by us.  We’d decided that we’d watch the whole lot over the course of the weekend and we would, just not all in one go.  That was just fine, though, because we had three nights’ worth of time to watch the lot.  So when we turned it off on Friday night after several episodes so that we could settle down for sleep, there was no worries about not having enough time to watch the rest.  Also, Friday night’s episodes brought the idea for the title of this blog post and it seemed exactly the right quote to use seeing as Hereford borders Wales and Kieran was the person who first introduced me to Gavin and Stacey and inevitably caused me to buy the box set on DVD.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NLEp0XNUKY

 

Just like last weekend, we were in no rush to do anything with our time.  We had no daytime plans and didn’t intend on getting out of bed anywhere before midday.  So that’s exactly what happened.  We snoozed in and out of sleep, having random conversations whenever we were awake long enough, and didn’t really register time until, for me, at least eleven thirty.  While we drank tea and ate breakfast of mini rolls, Jaffa Cakes and last week’s leftover brownies from Dominoes, Kieran tried to find a way to book us a table at the Beefeater for that evening.  We’d agreed on seven o’clock for dinner and wanted to make sure we could definitely get a table.  Being Saturday, there was a possibility of the place being quite full seeing as weekends attract the most visitors to hotels.  But the button to confirm that we’d read the terms and conditions before submitting a booking seemed inaccessible everywhere.  Kieran tried it on his phone, then his Mac and finally his Windows machine.  Giving up, he rang the Beefeater and booked a table in under a minute.

 

For the majority of the afternoon, we lounged on the bed, Kieran doing bits and pieces on his laptop while I looked for Christmas presents for people on my phone.  We finally dragged ourselves up to have showers, get dressed and ready for our date night around four.  It didn’t take that long to get ready; it wasn’t like either of us had anything special to wear and I’ve never worn make-up in my life and wouldn’t know what fancy stuff I could do to my hair.  Kieran did joke about wearing a shirt with his jeans and completely outsmarting me in my jeans, T-shirt and zip-up hoodie jacket.  But he stuck with a long-sleeved polo shirt and jeans.

 

Around six thirty, we put our shoes on, grabbed what we needed and Kieran rang for a taxi to take us to the Beefeater.  We arrived there early and the taxi driver helped us inside and to a member of staff who seated us and took our drink orders.  Kieran had a pint and I had a Pepsi.  Kieran had browsed through the menu earlier so we had rough ideas of what we wanted.  In the end, we decided to share a big platter for starters.  This included potato wedges, garlic bread, breaded mushrooms, chicken wings, a grilled Kofta and dips.  The platter came on a tray with everything in little bowls and we arranged it so that Kieran had the chicken wings in front of him and I had the potato dippers by me.  We shared everything but the wings between us as I don’t like eating food off the bone and Kieran loves it.  The platter really was delicious.  The potato dippers had been what I was looking forward to most as I’d loved them back in May.  By the time we were finished, the only things that remained were the bones from the chicken wings and the dregs of the dips in their pots.

 

When our main meals arrived, we noted how it had been nice to have a short gap between the two courses.  In most restaurants, as soon as they’ve taken your starter away they replace it with your main course and it was nice here to have time to digest and appreciate how nice our platter had been before we had more to eat.  Kieran had the chicken melt with chips and I had the woodland chicken risotto.  I’d wanted to try a proper risotto for ages, pretty much since I’d first made one at college, but hadn’t had the chance until then.  The risotto I’d made at college had been with quawn and had no creamy sauce in sight.  But this one was a chicken with cheese and mushrooms and the creamiest sauce I’ve ever tasted.  It was a massive mush ball and not really what I’d been expecting.  However, Kieran had ordered onion rings as a side to my meal, sensing I think that the risotto wouldn’t be quite what I’d imagined.  I ate quite a lot of the risotto — or as much as I could stomach, anyway — and enjoyed the onion ring extras.  Kieran seemed to enjoy his chicken melt, although he was a little disappointed that it was accompanied with salad when he’d specifically asked the waitress to take it off.

 

After we’d finished our main meals, we ordered a second round of drinks, the same as before.  Then, Kieran had another look through the dessert menu and we both chose puddings.  I ordered the banoffee pie and Kieran had the trio of sponges with custard.  Both of us thoroughly enjoyed these and felt rather stuffed afterwards.  As I still had most of my Pepsi left and we were going all out because date night, Kieran ordered an Irish coffee to round off the meal.  When he’d finished this, we ordered the bill and then our waitress guided us out of the restaurant so that we could wait for our taxi, which Kieran had called for, to arrive.  I think the nicest thing about the service that night was that they didn’t rush us for anything.  They let us eat our way through the three course meal, adding extra drinks along the way.  There was never any implication from them that we were outstaying our welcome, that the table was required for someone else.  Of course, the guidance around the restaurant was also really great as it meant we could totally rely on them to make sure we were in the right place and didn’t have to try and figure our way in and out of the restaurant.  More than anything, though, it was just nice that Kieran and I could be out together on a date night by ourselves without parents needing to drop us off and pick us up.  It felt very grown up to ride in a taxi to and from the restaurant, to arrive back at Gardner and not have anyone questioning us about how it had gone and whether we needed anything or were all right.  To be able to do it all by ourselves for ourselves was the nicest feeling.  Maybe this really is what being an adult is about! Surely it’s more than bills and jobs and responsibilities? Surely some of it is fun stuff like going out on date nights with your best friend? I reckon so, anyway.

 

It was quite chilly while we waited outside the restaurant for our taxi to arrive.  It had started to drizzle and my thin hoodie jacket wasn’t doing a very good job at sheltering me from it.  Kieran didn’t seem at all bothered by the weather so I snuggled close into his side while we waited, hoping to hang on to some of his body heat to keep me warm too.  Finally, the taxi came and we were able to clamber in and head back to Gardner.  Once upstairs, we got ready for bed and Kieran resumed our last viewing of Gavin and Stacey.  We curled up under the duvet, reflecting on what an amazing evening we’d had and personally, I was taking the warmth of Kieran and the duvet to warm me back up.  The taxi hadn’t seemed to do the job very well.

 

We watched Gavin and Stacey quite late.  It doesn’t take much for me to fall asleep and being full of food and now toasty cuddling Kieran under the duvet, it didn’t take me long to drift off.  When I woke, we were quite a while ahead in the story than when I’d been conscious and it seemed Kieran had fallen asleep too.  Once we were actually awake properly, Kieran got up and turned Gavin and Stacey off.  By the time we were both comfortable again, I was already half asleep.

 

The following morning, I couldn’t even remember where we’d gotten up to with Gavin and Stacey.  I knew I’d woken up because I remember us realising we’d fallen asleep and then Kieran getting up to switch it off.  Luckily, Kieran seemed to have a better idea of what point we’d been at.  Breakfast again consisted of Jaffa Cakes and a cup of tea.  It was another lazy day because we had nothing in particular to do.  Kieran had a look at some of the set books I’d been given from the OU for my next module, which weren’t accessible as they’d only scanned pages of books into documents so my Apex registered them as images, and converted them into Word so that I could put them on my Apex.  We watched Judge Judy, which never seems to fail to keep us entertained and always seems to be on whenever we need something to watch.  As we’d decided on Friday, we stuck to the plan of having Munchies for dinner.  We chose a deal that allowed us to have two medium pizzas — we had the same one, topped with a variety of meats — along with BBQ chicken wings, onion rings, potato wedges, garlic bread and a bottle of Pepsi.  We ordered mozzarella sticks and hash browns on top of that so by the time it was all laid out on the floor for us to share, we had quite a feast.  While we ate our food, we watched the remaining episodes of Gavin and Stacey.  As always, the food was lovely and the pizza was big enough to save a good amount for the following morning’s breakfast, just like I’d hoped.

 

After Gavin and Stacey had finished and we’d eaten as much of the food as we could manage — there really wasn’t much left at all — we pondered on what to watch for the rest of the evening.  Kieran went through some documentaries he had and then his audio described movie collection.  Eventually, we settled on There’s Something About Mary, as it was on our to watch movies list and it sounded like a good idea.  I must have only been eight or nine the last time I watched that film and really paid attention so I found it a lot more funny now than I did then.  It brought back memories of being little and watching films with Mum and Dad that they probably shouldn’t have let me watch and the time two years ago when it was shown on TV and Kieran and I had been watching it at the same time at either ends of the country.  It was good to watch it again, even if I did doze off a bit during it.  I seem to have a serious problem of staying awake when led in comfy beds lately; however much I try to resist sleep, I always seem to fail at holding it back.  I’d understand if I was doing something really knackering with my life but all I’ve done in the last few weeks is travel up and down the country visiting great people.  That’s hardly shattering, is it? God help me when winter sets in and my uni course kicks in.

 

On Monday morning, we had arranged to meet Teresa across the road in the Pod so that we could all have a quick catch up and also say goodbye again.  As Kieran’s job ends next week and he is heading home for good this time, we both wanted to see Teresa and thank her again for everything because, really, without Teresa our friendship would have never started the way it did, in an IT lesson one Friday afternoon when she asked Kieran to help me out with my emails.  From then on, she let us sit together and practically never do any work.  It is her we have to thank for our friendship growing to what it was and becoming what it has now.  When we told her in February that we’d decided to give being a couple a go, she wished us lots of luck and said that we were well suited and that she could have never said it to our faces before but had always thought it.  Well your thinking was true, Teresa.  And if for some weird reason you read this, whether to check that I’m still using my laptop and keeping up my computer skills or to see what’s going on in my uneventful life, thanks for everything.  I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without your help.  That goes for all areas of my life.  You helped with the IT skills — and even if they’re still not great, they’re a lot better than those of the girl who first started at college — all the stuff with the OU when I first decided to apply and of course you made the possibility of Kieran and I a reality.  For that one thing alone I’ll never be able to thank you enough.  Words can’t explain how grateful I am for just that so thank you will just have to suffice until something better is invented.

 

Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to make it across the road.  Through a combination of sleep and me feeling quite ill, we weren’t ready anywhere near our arranged eleven o’clock to see Teresa.  It’s a shame, too, because it would have been nice to see her again and to say those thanks in person.  But I guess, even if we had seen her, we probably wouldn’t have got the words out how we needed to.  It never works the way it’s supposed to.

 

When we did finally drag ourselves up, we ate our leftover pizza for breakfast while watching some of the episodes of Family Guy Kieran had recorded on his box.  When we were done eating, we had showers, got dressed and I packed all my stuff up ready for the train home.  We listened to some music on my Spotify while I downloaded some music on to my Ipad for the train and we chatted about different types of tablets.  Sadly, the time crept quickly on towards twenty to three and Kieran had to call me a taxi to take me to the station.  It pulled up not long after we reached the main entrance of Gardner and I hugged Kieran tight, sad to be saying goodbye again.  It doesn’t matter how many times we do it, it never gets any easier or feels any less disappointing.  Each time we see each other, there’s always a guaranteed end point to the meeting and we know that.  But it doesn’t make it any nicer.  Even though Kieran will be down here by the time I fall asleep on Thursday night and is staying for the weekend, it didn’t make getting into that taxi and leaving him behind any simpler.  Hopefully one day we won’t have leaving times or scheduled ends to our being together.

 

As well as Kieran, as my train pulled out of the station, I was saying goodbye to Hereford again.  I’d thought I’d done that in June last year and again in February this year.  But because Kieran went back as a student and then got the job, I’ve had a reason to revisit the city and the college.  Not any more.  I think we’ve all had enough of that place to last us a lifetime.  Whether there will be new reasons for us to go back, I don’t know, but I don’t see any right now as to why we’d want to.  Now Kieran has almost completed his six-month job placement, he has all the experience he needs to go home and find a permanent job.  Not only that but a job that he wants, a job that he’ll enjoy and that will make use of the qualifications he gained at college and the practical knowledge he’s learnt whilst working in an office as a part of the team.  He may not be certain of what waits for him back up north yet but I don’t doubt that it won’t take him long to find another job.  Even if there are several applications, interviews and maybe even a bit of frustration to go with it, there’s no reason why Kieran can’t have all he’s worked for in the last three years.  Why shouldn’t he? He deserves it more than anyone I know and I’m really glad to have been able to be by his side through these chapters in his life, to begin with as his friend and now as more.  He’s the most capable person I know — and I’m not just saying that because he’s my person, he really is! I’m looking forward to watching his next journey, seeing where it takes him and what he finds.  I’m really lucky to have been around for as much as I already have and I’m just hoping I get to be with him for the rest.  I’ll be the luckiest girl alive if I am.  This has been his time, his journey, chapters to add to his story so really it’ll be he who says goodbye one last time to Hereford next week.  But as I sat on the train and it sped me towards home, it felt like I was ending a little bit of his chapter with him.  I guess that’s just what happens when you’re woven into someone else’s story, when their story becomes yours and yours twines with theirs.  It’s been amazing to watch Kieran being an employed person.  It’s not all been rosy and happy — of course, how could it in Hereford? It never is — but it has been quite something.  To see my best friend become a working man and take on all the challenges that job presented him with has been incredible.  Kieran, when everyone else told you to give up in March, hand it all in and go home, what did you do? You went back to Hereford on a train, moved all your stuff across the road out of your comfortable lodge and into a hotel room and continued going to work.  When your room hasn’t been cleaned for weeks on end and the rubbish is piling up, what do you do? Carry it down to the reception area and leave it by their bins for them to collect; buy cleaning stuff for your bathroom and do it yourself.  Perhaps they’re just silly little things that everyone would do.  But seeing you persevere with that job reiterated what we agreed once: take any job, whatever the circumstances, that life offers you because you might not get another one and any job is better than dismissing the opportunity and sitting at home unemployed.  You’ve done it, love.  You’ve beaten the statistic.  You’re the nineteen-year-old who, at sixteen after collecting his GCSE’s, went away to residential college and did all the courses in IT you could, became as independent as the place allowed and then went on to do an extra six months there in something you loved.  This led to you getting a job which you’ve stuck at however ridiculous your living situation has become, however lonely you’ve been.  You’re about to leave that job with more than I think you could have hoped for a year after leaving college.  But it’s no more than you deserve, no more than everything you’ve worked for.  I’m so very proud of you, you know? I think you’re pretty amazing and I’m not just bias because you’re my fella.  Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey, your story, your life.  It’s the greatest gift anyone’s ever given me and I intend to support you whatever you decide to do next — except sitting on your backside at home, because I know that’s not you and not what you’ll do.  I’ll be there for as long as you’ll have me.  You’re pretty super, you know, and I’m pretty damn lucky to love you, lucky to have you love me too.  So whatever happens next, wherever you end up, know I’m always there with you.  If not in body, definitely in mind and on the end of a phone line.  Because whatever happens next and whatever this thing we have becomes, you’ll always be my best friend; I’m afraid you’re stuck being that if nothing else.  Can’t wait to see what you do next! Hope you don’t mind putting up with me, J and L, because I enjoy your company, love your shower and food but more importantly your son.  Anyway, despite a lot of common belief down here, the northern end of the country is rather nice after all.

“Bisto bum”: another weekend in Hereford

For once, this post has a little bit of drama to it, and I don’t mean drama in a good way.  Ever since I started travelling independently by train, in May this year, and using travel assistance, a year ago, I’ve always had really good experience.  The assistance have always been there to meet me when I’ve stepped off the train onto the platform and they’ve always helped me board my connection, even if there is a little wait in between the two trains.  Unfortunately, as of the last three train journeys I’ve done, I cannot say that anymore.  The last three train journeys have perfectly highlighted what can go wrong when the assistance people don’t do their jobs properly.  That sounds really bitter, I know, but I mean it in its simplest form and mostly without harshness.  Anyway, here’s the story.

 

Last Friday, I had my rucksack packed and ready to go by the time Dad came to pick us up so that he could drop Tamsin at school, Mum at work and then me at the train station.  Once again, I was off to Hereford to see Kieran, lucky to be able to do it once more.  I’d booked tickets for the 9.46 service which would take me to Reading where I could change on to another train that was destined for Hereford.  This was different to my usual route to Hereford because there are issues between Bristol and Newport which mean the 10 past the hour one change at Newport train I usually get isn’t currently running.  Of course, this meant that my typical return journey was also unavailable and the best alternative I’d decided on was to change at Oxford.  This all seemed fine as Kieran had assured me that both Reading and Oxford were good stations and it meant I only had to change once.  There were other options that gave me multiple changes to get to Hereford.  These were much more expensive.  We’d toyed with the idea of me getting a train to Worcester on Thursday evening instead and meeting Kieran there.  From there, we could both board his usual train back to Hereford.  But that proved to be over £80 worth of train tickets and it seemed daft to pay that much when my one change option was £45.  Obviously, if I’d spent the £80+, I would have gained an extra night with Kieran.  But in the end we agreed it wasn’t worth the few extra hours — not at my money’s expense but to me that really was no object; 80 quid really didn’t matter for extra time but it just seemed easier to take the Friday journey.

 

So once Tamsin was at school and Mum at work, it was time to head for the train station.  We were quite early for the train but it didn’t matter as we just waited on the platform.  Assistance were there when they were supposed to be and the lady helped me board the train, find my reserved seat and assured me that she’d ring ahead to Reading to ensure they knew I was on my way.

 

As it was less than an hour on this train, I decided just to sit and wait instead of reading a book or listening to music.  I sat next to a nice old guy who told me all about how he’s cleaned these kinds of train for years, how he’s looking forward to his retirement but hasn’t planned to do anything with it yet and that he would help me exit the train if I liked.  He chatted to me on and off for the whole journey, which I thought was sweet, and insisted on helping me off the train.  As a blind person, being offered assistance by the public can really be a life saver if you’re in a sticky situation but can also sometimes be a real hinderance, especially if the person doesn’t know the first thing about blindness.  This guy was neither.  I didn’t particularly need his help off the train — I’d planned to get myself off it and knew what I was doing — but he didn’t cause me any additional problems either.  He was just willing to help and I didn’t want to deny him that as his offer to help someone else in the future may be a real benefit to them.  If I gave him a firm no, I felt I might be lessening the chance of him offering someone else his assistance in the future.  He was really kind, just telling me which side of the train the platform was and that there was quite a big step down off the train.  He didn’t try to grab hold of me or insist that he led me, he just put in a few helpful comments here and there.  Once on the platform, he hovered by me until assistance met me, which I also thought was kind.  On the other hand, the assistance was anything but.  First of all, he wasn’t a particularly good sighted guide.  Then, he said that he had another passenger to assist so would take me to his colleague who would help me make my connection.  Even after that, I wasn’t particularly impressed when he sat me on a bench and said that someone else would come to assist me when the train arrived.  Nobody came.  As the train was pulling into the station, a kind lady asked if I needed any help.  I’d stood up in hope that assistance were on their way but it didn’t seem like it.  So I took the lifeline of this lady’s kindness and followed her on to the train.  She was quite good at guiding and making sure I didn’t trip or walk into anything.  She found me a seat and sat a few rows back from me, promising that she’d come and get me at Hereford and help me off the train.  While I settled and began listening to my audiobook — Breaking Dawn, the fourth in the Twilight saga — with Kieran’s advice I contacted the train company operating this service and asked them to remind Hereford I was on my way and alert them that I hadn’t had assistance on to the train so wasn’t seated in my reserved place.

 

Unlike usual, this journey seemed particularly long by the time I arrived in Hereford.  I don’t know if it was due to the worry of having no assistance or having numb feet, but I felt like it had taken a lot longer to reach Hereford than usual.  But it was ok, I was off the train safely, with assistance immediately meeting me and in a taxi on its way to the college only a few minutes later.

 

Kieran told me he’d be waiting outside Gardner for me and as the taxi pulled in, I asked him if anyone was waiting.  “Tall bloke on his phone?” The driver offered.

 

“Yeah, that’ll be him,” I laughed.  And it was.  The driver was round to my side as I was heaving my rucksack on to my back and asking the `tall bloke` if he was waiting for me.  The `tall bloke`, Kieran, answered that he was.  And it was simpler than I’d expected for us to find each other.

 

Up in Kieran’s room, I gave him the rucksack he’d bought from Imi, which I’d brought all the way back to Southampton from York and then up to Hereford from there.  After that, as I was feeling a bit drained and one was in order, we curled up on his bed for a cuddle.  Kieran put the radio on so that we had something to listen to.  We mostly alternated between Capital, where Kieran entered the cash call, and Free Radio.  Sadly, Kieran didn’t win the cash on Capital’s game.

 

Originally, we’d planned to walk down to the chip shop and get dinner there but by the time it came to that time, I just couldn’t be bothered.  When explaining this to Kieran, we agreed on Perfect, saying that this time we wouldn’t order so much so that we didn’t waste it.  I decided on the boneless chicken combo, which has three strips and two filets, with chips and Kieran had a burger with chips.  Between us, we shared mozzarella sticks, onion rings and cheesy garlic bread.  I’d been uncertain about the garlic bread but Kieran had fancied it and assured me that it was lovely.  As usual, he was not wrong.  While we ate, we watched Sean Lock’s Lockipedia Live comedy DVD, which was very funny.  I’d only seen his Purple Van Man show before so it was good to see the other one.  There were possibilities for the title of this blog from it, too, but by now I either can’t remember them or they were too rude and I’ve already crossed them off as not possible.  After the comedy finished and we’d led on the floor digesting our food for a little while, it was movie time.  While he was home last, Kieran watched Die Hard with his parents.  As I’ve always been an Alan Rickman fan — of course from his performance as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies — and Kieran really enjoyed the firm first time round, we agreed to add it to our growing list of movies to watch together.  I’d like to say that I was gripped through the movie and absorbed every little detail, as we were curled up together, it didn’t take me long to start drifting in and out of sleep.  I definitely caught parts of the film and the general plot but I missed quite a lot of it.  Thankfully, I managed to catch a bit of Rickman’s acting, which I was pleased about.  When the film finished, I promised myself that at some point I would watch the film properly, sat up somewhere where I couldn’t fall asleep during it.

 

I don’t think we’d actively decided what we were going to do with the weekend.  Unlike usual, we’d only planned the chip shop on Friday, which had fallen through anyway due to my laziness.  So when we ended up napping in bed for most of the morning and laying there quite a while into Saturday afternoon, neither of us were really surprised.  There wasn’t really much else to do and it was mostly comfortable and quite cosy just to lie there and chat.  Kieran made tea at one point and I stole a banana and some biscuits for breakfast, knowing that my brain wouldn’t be able to survive until whenever we decided to order food without something to eat and drink.  I was quite surprised, though, because when we eventually got up for a shower, I didn’t feel fuzzy at all.  Even in the shower and afterwards whilst drying my hair, I felt absolutely fine.  I think that’s thanks to the cup of tea, banana and biscuits, but I still felt pretty pleased as usually I feel a bit dizzy or at least fuzzy if I don’t eat much and then try to do things like showering.  During the remainder of the day, we watched some Judge Judy on the TV, always a safe bet for entertainment.

 

That evening, we’d decided to walk to the chip shop and get tea as planned.  As I was feeling particularly fine, we managed to stretch it out until 6.30 to leave for food.  Before we left, we listened to Usher’s brand new album, both concluding that it was ok but not really the massive excitement we’d expected after the long wait for an album from him.  We walked, me clinging on to Kieran’s shirt for guidance, down to College Green and into the Spa there first where we selected bottles of fizzy drink to go with our tea.  Kieran grabbed some other bits too.  Next door, we ordered our tea.  Kieran had large fish and chips with curry sauce while I chose doner meat and chips.  We had to wait for the fish and meat to be cooked and I was a little worried when the woman packing our food remarked that the meat was quite bitty but that there was nothing she could do about it.  When we got back to Kieran’s room, I discovered that `bitty` was quite an understatement.  The meat reminded me of gravy granules with chunks thrown in here and there.  Obviously, it still tasted right but it was pretty difficult to eat as it almost had the consistency of powder.  The pieces that I did manage to eat were nice and the chips were lovely.  Kieran seemed to enjoy his fish and chips, remarking that the piece of fish was more than large.  While we ate, we watched more comedy, this time a man I’d never even heard of before.  His name was Reginald D Hunter and he was fantastic.  Although a few of his lines were potential blog titles, they were definitely too rude to use.  By the time Reg finished, we’d finished our food too but continued with the comedy theme.  We went on to watch John Bishop’s Sunshine tour and one of John Richardson’s DVD’s, both of which were great.

 

Sunday was a similarly lazy day.  However, on Saturday evening Kieran had seen a really tasty looking deal on Dominoes so we’d decided that that would be our food for the day.  To be fair, I don’t think eating much else that day would have been a good idea anyway because the amount of food we ordered from Dominoes was at least enough to feed us for a whole day.  We had miniature sausage rolls, biscuits and cups of tea for breakfast — a strange combination, perhaps, but it worked just fine.  After we’d showered and dressed, my brain still felt as responsive and happy as it does on an ordinary day so I was pleased again.  We watched Judge Judy until we decided to order dinner.  From Dominoes we had a medium pizza each, mine topped with BBQ sauce and meat while Kieran kept to ordinary tomato sauce and meat.  I had BBQ stuffed crust on mine while Kieran added extra toppings.  With the deal we’d chosen, we also got garlic bread, chicken strippers, potato wedges and cookies.  As well as this, we decided to be extra greedy and add dough balls and brownies.  It was fair to say we gave the food a really good go.  By the time we were completely stuffed, we’d polished off the garlic bread, potato wedges and chicken strippers; we’d agreed that the dough balls weren’t particularly nice and had eaten large amounts of our pizza.  I had one of the cookies and we left the brownies for later.  During our mountainous delicious meal, we kept to the comedy theme for entertainment and watched a Jimmy Carr show, Lee Evans’ Monsters tour and Adam Hills’ Happyism tour.  Lee is where the title of this blog comes from.  During the DVD, he makes a joke about getting into a mini cab and how the passenger’s thoughts would be `bisto bum` due to the smell inside the cab.  It was a comment Kieran and I kept repeating to each other.

 

It was quite late by the time Happyism finished.  To start with, I’d planned to snuggle down and try to get some sleep relatively early so that I’d be wide awake and alert for the train journey the following day.  But in the end Kieran and I watched a few of the Harry Potter Puppet Pals videos on YouTube.  It had been ages since either of us had seen any of them and Kieran had seen plenty more than I had.  Some of the ones I hadn’t seen were really funny.  After the videos, Kieran then looked through some playlists on Spotify, which prompted us listening to some really old songs which brought back funny memories from childhood.  It was odd to note which songs Kieran and I had both loved as kids.  Eventually, we fell asleep somewhere around 3.30, me being awake again the following morning by a quarter to eight with my alarm.

 

On Monday morning, we couldn’t be quite as lazy as the past two days.  I had a train to catch that afternoon and I wanted to make sure I’d eaten and had everything packed long before I needed to leave.  However, we still led in bed for quite a while, finally getting up and having breakfast a little later.  I reheated my leftover pizza from the night before but it didn’t warm up too well like it usually does.  I managed to eat a few slices, though, because I knew I needed to fill up on as much food as possible to keep my energy levels up for the journey later on.  The cup of tea Kieran made was helpful too.  We watched some Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Cowboy Builders on TV before having showers and getting dressed.  As soon as my hair was dry, I started packing all my toiletries and belongings into my rucksack.  Kieran watched some Big Bang Theory and Family Guy.  I tried not to pay too much attention because I don’t like either of them really but I did laugh at a few bits in each of them.

 

Sadly, as we were watching Family Guy, the time crept closer to me needing to leave.  At twenty to three, Kieran booked me a taxi and we headed down to Gardner reception.  Unfortunately, the taxi driver was already waiting there for me.  In fact, he’d even come into the reception area in hope of asking someone where I was.  I hugged Kieran goodbye quickly but tightly, not wanting to keep the driver waiting or be late to the train station.  It’s always sad walking away and knowing that we’ve got time apart again.  But this time is a lot shorter.  By Friday evening, I’ll be back in Hereford, back in Gardner again with Kieran.  He only has two weeks left in Hereford as his job placement is up at the end of the first week in October.  As I’m on holiday from the OU and it’ll be a lot more difficult for us to visit each other when Kieran goes home and I’m studying again, I thought it would make sense for us to see each other just as much as we possibly can and Kieran agreed.  Anyway, it was the best way to spend my holiday from studying.  So tomorrow I’m travelling up to Hereford again on exactly the same service I was on last week.  I’m hoping that the assistance will be a lot better this time.

 

My train journey home wasn’t as simple as before, either.  The assistance at Hereford was phenomenal as always and I was sitting on my train at three o’clock because the service was available early due to a delayed train elsewhere.  The trip to Oxford was simple and without issue.  As I exited the train, someone asked if I needed any help and I declined this time as I was already stepping onto the platform.  A few moments later, an assistance man was with me.  He sat me down on a bench and said he’d be back to help me on to my connection when it arrived.  I had just under fifty minutes to wait for my connection so tried to settle on the bench and not worry.  But I’d been apprehensive that assistance wouldn’t return to help me onto my connection due to the massive gap between the two trains.  As the time drew closer and closer to the train’s arrival, I got more and more worried.  As the train pulled in along the platform, I knew I wasn’t going to board it.  The only people around were children chattering and boarding the train together.  They’d already gone by the time I realised I needed help, anyway.  For a moment, I considered walking towards the train by myself in hope that someone would come to my aid right at the last moment.  But I wasn’t sure that would be wise or safe.  So I sat tight and did the first thing I thought of: I sent Kieran a text telling him that I was certain I missed my train.  Moments later, he rang me back.  As always, Kieran had ideas of what to do.  He sent me the London Midlands train company number to ring.  He said that if I spoke to someone there, they’d be able to ring Oxford station and speak to someone who could help me.  So I rang them; ten minutes later, there was still no answer.  I text Kieran and told him this problem.  He sent me Great Western’s number and told me to try them.  I did.  Again, no answer.  As I started to slowly panic, I phoned Kieran again.  He said he’d ring National Rail for me to complain.  Meanwhile, I rang Mum to explain the situation.  Both she and Dad had sent me messages asking if I’d got the train and I needed to let them know what was going on.  Mum advised that I tried to catch the attention of a passerby and ask for help.  Once off the phone, I realised there was a lady sat a little way along the bench from me.  So I leant across and politely asked if she could see any staff around.  She said that there was someone on the barrier and would I like her to take me to it? Quickly, I accepted her amazing offer and followed her to the barrier.  She only turned away when she knew I was in safe hands with the man there.  He took me to a desk where I waited.  It was then decided that I’d catch the quarter past seven train, which was an hour later than I should have been aboard.  Mum and Dad were livid.  Kieran was fuming.  Everyone else either of them told was disgusted and sent their comments and advice.  The assistance guy who had meant to help me onto my missed train came to apologise.  In that minute I managed to have amazing self control because I didn’t swear at him or sound particularly angry or bitter.  I just put on my best disappointed tone.  He was evidently guilty but I was too tired and stressed out to really care.  Once I was on the train, sitting in first-class and being offered any food I wanted, I came to conclude that mistakes do happen and the guy himself couldn’t be blamed solely for forgetting.  There were other members of staff around the station so they could have helped.  But that didn’t mean I wasn’t angry with the guy and the situation.  It’s only thanks to the nice woman on the platform that I managed to get to the ticket barrier and finally board the later train.

 

Once I was on the train, I was able to relax slightly.  I kept in touch with Mum, Dad and Kieran, letting them know what was going on and letting them soothe my aching brain.  But just to add to my horrendous evening, the train got delayed by twenty minutes.  I finally got into Southampton Central at just gone nine o’clock.  Assistance and Dad met me immediately on the platform and I couldn’t have been happier to be there.  It was so nice to be off the train and in familiar territory with people I could trust to get me from one place to another.  As much as I love travelling around the country, mostly to see Kieran but sometimes my sister too, having an experience like that really wasn’t pleasant and I was glad it was over.  Not that my next journey has changed because of it.  Tomorrow morning, I will board the 9.46, spend a last weekend in Hereford and travel home through Oxford on Monday.  I can only pray that the Oxford change is a little smoother this time.  To be fair, as the station manager and train companies were informed about the situation earlier this week, I’m guessing that they will make a serious effort to do a good job this time.  I doubt if they’d want another disaster the second week running.  However bad the assistance may be, though, I won’t stop travelling places by train or any other means of transport.  I need Kieran and Godwin firmly in my life because they’re two of the biggest parts.  Of course, Josh is, too, but fortunately he’s a lot more local and train travel is not necessary.  But there’s no way I wouldn’t stop travelling to see either Kieran or Godwin just because the travelling part is a nightmare.  I wouldn’t stop doing that for anything in this world.

Sisters in September

In July, when the gang was reunited once again, I didn’t expect to be travelling back up to York quite so soon.  However, during a text conversation one evening, Imi and I drew up the idea of me going to stay for a weekend sometime in September, whilst I was on holiday from the Open Uni.  Originally, she wanted me to stay the first weekend of September but as my exam deadline was the following Thursday, I persuaded her to let me stay the following weekend.  I thought it would be a great way to celebrate finishing my first year of OU study, travelling up to see my sister and her new family the day after my exam deadline.  I was certainly right about that.

 

On Friday 9 September, I boarded the 9.46 direct service to York, getting comfy for the 5 hour journey with a book on my Victor Reader Stream.  When I’d been booking tickets for the trip, I’d been thrilled to discover that the direct service ran at 9.46, arriving in York at 14.39, because it meant that Imi’s foster mum could collect me from the station and then we could go to meet Imi at her college.  It meant she had to miss her last lecture of the day, but she didn’t seem overly bothered about that — or if she was, she didn’t mention it to me.  I’d expected the train journey to drag and be boring, but I managed to get deeply absorbed in my book so it didn’t crawl as slowly as I’d predicted.  When the train pulled into York, though, I found myself yawning quite a bit.  It was crazy to think that I’d spent a large portion of the day on board a train, travelling quite a large chunk of the length of the country but that I’d finally arrived.  We’d arranged that I’d wait on the platform for M to meet me because it was the easiest way for us to find each other.  Unfortunately, the assistance man had other ideas.  He insisted that I be left somewhere that I could sit down and wait instead of standing harmlessly on the crowded platform.  I protested, trying to stress the importance of me waiting on the platform as agreed seeing as I didn’t have any way to contact M, other than through Imi who was currently in class.  My persuasion was pointless; I was moved off the platform and to a seating area somewhere in the station.  I sent Imi a quick text, hoping she’d be able to send it on to M who could then find me.  But M found me anyway and we were finally headed out of the station.  M had been told that she would get free parking for an hour because she had the blue disabled badge in Imi’s disability car and I was there.  When we got to the ticket machine, however, the ticket didn’t just give us a free pass.  I paid the ridiculously high parking fee and M promised she’d be ringing the station straight away to complain and demand the money back.

 

Imi was waiting for us when we parked up and she came round to give me a hug.  We drove back to theirs, chatting mostly about Imi’s discovery that one of the exam boards had lost a great chunk of her exam and that was why she’d been given such a low grade.  Apparently, her teacher was on the case and hoping to get her a more respectable mark for the paper and some kind of compensation for the board’s screw-up.

 

Once back at the house, we were able to sit in the living room in peace for a bit, having a cup of tea and catching up.  It seems that we’ve always got tons to tell each other, probably owing to the massive gaps of time between each meeting.  Around five o’clock, M bought dinner into us, quawn bolognese with penne pasta.  The last time I ate quawn bolognese was with Imi in our year together at college when she made it for us to share.  Until meeting her, I’d never tried quawn before and since the very first time she cooked it for us, I’ve loved it.  So having it again on Friday night was a real treat.  Nobody else really likes it at home so I don’t bother to ask for it when Mum does the shopping.  It was so much nicer with penne pasta than spaghetti like mince bolognese, partly because I like penne pasta better and also because it meant there was less of a chance I’d make a mess on M’s nice leather sofa with pasta.  Although, I think it would have been hard for me to have made a mess considering the massive trays we were given to eat from.  At first, I thought they were actual cake tins — very big cake tins — until Imi corrected me and said that they were really food trays.

 

After dinner, M went to collect J from his nursery and when they were back, it was his dinner time.  We played hot the cold with every spoonful he ate, pretending to blow on it if he decided it was hot or gobbling it down if it was just right.  It kept him entertained and he seemed to enjoy his food.  After that, Imi and I headed upstairs to sit in her room.  She showed me her crisis box that she made when she was in the unit in Southampton.  I’d heard lots about this box from our visits, her letters and the brief phone calls we were allowed but it was strange to actually see it, to see the things that make her feel a little bit better at the worst times.  It was odd, too, because I felt like there was a story with each item and it made perfect sense why each item would be calming or at least distracting.  Some of the textures and noises they made were great.  It was nice, too, to see that a couple of things I’d bought her had ended up in the crisis box, helping in her time of need.

 

We decided to watch an episode of Friday Night Dinner after that and Imi hadn’t seen one of the most recent ones from the latest series so we settled for that one.  It was, as always, hilarious and both of us laughed a lot.  Once that was done, Imi gave me several options for what to watch next and we decided on My Mad Fat Diary because she said it was good and I’d never seen it before.  It was good.

 

On Saturday morning, we decided we’d go for another walk so that Noodle could have a free run.  Plus, our long walk last time I visited had been one of the nicest parts of the trip.  We left the house around midday, with the promise of tuna mayo sandwiches to come back to, and didn’t come back until around 2.30.  It was a nice warm-ish afternoon outside and the perfect opportunity to just keep walking.  So that’s exactly what we did, talking about anything and everything we could think of.  Meanwhile, Noodle ran around crazily, swimming in the water when possible and rolling in everything she saw.  By the time we got back to the house, both Noodle and my once clean Converse needed serious cleaning.  Noodle was pretty simple; Imi hosed her down and she was pretty clean afterwards.  On the other hand, we decided to leave my trainers outside and agreed that I’d package them up in a plastic bag tomorrow morning and take them home wrapped in that.  I thought that maybe they might need to go in the washing machine, they were that caked in dirt and God only knows what else.

 

Our tuna mayo sandwiches, pints of water and cookies were a massive relief and reward after our walk.  Relaxing on the comfy leather sofa was good, too.  I don’t think I’d walked that far in quite some time.  My Fitbit said we’d walked 5,15 miles, earning us over 14 thousand steps and extra badges on our profiles.  Our afternoon entertainment was Come Fly With Me on Netflix, which I shyly admit now I’d never seen until then.  All three of the others are often talking about it to each other but until that afternoon I’d never understood the references or jokes about it.  Whilst it was on, we both napped a bit.  I was woken properly when Noodle barked at M who was teasing her from outside the window.

 

That evening, we had pizza and chips for tea.  M did a pepperoni pizza and a pesto one just like last time I visited.  Before then, I’d never had pesto pizza and had loved it when I tried it so was really pleased we were having it again.  It made a great Saturday night dinner and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  We watched some of the paralympics while we ate, the women’s wheelchair basketball and some judo.  Imi discovered that the Great Britain judo team were all visually impaired, which made us root for them even more.  A little later on, it was Itselfactor time.  I hadn’t watched any of the current series so far but we’d agreed when we’d arranged this weekend that we’d watch it together just like old times at college.  We watched it in the living room with M because she’d put J to bed and wanted to see it too.  It was only on for an hour, though, which was a little disappointing.  Afterwards, Imi and I decided to go on upstairs and get ready for bed.  She put on the next episode of My Mad Fat Diary and we started from there.  Somewhere in amongst all the episodes, we both drifted off to sleep.  Each time I woke up in the night, I realised that the Ipad was still playing.  It was odd, too, because when I woke up for the last time in the morning, it was playing the last few episodes and I didn’t need to have seen all the episodes in between to understand what had happened between the last one I’d been conscious for and the current one playing.  I’ve decided that one day when I don’t have any uni worries, books to read or other things to watch on TV, I’ll watch it in order properly and catch up with all the episodes I missed while I slept.

 

While we ate breakfast of tea and toast, we listened to Lucy Spraggan’s Join The Club album, which always reminds me of Imi as she was the person to introduce me to it.

 

By the time we were dressed and I’d packed my stuff up, it was time to get going for skiing.  Imi goes skiing most weekends and had invited me to join her, reassuring me that I wouldn’t die on the slope.  I’ve been dry ski slope skiing a few times before but this was very different to what I’d experienced.  It’s an electronic ski slope that moves under you.  All the ski slopes I’d been on before were stationery and you had to do all the work.  With this ski slope, there was a lot of sideways action.  The ski instructor started right at the beginning with me while Imi did her own thing, quite experienced after being here loads of times before.  There was a pole to hold on to and ropes at either side of the slope to give you a guide to where you were when you’re moving about.  I was shown how to move and as I moved sideways, I also got further away from the pole until I couldn’t reach it.  That was slightly terrifying to begin with as I had no clue what I was doing.  I fell over a few times and the familiar feel of the ski slope made me smile to remember activity weekends with secondary school where we went on the dry ski slopes and the instructor said it was like millions of toothbrush bristles.  It really does feel like that.  This ski slope was wet, though, and I came away feeling slightly damp.  Having the ropes as a guide to where you were on the slope was great, though, because it meant nobody had to tell you when to start going in the other direction.  I’m not sure I’d ever be able to do what Imi was doing, miles away from the pole, but I loved what I was able to do.  While we skied, M took photos.  J and Noodle both watched us worriedly, on high alert when either of us fell over.  J asking if we were ok each time we ended up on the slope was really cute.

 

Sadly, ski couldn’t last for ever.  Once we had our own shoes back on and Imi had her phone back, it was time to go to the train station.  J was very excited about seeing the choo choos and M couldn’t drive there fast enough for him.  We chatted not the way about the bikes, busses and cars he spotted and in between all of these he repeatedly asked for the choo choos, with my reassurance that we’d see them soon.  He was positively delighted when we reached the station and loved seeing the trains.  First, we sat in the waiting room and ate our lunch of burger king.  I needed something before the train journey because it would be at least 8 o’clock before I ate again.  The assistance at the station wasn’t that reassuring.  He didn’t seem to know what I meant by asking him to ring ahead to Birmingham so we all kept reiterating the importance of this.  He disappeared just before the train was due in and we were all preparing for him not to come back and Imi to help me on to the train when he arrived and whisked me away on to the train.  I hardly had a chance to say goodbye to Imi, M, J and Noodle as he hurried away from them.  I managed to give Imi a quick hug and tell her I loved her before I was on board and away from them.

 

This time, the train journey dragged just as much as I’d expected it to.  I wasn’t able to absorb myself so easily in my book and the change at Birmingham meant my comfort was disturbed.  At Birmingham, I did everything I normally do: exited the train onto the platform and walked forward towards the entrance to the station so I wouldn’t be in the way, waiting for assistance to collect me.  But five minutes later when the platform was clear and the train long gone, assistance still hadn’t come.  Worried, I rang Kieran for help, knowing that he’d experienced a no show from assistance before and would know what to do.  Plus, I thought he’d be able to calm down my rapidly frying brain.  While on the phone, I heard someone with a radio pass me by and shouted out to them.  Thankfully, they stopped and said they’d call someone to come and help me.  A good ten minutes later, an assistance man showed up, claiming he’d been looking for me all along.  Now I’m calling nobody a liar but I was wearing the brightest pink jacket there is so I wasn’t sure how he’d have been able to miss me, especially as I’d been standing in broad daylight on the platform a while after the crowd had cleared.  But whatever, it didn’t master! Help had come and I wasn’t going to miss my connection to Southampton.  There was no need to worry anymore and the relief was profound.  I hadn’t realised I was panicking about the situation until I relaxed with a relieved sigh into my seat on the train as it pulled away from the station.

 

Godwin, thank you for the most wonderful weekend.  I loved the super long walk, we definitely need to do more of them.  The food was amazing, especially the bolognese.  I loved spending time with your new family, especially cute J.  But of course, most of all, I loved seeing you, having time for just us as sisters.  It seems like such a long time since we’ve had time like that and really, I guess it is.  The last time we were just us alone was probably back at college, most likely long before the end of the summer term.  There’s always been other people there since.  It was great seeing you in your new home again, despite the kinks that need ironing out.  I still stand by what I said last time I visited: you’ve bagged a great new family there.  I think you’ve just all got to get used to each other.  You’ve all crashed into each other’s lives with such force and finality, maybe you just need to take a breath and go back to the beginning again.  I’m almost certain it’ll all work out, though, because they’re great people and they obviously love having you there.  That’s plain to see, even if everything is a little cloudy.  You seem happy there — and Noodle, too — and that’s a happiness I haven’t seen from you in a long time.  I don’t want you to lose that.  But you know what’s best for you.  I hope that I can come and see you again soon so that we can have lots more fun.  Love you lots, sis, don’t ever forget that.  Who’d have thought, three years ago, that we’d be here now? I certainly didn’t.  Who’d have thought that the girl whose father suggested they should buy us girls desk lamps would become my sister? Not me.  But you have.  Nothing anyone says or does will ever change that, either, so just you hang on to that.  I’m only a text away, a train ride down the country.  With enough warning and planning, I know now I can be up to see you whenever you want, as long as the trains and pennies allow.  And don’t worry, I think I’ll be taking advantage of that direct train again.