The A to Z of me

Dear reader, thanks heaps for following this blog! I now have 1000 followers!
I was quite shocked to be honest; I thought the only people who read this were a few friends and my Mum.
So, I thought I’d write an A to Z of me, so you can find out a bit more about me,
Then, perhaps you could try it on your blog?
It’s sort of like those hideous things which people pop on FB (thank goodness I’m free of that) only heaps more fun!
Australia: I’m a quarter Australian, but that quarter is very important to me.
I’m fiercely loyal, especially when sport is involved. Not because we invariably beat whoever we’re playing, but because Aussie’s throw themselves into any sport with such gay abandon.
I worked out there for a month as well, then went again two years later to meet friends and see a bit more of it.
I’m planning another trip there, just as soon as I think I can leave James for about two months.
Braille: I am a proficient reader and writer in Braille.
I don’t read Braille books anymore (apart from the ones I record for my niece)
Chelsea: Chelsea is my 2nd guide dog, she’s the reason I started this blog (more later)
Differently abled: Don’t call me disabled. I can’t abide it. Dis has such negative connotations. I was in Cape Town once visiting relatives when I heard a radio interview with a lady who runs a dance company for “disabled” people. She used the term “Differently abled” you might not like it, but I think it’s quite appropriate. We’re all “differently abled” you can’t do some of the things I can, and Vice Versa.
Etiquette: I’m going to sound like a much older lady than my 30 something years now, but I think good manners are important.
I was at my Mum’s one day, when my sister (who was in the same room) texted me to ask me to make her a cup of tea!
Then, she texted me later that day to ask if I’d like to go for a walk.
Also, when is the last time you rang someone up and had a good chat.
Friends: I adore my friends. I have friends all over the country, partly as I went away to college and uni, but also because I’ve moved from one end of Wales to the other.
I spend a lot of time cultivating my friendships, as they’re the fourth most important things in my life, after God, family and my dogs.
Goldilox: Goldilox (AKA Vale) was my first guide dog. She was gorgeous, naughty and totally adorable.
She died six years ago, but I think of her every day.
Horseracing: My parents and I used to watch the Grand National every year. When I was 10, Dad asked me to choose a horse. I chose Rhyme And Reason, as I loved writing poetry and it seemed a good name.
It won!
I’ve won a few times over the years.
My knowledge of horseracing even helped me to win a TV quiz (more later)
Interesting: When I fundraise, I don’t do things like coffee mornings or jumble sales. These are fine by the way, but just not exciting enough for me.
I’ve raised £30,000 singlehandedly over the past 20 years, from abseiling to zorbing, scuba diving with sharks, skydiving and a half marathon.
Journalism: I studied broadcast journalism at Cardiff uni. It was the post-grad course.
(By the way, if you’re considering doing the course, I totally recommend it)
Its hard work, but it taught me a lot!
My tutor suggested I write this blog while I was looking for work. At first I didn’t think I could, as the idea of retiring Chelly was extremely difficult to think about, let alone let other people be part of the journey.
However, it’s been strangely cathartic.
Kiwi: OK, so it’s very random, but I totally adore Kiwi fruit.
I love them on their own, in smoothies or in desserts.
Lovely James: I know I’ve had James for 7 months, but I’m still absolutely besotted with him. I didn’t really want a male dog, partly as I’d always had girls, but also as the male dogs I’ve met have been the size of horses.
He’s just the right size and is the most adorable male dog I’ve ever met!
Mum: OK, this will sound controversial, but my Mum is the best!
She’s a total star. She’s helped me, guided me, protected me and taught me more than I ever learned at school.
My lovely Dad died four years ago, and when you lose one parent you sometimes cling to the one that’s left.
Mum has been the rock I’ve clung to in an incredibly choppy sea over the last few years, and I absolutely adore her!
Plus, she has a mug which says:
“Best Mum ever, ever, ever, ever! The end!” so, there’s the proof.

Next time: Olives, seahorses and travel
You can follow my adventures with Chelly and James at
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Advertisements

teach your dog tricks, not mine!

I absolutely adore the public, mostly! However, I had a few things happen yesterday which I feel need bringing to attention.
I was fundraising yesterday in one of the big supermarkets in Cardiff. (I’ll give you a clue, it has a C in it)!!
On three separate occasions I was absolutely taken aback by the audacity of people!
Firstly, I don’t like to be one of those guide dog owners who slates members of the public, I’m not that person and it’s not in my nature.
But what happened yesterday was very annoying and could have potentially lead to my dog being taken away from me.
Firstly, I was getting ready to fundraise and James was bouncing around happily. He is a 2 year old male Labrador and there was a 7 year old female dog there. So, James uttered a series of high-pitched barks.
“Ooo, he shouldn’t bark like that!” harrumphed a woman.
“But he is a dog, and they bark! Strange I know, but a guide dog is still a dog.”
The thig is, some people seem to think that once a dog has been given a title, they should be perfect in every way.
Secondly, a lady spent about ten minutes telling me how she sponsored a guide dog.
I thanked her, and thought how well we were getting on.
“Give me your paw,” she suddenly said.
“No James,” I said.
“I’m only telling him to give me his paw!” said the lady indignantly.
“Why?” I asked.
“He’s a guide dog. Please don’t try to teach him things like that!”
“Oh, sorry!” she said, and left (no doubt to cancel her sponsorship forthwith)!
This happened four times with four different people.
After the fourth time I snapped.
“If you teach him to do that, he’ll think it’s OK, then if he puts his paws up on a child and knocks them over, he could cause serious damage! Then, we’d end up in court quicker than you can say Labrador!” Thank you so much for sponsoring a guide dog, but they’re not meant to do that!” I wanted to add: “Now go away and do your shopping!” but I didn’t.
Everyone else was delightful.
But I just want people to be aware that guide dogs have one owner. James has only been with me for 7 months, and has to listen to commands from me, and only me.
OK, if he’s about to run into the road/jump in a river/devour a small child, by all means step in (although I don’t blame you if you hesitate for the latter, depending on the child)!
Little things like trying to teach a guide dog tricks can not only set the dogs training back months, but it is also unkind to do this in front of someone who can’t see what you’re doing.
So, by all means keep sponsoring, you’re a total darling for doing so and I cannot express my gratitude enough, but keep the tricks for your own dog.

You can follow my adventures with James and Chelly at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

think before you speak

James and I have been together for 7 months, so yesterday I decided to take the plunge and try to do some shopping in Cardiff by myself.
I’ve almost nailed the particular part of Cardiff I live, so I thought it’d be relatively straightforward.
The best laid plans…
It didn’t start off well when my talking satnav called a trekker breeze refused to tell me where I was.
I call him Romeo, because when I’m lost \I say:
“Romeo Romeo, wherefore am I Romeo!”
But he kept joyfully announcing:
“Cannot find satellite!”
So, I decided to use a card which says: “You’re help welcome!”
I hate these cards, as they make me feel really “blind” but they provoke many different responses.
The first one involved three people:
P1: “That card says help”
P2: “Oh yeah, it does doesn’t it”
P3: what shall we do”
P1: I don’t know, won’t the dog help her?”
P2: “Yeah, probably!”
P3: “OO, does it know what the card means! That’s cool that is!”
Then a man came up and said:
“Can I help you? I’m running late for yoga but I’ll help you!”
Anyway, he put me in the right direction.
Things went relatively smoothly after that. Romeo even decided to put in an appearance.
I went to a few shops.
The first one was Poundland, but I had no idea which one it was until a man started giggling uncontrollably.
“What shop is this please?” I asked.
“Your dog has taken you to the pet food!”
It turned out to be a box of food which James had spotted and decided to investigate.
I went to Marks & Spencer and finally decided to go to Costa coffee (on the corner of St Marys street,
by High Street arcade)
I’m only saying this as I don’t want anyone to think it was any other Costa.
I stood at the counter and a man said:
“What would you like!”
I asked him which Panini’s he had.
“They’re over there in the fridge!” he said.
OK, now I must tell you I have a yellow Labrador, I had bright clothing on and he was wearing his harness. You’d think, therefore he’d be aware I had a guide dog.
“I have a guide dog, and I’m totally blind, so please could you tell me which Panini’s you have?”
Well, what do you like?” he said.
This really annoys me! OK, if it was busy, I’d have probably said:
“Well, I hate olives, peas and sweetcorn, but I adore chicken and bacon!”
But he was obviously not going to help me so I said:
“I don’t know until you tell me what you’ve got!”
He did eventually relent, but by then I was already feeling incredibly anxious and close to tears.
The guy who brought the Panini was lovely, and said he sponsored a guide dog.
I was so flustered at the attitude of the first man that it was only when I got home \I realised he’d kept the change to the £5 I gave him.
It was only £1,10, but it made me feel even more dejected than I did at the time.
I went back to the place I used to work and burst into tears.
Nobody has the right to make anyone else feel that way, but that mans uncaring attitude made a relatively enjoyable day far worse.
So, what I’m trying to convey in this post is try to be kind to people.
Try and “look” for clues as to whether they might need you to be a bit more compassionate.
I’m proud of myself for even trying to go into the city by myself.
I’ll get back on the horse, I always do. But I’ll never go back to that Costa, apart from to complain and get my £1,10 back!
You can follow my adventures with James and retired guide dog Chelsea at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Have you had any similar experiences?
Alternatively, are there any places in Cardiff which stand out for their customer service?

The damage love can do

Chelly (my retired guide dog) and James (my new one) are totally besotted with each other.
It’s not unusual for James to sidle up to Chelly and give her a tender lick on the face.
She lies with her head on James, the way she did with my first dog, Vale.
But whereas Vale tolerated Chelsea the way you might a car alarm at five in the morning (I.E. ignoring it, and hope it goes away) James and Chelly are extremely close.
The other day Chelly wanted James’s bed, so after she’d nuzzled him to make him climb out, she pulled one of the beds from his basket and placed it on the floor beside it.
However, there’s a downside to love, as my Mum discovered two weeks ago.
I like to meet Mum by the bus-stop when she comes to visit me. She gets the bus from the train station and James and I meet her.
Everything was going well until Chelly caught sight of her beloved James.
She spun round, and the next thing I hear is a shout and a thud.
I ran over to Mum, and the small crowd which had formed.
“I think I’ve broken my wrist!” Mum said.
I comforted her and said everything would be OK and we’d take her to the hospital.
An old lady, well-meaning said to me as she tried to steer James and I away:
“We’re OK now, she’ll be fine, we’ll look after her!”
I looked at her, and in my firmest voice I said:
“I am her daughter, and those dogs are my guide dogs!” Thanks for your help!” she wandered off. Then I suddenly remembered Chelly.
“It’s OK, I’ve got her!” said a young lady.
From then on everyone was absolutely lovely.
The ladies from a local charity shop looked after Mum. They put a sling on her wrist and gave her a glass of water. I rang a friend to ask her to look after Chelly, and she did.
Another couple of friends took Mum’s suitcase into their shop.
After four hours at the hospital we went home.
Mum’s wrist was broken and she had a big plastrcast on it.
For the next two days I looked after Mum, cooking, helping her with her clothes and getting her medication ready.
They say things happen at the right time sometimes.
I definitely think this did, as two days after it happened we went away for five days.
I looked after Mum before she had to go home the following Wednesday.
After Mum broke her wrist my close friends were really lovely.
I rang one of them to ask if they could possibly look after James. They were delighted, they love him almost as much as I do, and they’re such lovely kind people.
My friend who looked after Chelly also brought her back.
Another friend picked us up from the station when we returned from our holiday.
I think when something like this happens it makes you very resourceful.
You also realise who you can rely on.
Chelly went on holiday with us, and although she seemed very subdued for the first two days, it was lovely spending time with her.
I really miss her and Mum when they have to go home, but it’s lovely to know James and Chelly have such a close bond. That, is priceless!

Who are your “real” friends?

I’m going to tell you a truth you’re not going to like. You do not have 300 friends. You don’t even have 200 friends.
“Yes I do!” you shout vehemently, probably thudding the desk so hard your coffee mug rattled. But it’s true.
Do you know how I know?
Because it’s almost impossible.
It’s not a new concept, British evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar first proposed this idea in the 1990’s. It’s all to do with our brains capability of maintaining close meaningful relationships with people.
Facebook also did some research to confirm the same applies online.
An article on the ABC Australia website says:
We have on average five intimate friends, 15 best friends, 50 good friends, 150 friends, 500 acquaintances and 1,500 people we recognise on sight.
I did a mini experiment four months before I read the article online which prompted this post.
I was never a huge Facebook user, but I found I was using it to tell people about Jimmey and Chellys progress, and particularly to ask questions and advice when Chelly had a recent operation. Facebook was also useful after my Dad died during the first term of my post-graduate course.
Not many people in my immediate circle of acquaintances on the course understood, and it was only a handful of friends outside my course who asked me how I was and really took the time to help me during that time.
So, getting back to the experiment. When I had a four week fast from Facebook, nobody who I was “friends” with on it got in touch to ask how I was. Admittedly I didn’t contact them either, but as I’m more often than not the friend who gets in touch with people first, I wanted to see how real they were.
Being a friend isn’t about grand gestures. It can involve something as mundane as ringing someone up to ask how they are!
“Blimey, how old-fashioned are you!” I hear you shriek.
Try it, it’s actually fun!
So, when I read about “Dunbar’s number” and Facebooks research I wasn’t surprised.
So how many real close friends do you have?
I can count on one hand how many close friends I could call on during a crisis, and I know they would be able to call on me.
I have lots of people who I care about and take an interest in how they are, but not to the extent I’d be prepared to maintain a friendship online.
I recently had a bit of drama (details coming up in future posts) and it really brought home to me how many people I could ask for help.
So, what happened after the Facebook fast?
I haven’t been on Facebook for over a month, and I feel utterly liberated and free!
I miss a few people from there, maybe we’ll rekindle the friendships again offline, I’ve no idea.
But I know that the friendships I have in the real world are genuine, meaningful and the sort I’ll cultivate and maintain for a long time.
Plus, they never text me to say what they’ve had for dinner or send me endless baby pics/selfies/updates on their childrens progress/questions about what to have for lunch!

What do you think? Do you feel you have a genuine relationship with your online friends, or do you think the recent research is right?

You can follow my adventures with Chelly and Jimmey the guide dogs on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly