Tag Archives: happiness

“Thank you Jesus, for bringing Russell”

After what has felt like the longest four months, last Monday 27th May, Mum and I headed off to Southampton airport to wait for a plane to arrive from Newcastle, bringing Kieran down to stay. Since we last saw each other in January to celebrate his 22nd birthday and our 3rd anniversary of being together, things have been busy, so busy that I haven’t found time to arrange to visit him again. Obviously, as Kieran’s working hard being an IT apprentice and I’m still unemployed, it’s down to me more to make the effort to go up and stay with him so he doesn’t have to take time off work so often. And of course, I’m fine with that. More than anything, I’m able to take my uni work with me wherever I go so Lesley and John’s sofa is just a good study place as my desk in my room. But these last few months have been super hectic uni-wise as I’ve been working towards, and now completed, my final pieces of work not only for Level 3 but for my entire degree. I’m planning to write more about finishing uni when results come in, but safe to say it’s been an odd experience this last fortnight not having to sit down and dedicate every day to studying and working on assignments as I have the last almost 4 years. I can’t believe it’s all over and have found freedom strange so far. Thankfully, Kieran came to stay for a week and made it a lot more enjoyable. I mean, don’t get me wrong I’m enjoying spending my days cuddling my little guinea pigs and reading as many books as I can manage, which started with rereading the Harry Potter series of course, but having had something to keep me occupied almost solidly for the last 4 years means I’m a little at a loss for what to do with so much free time. So, having Kieran down was definitely a great way to use some of that time. By the time Kieran came through arrivals to us and we got home, it was already late enough to go up to bed so once he’d said hello to Dad and Tamsin, we headed up.

Surprisingly, on Tuesday we were up earlier than we usually are when we stay together and have nothing to do. Strangely, it wasn’t even because my parents had woken us up by putting Wave 105 radio on as soon as they got up for their usual getting ready for work and school routine. Once we were up, showered and dressed, we had our usual Weetabix and cups of tea breakfast. Then, when Dad and Tamsin came back, we all headed out to get some lunch. As Dad and Tamsin had already eaten, Dad took us to Gregg’s in Thornhill so we could get something to take with us up to Nan and Grandad’s; Dad had thought it’d be nice for us to pop up and see them as we had nothing planned and they’d like to see Kieran. In Gregg’s, I chose a sausage roll, bottle of doctor pepper and a caramel custard doughnut and Kieran picked a steak bake and a bottle of Diet Coke but didn’t want a cake or anything. Nan and grandad did seem pleased to see us, although the bungalow was already rather crowded as it was hairdressing day so auntie Clare was there doing everyone’s hair and auntie Jackie was round. As the kitchen was full, Kieran and I sat in the lounge and ate our yummy lunch, declining packets of crisps when Nan offered. A little later on, we left and once home watched episodes of The Chase I had recorded on my sky box. I also deleted all the unneeded episodes of Lorraine and judge Rinder that I’d recorded to use as background noise while I studied. We also stopped the series links for them and I was shocked my box had 90%+ free on its hard drive; I don’t think its been that free since I first got it!

When she got home from work later on, Mum cooked Kieran and I chicken garlic Kiev and homemade chips with spaghetti hoops for tea and we had mint choc chip ice cream for pudding. Upstairs, Kieran and I watched some comedy DVDs, Sean Lock’s Keep It Light, which Kieran hadn’t seen before, and Sarah Millican’s Control Enthusiast. At midnight, Kieran revealed to me that he and Josh had booked tickets for the three of us to see Russell Howard live in September at the BIC in Bournemouth and Kieran had paid for my ticket as a birthday present. Russell has been on my comedy hit list for a long time so I am very much looking forward to seeing him with the lads in September.

Wednesday meant it was my 22nd birthday, the main reason Kieran had visited, and so we were woken by the traditional ritual on anyone’s birthday, Dad going downstairs and turning on the CD player so that Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday blares loudly. We headed downstairs, where Mum had stuck up banners and sprinkled confetti on the breakfast bar, and while everyone ate their breakfasts I sat on the floor and opened the cards that had come through in the post, then Tamsin’s gifts and the big bag of gifts from my parents, which included the new 2019-20 Liverpool FC home shirt, a Pandora bead for my necklace to represent Peanut the guinea pig, The Body Shop and Lush bits, Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter T-shirts, a Harry Potter room of requirement sign for my bedroom and a pineapple-shaped soap dish for my lush shampoo bars. Afterwards, as we were all getting ready, Dad suggested that Kieran and I come with them when they took Mum to work so we could go for a mcdonalds breakfast. We agreed but I was disappointed Mum had to work and couldn’t come with us. In the car, I opened the birthday cards from Kieran’s family that he’d brought with him and found I’d been very spoilt again, with vouchers and money to spend. As we were driving my phone rang and it was my brother Grant and his girlfriend Lacey with my nieces and nephew calling to wish me a happy birthday. I’d already received a card written by my nephew with auntie on the front that morning that had made me a bit teary and hearing from them all too was really lovely. Once we’d dropped Mum at work, we headed into town and into West Quay for breakfast. Kieran had a cheesy bacon flatbread meal which came with a hash brown and drink, and he had black coffee I had a sausage McMuffin meal, which also came with a hash brown and drink, and I had a little bottle of milk. Later, once we were home, Kieran had a look at my laptop and Victor Reader Trek and sorted out my Audible so that I could listen to my books on my Trek. While he did that, a postman arrived, bringing lovely Moonpig flowers from Kieran. A little later and another postman delivered a big box of bath and shower luxuries from Imi.

In the evening when Mum got home from work, everyone started to get ready so we could go out for my birthday meal. Just before we left, I received a text from my good pal Josh saying he’d locked himself out of his flat and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to join us. But when we arrived, he was waiting outside the restaurant even though he hadn’t solved the problem. Nan, Grandad, Auntie Clare and Adam also joined us. I’d chosen Bella Italia in the town centre to go to as suggested by Nan the previous week. I remembered it had a lovely ravioli on the menu and was in a convenient place in town for everyone to get to without too much hassle. Kieran chose meatballs for his starter and a spicy meat pasta dish for his main. I had a slice of Adam’s garlic pizza bread and a couple of Mum’s dough balls as I hadn’t wanted a whole starter to myself and a meat pasta dish for my main. Sadly, we’d discovered that they no longer served either of the two ravioli dishes they used to have on the menu and hadn’t put any new ravioli dishes on. As I’d been looking forward to having ravioli and partially chosen the restaurant for the ravioli, I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed my main, although it was far too big a portion and I left quite a lot of it. After we’d all finished eating, the table erupted into Happy Birthday singing and a white chocolate birthday cake chosen by Dad and Tamsin was brought out. Everyone except Dad, who thought the cake would have too much sugar in it for his blood levels, had a slice of the cake and it was delicious. Unfortunately, Josh had to leave just as the cake was being cut so he could catch a train to take him to Wareham to meet his dad so he had somewhere to spend the night; but Mum wrapped him a slice of the cake up in a napkin to take with him. He’d bought me some lovely birthday gifts — a sign with pictures of guinea pigs on and Peanut, Smudge and Hazel printed on it to hang on their cage; a lovely charm key ring with charms from the Harry Potter films on it; and a Pandora bead of a cat to represent Coco on my necklace. As he’d had such a disastrous night himself, I was very grateful to him for still making the effort to join us for the meal. I’d also been given a Body Shop voucher and box of Milk Tray from Auntie Clare, Uncle Dave and Adam and a Dove wash set from Nan and Grandad who’s card I’d opened earlier containing £20. All in all, it’d been a pretty great birthday and it reminded me, as all my birthdays do, how lucky I am to have such amazing family and friends around me. Not only the cards and gifts but the kindness, effort and love that went into the whole day makes me so grateful to have the friends and family I do.

On Thursday, everyone was out at work so Kieran and I were able to have a little bit of a lie in before getting up and having our Weetabix and cups of tea breakfast. While I sorted the guinea pigs cage out, Kieran sat in the computer chair in their little room and kept me company. I even managed to catch all three girls one at a time and bring them out of their cage for Kieran to stroke. Upstairs, we watched the remaining episodes of The Chase on my sky box. Halfway through, we ate the sandwiches Mum had made for our lunch. When she got home from work, Mum cooked us chicken pie, mash potato and baby carrots with gravy for our tea. Later on, we watched Gogglebox recorded from the week before and some Two Doors Down and Family Guy that was on TV.

Friday morning was similar to Thursday, with us getting up and having our Weetabix breakfast and me sorting the guinea pigs cage. Then, we got ready and headed up the road to the bus-stop, so we could catch the bus to meet Josh in town. When we arrived at West Quay, I realised we’d caught the bus far too early so Kieran text Josh to let him know we were already in town, just in case he was early too as he’s known for getting to places sooner than scheduled. As expected, Josh turned up two minutes later… we went up to Pizza Hut in West Quay because both the boys had food vouchers that had been bought for them as gifts to use up. Josh chose to go for the buffet but Kieran and I decided to use one of the offers currently on that allowed us to get a sharing pizza, two sides, two desserts and two drinks for a set price. For our pizza, Kieran and I did half and half with stuffed crust,with half tuna and sweet corn and half Texas Meat Meltdown. For our sides we chose cheesy garlic bread and fries. I surprised myself by being able to eat my whole half of the pizza. Usually when I eat at Pizza Hut I only manage a couple of slices before admitting defeat. While Josh had his second helpings from the buffet, Kieran and I ordered our desserts, me having my usual white chocolate and caramel cookie dough and Kieran trying the new cinnamon bites.

Feeling rather full, we decided to catch the bus back to mine and spent the rest of the afternoon and majority of the evening listening to music, catching up and having a lovely time. Josh didn’t leave until nearly 9:30, long after Dad had headed down the club and we’d started our child minding duties of Tamsin, who was just getting ready to go to bed as Josh left. Once he’d gone, Kieran and I watched Gogglebox and The Last Leg.

On Saturday morning, we got up and had breakfast and then, while Kieran set my Apple TV up in the living room ready for the football later on and watched some telly, I did a full clean out of the guinea pigs cage, which I have to do once weekly. As I cleaned, Mum came home with Tamsin, bringing KFC for our lunch with them. It had been Kieran’s suggestion after Mum had hinted at bringing Gregg’s back for lunch as he wanted to try the new “I love you bacon burger” meal and if we had KFC it meant everyone had eaten a decent or at least filling lunch. Our KFC branch had Kieran’s desired meal and I had a BBQ wrap with a popcorn snack box and iced tea. As I finished doing the cage clean, Kieran watched more telly, with Friends, The Simpsons and horse racing featuring. Mum found it rather comical listening to him shouting at the horses race but having heard it myself many times before I hardly even noticed.

At 6 o’clock, we put the Apple TV on and went onto YouTube and the BT Sport live stream so that we could watch the build-up to the Champions League final from the start. As the final was between Tottenham and Liverpool and would mean the 6th Champions League final Liverpool had won if they won, I wanted very much to watch. Not being able to remember the infamous night of Istanbul 2005 well myself, or any other big finals since then, I was hoping this final could be a personal success in my history as a Liverpool fan. Just before the football arrived, Kieran and I ordered takeaway for our tea for ourselves. Mum had already cooked Dad tea before she’d gone to work and although we tried to persuade her she insisted she didn’t want us to buy her anything to have later on when she got in, saying she might grab herself a kebab or something on her way home. Unfortunately, as it was probably a busy Saturday night for the company, our food arrived a little after the football had started, by which time Liverpool had scored their first goal. Kieran had a mixed kebab and chips, I had donner meat and chips, we shared mozzarella sticks and had a can of doctor pepper each. I was pleased that for once we hadn’t gone overboard with the food like we often do. We both enjoyed the food very much and it made for a nice atmosphere while we watched the football. In the end, Liverpool won 2-0 and lifted the champions league trophy for the 6th time. Sadly, the game was quite flat and not the magic that many Liverpool fans brag about from Istanbul. However, it was still a good game and a great night for my club, and a great night for me to be able to watch the match and have a winning final in my memory. Listening to the players, fans and manager talk afterwards just reminded me that however underwhelming the game had been onscreen, the achievement for the club was still great, even more so with the incredible season we’ve had and the unfortunate disappointment of losing the Premier League right at the last hurdle. As Dad and Kieran wanted to watch the boxing, which had started at 10pm before the football had finished, they switched the channel over and I headed upstairs so I could continue listening to the reactions to the game on the radio. In the end, Kieran stayed up watching the boxing with Dad and then both parents when Mum arrived home until 2am, by which time I’d long since fallen asleep.

As everyone stayed up late for the boxing, nobody rose early on Sunday morning and I think everyone felt a little groggy. It turned out that Dad stayed up the latest, watching the whole boxing show until it finished at 4am. Once everyone was ready, we piled into the car and headed to The Dancing Goose in Netley to meet Nan, Grandad, Nan Olive, Auntie Clare and Adam for Sunday lunch. As Nan and Grandad were flying out to canada the following day to visit our relatives over there, meaning grandad will be away for his 80th birthday and Father’s Day, the family wanted to get all together to see each other one more time before they flew out. Everyone except Kieran, who wasn’t feeling too well, had carvery; Kieran had sausage, mash and peas. We all thoroughly enjoyed our meals, although I was a little disappointed that they’d changed their roast potatoes since we’d last been because they used to be really lovely. They’re still nice enough but they used to have a really tasty coating on them. No one fancied a pudding so we just paid the bill and headed out, saying longer than usual goodbyes in the car park before all going our separate ways. Once we’d arrived home, I had to sort the guinea pigs’ veg and clean up their cage like I do every day. Meanwhile, Kieran put the Apple TV back in place up in my room. While watching Judge Judy, we ate a slice of my white chocolate birthday cake each. After Judge Judy, we watched back to back episodes of Come Dine With Me, Have I Got News For You and Ultimate Worrier.

Somehow, when we woke up the following day Kieran had already been staying for a week and inevitably that meant his flight home had come. Somehow, our time together always seems to fly by too fast, regardless of how little or long the stay is. We had a little lie in on Monday but were soon up, showered and dressed, sitting downstairs debating whether to have our Weetabix breakfast and order the Dominoes treat lunch we’d agreed on a little later on or straight away. Kieran decided he didn’t fancy Weetabix so we got some biscuits out and once we’d had a couple and started drinking our tea, we decided to order the food straight away. In the end, we didn’t stick to our previous agreement of just having bits and pieces because I fancied a pizza; so we got a half and half medium pizza, one half ham and pineapple and one half meat fielder. As usual, Kieran added extra tomato sauce and extra mozzarella cheese and I opted for stuffed crust. To that we added 7 chicken strippers, potato wedges and cookies. As our Dominoes is literally around the road, the food was delivered really quickly. While we ate, Kieran put Russell Howard’s Netflix special Recalibrate on for us to listen to. We’d meant to watch it the previous night but not gotten around to it. The food was lovely and Russell as always was hilarious. It was a nice way to spend our last lunchtime of this meet-up together.

Unfortunately, not long after we’d finished eating, the headache that had been minor earlier in the morning became really painful to the point where I took Ibuprofen really hoping that the pain would have dulled long before Kieran left so we could enjoy the last few hours we had together before his flight. Although we did of course enjoy our time together, listening to Magic Chilled and Kisstory on my Amazon Echo, I wasn’t so lucky with the headache. It didn’t start to lessen until we were getting ready to leave the house to go to the airport, by which time Tamsin had walked home from school to us and Auntie Clare had come to take us as Mum wasn’t able to take the time off work. Despite it being rush hour traffic time, we got to the airport no problem and Kieran was quickly checked in and directed to sit in the waiting area until someone from assistance could help. They came all too quickly, of course, and it was time for goodbyes. Although Kieran is already scheduled to come down in September for the two comedy gigs we now have lined up and I’m hoping to take a trip up north sometime in between now and then, it didn’t make the goodbye moment any easier. Nothing ever does. But the long distance aspect of this relationship was part of the deal when we decided to try in January 2016; you’d think by now we’d have it mastered and be pros at it. But it doesn’t matter how many times we say goodbye, it doesn’t make a difference. I still live in southampton and Kieran still lives nearly 300 miles away in Newcastle. However, the distance is never too difficult and always worth the sadness it comes with. We had a really lovely time this last week and I’m really looking forward to September and the comedy shows, and any other meet-ups we manage in between or after.

Thank you, Kieran, for taking the time off work and flying down to stay. Thank you for making sure you were here to celebrate my birthday with me; it wouldn’t have been the same without you. Thank you for the Russell ticket, the flowers, for fixing my tech stuff without complaint, for the food, the fun and the happiness. Ive loved having you down to stay, as always, and only wish it could have been for longer or not gone so quickly. I love you so very much and am already looking forward to whenever we manage to see each other again. Love you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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“There’s hell on… Can’t tell you though”

On Monday 7 January, Mum finished work early and came home to pick me up and take me to the airport. It was time for another flight up north to spend some time in Blyth with Kieran and family. To begin with, although she’d left work in plenty of time, Mum was worried we weren’t going to make it on time as traffic was very heavy. But in the end, we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I was quickly checked in and across at the special assistance desk where a lady was soon with us and taking me through security. I had to be boarded onto the plane via the mini bus with the rest of the passengers for my flight as the plane was quite far away from the terminal. It was pretty awkward because I was already sat on the bus ages before any other passengers came on and when we were ready to board the plane, a member of staff had to move other passengers out of the way to get to me and board me first. As it had taken them quite some time to board everyone onto the plane from the bus, we were late taking off so consequently late landing in newcastle. John and Kieran were waiting in arrivals for me and had BBC radio 5live on in the car with the Wolverhampton vs Liverpool FA cup match commentary playing. Liverpool were already losing at this point and when we got to the house, the match was showing on TV. I always enjoy watching Liverpool on TV whenever I get the chance as we don’t pay for the sports channels at home so them showing on BBC 1 was a rare treat. It was a shame that we lost 2-1 though. While we watched, we ate dinner of jacket potato with chicken Kiev. After the match finished, we watched the cup draw before going up to bed.

The next day brought the main reason for my visit to see Kieran, his 22nd birthday, which he’d taken the day off for. We had a long lie in and after we’d got up and showered, I gave him his birthday presents from me and my parents. Then, he made us fish finger sandwiches and chips for lunch. During the rest of the afternoon, we watched very old episodes of Come Dine With Me on TV before Kieran’s grandparents arrived to wish him a happy birthday. John arrived home while they were still there and after they’d left he put Jeremy Kyle on. When Lesley arrived home, we all got ready and headed out to celebrate Kieran’s birthday joined by Rebecca and Darren at Porkies, a new steakhouse Kieran had wanted to try. I had a honey butter chicken burger with chips and Kieran had ribs and brisket with chips; everyone seemed to enjoy their food. When we got in, we watched the latest episode of Two Doors Down, a Scottish comedy program on BBC 2 that I’d watched some of the previous series of with them when I’d stayed before.

The following day brought one of the other reasons for my visit, mine and Kieran’s 3rd anniversary of being together. Where the last 3 years have gone, I don’t know, but they’ve been a great 3 years containing so much happiness for us both and I’m looking forward to all the other years we’re going to spend together. Kieran worked from home that day so we had a bit of a lie in. I did some uni work during the morning and at lunchtime, Lesley, who was also working from home, made us cheese on toast for lunch. In the evening, Rebecca popped round with her now huge German shepherd puppy Wilson. After she’d gone, Lesley offered to take Kieran and I out for something to eat so we could celebrate our anniversary, but eventually we decided not to bother. Instead, Lesley cooked us fish cakes and chips for tea and we watched episodes of The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory and Two Doors Down. When Kieran and I went up to bed, we watched some Friday Night Dinner before going to sleep.

Thursday was the first day I spent by myself in the house while everyone went out to work. I watched Hells Kitchen and did uni work in the morning. I had a Cornbeef sandwich for lunch and then watched East Enders and read a book on RNIB Overdrive. That evening, we watched more Two Doors Down and had gammon steak, new potatoes and peas for dinner.

On Friday, Kieran had his apprenticeship tutorial so didnt have to leave home as early as usual so we had a short lie in. It was also Lesley’s day off. I did uni work in the front room for a while until Kieran’s grandparents arrived and not long after they’d come in, Lesley arrived with Wilson. Later, Lesley made me a ham sandwich for lunch. That night, Lesley, John and Kieran had a hot curry John had made for tea so Lesley cooked me some chicken dippers and chips. We watched Two Doors Down and 8 out of 10 Cats Does Count Down.

On Saturday morning, we were up earlier than usual for a weekend morning because John and Kieran had to go for haircuts. When they got back, Lesley cooked us a fried breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, beans and toast for me and the same minus the egg and with fried bread instead of toast for Kieran. During the afternoon, we listened to the West Ham vs Arsenal match via Kieran’s echo dot connected to his big speakers in the dining room and then went upstairs and listened to the Brighton vs Liverpool match via his Google home mini connected to his other big speakers in his bedroom; the game ended with a 1-0 Liverpool win. We went back downstairs afterwards and watched Chelsea vs Newcastle with John, which ended 2-1. Then, we watched some of Wayne’s World and then watched more Two Doors Down.

On Sunday, we had a lie in before going downstairs and watching Judge Judy and some of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askiban. Rebecca, Darren and Wilson came round for a roast dinner of pork and chicken with ginger sponge and custard for pudding. We watched a Pointless Celebrity special before going upstairs so Kieran could do stuff on his laptop. When he’d finished, we watched some episodes of Mock The Week on Netflix.

Monday meant everyone was back to work and I did uni work. I also caught up on East Enders and some Holby City. I had a roast pork sandwich for lunch. In the evening, we had pork stroganoff for dinner and watched more Two Doors Down and a documentary called Prison on Channel 4, which was very interesting.

Tuesday was another study day for me, with a roast chicken sandwich for lunch. When they came home from work, Lesley took Kieran and I out and dropped us off at Sambuca’s, my favourite place to go for food in Blyth, so that we could belatedly celebrate our 3rd anniversary. It was our first date night of the year and the first for almost a year so it felt very nice to be out just the two of us and I feel very grateful to Lesley for both offering to take us out on our actual anniversary and then taking us out the following week. We had a lovely date night. I had my favourite tuna and garlic pizza and Kieran had a meat feast pizza with extra chili and a portion of chips. I had coke and Kieran a beer to drink and after we’d finished our main course, I had a warm fudge brownie with cream, ice cream and a flake for pudding and Kieran an Irish coffee. It was certainly a great way to celebrate our anniversary and we both felt very full when Lesley came to collect us. When we got in, we watched Hunted and some of the Newcastle vs Blackburn FA cup match, which Newcastle won.

On Wednesday, Kieran worked from home so he could spend some time with me. Originally, he’d planned to work from home the following day before I caught my plane home that night but as some colleagues would be out of the office on Thursday he wasn’t able to work from home as well. I spent the day reading a book on Overdrive. At lunchtime, Kieran made us sandwiches and got us packets of crisps, his pork and stuffing sandwiches with cheese and onion crisps and mine ham sandwiches with salt and vinegar crisps. When Kieran finished working for the day, we went upstairs for a cuddle and listened to music on Spotify. Later, we had sausages, mash, veg and gravy for dinner and watched Two Doors Down again.

Of course, Thursday meant my last day and while everyone was at work, I packed up all my stuff. I spent the day reading a book and doing more uni work as well as catching up on TV. When Kieran came in, we went upstairs and I made sure I’d packed everything and we had a cuddle. Then, we had dinner of fish cakes and chips with a glass of milk. We had time for another little cuddle before Lesley called and asked if we were ready to go. In the car on the way to the airport, John played some Madness songs from his iPod, which meant for once I actually recognised the music he’d chosen. However, we were soon at the airport, I was checked in and Lesley had phoned at the assistance desk as instructed to request someone come and help me. It didn’t take long for them to arrive to collect me and we were all saying goodbye again. Unlike the last few times we’ve seen each other and inevitably had to say goodbye at the end of the visit, this time I don’t know when Kieran and I’ll be seeing each other again. We don’t have another planned visit and I’m not sure when we’ll fit one in as over the next few months my uni schedule gets very hectic as my Level 3 courses reach their end and the end of my degree. Also, Kieran has now discovered that the council where he works are keeping him on as a Level 3 apprentice for the next 2 years. This is excellent news for Kieran and I’m so happy his effort and perseverance with his apprenticeship have paid off. Hopefully, it’ll lead to the career Kieran has been working towards for a very long time. At least, this is a very positive start. But I’m sure we’ll fit something in sometime soon.

As always, I had a great time staying with Kieran and family for those 10 days. Biggest thank you to John and Lesley for having me to stay and putting up with me. Special thanks to Lesley for taking Kieran and I out to celebrate our anniversary. I appreciate it more than you know. And of course thanks to Kieran, for inviting me up to stay so I could celebrate your birthday and our anniversary with you, so we could go out on a date night, so we could spend so much time together. Thank you for the most amazing last 3 years. Congratulations on being offered the next step forward in your apprenticeship and I’m so glad I get to share your journey with you. Thank you for the best times we’ve shared over the last 3 years of being together and before when you were just my best friend. You’re still the bestest friend a girl could ever have hoped for and not a day goes by when I’m not grateful to have you. I love you so much and look forward to all the times we’ll share in the future. See you soon, best person!

“Well what then?” 3 weeks, 2 engagement rings and 1 diverted flight to Birmingham

For the final time this year, a month ago Kieran boarded a plane headed for southampton, to come and stay at mine for a week. This get-together had been planned almost a year in advance with the announcement that Kevin Bridges, a comedian we both love, along with our good pal Josh, and all saw 3 years ago for the first time in Hereford, was releasing new shows for a new tour and just so happened to be playing the Mayflower southampton the following November. What an opportune event, we thought, for the three of us to get together again and have another funny night out, also giving Kieran an excuse to come down to Southampton and stay with me. Whilst he’s been working for Northumberland county council as an IT apprentice, his opportunities have obviously been limited to come down and stay here so any excuse he gets is a good one; not that I mind flying up to Newcastle each time but it’s not fair on his parents to have me at theirs all the time.

Unfortunately, our flights back and forth are usually dotted with little hiccups, like lots of turbulence, severe weather warnings and the extreme issue of the time the special assistance member of staff left Kieran’s luggage in security and this error was only realised when he asked the cabin crew on board his flight if his luggage had been stowed. We’ve never had anything quite as serious as this time, though, and I pray we don’t for any flight in the future, either. As planned, Mum and I left for the airport around 9:15pm on Wednesday 14 November to pick Kieran up. His flight was due to land at 9:50pm, but from many previous experiences Mum and I were expecting it to be in early, around 9:30, so we wanted to be there in plenty of time just in case. Oh if only we’d known…

On arrival at the airport, Mum commented, in that throwaway way people do, that it was pretty foggy. I thought nothing of it; until we got into the airport terminal and Mum saw the arrivals board… Flights were delayed. At that moment, it was only the international ones so naively I just thought everything was fine. Then, more and more flights appeared as delayed and not only delayed but diverted to either Birmingham or Exeter. Then I started to worry, but only a little. The panic thought of “Christ, what do we do if Kieran is diverted?” Popped into my mind but I didn’t think on it, presuming everything would be fine. Because why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t it, indeed! For ages, the Newcastle flight displayed no further information. Usually, it starts by saying on approach and then changes to landed. But there was nothing, just the delayed expected time of arrival. Then, the Manchester flight changed to diverted. Then, we started to panic. What would we do if Kieran was diverted? Would there be special assistance arranged for him at the other end? What if there wasn’t? Would the airline put on transport to bring the passengers here? What if they didn’t? Mum had work the following day and I was already aware that it was getting later and later. Then, Mum went to speak to a member of staff, mainly because I hassled her to go and ask what would happen as we had a disabled passenger due in on the Newcastle flight who would need assistance if they were diverted. When Mum came back, her answer was final: the Newcastle flight had been diverted to Birmingham, we were being sent home, there would be special assistance in place for Kieran and Birmingham were putting on coaches to ferry all diverted passengers back to southampton. All we could do was go home, wait for communication from Kieran and come back to the airport to collect him. I was panicking. Mum was calm. I rang Lesley, then John, then Lesley again. I wanted them to know what was going on but that we were going to stay up and wait for news of when Kieran needed picking up. Originally, we thought we might come back and just sit it out at the airport but the member of staff Mum spoke to said there would be no point, that the earliest the Birmingham coaches would be in was 2am. Lesley wasn’t quite as calm as Mum but almost. We agreed to keep each other informed of any developments we got so that everyone knew as full story as possible of what was going on.

Not long after Mum and I got home and explained what was happening to Dad, I looked on the Birmingham airport website and saw they’d updated and that there was now an estimated time arrival for the Newcastle flight. I sat with my phone waiting to hear from Kieran. I knew that once I’d heard from him, heard him tell me he was ok, I’d be able to stop panicking so much. Thankfully, he text quite quickly; lots of swear words, but it was communication. Not long after, he rang me and told me all he knew, which was even less than I did. He told me he’d keep me updated and I told him Mum and I were sitting up waiting on news. A little while later, he confirmed he was on a coach and heading south. The coach’s sat nav predicted they’d arrive around 1:30am, which was a lot quicker than Mum and I had expected. So we just sat and watched tv to keep ourselves awake, waiting on news from Kieran.

At 1:30, with me checking Find My Friends for updates every 10 minutes as I hadn’t heard back from Kieran, Mum and I headed for the airport. We were quite shocked to find that there was no staff whatsoever to be found, no one there to direct arrivals or waiting friends and family. In the end, Kieran’s coach didn’t pull into southampton airport until gone 2:30am. Mum and I were so relieved when Kieran got off the coach and we were able to take him to our car and head for home. It was after 3am by the time we climbed into bed.

Naturally, after the night we’d had, Kieran and I had a very long lie in on Thursday morning. He didn’t even stir when Mum, Dad and Tamsin started moving around getting ready for work and school and I barely registered it. Eventually, we got up for showers and breakfast 11:30. The Weetabix and cups of tea provided some much needed energy and I found myself feeling sorry for Mum, who started work that morning at 9 and wouldn’t finish until 6. We spent the next couple of hours relaxing, until about 2 when we started to get ready to catch the bus and meet Josh in town. We met Josh in town for 3 o’clock and as agreed, headed straight for the jeweller’s. it was engagement ring shopping time. After Kieran proposed 5 months ago, we’ve been looking for an opportunity to buy rings but as we’d only seen each other once between the proposal and now, the opportunity hadn’t really presented itself. But no time seemed better than this Thursday afternoon and Josh was more than happy to guide us to the shop and wait while we chose our sparkles. It didn’t take that long, actually. Coincidentally, it didn’t cost half as much as Kieran and I predicted, either, as we’d caught the shop on a good day when there was loads of offers on. Not that that mattered, obviously. In the end, Kieran chose a white gold band with a little cluster of diamonds in the centre and I chose a yellow gold band with an intertwined wavy line of diamonds across the top. We were both really impressed with the customer service given in the shop, especially the amount and variety of rings they let us feel and try on before we chose. They were also quite mindful that we wanted something tactile rather than aesthetically pleasing given that neither of us could physically see the rings. Obviously, we know they’re pretty; they wouldn’t have given us ugly rings but to us it was much more important that they felt nice rather than looked it. Once we’d purchased, the lady who’d been serving us made us put on the rings, Kieran doing mine and me doing his. It felt really special to walk out of that shop with a ring on my finger, a ring that symbolises that Kieran proposed, I said yes and one day we’ll be married.

Afterwards, we headed to Yates for some food before the comedy show. Not quite the romantic destination most couples probably go to after getting engaged, but hey, it suited us. I had scampi and chips and Kieran had a mighty stack burger. We ended up sitting in Yates for absolutely ages, long enough for Josh to have pudding and us to get the feeling we’d outstayed our welcome. When we thought we probably should go, we headed to The Mayflower and I collected our tickets. Then, we went next door and had a drink in the pub. We still had ages before the show. When we went back in, we were shown in to the accessible waiting area and once doors opened, were guided to our seats. As he was 3 years ago when we first saw him, Kevin Bridges was amazing. I don’t think I really stopped laughing the whole way through and am definitely looking forward to watching the show on DVD at some point. Afterwards, Josh made sure Kieran and I were on the right bus before heading home himself.

On Friday, Mum and Dad had taken the day of work because Tamsin had the day off school and we were due a trip to the cinema. Recently, the second instalment in J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts series, following on to the Harry Potter series, had been released and after clearly loving everything Harry Potter and very much enjoying the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I wanted to see this one in the cinema. On Wednesday, while at Nan’s for dinner, I’d had to try and contact CineWorld because there had been much confusion about whether the film was showing with audio description. I’d decided that I didn’t really want to see it unless it did have AD because I knew I’d miss crucial details without it. By Friday morning, it was still unclear whether it had AD or not but some people had replied on Twitter saying that the film had been made with an audio described track so there was no reason why it shouldn’t have it. So, we stuck to our original plan of heading to Whiteley, having breakfast and then going to the cinema to see the film. We went to the Harvester for breakfast because Dad had really enjoyed it there last week.It was a buffet-style breakfast and I didn’t really think it was very nice. Afterwards, we headed to the cinema and after having to get the staff to check whether the film was showing with audio description, as they tried to tell us they didn’t know and it was the first showing so they couldn’t check, it turned out it did have it, so everything was fine. I was a little miffed about the fact that they tried to fob us off by saying they couldn’t check yet, but soon chilled out once we were in our seats. Thankfully, the audio description worked well and I was so glad I’d been insistent about getting it because there would have been so many little but important details I’d have missed without it. Obviously, despite the fact that nobody reads these blogs, I’m not going to ruin any storylines or give the big ending away but I do recommend it as worth watching, especially if you’re a fan of anything J K Rowling has produced in the past. I wouldn’t say its anywhere near the quality of any of the Harry Potter series and I wouldn’t even say its quite as good as the first Fantastic Beasts, but I’d still say its worth a watch because it continues with the magic, even if it does scramble your brain for days afterwards. I felt bad for Kieran because he didn’t really enjoy the film at all and hadn’t been bothered about seeing it in the first place. But he didnt seem to mind that much.

Once the film was finished, we popped to Tesco and the card shop before coming home. Not long after we’d got home, it became clear why Mum had wanted the shops; she gave Kieran and I an engagement card and big tub of Quality Street chocolates as a congratulations present from her, Dad and Tamsin. Before she went to work, Mum cooked chicken and chips for our tea. It was nice. Kieran and I spent the evening watching series 2 of Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. We’d watched the first series at Kieran’s sometime last year and I’d wanted us to watch the second series together since it had been released. It was very funny.

On Saturday morning Kieran and I had a little lie in while everyone went out but got up just after 9 o’clock to shower and have our Weetabix breakfast. When Mum and Tamsin came in, we all went out to Whiteley and had Nando’s because I’d wanted to use the birthday present Kieran’s sister, Rebecca, had bought me; a £20 Nando’s gift voucher. Kieran and I had our usuals, mine a double chicken lemon and herb wrap with peri salted fries and no lettuce and his a double chicken burger with peri salted fries. While we were ordering, the cashier asked if I wanted any extras in my wrap and when I enquired what was available, I couldn’t resist pineapple and cheese, however weird that makes me to have had it with lemon and herb sauce. She told us, as we’d used his loyalty card for points, that next time Kieran ordered he had a free appetiser coupon to use. Curious, I asked what appetisers Nando’s offered and one of the options was fried halloumi sticks with a tomato dip and I really wanted to try it, presuming dit’d be like mozzarella sticks, so Mum added some to our order. As it turned out, my assumption had been totally wrong; halloumi was nothing like mozzarella sticks but still rather nice. The tomato dip it came with really complimented it well but we all agreed that the sticks were too salty, that when Nando’s fried them they really didnt need to do it with salt. Otherwise, they’d have been delicious. The rest of the meal was, though, and I discovered that pineapple and cheese really goes well in a lemon and herb wrap. Ive made my favourite Nando’s meal even better. Everyone else really enjoyed, too, and this time Kieran’s hot sauce was hot.

That evening, we babysat Tamsin because Mum was working and Dad had a friend’s surprise 50th birthday party to go to. We had a bit of drama when the toilet became blocked, overflowed onto the bathroom floor and started to leak through the ceiling onto the kitchen floor. After ringing Mum, she rushed home to make sure everything was ok, was able to unblock the toilet and we decided the water must have just got through the light fittings or something because it had stopped dripping by then and everything was back to normal 10 minutes later when Mum headed back to work. Of course, there had to be a drama when I was left in charge…

On Sunday, we had another lie in but got up not long after everyone else. I went to Tesco with Mum to buy everything we’d need for a roast dinner while Kieran started work on my old Toshiba laptop, which we were going to turn into a computer for Mum and Dad to use if ever they needed one, seeing as their proper desktop was knackered. We ate the roast dinner, pork with all the trimmings, before Mum went to work and then spent the evening watching The Chase Celebrity Special Judge Judy and the first episode in the new series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, which we both commented was very weird with just Dec and no Ant.

Monday was another lie in while everyone else got up and ready for school and work. Josh came over at 4 to drop off his overnight bag and then we headed into town on the bus and had KFC in West Quay. Then, we made our way to The Mayflower Theatre again for our second scheduled comedy show, Dara OBriain. I hadn’t felt particularly keen about this one but had wanted to go because both Josh and Kieran seemed keen on seeing him. My earlier feelings were confirmed during the show when I didn’t enjoy him anywhere near as much as I usually have all the other comedians we’ve seen. Not that he wasn’t funny, because I could appreciate the humour in his performance, but he just wasn’t my kind of comedian. The boys seemed to really enjoy the show, though, so I was glad about that. Afterwards, we went to the bus-stop and waited for our bus, which took a while as we’d just missed one. But it didnt take that long to get home so that was good.

Tuesday was a bit of a lazy day, with all of us having a lie in before dragging ourselves out of bed, showering and having breakfast. Kieran worked on Mum and Dad’s broken computer and my laptops, trying to get everything up and running for Mum and Dad. I spent the afternoon packing for our flight to Newcastle the following day and Josh left around 4:30. After he’d gone, Kieran and I watched Gogglebox and The Last Leg recorded on Sky. Once Mum and Tamsin were home, Kieran ordered Chinese for everyone. He’d said he wanted to after buying Mum flowers to thank her for staying up so late to get him from the airport and as a kind of apology because she’d had to go to work the next day and continue as normal even though she was tired. I’d said he really didn’t need to do that much because of course Mum was going to stay up and go and get him; what else could she do? It wasn’t his fault. But he wanted to thank her. The flowers had been on the kitchen side when she’d come in, a delivery from Moonpig, and she seemed pretty pleased although she kept telling Kieran it wasn’t necessary. When we ordered the food, we didn’t tell her Kieran was paying and pretended I was. We ordered a mountain of food for everyone to share: curry chips, Hong Kong style sweet ans sour chicken, special fried rice, house special chow mien, egg fried rice, mini spring rolls and a portion of mixed balls which we think included prawn, chicken and pork. The food was very nice and everyone ate as much as they could manage. We watched two episodes of I’m A Celeb with Mum.

Wednesday meant the day to fly up to Newcastle and stay with Lesley and John had come. Beforehand, we went with Dad for lunch at the Red Lion Wetherspoons in Bitterne. I had a Hawaiian pizza, Kieran had a BBQ chicken burger with chips and Dad had his usual of an all-day breakfast. Kieran had a pint of beer, Dad had unlimited coffee and I had a pint of coke. We all enjoyed the food, especially me as I hadn’t realised before that Wetherspoons served pizza and had been wanting to try it for some time; I mean, it wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever eaten but it was nice, the size of the plate and just over £5. You can’t ask for more than that. Afterwards, I had the pudding I’d been wanting to try for ages, the cookie dough sandwich. It’s a cookie dough layer with filling of salted caramel sauce and ice cream and it was delicious. Very sweet and rather large, but lovely.

At around 10 past 5, once we’d double-checked we’d packed everything, it was time to head for the airport. Dad and Tamsin dropped us off at the assistance waiting area once we’d checked in and went to pick Mum up. We had a bit of a wait as we were very early for our flight, which was due to take off at 6:45, but that didn’t matter. Once we were through security and about to board the plane, we discovered that the member of staff at the check-in desk hadn’t put Kieran and I sat together on our boarding passes. Not only was this a bit annoying for us, it makes things more difficult for the cabin crew on our flight. Dealing with one assistance passenger is usually enough hard work for them without having them seated separately. As we spoke about it in the queue waiting to board, a man standing nearby must have overheard and realised he’d been seated in one of the seats beside either Kieran or I. He kindly offered to swap seats to make it easier for us. So we boarded the plane, each following a special assistance member of staff. Only when we were in our seats did we realise we were still sat apart, Kieran on the window seat on one side of the aisle and me on the other. As I’m not the best at flying, this didn’t help settle my nerves as passengers filed on and we prepared for take off. There was nothing to be done about it, though, these were our seats and I’d just have to firmly put my earbuds in and ignore the world for the next hour. I wasn’t happy about it, though, and from the texts I received from him just before we had to switch our phones off, neither was Kieran.

Thankfully, we reached Newcastle soon enough and were quickly on the mini bus. But we didn’t head straight for the terminal building because there were other passengers on board waiting to fly out of the airport so we had to wait for them to board their flights before the bus took us back. By the time we reached John in arrivals, the time the flight had made up by being early to land was lost. Once we arrived at John and Lesley’s, we had sausage, mash and peas for dinner and spent the night watching Master Chef The Professionals and Family Guy.

On Thursday, we were up early as Kieran had to go to work. I had a cup of tea, toast and a banana for breakfast before spending the day doing uni work and watching East Enders. Lesley had left some sausage rolls in the fridge so I had one of those for lunch warmed up in the microwave; it was very nice.

When Kieran came in from work, we watched Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory downstairs. Rebecca and Darren came round with Wilson, their rather gorgeous German shepherd puppy, who immediately took a fancy to my slippers, socks and jean hems. Those jeans never will be the same after his needle sharp teeth, even though he was only playing. After they’d gone, Kieran and I went upstairs for a lie down and a cuddle. For dinner, we had a chicken and rice in a tomato sauce dish. We watched more Young Sheldon.

On Friday, I got up when Kieran did for work. Lesley took him to work and went shopping. I wasn’t feeling great so didn’t do uni work and watched East Enders and Holby instead. Not long after Lesley had come back with the shopping, she went to get Wilson as Rebecca and Darren were working and it was nicer for him to be round with us instead of being on his own. He really liked nipping at my socks and trousers. Lesley’s parents visited. Lesley made ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch. Lesley went to pick Kieran back and not long after he was home, Rebecca came to collect Wilson. After she’d gone, Kieran and I went upstairs for a nap.

Kieran and John had a prawns with spaghetti dish that John had made and Lesley cooked ravioli. We watched Have I Got News For You, Gogglebox and The Last Leg.

On Saturday, we had a long lie in. When we eventually got up, Lesley made us sausage sandwiches for brunch. We had Sky Sports on with the football updates showing. Later, we went out to The Commissioners for drinks and Rebecca walked Wilson down to experience a pub environment. After she’d left, we walked to Sambuca’s, the Italians I love to go to up there, and had a meal. As usual, I had my favourite tuna and garlic pizza. Before, a cheesy garlic pizza bread was ordered as a starter to share and it was lovely. Kieran had a steak jambalaya which he said was very nice. When we got in, we watched I’m A Celeb and then Match Of The Day.

On Sunday, when we eventually got out of bed, we watched Motor Racing and Judge Judy downstairs. Lesley cooked roast chicken and beef with all the trimmings for lunch and Rebecca, Darren and Wilson came round. We had ginger sponge and custard for pudding. Once Rebecca and Darren had gone, Kieran and I went upstairs; he did some bits on his laptop that needed doing and I just had a lie down. Later, Lesley made us cheese and onion toasties and Kieran got us a cup of tea each. We started watching Gavin and Stacey on BBC IPlayer.

On Monday, Kieran aencouraged me to stay in bed while he got up early to go to work and as I’d been feeling rubbish on Friday and thought it was because I hadn’t slept well, I decided to stay where I was. I couldn’t afford to have more missed uni days with another assignment deadline approaching. Kieran brought me a cup of tea in bed before he went off to work. At 9 o’clock, I started watching I’m A Celeb on my iPad and got up for a shower 10 minutes later. When I went downstairs, I made myself a cup of tea with the one cup machine they now had. When I went to the cookery awareness course run by my local blindness charity, they’d had one of these but I’d felt like it was just a lazy way of not teaching people to use a kettle. However, I’ve always struggled using a kettle; I don’t know why, but I’ve never been able to line it up right on the lip of a mug and have ended up pouring boiling water everywhere on the majority of occasions I’ve wanted to make myself a hot drink. Fancying a cup of tea now, I decided to swallow my pride and use the one cup machine. I refuse to use the kettle in someone else’s kitchen, not wanting to make a horrendous mess. Even if I tried to clean it up after, it’d either not be all cleaned up or would result in some soggy tea towels. Although Lesley had made it quite clear she didn’t mind, even offering to get me a travel kettle out which is easier to pour, I didn’t want to take that chance. After checking with Kieran via text how the one cup works, I put my mug, with teabag already in, under the spout of the one cup and pressed the button. As the tag line promises, in less than a minute I had a full cup of boiling water. Although I’ll work on making my own hot drinks from a proper kettle when I can, having this one cup thing at Lesley and John’s made me so happy, making cups of tea mess free whenever I fancied. I don’t care if I should put more effort into making tea the conventional way because at the end of the day, this machine meant I could make tea without worrying. It makes me want one for our kitchen at home. I looked on Amazon and they’re not very expensive so I’m thinking of buying one.

That night, we had gammon, new potatoes, peas and a parsley sauce for dinner. I discovered I don’t like parsley. We watched Newcastle vs Burnley where Newcastle won 2-1.

Tuesday was a similar day, with me staying in bed while Kieran got up for work, him bringing me a cup of tea before he left and me getting up about 9 after I’d just started watching I’m A Celeb for my shower. Lesley had left me a sandwich for lunch and I took advantage of the one cup machine being there. I watched more I’m A Celeb, East Enders, The Apprentice and Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs on my iPad while doing uni work. When Kieran came home, we went upstairs for a cuddle and came down later for dinner, which was fish cake, chips and peas. Kieran put The Big Bang Theory on Netflix and we watched that for a while before watching an episode of Gavin and Stacey that was showing on Gold.

On Wednesday, Kieran worked from home. We had sandwiches for lunch and I watched I’m A Celeb and East Enders while working on my assignment. For dinner, I had a jacket potato with a chicken Kiev and everyone else had jacket potato with chilli. We watched some of the Liverpool vs PSG match on the TV and listened to some on the radio while Master Chef was on. Upstairs, Kieran and I watched more Gavin and Stacey.

Kieran had his apprenticeship tutorial on Thursday which meant we got a bit of a lie in. While he was out, I finished my uni assignment, making a new record for me: the first assignment I’ve actually submitted on the deadline day; mine are usually submitted well before deadline. Afterwards, I watched I’m A Celeb, Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs and The Apprentice. I had ham sandwiches for lunch and then changed mine and Kieran’s bedding with the clean Lesley had left out for me. Later, we had sausage, chips and beans for dinner and watched Master Chef and Young Sheldon.

Friday meant it was Lesley’s day off again. We had sandwiches for lunch and then went to Morisons, picked Kieran up from work and went to Rebecca’s. Later, Rebecca came round with Wilson for dinner. We had John’s turkey meatball and pineapple curry, which we hadn’t had since I first stayed. As it was then, it was absolutely delicious and I hope it won’t be so long until I have it next time. After Rebecca left, we watched Have I Got News For You and Gogglebox.

We got up earlier than usual for a Saturday the next day because John and Kieran were going for haircuts. When they got back, Lesley cooked us bacon, waffles and toast, and scrambled egg for me, for brunch. We spent the afternoon upstairs listening to Sky Sports news for the football updates. When John came back from the football, we went to The South Beach, their Local pub, for a drink. When we got back, I ordered takeaway for everyone; Lesley had a donner kebab with salad, John had the same without salad, Kieran had a chicken and donner kebab and I had tuna, sweet corn, pineapple and garlic stuffed crust pizza. We shared a portion of mozzarella sticks. We were given a free bottle of fizzy and a cheesy garlic bread because we’d spent over a certain amount but neither of these were used. We watched some videos on YouTube and then The Last Leg.

On Sunday, we made up for getting up early the previous day by having a long lie in. We shared the leftover cheesy garlic pizza bread from last night for our breakfast. Later, Lesley cooked stewing steak with mashed potatoes and veg for tea. Lesley was watching Strictly Come Dancing so we went upstairs.

On Monday, I spent the day catching up on I’m A Celeb, East Enders and Holby on my iPad. I had a corn beef sandwich for lunch. That evening, I had a jacket potato with chicken Kiev for dinner. We watched The Last Leg again because John had fallen asleep whilst watching it on Saturday.

Tuesday was a similar day, with me catching up on I’m A Celeb and East Enders, doing uni work and having a corn beef sandwich for lunch. John cooked Kieran and I fish cake, chips and beans for dinner because Lesley was working late. We watched Manchester City vs Watford (3-2), Master Chef and Family Guy.

Kieran took the day off the next day because it was my last day up north. Lesley was also working from home so we had Wilson round for the day. We had sandwiches, mine cheese and Kieran’s chopped pork, for lunch with smoky bacon crisps. Later, Kieran’s grandma popped round. Then, Lesley took Wilson home and went for her hair appointment. John got us dinner from the chippy and we both had fish cake and chips. At 7 o’clock, we left for the airport. As usual, saying goodbye wasn’t nice but it felt ok because we’d already talked about when we hoped to meet up. Now, a week later, that is all arranged and booked. I’m flying back up to Newcastle in January to stay for 10 days so that I can celebrate Kieran’s birthday with him and so we’re together on our 3rd anniversary.

As always, massive thanks to John and Lesley for having me to stay, putting up with me in. Your house for so long, the food out and lovely home cooked meals in; for the fun, the laughs (even when the jokes aren’t funny) and the stories. I’m looking forward to coming back in January.

But of course, as always, the most I have to say is to Kieran. Thank you: for coming to visit me even though every time you use Southampton airport there seems to be an issue; for letting me come to stay; for my sparkles that I adore and that mean so much to me; for putting up with me even though I often do your brain in; for the surprise headphones that are still in your cupboard because I didn’t have enough room in my bag; for the cuddles; for the endless fixing of pretty much all the tech in my house; for putting up with my weird issues; for wearing the sparkles I bought you; for being my person; for choosing me all that time ago; for the best almost 3 years of my life; for everything we’ve thought of for our future; for everything we’ve already got so far; for my first solo holiday this year, our couples holiday, that you persisted with even though I wasn’t sure and was negative, that turned into such a great week away; for putting up with the long distance although it sucks; for perseverance’; for your love; for being you; for everything you do. I can’t thank you enough, clearly, because this list gets longer every time I write it. But we’ve had a great other year this year, a great 2018 despite it’s ups and downs, and I’m sure we’re going to have a great 2019 and all the years we’re lucky enough to share that follow. Thank you for proposing back in June and making me the happiest person alive. You know I didn’t expect you too but am so more than happy that you chose to. I can’t wait for our future together, whatever it may bring. I love you so much and am so grateful for everything we share, from our 2 and a half years of amazing friendship and on to our almost 3 year long (so far) relationship. I couldn’t have been more blessed that day when our IT teacher asked you to help me out with my computer. Here’s to us and our future. And here’s to my best person!

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 30 and the news I’ve been waiting for

Last week, while I nervously anticipated the phone call from Guide Dogs following my Guide Dog assessment the previous Thursday, the phone call that could either put me on the waiting list for a guide dog or set me back to square 1 again, it was time for another My Guide session with Jenny, who had just come home from her cruise holiday. As I had the cookery course on the Thursday, we’d agreed to meet on the Tuesday instead. Clearly, as so much had happened in the week she’d been away, we had loads to catch up on. I wanted to hear all about her holiday and tell her all about the assessment she hadn’t even known was happening. Luckily, we were doing the route to CommuniCare, the place I’m soon to start volunteering at, and that means a bus journey into the city centre, a welcome opportunity for us to chat away.

I’m still not feeling over enthusiastic or happy about the voluntary route. I don’t know what it is about it but I’m just not comfortable with it like I feel with the Woolston and school routes. Maybe it’s because I’ve got so used to learning lengthy routes that now I’m doing a short convenient one it just doesn’t sit well with me. It could also be because there are so many obstacles in my path along the journey and so many things my cane snags on along the inner shoreline of the route. Because the majority of the Woolston and school routes are walking in a straight line, I don’t need to follow the shoreline with my cane constantly. But as I’m still only just getting used to the voluntary route, I keep my cane close to the edge mostly to reassure myself of my precise location. I’m hoping that, in time, as I get used to the route and hopefully comfortable with it, I’ll be able to anticipate the snags and not need the constant reminder of where I am. Hopefully, as I get more familiar with the route, I’ll become more comfortable with it. As it’s actually quite a vital route, in that it’ll get me to the place that’ll help me gain vital employability skills, I really need to like it and get to know it well. The Woolston and school routes, although useful to have in my route availability and choices, were only learned so I could get out and about more and because Guide Dogs said in order for me to be considered for a dog I needed more lengthy routes. As I’ve learned them, especially the Woolston route, I’ve grown to realise how nice it is to have a long stroll to get somewhere rather than taken the 15-minute bus there. Obviously, I’m not sure I’ll be saying that when it’s pouring down or we’ve got fierce winds.

Despite my uncertainty surrounding the route, Jenny seemed very pleased with how our two attempts went. We calculated that we haven’t actually practised the route in a whole month and I still managed to retain quite a lot of the direction and crossing places. Annoyingly, there was roadworks going on around the pelican crossing, cutting off one of the control poles, which happened to be the one that has the spinning cone that allows me to cross safely. We fixed this by Jenny prompting me when it was safe to cross; but if I’d been on my own I’d have had to hope for a kindly member of the public or listen for the slow in the traffic in front of me and take my chances that the lights had changed when the cars were still. This, of course, is risky as just because the cars are still doesn’t actually mean that the lights have changed and it’s safe to go. This is why all pelican crossings should have both the audio cue and spinning cone, so that if one option is unavailable the other is there as backup.

To be honest, even I noticed on the second attempt of the route that I was remembering things slightly better. I’m hoping that, when we practice it again this week, things will come back to me even more because there will only be a week, rather than a month, between the attempts. While we were on the bus home, I discussed with Jenny how we can make the best of the time during our sessions. After my Guide Dog assessment the previous week, I’d become more aware of how I really need to practice navigating around southampton city centre independently. Last week, I’d got horribly lost during my assessment and if it hadn’t been for the patience of the instructors and me not freaking out, I’d have never got back on track. I need to be more confident with the routes I don’t use as regularly independently, such as navigating around town and getting to my pharmacy and doctors surgery. Jenny agreed that when we practice the CommuniCare route we can add a bit on and practice around town too. I just want to be confident with all my routes so that if anyone springs going somewhere unexpected on me, like the instructors did by asking me to navigate around town on a weekday afternoon, I can be completely confident in the knowledge that I know what I’m doing and where I’m going. I know Jenny can help with that. After all, I wouldn’t have got anywhere near this far pursuing my Guide Dog application without her patience, consistency and support. I owe the phone call that came the following day to Jenny and I hope, although I’m rubbish at saying it in person, that she knows how unbelievably grateful I am for her.

As I’ve hinted, a phone call came the following day, a phone call I’ve been dreaming of for at least the last seven years, since the very first time I applied for a Guide Dog. It didn’t come quite as quickly as I hoped, though; they kept me waiting all Wednesday. In the morning, Dad and Tamsin, who was on her school half term, and I went into town and did some Christmas shopping. Then, we popped to Bitterne for some bits and pieces. Then, we headed to my grandparents house because they’d asked Dad to paint their decking. I spent the afternoon moving from the chair at their little table in their kitchen, to the side door doorstep, to pacing up and down waiting for the phone call. Then, at exactly 3:44pm, my phone started to ring. By this point, I’d started to wonder if I’d remembered right, whether they’d actually said they’d ring and tell me Wednesday afternoon or not. Obviously, this was just my nerves kicking in as I know case review happens Wednesday and that they ring you to tell you the outcome afterwards. I should know, I’ve been rung after two separate case reviews in the past. But no phone call in the past was like this one. With shaking fingers, I double-tapped with two fingers to answer the call and put the phone to my ear. It was Guide Dogs calling and the lady who did my Guide Dog assessment the previous Thursday. She asked if I was OK first and then she said it: We’ve put you on the waiting list”… She then went on to say she knows I’ve been working for this for “a few months” and asked if I was happy. To be honest, I was shocked, stunned, astounded, amazed. But not in the usual ways I am when Guide Dogs phone. This time, it was for all the right reasons that I could barely get any words out, that my eyes had misted over and that my hands were shaking even more. I thanked her, told her of course I was happy and thanked her again. She didn’t tell me any more information than that, just that I have been placed on the Guide Dogs waiting list for my very own furry companion and guide. All that dreaming and scheming and planning and hoping is over. I AM ON THE GUIDE DOGS WAITING LIST FOR A DOG! I AM GOING TO GET A DOG IN THE FUTURE!

As soon as I disconnected the call, all my family members in the house were there, waiting. They’d seen me start this journey so long ago. “It’s good news,” I muttered, “I’m on the waiting list.” And the cheer went up. Then they started asking questions. Was I happy? How long would I wait? What else did they say? Why wasn’t I looking/sounding happier? I didn’t have many answers, other than they hadn’t said anything else or given any indication as to how long I’m likely to wait. As soon as the noise calmed down a bit, I phoned my Mum. She’s supported me, along with most of my other family members, throughout this journey, since I was a little 14-year-old with a faraway dream. But she didn’t answer. So I rang the next person who needed to know, the one who’s helped me in every choice and decision I’ve made with Guide Dogs. My sister Imi answered almost straight away: “Yes?” She asked expectantly. “I’m on the waiting list,” I tell her, in what I realise isn’t the ecstatic tone she’s expected all these years. But I’m just so shocked. She squeals, tells me that it’s brilliant, which of course, underneath the disbelief, I know it is. We chat for ages, until my VoiceOver tells me Mum’s trying to get through. I tell Imi I’ll ring her back and call Mum. When I tell her, she can’t believe it either; she swears and has her happy voice reserved for really great things. We chat for a little while and I know she feels like me, overjoyed but disbelieving and relief. The fighting is over. I haven’t got to argue with anyone any more. Ive proved myself. Ive got on the waiting list because I’ve shown them I’m suitable, deserving and that a dog would have such a massive impact on my future. After Mum has hung up, telling me how proud and happy she is, I ring Imi back and we analyse everything that was said like we always do. We talk about how I’d started to get unsettled when the call hadn’t came but how that should’ve reassured me because the bad news phone calls are always made first, or that’s how it seems. After all, I should know that. We talk about how it probably wont be the quickest wait ever and I joke that, knowing my luck, I’ll probably wait three years or something now for my first match. Then, together we look at the dogs pictured on both the southampton and Yorkshire mobility teams facebook pages, talking about which names we couldn’t bear to have. I think I’m more open than Imi to daft names, because after all I’d take anything.

After Imi, the next person who needs a phone call is a man who’s supported me in everything since he first met me at 14. He was the best cricket captain I’ve ever had and a support I now couldn’t be without. I text him first and asked if he was available for a phone call. My phone buzzed with an incoming call and I told him. His joy matched that of my parents, possibly even overtook some of my family members. And it made me feel happier somehow. It made it seem more real telling people, made it true. It felt like a bad cheating dream where I was going to wake up and I’d still be waiting for the phone call. But I was definitely awake. Tiny and I agreed to meet in southampton soon and have celebratory Costa, because recently we both have a lot to be happy about. After I’d ended that call, I started sending out the text messages, first to Kieran and then to everyone else I knew would want to hear, to everyone that had supported me in some way along this really bumpy road. Unfortunately, Dad had already posted on facebook about it so Kieran had already heard. I was a bit disappointed because I’d wanted him to hear it first from me. Although I know Dad was only posting because he was so excited for and proud of me for finally getting here, it did bother me because I hadn’t even managed to tell many people. I texted Jenny, the lady who had been Zena’s owner after me, Josh, my friend Wayne who has a Guide Dog called Vince, my employment officer, auntie Clare, a lady who used to work with me at school and her family, Jemma and her mum, the service user representative who’d helped me so much and as my texts went out, messages of congratulations and joy came flooding in, everyone so happy to hear this news at last. Later, I put my own post up on facebook and in the social groups set up for anyone involved with Guide Dogs and the response I got was amazing. So many people so happy for me.

Honestly, though, I still don’t think it’s fully sunken in yet… It’s silly really because it’s something I’ve been dreaming of for so long. But I think because it’s been the goal for so long I never really imagined what I’d do once I reached it. It’s like I mentioned to Imi during our phone call, we’d never actually planned for once I’m on the list, it was always aiming to get on the list. But of course I’m happy. Overjoyed, super excited and still ecstatic, actually, even nearly a week on. I just can’t believe it’s really going to happen. Whether in the near or far future, I don’t know, but one day I actually am going to get a phone call from a Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor to tell me they’ve found a potential match. Because that’s the next step now and it’s just waiting. I hope it won’t be a horribly long and drawn out wait, but however long it takes I know it’ll be worth it. It already is. All that fighting and arguing and perseverance is already worth it, because I’ve achieved my goal, reached my aim. I AM ON THE GUIDE DOGS WAITING LIST. So from now on, I’ve just got to continue working on my routes, learning new ones and practice my existing ones. I hope that I’m allowed to continue working with Jenny until I get that phone call and even after I’ve got the dog to familiarise us with my routes. I don’t know how long our partnership will continue now I’ve reached my goal of going on the waiting list for a dog but I hope the powers that be see that Jenny’s help and support where my routes are concerned is still so important to me. Again, I just need to reiterate that I wouldn’t be where I am now, on the Guide Dogs waiting list, without Jenny and I’m so thankful to have had her support over the last almost year. I’m also thankful to the Guide Dogs staff who have been involved in this most recent application and in the little bit running up to this application. To the service delivery manager, mobility instructor and Guide Dog mobility instructor who have been a part of this application and have made the decision to put me on the waiting list, thank you. I’ll be forever grateful to you all for giving me this chance to prove myself and this opportunity to have the mobility and independence I’ve been craving for so long. Thank you for being so open after the appeal in March and being so accommodating to the ideas I had for making the assessment process more stress-free for me. Together, it’s obviously worked because you’ve now deemed me suitable for a Guide Dog, so much so that I’ve already done enough for you to place me on the waiting list. I can’t put into words what that means.

Lastly, to everyone who’s supported me throughout this journey, my gratitude is infinite. Imi, Kieran, mum, Tiny, Dad, Jenny, Jemma, Jemma’s mum, Yvette, Amanda, Wayne, Lacey and Grant, Nan and Grandad, Auntie Clare, Josh, the service user representative, Tamsin, everyone who’s supported me on Facebook and Twitter… absolutely everyone who’s ever supported me, I couldn’t have done it without you. To Tiny’s wife Nicola, thank you for spending hours on your birthday sat in my living room while we battled at my appeal. You and your husband, who I have so much to thank for, have helped and supported me more than you’ll ever know and I’ll never be able to thank you enough. For everyone who’s listened to me talk about Guide Dogs all these years. The support of everyone in my life during this journey is what has kept me going, what has fuelled my determination. In March, when they said I was unsuitable, I was ready to give up. But Mum, Dad, Imi, Tiny, Kieran and everyone else I spoke to about it filled me with confidence and support and urged me on, until I made the decision to keep fighting. Without them, I’d have given up the fight and wouldn’t be sat here now, ON THE WAITING LIST. Who knows how long it’ll take until I’m matched. But for now, the hard work is done. The goal is met. And the relief I feel almost overtakes the joy.

Mobility Update: Guide Dogs Guide Dog Assessment October 2018

Well, I really didn’t expect to be writing this post so soon after my last, where I spoke about how I’d been recommended for the next stage of the Guide Dogs application process, the Guide Dog assessment after passing my mobility assessment no problem. But I am. On Monday, I got a call from one of Southampton’s GDMIs to say that she and the lady who’d done my mobility assessment would be coming out on Wednesday to conduct my guide dog assessment. Naturally, I was astounded, in the happiest possible way. The GDMI said she’d be bringing a dog with her, a black Labrador retriever called Yogi, who’s 18 months old and has just started his advanced training with her. Apparently, he was a moderate to fast walker, very enthusiastic and eager to please. I was excited even more. The proof that they were going to bring a dog immediately evaporated some of the nerves I usually have surrounding anything involving short handle walks with Guide Dogs staff. They just make me super nervous and in the past that has ruined assessments. The idea that there would be an actual dog to walk with on the assessment made my confidence boost just slightly.

Then, on Tuesday, the mobility instructor who’d done my mobility assessment rang. The GDMI hadn’t had all the details for the assessment so the mobility instructor needed to ring and confirm things. It’s lucky that she did because somehow there had been a mix up of dates. The assessment was scheduled for Thursday (today) at 2pm. As I’d already started arranging things for it to be the following day, I was a little thrown that it now wasn’t going to be then. But really I didn’t care. It was still this week, still not far away, still only a fortnight after I’d had my mobility assessment. For me, things have never moved this fast with Guide Dogs so I had no reason not to be happy and somewhat excited. Obviously, by this morning I was nervous as hell. Previous experience with these assessments showed I was no good at them. In fact, exactly a year ago to the day today I had my last Guide Dog assessment, which went terribly and nearly crushed me. Thankfully, today’s experience was a breath of fresh air in comparison.

The two instructors arrived at 2 as promised, bringing the adorable and very loveable Yogi with them. He’s definitely enthusiastic as the GDMI described. Also full of energy and very loving. He really has a lovely temperament. To start with, we had a conversation in the lounge where the GDMI asked me lots of matching questions. I found this rather exciting as I’ve never been asked all those questions before. Even at my Guide Dog assessment last year, we never got to that part. I got to specify all sorts of things: I’d be happy to have any breed/sex/coat-type dog; I need my dog to like working on busses and on routes ranging from 10-60 minute routes; I’d like a dog that is or could become comfortable on trains and planes; I’d be happy to start training with the smallest amount of notice possible; I’d be happy to train anywhere in the country. I also had to give my weight, height and describe what sort of walking speed I am. This is all matching criteria so that, if I’ve passed this assessment, they can start looking for the right dog to suit my lifestyle. Then, it was time to go out. The GDMI said she wanted to see my bus route into town and do a bit of walking around town, some with my cane and some with Yogi in harness. He was eager to get going!

So I walked from my house up to my nearest bus-stop and we caught the bus into town. The GDMI sat opposite me with Yogi, trying to encourage him to settle, while the mobility instructor sat next to me. Yogi has only recently started practising bus travel and was quite restless for our inbound journey. To be fair to him, the bus rattle like hell and was quite full of noisy passengers. When we got into town, I walked to find the pelican crossing I needed to take me into the precinct and on to West Quay. I struggled a bit with this. It’s been a while since I’ve been in town alone and I’m vowing after the experience today to practice it more. But eventually I got across the pelican crossing, with help from the mobility instructor, and walked into the precinct. There was some very noisy building work going on which was incredibly offputting and didn’t help my nerves much. But eventually we got to West Quay and Lush, the shop I’d chosen as my destination. Then, the fun part started. I was given the handle of Yogi’s harness and, with the GDMI holding onto the lead, off we went, back out of West Quay, back along the shops we’d already passed, around the corner and on into the lower level of West Quay and to a Costa, where Yogi effortlessly found a chair. We didn’t stay, though. We continued back out of West Quay, down the road, across the road and back up the road to the bus-stop, which, when instructed to find the bus-stop, Yogi not only found the bus-stop but found the bench seat in the shelter. After a lot of praise to Yogi, I let go of the harness and moved out into the open a bit more to listen to the bus. They didn’t make me squirm too much and told me when it was the right bus. We sat in the same formation as the outward journey, the difference being that Yogi was much better settled on this bus. He led down for the majority of the journey and didn’t seem bothered at all by the bus. It was a much quieter and less rattly bus.

Whilst on the way home, I asked if I was going to walk with Yogi or my cane once we were off the bus. The mobility instructor asked the GDMI who said I could walk with Yogi if I wanted to. So I jumped at the chance, getting off a few bus-stops early so we had a longer walk. Although I’d enjoyed the walk in town, I loved the walk home. The empty paths and easy road crossings made it a breeze, obviously helped by the fact that Yogi is awesome. He’s going to make a great guide for someone when he’s matched.

When we got home, the GDMI said that everything that’s happened today goes to case review, which is next Wednesday, and then I’ll be told the outcome. Unlike previous assessments, the final chat felt very positive. The GDMI repeated a couple of times that it’d been a good walk and even said that my vocal communication and praise for Yogi had been good. Before they left, I gave Yogi a big fuss goodbye. If he’d been a tricky worker, that would have made today much more difficult. But he was effortless and took to me very quickly, especially as he was a bit confused and hesitant to begin with.

Overall, I’m feeling super positive, which doesn’t happen often, especially when guide dog assessments are concerned. Now, I’ll be waiting and counting down the time until the phone call is due to tell me the outcome. Pass this and I can go on the waiting list for a dog. Fail, after how positive things seemed today, and I’m not quite sure how I’ll recover. Last time, at least I understood and felt it didn’t go very well. This time, the only things I feel I could’ve done better is not get a little bit lost, go with my gut instinct on directions and maybe slightly more talking to Yogi. But I basically talked to him for the entire journey and in a more uplifted and praising voice to my usual one. Ive never felt this way after any assessment with guide dogs and I really hope that’s a sign of the type of outcome I’m going to get next Wednesday. I’ll still be keeping my fingers crossed because you just never know until you’ve had the phone call but this time I really feel like Ive given it 100% my best effort. And I’ll say this, whoever gets matched with Yogi is a very lucky guide dog owner indeed.

Mobility Updates: My Guide Sessions 28 & 29 and my Guide Dogs Mobility assessment

Last Thursday, I had a pretty busy day. In the morning, I had another My Guide session with Jenny and in the afternoon, my mobility assessment with Guide Dogs. In addition, yesterday I had a further My Guide session with Jenny. Therefore, I have rather a lot to write about. I’m hoping it won’t turn into too much rambling. I’ll try and keep it as succinct as possible… Knowing me, though, that won’t happen.

So, last Thursday Jenny and I met at our usual time of 9:30 and headed out in the drizzle, our destination being my sister’s school. My thinking behind this was although I really needed to concentrate my efforts on learning the route to my new volunteering role place, actually I wanted to have a bit extra practice of the route, or part of it, that I’d need to do to impress the Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor that afternoon for my assessment. Although I was only planning on going as far as the gym at the furthest with them, considering that is about a 45 minute walk each way, and I know the gym route well, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have an extra supervised practice run of the route to calm any nerves before my assessment. Strangely, I wasn’t feeling nervous, which isn’t like me at all when Guide Dogs are involved. I guess my pass rate with this part of the process being so high helped. Ive passed this assessment twice, only failing once back when I was 14 which really doesn’t count for anything. It’s the later parts of the Guide Dog application process that I’ve fallen short on in the past and have been working so hard to pass this time. But before I even get to prove myself in that area, I have to pass the mobility stage first.

The walk to the school with Jenny went well. It was rather wet thanks to the drizzle, but otherwise a pretty pleasant walk. Both the main roads were quite busy as usual and that can be a little unsettling when big lorries race by but I did ok. Getting to the school was no bother. I recalled the route fine and turned and crossed in mostly all the right places. Jenny seemed quite happy with how it went. Like everything, it just needs more practice. However, as the route went so well, it gave me that little bit of extra confidence for my assessment.

As arranged, the mobility instructor from Guide Dogs arrived around 2pm. Firstly, we talked through everything for ages, mostly my routes and how often I do them. I was quite chuffed that I was able to fill a page and a half’s worth of notes just about my routes. That certainly wouldn’t have happened a couple of years ago, and especially not without Jenny’s support. It isn’t lost on me that I wouldn’t be in this position, reapplying again for a Guide Dog, without the help Jenny has given me over the last 10 months. I will be forever grateful for everything she’s done and continues to do to support me in my goal of being eligible and getting a Guide Dog. After we’d talked some more, it was route time. We agreed to go to the local Co-op first, the destination I’ve used for two of my previous mobility assessments with Guide Dogs, but if she felt she needed to see more from me, we’d continue on up the road to the library. I felt the walk went reasonably well. I wasn’t walking in a straight line but then that’s nothing unusual. I didn’t cross in front of moving traffic and I didn’t veer out into the middle of the road. Those are always two positives, although luckily I’m usually pretty good in those areas. I did keep veering inwards, down the side road. I always hit the kerb fine, just sometimes beyond the tarmac and against the grass verge. When I spoke to the instructor about that, she didn’t seem to mind and suggested that it wouldn’t count against me, thankfully. I found the shop entrance despite the fact that the shop has recently had a makeover and I’m only just starting to get used to it, having only explored it a couple of times. I spun around and we headed back the way we’d come, getting to the junction where I turn left for home or right to continue up the road, heading for the library/gym/park/news agents/school. But the instructor said she had seen enough and we could head back. Obviously, you can take that two ways: 1. I’d done a really bad job and she didn’t need to see anything else to know my mobility skills are awful or 2. (The option I’m hoping for) I demonstrated safe independent navigation and she’s satisfied to put me forward on the basis of what she saw and the discussion we had about my route progress.

When we got back to the house, the discussion was rounded up nicely. The instructor explained that unfortunately I had the worst day of the week for my assessment as case reviews happened on wednesdays. Although I was a little disappointed I wouldn’t get an answer sooner, really I was just glad the assessment was over and had seemed to go well. The instructor was lovely and really a breath of fresh air for me, after being assessed by the same person for my last few Guide Dogs assessments. Not that there was anything wrong with that person, because there wasn’t, but after all the upheaval with Guide Dogs it was really nice to see someone new, have a fresh perspective on my case. This lady seemed very open and honest, too, which was nice and seemed to put me more at ease for the assessment. I still felt like a fool out walking demonstrating such a silly little route, but as long as the answer is a positive one I suppose that doesn’t matter.

Then, yesterday, Jenny and I met for another My Guide session, changing our day from our usual Thursday to Tuesday because Jenny is off on holiday and I’ve got a cookery for blind people course thing to attend. Again, although I really should have focused on the volunteering route, I just didn’t feel like it. The weather was nice yesterday and we hadn’t done the route in over a month so I thought it was a good opportunity to revisit the walk into Woolston route. It went really really well. I only hesitated a couple of times and asked Jenny for clarification but where I did, the guess I made was right anyway. Doing a nice long walk and having a chat along the way was certainly a good way to spend a Tuesday morning. When we got into Woolston, I felt pleased at how well the route had gone. We went into say hello to Dad in his shop and not long after we’d arrived, my grandparents and great-nan arrived. It was my Nan’s birthday and the only opportunity I had to see her so it was nice to be able to wish her happy birthday in person. We left for Piggy’s not long after. Jenny had her usual coffee and I chose a peanut butter milkshake and slice of sticky toffee fudge cake. Both were very nice. While I was still eating, all the grandparents came in.

The return walk home went very well too. I feel that, if I was brave and tried hard enough, I could probably walk that route myself into Woolston now. I haven’t been daring enough to try yet, but hopefully at some point I will. I’m definitely really pleased with how my two main routes that I’ve been learning with Jenny, the walk into Woolston and the school route, have gone. Both of them I’ve nearly mastered now and in light of my mobility assessment last week, that really is good. As Jenny is away on holiday, we’re not meeting next week. Instead, we’re meeting the following Tuesday as I’ll still be busy with cookery that Thursday. When we meet up again, it’ll be full concentration back on the volunteering route but it felt really good to revisit the other two routes after quite a while of doing either and do them so well from memory. Although it’s taken me over 6 months to master the Woolston route, I’m still pleased with my progress because it’s the first really long route I’ve attempted and I actually enjoy walking it. As I write this, it’s early on the morning of Wednesday 10 October and somewhere around lunchtime today, I’m expecting a call from Guide Dogs to tell me the outcome of my mobility assessment after their weekly case review. I’m feeling quite confident that I’ve passed but there’s always the niggle in the back of my mind that I haven’t. By the time this is published online, I’ll. have written about the outcome below. Fingers crossed for the next couple of hours that Ive got positive news to record.

The phone call came just before 3pm. The lady who did my assessment last week rang to say that the team have recommended me for the Guide Dog assessment, the next stage in the process towards getting on the waiting list and actually having a dog. She explained that a GDMI, actually a member of the team I haven’t met before, and herself will be coming out to do the assessment and they’ll do it as soon as the two of them are free. I’m hoping it won’t be particularly long until the assessment, but I’m not going to be too impatient. We spoke about how, when I had the conversations with the service delivery manager, I’d explained that for the Guide Dog assessment I’d really prefer to have an actual dog to walk with when we have to practice the commands and things to demonstrate we’d be capable of working a dog. I find the short handle takes really forced and fake and it makes my nerves a thousand times worse than they are anyway. It really was nice, then, that when I started to mention this hope to the mobility instructor that she already knew about it and they’d be planning to bring a dog out with them to do the assessment with. In fact, the GDMI that is coming to do my assessment seems to have been recommended because she currently has dogs in training that I could walk with on the day. So I’m not quite getting a Guide Dog yet, but I’m another step closer to the eventual aim and the goal I’ve been working towards for so long. If I can pass the Guide Dog assessment no problem then I can go straight on the waiting list. I’m really hoping for a really positive assessment so I don’t have to go through the added stress of the further assessment, which I really found particularly horrible last time. The further assessment is the main reason why things got so messy and I really want to avoid that this time. More than anything, I want the instructors to put me on the waiting list because they really feel I am suitable and capable enough for a Guide Dog. I don’t want it to be a battle or a fight. Ive worked so hard to get to this point and I really want to show that, given the opportunity, I’d be a good Guide Dog owner. I’m not saying I’d be perfect because I’m sure I’d be far from it, but I’d give it 100% effort 100% of the time. Ive worked so hard to achieve this dream to then get lazy once its reached. Everyone has off days, sure, but I’d try my absolute hardest to ensure they were few and far between.

So next step Guide Dog assessment. I really hope they do bring a dog in training for me to work with because I really believe that’d improve my confidence massively and also take away some of the insecurity and embarrassment you usually get when doing the short handle walk. Plus, meeting and walking with a trainee guide dog should put me a bit more at ease and get me in a better mood simply because its a living breathing dog and it responds to my commands and vocal changes. Its so different from having a person on the end of that harness and I really feel that could make all the difference for me on assessment day. It’ll help too I think that the lady who’s just done my mobility assessment will be there but that its a new GDMI that I’ve had no contact with before. I think that little bit of familiarity from the mobility instructor but a new pair of eyes and perspective from the GDMI could really have a positive impact. I’m intending to make that the case, anyway. I truly believed that this time it’ll be my turn. Ive worked so hard to prove I can be suitable for a dog and will continue to work on that even years into any future partnership I’m lucky enough to have. Looking forward to extending that proof in my Guide Dog assessment, even though I know I’ll be a bag of nerves leading up to the day. I need everyone to keep their fingers, toes, eyes and even ankles crossed that this time it can be a success because that’s what I’m dreaming of. Ive got this far in the process before, it’s just the next hurdle I’ve always stumbled at. This time, I’m going to fly over it. At least, that’s the plan. Maybe by next time I update with my next My Guide session once Jenny’s home from her holiday I’ll have an assessment date. Here’s hoping…

Mobility Update: My Guide Session 25

As the title of this post says, this is my 25th My Guide session update. But before all that, this post is going to talk about the meeting I had with Guide Dogs; at this current moment as I’m writing this, it’s Friday the 7th of September 2018 and almost 20 to 8 in the evening. At 10am this morning, the service delivery manager for my local Guide Dogs mobility team plus a fairly new GDMI and a gorgeous trainee Guide Dog came to my house as I’d contacted the team to ask to meet with the service delivery manager to discuss the process for me reapplying for a Guide Dog. After being deemed unsuitable back in March therefore marking the 3rd time I’d been unsuccessful in applying for a dog, an appeal took place and following the appeal I was given some advice of actions to complete in order to potentially be suitable for a dog in the future. In March, it was decided that I wasn’t suitable due to the way I interacted with the dogs on the further assessment day, took instructions from the GDMIs and put those instructions into action with the dogs. My vocal commands and praise were also criticised for not being in the right tone of voice or spoken in the right way to motivate the dog. And of course I was crushed; but I also agreed with them to a point. Maybe not at that very moment when I got off the phone to the senior practitioner who had given me the news that yet again I’d been unsuccessful. This time it was worse, though. She used the word “unsuitable” and in my head that felt like a full-stop, end of story, never. I’d worked so damn hard to get to that point but it still wasn’t good enough. Despite everything, i still hadn’t done enough to fulfil their necessary expectations for a future guide dog owner. Of course I was gutted. Beyond gutted if you ask anyone who spoke to me about it around that time. I felt like the door had been firmly slammed in my face. But that’s turned out not to be the case. With the input of the service user representative and the service delivery manager for my local team, I’ve had some support and advice to make the right decisions for my future regarding a dog, which is what lead to the meeting today. A lot was said. I was given new criteria which any potential applicant needs to meet in order to be considered for the waiting list. This criteria is used during the assessment process, still the mobility and guide dog assessments which I’ve done before, to ensure applicants are suitable. The service delivery manager promised to send the criteria across to me via email so I could read it myself but went through it there and then with me to give me some insight. Sitting there listening to her list things I’d need to be able to do in order to be suitable for a guide dog and ticking each and every one off in my head as an “i can do that” was the most amazing feeling in the world. The one about interacting with the dog in the right way is the only one I’m worried I could fall short on expectation for, not because I can’t do what they want but because nerves and worry might hold me back on the assessment day from showing my best side. But I’m determined this time, more determined than ever that I’m going to show my best commanding voice and my best happy cheery pleased praising voice at the right times so that I demonstrate I could be a good guide dog handler if only I’m given the chance.

We also discussed my routes and the leaps and bounds of progress I’ve made with Jenny’s intervention and the service delivery manager seemed very pleased with what I told her. One of the criteria is that you must be able to work your dog for 30-40 minutes at least 5 days a week. Nobody will ever understand the pride and relief it gives me to finally be able to say I meet that criteria with an ever expanding range of routes. Never did I think the day would come! Unless somehow during my mobility assessment the instructor finds fault with the length, complexity or variation of routes I have could that potentially be a problem. But I can’t honestly see that happening. I have more than enough 30 minute walks and now several that are much longer than that, one that’s even double. Of course, its not up to me if I meet the required standards and criteria but this time, for the very first time ever, I’m feeling much more positive about things, about my chances and the potential for it to go right this time. Fourth time lucky, perhaps?

However, there’s always a thundercloud trying to ruin my happiness and blooming positivity and today that comes in the form of some unknown person thinking they have the right to talk about me behind my back and stick their 50p worth in where its really not welcome. I mean haven’t I had enough battles over the last 7 years I’ve been fighting for a Guide Dog? No, according to someone, apparently I haven’t. I don’t even know if I’m supposed to be writing about this but its my life and my right to be angry. Nearing the end of the meeting, after we’d done a lot of positive talking and I’d had plenty of fusses and cuddles with 14-month-old lab/retriever trainee Ezra, the service delivery manager dropped a bombshell I wasn’t expecting, another hurdle for me to climb, another punch to dodge. An anonymous member of the public has written a letter to guide dogs outlining their reasons why they strongly urge Guide Dogs not to give me a dog. This letter was received last month and portrays me as a terrible person. It is very nasty, hurtful and infuriating. Infuriating because its utter lies. The things the person claims about me are totally untrue and fabricated nonsense. I think my angry responses, however much i tried to remain calm, showed the service delivery manager and GDMI exactly what I thought of the letter. Thankfully, as it is anonymous, it won’t have a huge impact on me when I reapply. As long as i can demonstrate that i meet the relevant criteria set out to me today and show the staff everything they need to see in a potential applicant, that letter doesn’t matter. Just like the person, whoever they are, doesn’t. I have a ton of people supporting me with this, and every other, application and one hateful person isn’t going to stop me. Ive been fighting too long to let one person’s opinion faze me, especially as they didn’t even sign the letter. Whoever you are out there, if you read these blogs, know you aren’t going to stop me. I also want you to know that all those things you accused me of doing to any potential dog I’d never do. No dog would be left for hours on end by itself in my care. No dog would be locked in a cage for punishment. No dog would be given up on because I couldn’t be bothered to persevere. No dog would be over fed treats or given junk food; I’m not that irresponsible. I may be many things but I’m not stupid and would never be cruel to an animal, especially an animal I’ve thought a third of my life to be entitled and suitable for. If and when I get a guide dog, I’m going to be out working that dog every single day, unless I’m poorly or theres a family emergency. Ive worked so hard and for so long to throw an opportunity of having the mobility aid I long for away. I will do whatever it takes to become a guide dog owner and once I’ve achieved that goal, the dog will be looked after to the absolute best of my ability, with the support of the guide dogs team and all my friends and family. Ive got a whole army of people to support me so I know I;ll be fine. Just how I am now writing this. Because look, yay! You achieved your aim. You made me feel angry, hurt, sad, betrayed, low, worried and down. But I’m better than someone who doesn’t sign such a letter. I will be a guide dog owner one day and it’ll be because a guide dog team deem me deserving and suitable, not because I’ve fooled them into believing I’m the sort of person who should have a dog. Ive not got any dodgy motives in wanting a guide dog at all. I desire a guide dog because I’ve seen the improvements having a dog by my side has on my mobility, wellbeing, confidence and determination. Having a guide dog would make me a better person. It’d give me the confidence to go out there and achieve my goals. It’d give me the confidence to be the person I want to be with a furry companion by my side. What other motivation do I need? And why else would Guide Dogs want to give me a dog? They don’t just hand dogs over to anyone. I’d have had thorough tests and checks to ensure I’m going to care for any dog’s welfare appropriately. Why would I sabotage that? Yes maybe my motives as a naive 14-year-old were immature and wrong. But I’m an adult now. I understand responsibility. And i understand what it means to have a guide dog and be a guide dog owner. What more can I say? You aren’t going to hold me back. I’m going to reapply. Send as many letters to guide dogs as you like. After all, its them who decide whether I’m suitable. But don’t worry, they’ve considered your input so thanks for giving them something else to doubt me about. I’ll just fight that extra bit harder to prove you wrong. And I hope, if you’re a genuine person who thinks they’re protecting the welfare of some defenceless dog who might be given to me, that in time you’ll see that actually I’m also a genuine person just trying to live a full and happy life the only way I know how and that all I offer a dog is a full, happy, well loved and looked after life. If not, please take your hate elsewhere. I’ve got enough challenges to deal with without you adding to the pile. But thanks for making the journey even more eventful. I guess it’ll just prove to guide dogs how determined and dedicated I am to being the applicant they’re looking for.

Before they left, the service delivery manager urged me to read through the suitability criteria before applying and make sure I was happy with everything. She said it’d be emailed to me shortly. I wasn’t expecting that shortly to be today! The email was in my inbox by the time I checked after coming home from a lovely afternoon out with my friend Josh, enjoying lunch in Yates and pudding in Sprinkles. Although of course I want to rush ahead and reapply right this second, I’m going to spend the weekend reading and rereading the criteria until I’m totally satisfied with it and even know it by heart perhaps. Then, if I’m feeling like it, on Monday I’ll have a chat with the service user representative who has been brilliant and invaluable this last month. If she agrees, I’ll go ahead and reply to the email with the criteria saying I want to move a step forward and reapply. Then, I guess the process will start over. After chatting a lot with the service delivery manager and GDMI today, and of course cuddling Ezra, I really think this time could be my time, my opportunity to grasp firmly with both hands and not hold back on. Obviously, by the time this post is finished and published online, I’ll have written about my 25th My Guide session and possibly reapplied. I’ll write about that then. I just want to end this bit by saying how lucky I am to have such an amazing My Guide volunteer to be partnered with. Today, Jenny and her husband explored the city centre to work out which route would be best to learn to the new office I’m going to be volunteering at very soon. They worked it out and Jenny text me to say there’s now a plan in place for next Thursday. She really does go above and beyond where my My Guide sessions are concerned and I couldn’t be more grateful that she’s partnered with me.

As I write this now, its 9:15pm on Thursday night a week after my meeting with the service delivery manager and GDMI from Guide Dogs and today Jenny and I practised the route to the place I’m going to be volunteering, hopefully, for the first time. It was much simpler than I expected and after walking it, twice, I’m so much more grateful for Jenny and her husband checking out the route before we attempted it ourselves today. There are only two road crossings and no big corners or anything. The road curves around in places but theres no over-complicated things to remember. However, because its me, I’m still estimating its going to take me ages to learn it. The walk is only 15 minutes each way with a half hour bus ride each way. So in total it’ll take me roughly an hour and a half in total to travel to and from my destination. Really, I’m quite happy with that and although the walking part of the route is quite short, I’m much more comfortable with that than some lengthy complicated route for my first attempt at working in an office environment, even if it is just voluntary. I got a bit frustrated with the big pelican crossing that I have to use because theres push buttons on either sides of both tactiles but irritatingly only one on each side has a spinning cone and none of them have audio cues. If the poles don’t have the spinning cone to announce when its safe to cross then they should have noise. To have neither, even though the opposite side of the crossing has one, isn’t really right. I don’t know if its breaking any rules or laws or anything because on either side of the road one of the poles does have some kind of announcement to show its safe to cross. But shouldn’t all the poles have something? I don’t know, it just annoyed me. Its another thing to remember, which side of each crossing’s pole actually has the thing that’ll help me cross safely.

Jenny and I have agreed to continually practice the volunteering route until I’ve mastered it. The sooner I’ve learnt it, the sooner potentially I can start my voluntary role. We practised the route twice today due to its short length and on the second run recorded the landmarks I can use as pointers on my Victor Reader Trek. Another irritation was that there were considerable road works not far up from the bus stop that I have to use. This meant for a little stretch of the pavement Jenny had to guide me out into the road and safely around the obstruction. Thankfully, she said that the workmen seemed to be getting through the work quite quickly so I’m hopeful it might all be finished by next week when we try the route again. I really hope that I can start retaining directions from this route quickly so that it doesn’t take too long to learn it and we can go back to practising my longer routes. But for a first attempt I think things went really well. Here’s hoping next week is even better.

“Lets go!” Another visit up North

So a week ago I got home from another visit up North to see Kieran and as usual I want to write about it. Note: for anyone, if anyone reads this, who wonders why I write these rambling random accounts of eating food and watching TV whenever I go to see Kieran or he visits me, I write them because I enjoy writing them. I know they’re utterly pointless and sometimes make hardly any sense, but I like writing them and I like documenting things I enjoy. Clearly, I enjoy spending time with my fiancé and his family, even if all I write about is eating and watching TV, and therefore I’m going to write about it. I couldn’t care less if nobody reads these posts or what anyone thinks of them. I started this blog over three years ago so I could practice my touch typing skills and to ramble about whatever was on my mind. I also wanted to document the important moments in my day to day life and also things I enjoy. So here it is, another ramble about my time in Blyth.

Unlike many of my previous posts about spending time with Kieran, this one won’t be as well written or have as much in it. That doesn’t mean to say there won’t be just as many words as usual… everyone knows I can ramble on about nothing at all and have thousands of words. After all, what else is this whole blog? But the main reason I don’t have as much to write is because I didn’t keep up with writing my notes while I was away. Usually, each night I’ll add the day’s happenings to a file on mine or Kieran’s BrailleNote Apex which I’ll then use as reference when writing these posts. But this time I wasn’t as vigilant as usual and at times forgot to update my notes; actually, at one point I was a fortnight behind on notes. But together racking our brains Kieran and I pieced together what we did, therefore I still have a post to write. It might not be 100% accurate and might have as much TV in as usual, but I still want to write it regardless.

On Thursday 9th august, after a day out shopping in Basingstoke with the family, we headed to the airport so I could catch a flight to Newcastle, to Kieran and family. It had been two months to the day since we’d seen Ed Sheeran and Kieran had proposed, so a day short of two months since I last saw him. A meet up was definitely due. Plus, I’d never visited Newcastle in the summer before and as Lesley and John were going away on holiday and Kieran would be house sitting, I thought I’d take the opportunity to go and join him. Unlike the majority of times when I’ve flown up North, this time there wasn’t any kind of weather warning in place! Actually, the journey was pretty smooth for the entirety of the flight. As always, I had my earbuds in to block out the horrendous noise of the plane. Since first starting to fly to visit Kieran, I’ve got much better with the actual flight and can relax much more now I use my earbuds which obliterate most of the sound around me.

At the airport, John and Kieran were waiting to meet me. In the car on the way back, we had the radio on and Kieran and John were joining in with the commentators on the sports channel debating things about Newcastle. I found it quite amusing. It at least took my mind off John’s crazy driving. It’s not dangerous, just rather fast…

When we arrived, Lesley was making dinner. We had pasta bolognese and it was delicious. While we ate, we watched QI and afterwards Lesley and John watched Hebburn so Kieran and I went upstairs as we were planning to watch it from the beginning later on in my stay.

The following day, Kieran worked from home and Lesley was home anyway as Fridays are her day off. I had a banana for breakfast and then went with Lesley into Blyth to do a bit of shopping. On our way back, we popped into see Rebecca which meant I met her new puppy, Wilson, who is extremely cute. For lunch, we had chorizo and mozzarella paninis and they were lovely. Kieran finished working around 4:30, by which time John was home from work. We had garlic chicken Kievs and chips for dinner and watched the latest Keith Lemon program and Ramsey’s 24 hours in hell. I’m not a massive fan of Keith Lemon anymore; when I was younger, I went through a phase of enjoying Celebrity Juice but quickly stopped liking anything else Keith Lemon did. However, I quite enjoyed the Gordon Ramsey program. I’d been recording them on my own Sky box at home but just hadn’t gotten round to watching them yet. After everything was tidied up and the car was loaded, Lesley and John left for their little holiday. They were off to spend some time on a boat before heading to see Lesley’s brother. A little while later, I decided to order dessert from my favourite takeaway place ever, Buzz Bar. Kieran had a Ben an Jerry’s fudge brownie milkshake and mars bar cake. I had a Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough milkshake and galaxy caramel cheesecake. We shared a portion of mini doughnuts with salted caramel sauce. While we indulged, we watched 8 out of 10 cats does count down and mock the week.

As we had no plans whatsoever, on Saturday morning we had a lie in. Just as we were deciding to get up, Rebecca rang to say she was bringing sausage rolls round for us. Once we were showered and dressed, we went downstairs and Kieran cooked chips to go with our sausage rolls. We listened to the Newcastle vs Tottenham game. The sausage rolls were lovely, freshly baked and crumbly. Unfortunately, the Newcastle match wasn’t as good for Kieran as they lost 2-1. Durning the afternoon we watched Come Dine With Me and 4 In A Bed. While that was on, Kieran’s grandma arrived to check on us. She invited us for roast dinner at their house the following day before she left so we accepted. That evening, we ordered takeaway for dinner: Kieran had a chicken and donner meat kebab with chips, I had donner meat and chips and we got mozzarella sticks and garlic bread to share. We started watching Friday Night Dinner while we waited for the food to arrive and when we were eating. We’d agreed to start watching it from the beginning right up to the latest episode, which neither of us had seen yet as we’d been waiting to watch it together.

On Sunday morning, Kieran’s grandma picked us up and we enjoyed a lovely roast beef dinner with them. We watched the Liverpool vs West Ham match which ended 4-1, making me very happy with such a strong start to the season for Liverpool. When we got home that evening, we had the remaining two sausage rolls from Rebecca’s pack and the leftover garlic bread. It made a rather nice tea. We also started to watch Hebburn.

On Monday, Kieran had taken the day off. He cooked us bacon, sausage and hash browns for lunch. We spent the day watching Hebburn. For dinner, we shared Hawaiian and margarita pizzas. By the time we went to bed, we’d finished Hebburn.

Tuesday meant Kieran was back to work and up early so that he could be ready in time for his lift to work. I got up early with him and spent the day catching up on East Enders. Once I’d finished that, I started watching Our Girl from series 2. I’d recently watched the pilot and series 1 at home and thought, with all the spare time I had, I’d continue and watch the rest. When Kieran cane home, he brought with him lightly spiced potato wedges and onion rings to go with the breaded chicken steaks Lesley had left in the fridge for us. It made a rather nice meal. I was craving something sweet so was very naughty and ordered more Buzz Bar. Kieran had a galaxy caramel with flake milkshake and chocolate fudge cake with ice cream and I chose a dairy milk milkshake with fudge, a Malteser cheesecake and a galaxy caramel cheesecake for the following day’s lunch… we continued to watch Friday Night Dinner.

On Wednesday, I decided not to get up when Kieran did and had a little lie in. I had Weetabix for breakfast and then put the laundry on while catching up on Holby. After that, I continued watching Our Girl. When Kieran came home from work, we ordered another takeaway for dinner. I had donner meat and chips, Kieran had a fish cake, a smoky sausage and chips and curry sauce. We shared mini spring rolls and chicken nuggets. While we ate, we watched more Friday Night Dinner.

Thursday was a similar day with me staying in bed for a little bit while Kieran went to work. Just to say, the latest I actually stayed in bed was 9:30. I had toast and a banana for breakfast and spent the day watching Our Girl. That evening, Kieran and I had fish fingers, waffles and spaghetti hoops for dinner. We also watched the rest of Friday Night Dinner, including the last episode which we hadn’t seen before.

On Friday, Kieran worked from home so I had some company. Again I had toast and a banana for breakfast. I read some Kindle books while Kieran worked. For lunch, we each had a little pie and a sausage roll warmed up. I had a yoghurt and Kieran a packet of crisps. Kieran’s grandparents visited. That evening, we ordered Dominoes for dinner. I had a pizza with extra cheese, tuna, garlic butter and sweet corn toppings and stuffed crust. Kieran created his own pizza with lots of different meats. We shared cheesy wedges, the chicken combo box and a portion of cookies. We watched Joe Lycett that’s the way a-ha a-ha Joe Lycett and a Jason Byrne comedy dvd.

On Saturday, Kieran cooked us bacon and hash browns for me and the same with sausage for himself for brunch. Kieran listened to the Newcastle vs Cardiff match. In the afternoon, we watched Come Dine With Me and Kieran’s grandma arrived and did some tidying up. For dinner, we had a Chinese takeaway. As I wanted to pay and didn’t have any cash, we couldn’t order from Kieran’s usual place so he chose somewhere that had good reviews on Just Eat to try. I had Hong Kong style sweet and sour chicken and a portion of chips, Kieran had house special curry, fried rice and chips and we shared a portion of spring rolls. We were given prawn crackers free with the meal.we watched the boxing that was being shown on BT Sport and then a Dara O’Brian comedy dvd.

On Sunday, we again went to Kieran’s grandparents for a roast dinner, this time chicken with all the trimmings, where I discovered that I actually do like cabbage! I also tried a new pudding, apple and custard, which I also discovered was very nice. We spent the afternoon watching the football matches that were on Sky Sports. When we got in, we had the sausage rolls Kieran’s grandma had left the previous day for dinner.

Monday meant Kieran was back to work. I spent the day catching up on TV and reading books. I had my usual cheese wrap for lunch which I enjoyed. That evening, Kieran and I had chicken dippers and wedges for dinner and watched the Liverpool vs Crystal Palace game which ended 2-0 to Liverpool.

On Tuesday evening, Kieran brought home some garlic bread to have with lasagne.

Wednesday was another laundry day and Kieran had the day off and did the hoovering. We watched more Come Dine With Me during the day and some Judge Judy. Kieran cooked fish finger sandwiches and waffles for lunch. Ended up having a takeaway for dinner. I had a tuna, sweet corn and garlic butter pizza and potato wedges, Kieran had a cheese bacon burger with chips and we shared mozzarella sticks.

On Thursday, Kieran was back to work but John and Lesley came home around 1:30. Not long after they’d got in, Kieran’s grandparents arrived. Kieran arrived home not long after 5pm and Lesley cooked enchiladas with potato wedges for dinner. We watched Celebrity Master Chef and Judge Romesh.

Kieran went to work on Friday but I had Lesley and John for company. In the afternoon, I packed everything I’d need for a weekend away as we were heading to the caravan. At the caravan that evening, John went and got chips for dinner. Kieran had fish, chips and curry sauce and I had a large sausage with chips. We watched Judge Judy, Celebrity Master Chef and 8 out of 10 cats does count down.

On Saturday, we went to Cartmel Races for the day. Lesley took a picnic to share and it was a lovely sunny day so really nice to be outdoors. On the way back, we went to the Black Bull pub for a drink. We had the Liverpool Vs Brighton match on the radio on the way home and it just finished before we went in the pub. The score was 1-0 to Liverpool. Back at the caravan, Lesley cooked ravioli in a tomato sauce with chorizo for dinner, which was really tasty.

On Sunday, John went to the Newcastle game and we stayed in the caravan and watched Young Sheldon and the Big Bang Theory all afternoon. Lesley cooked roast chicken for lunch and we had a lemon cheesecake for pudding. Kieran listened to the Newcastle match and I watched videos on YouTube. When John came in and had his roast dinner, Lesley made cheese and chorizo toasties for tea.

On Monday, we spent the day watching Judge Judy and Jeremy Kyle. In the morning, Lesley made everyone cooked breakfast. By the time we headed home, it was after 6 and we had sandwiches for tea when we got in. Kieran and I went upstairs and I sorted my bag out so everything that needed to be taken home the following day was packed and everything that stayed there was on my now designated shelf in Kieran’s wardrobe. We spent the rest of the evening listening to music on Kieran’s amazon echo.

Tuesday was my last day in Blyth. Kieran worked from home. I had quiche and crisps for lunch and Kieran had cheese and beans on toast. Rebecca visited with Wilson, who had been on his first outdoor walk on their way round, and their grandparents also arrived. I had a really horrible headache for most of the afternoon and even though I’d taken paracetamol, drank lots of water and eaten lunch it still took ages to go away. That evening, Lesley cooked us chicken dippers, chips and spaghetti hoops. After dinner, I made sure everything was packed and then we headed for the airport, always my least favourite part of staying with Kieran, that i inevitably have to leave again. No matter how many times Kieran and I say goodbye, it never gets easier. But when we first got together we were both well aware that long distance was going to make up a big part of our relationship, especially when Kieran’s placement in Hereford ended and he headed home. But however hard it is, its always worth it. Again, I had another great stay with Kieran and family and am looking forward to next time, which is already booked! Kieran is flying down to stay with me for a week from the 14th to the 21st of November so that the both of us and Josh can go to a couple of comedy shows at the Mayflower Theatre, Kevin Bridges and Dara O’Briain. Then, on the 21st when Kieran flies home, I’m going with him to stay in Blyth for 2 weeks. By the time I fly home, it’ll be December and the count down to Christmas. So these three weeks will be our last time together before the new year. I’m chuffed that we’ve managed to see each other as many times as we have this year, especially considering Kieran’s apprenticeship and my uni course. Hopefully next year will hold just as many great visits.

To Lesley and John, thank you so much for having me. As always I appreciate it lots. Also thanks for trusting me in your house while you were away. I’m thrilled to say that I didn’t break the washing machine or tumble dryer and that the only casualty was a dinner plate on the last day… looking forward to being back up there in November.

To Kieran, of course thanks for inviting me up and putting up with me. I always love the time we get to spend together and having some time without parents is always nice. Makes us feel like a normal couple. Also, the two weeks we spent without your parents is the longest we’ve ever co-habited before and proves that we would survive in our own home. Thanks for doing all the cooking; although I braved the laundry, I didn’t trust myself not too break your mum’s lovely oven. Also, I didn’t shrink any of your clothes in the wash! I can do this independence thing… love you so much and can’t wait for more time together in November.

Open uni: Results Day 2018

On Monday, a day earlier than expected, Open University results were released. I finished studies for this academic year at the beginning of June with my first OU exam. Leading up to the exam date, I’d been terrified, mostly that I’d forget all the information I’d frantically been trying to revise and partially because I expected the exams people to say on the day that I wasn’t allowed to use my BrailleNote. Without it, I’d have been thoroughly stuffed. I’d informed the special arrangements people that without a screen, nobody would be able to observe what I was doing on my BrailleNote Apex because it didn’t have its own screen and if they wanted to observe, they’d have to provide their own. When I arrived on the day and the lady observing my exam told me a screen hadn’t been provided, I expected to be told the exam would have to be rearranged, that we couldn’t continue if she wasn’t able to watch what I was doing. But nothing happened. I was allowed to proceed with my exam on BrailleNote and laptop as I’d instructed with no fuss whatsoever.

As I had special arrangements for the exam due to my blindness, I also had additional time in which to complete the exam. For everyone else, the exam started at 2:30 and ended at 5:30. Being given double time, this meant my exam started at 11:30 and I was allowed until 5:30. I was also entitled to a half hour rest break for lunch and toilet trips, both of which were very handy.

Even though I’d felt the exam went well and I knew I’d done a decent-ish job in my end-of-module assessment for K217, a little part of me had still been nervous leading up to exam results day. What if something crazy happened and I failed? Ive already booked onto my next modules for October, KE322 young lives, parenting and families and K314 approaches to mental health, and if I’d failed one of these level 2 modules then I’d have to resit the exam or end-of-module assessment before October to ensure I could start my level 3 modules as planned. For the 2017-18 academic year, many thought me ambitious for studying two level 2 modules simultaneously and why shouldn’t they be right when it came to results day?

So when news trickled in on Monday that results were in a day early, with trembling hands I went into the safari app on my iPhone and logged into StudentHome, the OU place where all your info is stored. People hadn’t been lying or joking. Results were in… I clicked on to the K240 module result page first, wanting to know the outcome of my exam after being so worried about it on the day. Pass! Overall examinable score: 85; overall continuous assessment score: 66. This all amounts to a grade 2 pass. So far, I’m not quite sure what a grade 2 pass is, but it sounds good. Feeling relieved and thrilled about the decent scores, I moved onto K217. Pass! Overall examinable score: 78; overall continuous assessment score: 75. Another grade 2 pass.

I’d done it. Really and truly passed. With more than pleasing grades. I could continue study in October with level 3 modules. The level 2 part of my degree was completed. That over ambition and dedication and perseverance had paid off. I’D PASSED!!! Somehow, I’d managed to study two level 2 modules simultaneously and come out with respectable passes. When I’d decided to take the plunge last May when signing up for these modules, I hadn’t honestly bee sure whether I could really do it, really study two modules simultaneously and come out unscathed and for the better the other side. In February 2016, I’d taken on another level 1 module alongside AA100 the arts past and present. By starting study of K101, I’d started my OU health and social care journey, which gave me a real taste for the subject area and has lead to me ending up here, now, with 4 health and social care modules passed, on my way to starting what I’m planning to be my final year of OU study in October. If I can work even harder than I have this year, hopefully this time next year Ill be sat typing one of these updates with a further two modules passed, the final two, meaning I’ll have my degree. Anything could happen in the next 12 months that could lead to me being unable to complete two modules simultaneously, meaning that I couldn’t collect a degree in a year’s time. But I’m really hopeful that I can manage it. This time next year, I hope to have loads of job interviews lined up, be heading into the world of employment, putting my study and education days behind me. But who knows? The one main barrier I see to me managing this goal is the workload for the level 3 modules. Ive already seen several students online giving others advice from experience of studying level 3 modules and saying that they’re quite tough, that you have to think for yourself a lot more and be proactive and use your initiative when completing assignments, much more than you do at level 2. But I’m up for the challenge. That, at least, must give me a good chance. In a year’s time, I hope to report yet again that my daring ambition has paid off. I don’t see why I can’t be lucky again. The shock of passing both my level 2 modules has worn off now but its spurred me on to do just as well next year. But for now, I’m going to continue to enjoy my sunny summer break and hope and pray that study isn’t too hard for me next academic year. For now, I’m just going to remain mighty glad I’ve managed to get this far. For the girl who wanted to give up study 3 years ago and run head first straight into employment, I think I’m doing pretty well as a student.

“For f**k sake, Dave, please don’t 💩 on my shoes”

Recently, all I seem to be doing is writing blogs. But it’s for very good reason. My Guide is going well, uni has finished and I’ve been really lucky in seeing all three of my very best friends, or non-biological family, all together in one place. For the first time in 18 months, all four of us were together again, and we had a very good reason to be. On Saturday 9 June, Ed Sheeran played Newcastle. It was his second night at St. James’ Park and thanks to Josh, we managed to secure tickets. So, on Friday, Josh came to mine, gave me my birthday presents and we headed into town to get some food before flying to Newcastle. I was very spoilt yet again; Josh bought me some Body Shop banana shampoo and conditioner, some jeans that I really like, a set of Cookie Monster pyjamas which are lovely, a set of mini coconut products from `body Shop that includes a mini body butter, mini hand cream and mini shower gel and some cool socks that add to my rapidly growing Harry Potter merchandise collection as they say “Dobby is free” on them. I felt very lucky indeed.

Getting the bus into town and going to Yates for lunch was no problem. Josh and I meet up as regularly as we can with him working and me studying and often end up eating in Yates. Josh enjoyed his usual burger and I went for scampi and chips. Afterward, I decided to have a pudding so that I was fully full up before our flight, as we weren’t sure when we’d have food up in Newcastle. Yates has recently changed its menu and now has a pudding that suits me perfectly called the cookie cup explosion. It is a cookie dough cup filled with chocolate sauce, fudge sauce, honeycomb and marshmallows. Josh decided against having a pudding but as it was only £2.95 I just couldn’t resist. I’m glad I indulged, too, because it was delicious.

We got the bus to the airport. Its the first time I haven’t had family assistance getting to the airport. Josh did really well, to be fair, and always does a good job getting us wherever we need to go. It didn’t take long at all to get to the airport, either. We had a little while to wait before checking in but we spent that time sitting on the bus waiting for it to go to its final stop at the airport. It stops for 20 minutes at the train station before going onto the airport. The bus driver was very kind and stopped directly outside the entrance to the airport. We were soon checked in and had our special assistance sorted. They took us through security, unfortunately not doing a very good job at all to help us out, and we were soon waiting in the departure lounge to go out onto the runway for our plane. We were taken out on a little bus and driven to the plane. We were sat quite a while after reaching the plane waiting to get on but eventually they boarded everyone. I had a suspicion that it was because the staff were trying to fit the assistance ramp to the plane for us. I’d tried to tell them that we didn’t need it but they really weren’t listening. In the end, they didn’t even bother fitting the ramp so if that was the reason we were delayed I felt a bit sorry for the other passengers.

Once we were boarded, though, and taxiing along the runway, the excitement really started to build. Josh had been very excited all day but it didn’t really kick in for me until we were in the air. Then, I got the feeling I always get as the plane rises into the sky and we head for Newcastle, that I’m off to see Kieran, that soon we’ll be together again. Of course, this time the feeling was amplified by the fact that I was already with Josh and going to see Imi soon. The last time I’d seen Imi was last august when Josh and I visited her in York; so there was a lot to be excited about.

Once we’d landed, the mini bus was waiting to take us to the terminal. In the airport, a nice assistance man was waiting for us and when I asked him if he knew where the hotel was, he took us straight there without question. Josh and I were both very surprised by this kindness and very grateful to him. Without him, Josh probably have found the hotel himself but it was nice to be shown directly where to go. Once we were in reception, Josh explained that the others we were staying with had already checked in earlier and I text Imi and Kieran to tell them we’d arrive. Two minutes later, they were with us and we were reunited, all hugging each other in greeting.

As always, the Premiere Inn rooms were lovely. Imi and I shared one room and the boys had the room next door. A little way along the corridor, Imi’s dad Mike had a third room. We spent the rest of the evening, catching up on everyone’s news. Imi and I also swapped birthday presents. Together, the three of us had clubbed together and bought Imi a new Pandora bracelet with a charm from each of us. On her birthday, she completed the Pandora bracelet she’s been adding towards for years. Our IMessage group name is lions, tigers and bears, like the quote from the wizard of oz, and so we got her a charm to represent each animal. The lion was a lion with a crown on,the tiger was tigger from Winnie the Pooh and the bear is two little bears with their arms around each other holding a heart between them that says best buddies. Imi loved it and we were so glad. For me, Imi had made a very special scrapbook. As I’ve mentioned, earlier this year I became an auntie for the first time. Ive got the most gorgeous little niece, who sadly I’ve only met once but completely adore. When she was born and since, my brother and his girlfriend have sent pictures of the baby to the family and I’ve sent them onto Imi mostly, so that she can describe them. To begin with, I got quite upset because I couldn’t see the photos. I wasn’t able to fully share in how gorgeous she is, who she looks like physically and how she’s changing. This touched Imi who decided to make me a scrapbook with audio labels describing each picture so that I can flick through and hear the description of each photo. I love scrapbooks and used to enjoy making my own so its really thoughtful and special to have one so creatively made of my little niece. Ive sent Imi countless pictures of the baby since she was born in February and Imi has selected the best ones to put in the scrapbook and decorated each page with lovely backing card and colourful sticky tapes. She’s written on each page and in the audio labels she’s described them fully so that I can picture them clearly. So carefully has she done it that there’s even a scan photo of the baby that I must have had. Its a really beautiful present and I’m definitely going to treasure it. My niece is nearly 4 and a half months old now and the latest photo in the scrapbook is her first night in her proper cot. Imi has agreed that whenever we see each other, we can update the book with whatever photos I’ve been sent of the baby so that I have an up-to-date timeline of the little one.

The following morning, we went to the adjoining restaurant for breakfast. I didn’t find them particularly helpful assistance-wise, but the food was nice. As we arrived a little later than we planned, there wasn’t any of the continental breakfast left by the time we’d eaten our cooked breakfast. But the hot food was nice and Imi made sure we were always topped up with tea. We spent the rest of the afternoon in our room listening to Ed Sheeran, Anne Marie and Jamie Lawson in preparation for the concert. Kindly, Imi’s dad had offered to pay for our taxis to and from the stadium so, once we’d got ready, we took Layla, Imi’s guide dog, along to Mike’s room where she’d be spending her evening while we were out. We all went downstairs and Imi and Kieran had drinks from the bar. Then, Mike took some photos of us all for pre-concert pics. Imi, Josh and I had all bought Ed Sheeran t shirts from his website to wear to thee concert. The taxi came at a quarter to five and we were driven to the stadium no problem; it only cost £12, too, so we were quite impressed. The taxi driver tried to book us a cab for after the concert but sadly the company weren’t taking bookings after how hectic the previous night had been. When we got to the stadium entrance, we went through the turnstile no problem and a member of staff pointed us to a kiosk where Imi bought herself some drinks and snacks to sustain her through the show. Then, we found another member of staff who took us straight to our seats. Of course, it meant that we were really early for the show but really we didn’t mind. We had expected it to be busy and difficult to find our seats, however much Josh had researched where we were sitting, so we were just thankful it had been so hassle-free. Even then, sitting in our allocated seats, it still hadn’t sunk in where we were and why we were there. At about half past six, the first support act, Jamie Lawson, came on. I thought he was really good but sadly the majority of the stadium hadn’t filled up yet so the crowd wasn’t very responsive to him. I’d listened to his new album when it was first released earlier this year and had liked it, but when I listened it again I hadn’t been too keen. But when I listened to him play live, it made me really like some of the tracks off the new album, as well as reminding me how much I’d enjoyed the first album. Imi is quite a big fan of Jamie’s and enjoyed him a lot. The boys weren’t as keen, sadly.

After him, there was a little gap and then Anne Marie came onstage. Beforehand, Imi and I had been a bit apprehensive that we wouldn’t enjoy her. But she really was amazing and I think I enjoyed every song she played. Listening to her album earlier on in the day certainly helped me recognise and enjoy more of her set. Both boys clearly loved it. They were singing along and fully enjoying themselves.

Even after she’d finished, though, it still hadn’t truly sunk in that we were going to hear Ed Sheeran live. We’ve all been big fans right from the beginning and I’ve always thought that I’d love to see him live. Who better to see him with than my best friends in all the world, too! His first song was Castle On the Hill and it really was the absolute perfect way to start the show. The whole show was incredible. Still, now, I don’t quite have words to explain how amazing Ed is live. Ive always loved listening to his music and his live performances but actually being there, listening, being an active participant in his crowd, is something else. I remember saying over and over again to Imi how lucky we were. I felt like the luckiest person alive to be in that crowd, listening to him play. The most memorable parts of the show for me were listening to Photograph, Thinking Out Loud, Dive and I See Fire. Photograph because it was a song I’d hoped to hear him sing it live and hadn’t expected him to play it. I See Fire because it sounded so beautiful and because, as he was singing it, Imi told me that the sun was setting. Thinking Out Loud and Dive were beautiful because they just sounded so incredible. For most of the show, I’d held tight to both Imi and Kieran’s hands. But for Thinking Out Loud, the emotion of the show just got to me. Also, as Thinking Out Loud is such a romantic song, I decided to give Kieran a hug and it made me cry. I’m usually useless in high emotion situations anyway, I always find myself crying, so I hadn’t expected the show to be any different. Kieran cried, too, and Imi took some lovely photos of us clinging onto each other sobbing. Seeing me cry so much, though, made Imi start, too.

When the show eventually finished — far too soon, of course, as I could have gone on listening to Ed all night long — we waited for the crowd to empty before venturing out of our seats. We formed our usual train and headed out of the stadium. Outside, it was crazy busy with people trying to leave. Both Josh and Kieran got on the phone to taxi companies to get us a ride home. Eventually, kieran managed to get us an Uber. The driver was incredibly helpful and although we waited quite a while whilst trying to book a cab, it was worthwhile to get a good driver. It was surprisingly quick getting back to the hotel, too. On the way, Kieran muttered that he wanted to have a word with me when we got back. I was a bit worried, thinking something had happened at the gig or he’d had some bad news from his family or something. When we got back, Imi went to get Layla from Mike and Josh sat in our room while Kieran and I went in theirs. We sat on the edge of his bed and had a little hug and then, holding onto my hand, Kieran got down on the floor, kneeling down, and asked me to marry him. He said that it wouldn’t be anytime soon, obviously we had no plans at all but that he felt that if he didn’t ask now, the time wouldn’t ever be better again. I was shocked. I hadn’t expected that at all. I’d been under the impression that he didn’t want to get engaged or anything like that until we were properly settled together. But it seems something has changed for him. Obviously, my answer was simple: “of course I will”. We had a big hug and I cried a bit. Afterwards, he rang to tell his Mum. She’d been asleep and sounded thoroughly astounded on the phone. I can’t blame her, to be honest. It came completely out of nowhere and, as I’ve already said, Kieran and I don’t have any plans in place and haven’t made any to put in place. We live 300 miles apart at either ends of the country and currently don’t have any plans on changing that. Really, we don’t have the means to either. I’m still studying, currently with no prospect of being employed, and Kieran’s a year into his apprenticeship. If he gets a full-time job afterwards, I’ll start seriously considering moving up there somehow so we can get our own place together. At the moment, that prospect seems incredibly daunting. I missed home when I was 150 miles away at college and that was only temporary and half the distance. But of course I’ll do whatever it takes for Kieran and I to be happy together. But we’re in no rush, which I’m sure is a relief to our families. Some people may think we’re too young, that we should have everything planned out before making the commitment and that neither of us currently have the means to put things in place, but the way I’m looking at it is we’re both very happy with our situation and its us it concerns. Also, if Kieran felt that Saturday night was the right time, then its the right time. I, personally, couldn’t be happier. Its cliche I know but I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be with kieran and am truly amazed by his proposal and the promise to spend the rest of our lives together. Its the promise of commitment, a future and everything we both want for our lives. Yes, it is true that neither of us have planned how things ar going to work. Christ only knows how we’ll manage a wedding at some point with both our families being at polar opposite ends of the country and our friends scattered nationwide. But we’ll do it somehow. We’re in no rush. The commitment and promise to do it is more than enough. Next month, we’ll have been together two and a half years and actually, on Saturday itself, it was another month we’d been together. I’m still getting used to the situation and I know Kieran is too. We’ve both been overwhelmed by the amount of congratulations and good wishes we’ve received both online and in person. It has truly been amazing and I’m very touched by everyone’s reactions.

After we’d had a cuddle and a chat, and kieran had rung his parents to tell them, we went next door to tell Josh and Imi, who were, predictably, very excited for us; Imi so much so that she burst into tears. We all had a massive hug on the bed and talked about everything. Honestly, I can’t remember hardly any of the conversation. I was still in total shock about the whole night’s events. The concert itself had been incredible and Kieran’s proposal, although out of the blue, had really been the perfect ending to the day and I honestly couldn’t be happier about the outcome.

On Sunday, I woke up much earlier than I’d hoped to. In the end, the night before I don’t think I fell asleep until gone 2:30am. Kieran text me at about 8:15 to tell me that his sister was picking him up just after 10. This was quite a shock as we’d hoped he’d stay with us for most of the day before they went to see Ed again that night. Quickly, I jumped in the shower, got dressed, brushed my teeth and made sure everything was ready in my rucksack for us to leave that afternoon. Then, Imi woke up and, while she sorted herself out, I went next door to see Kieran while Josh was in the shower. Then, when they were ready, we went back into our room. We decided that there wasn’t really any point in us going for breakfast as we didn’t have long until Rebecca was due to arrive. So we just sat and chatted about how incredible the night before had been. Also, Kieran and I rang our grandparents to tell them our news. The response was shocked but seemed overall happy for us. Then, we made it Facebook official so that other friends and relations knew. We still couldn’t believe it ourselves. Even now, a few days on, I still can’t believe my luck.

Sadly, Rebecca soon arrived to collect kieran. We all went out to see him off and she congratulated us. Then, she and Kieran left. Imi, Josh and I just listened to music in our room for a bit. Then, when Mike was ready to go, Imi headed off to. We had to check out of the hotel because our time was up. I’d assumed that the restaurant attached to the hotel was like other Premiere Inn restaurants that serve regular food after the breakfast serving ends. But it didn’t start serving food until 3 o’clock. So Josh and I agreed to catch the metro into Newcastle city centre and have a look around, mainly find something to eat. Getting the metro was no problem; a member of staff in the airport showed us to the entrance of the metro and Josh was able to get our tickets and get us onto the right train. In the town centre, we settled on mcdonalds for lunch. I was feeling really hungry and knew my head would start feeling funny if I didn’t eat soon. But the mcdonalds was lovely and helped me feel a lot better. Afterwards, we had a wander around the town centre. Earlier, Imi had told me that Build A bear in Newcastle were selling teddy bears dressed up like Ed Sheeran. I really wanted to see it so Josh and I searched, using online maps, for the shop and, when we eventually found it, went to have a look at the bear christened Ted Sheeran. It was really cute; it was an ordinary bear with a pair of jeans, some high-top trainers, a checked shirt over a white t shirt, some glasses, a ginger wig and a little guitar strapped around his waist. I was very tempted to buy him but thankfully Josh was the voice of reason and managed to stop me. It’s probably for the best, too, as I have far too many teddies already…

We couldn’t think of anything else to do after visiting Ted Sheeran so decided to head back to the metro station and the airport. We had a nice ride back to the airport and once there, found a little cafe inside it where we bought a drink each. There was a little seating area so we made ourselves comfortable as it was only 4:30.

I didn’t find the assistance through the airport particularly helpful this time. Usually, Newcastle airport’s assistance easily outshines southampton’s but it just wasn’t at its usual standard this time. But we got through security quickly and were soon sat in the disabled waiting area, which thankfully had an easy-to-find accessible toilet, which Josh and I took full advantage of. We went onto the little mini bus to board the plane again and were seated quite quickly. The flight home always has a kind of anticlimax feeling. We’d been planning arrangements for the concert and weekend for so long and looking forward to it so much that it felt strange that it was all over already. For me, though, it was especially strange flying home knowing I was now an engaged woman. It felt incredible, but very odd. And when we landed, Dad and Tamsin were bursting with questions about Kieran’s proposal and our plans. Its odd not really having answers for anyone but feeling so blissfully happy about it. I don’t need plans or big gestures or loads of diamonds to be happy. Just the feeling that Kieran himself asked me, wants me to be his wife, wants us to spend the rest of our lives together is the best feeling in the world. Ive always wondered what it’d be like if Kieran asked me, always dreamt that we would have the rest of our lives to enjoy together, and now we do. Knowing that Kieran feels the same is just lovely.

We certainly had the most amazing weekend. It was so good to have the four of us reunited, see Ed Sheeran live and spend so much time together. Of course, having the love of my life proposing to me after the best experience of my life made it even more magical and the proposal was definitely the best part of the whole thing, the whole week, month, year… I don’t care about seeming soppy and I know I’ve already said it but I can’t put into words what it means that Kieran has decided he wants to spend the rest of his life with me and that then was the right time to ask me to make that commitment too. I couldn’t be a fraction happier and don’t care how long it actually takes to have a wedding and start that life together. We’ve promised each other that we’re going to, somehow, and now the engagement is a binding contract. We’ve been doing an amazing job at a long distance relationship for almost two and a half years solid and I know we’ll continue to ace it. It took us a long time to pluck up the courage to tell each other how we felt about each other and even longer to take the risk of getting together, but since then we’ve been happy. Touch wood, we’ll continue to be so. We definitely have both sets of parents to thank for enabling us to be together happily for without their taxi service and allowing us both to live in their houses we’ve been able to keep this relationship going. We certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere near as happy without their kindness and hospitality. We couldn’t have been luckier. So here’s to the future, however long it takes us to get us there. For now, we’re happy and that’s what counts.

To my non-biological family, thank you for the best weekend we could have ever hoped to have. To Josh, for persevering with the arrangements and getting everything spot on, for my birthday presents, for all the guiding and for putting up with me. To Imi, for coming along and braving the crowds and the noise, for being my awesome sister, for my scrapbook, for the audio description at the show, for the photos, for supporting me always. Thank your dad too for the taxis again; I know he said it wasn’t a problem but honestly it was a big help,.. And of course, to my fiancé, to Kieran, well, as always for everything. For proposing, mainly, and making me the happiest person alive. We were happy anyway, you know that, and I’d have carried on being happy for the next 30 years just the way we were but I do feel amazing knowing you feel the way you do. As I’ve already said, I don’t want or need big gestures, diamonds and loads of money. I fell in love with you because you were the guy who helped me out with the easiest tech problems without calling me stupid or grumbling, because you made me happy so much and because you were the bestest guy friend a girl could have. Not a day goes by when I don’t thank my lucky stars that we took the risk of being together and even more that you came into my life at college. Whatever I’ve said about RNC in the past, we wouldn’t be where we are now and we wouldn’t have Imi and Josh in our lives too without the place. For those things, I’ll be forever thankful. So thank you for the best weekend, all three of you. Here’s to many many more. But I bet we won’t be able to beat this one.