Tag Archives: Cardiff

Blind faith

I didn’t realise I had a ‘problem’ until I was 28. I was sitting in a job interview which I thought had gone quite well. ‘Of course Nicki,’ said the employer (who I’m not naming out of kindness), ‘You must realise that anyone who employs you is going to have a problem because you’re blind!’
I was shocked! I politely informed him I could do any job, apart from maybe fighting in the army, but he was unmoved. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
Tough times
I’ve been blind since birth, but until that day it hadn’t mattered to me. I’d had two summer jobs while at university. Then, after graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University with a contemporary arts degree, I took part in lots of fundraising challenges for local and national charities. I’d done everything from sky-diving to a half-marathon, but finding work was very hard.
I attended a church in Llandudno and had lots of friends there. I went to a Bible study group with a wonderful lady and each week we prayed for me to find a job. My prayers were answered in 2010 when I started working for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in Bangor.
In the October of that year, Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus. He had his first operation in March 2011, the same week my contract ended at the RNIB. Then in July 2011, my friend Claire from church asked me if I’d like to go on Beach Mission with her in Llandudno. I’d never considered this before but thought it would be fun. I went to church and Bible study every week, what could possibly go wrong!
Life-changing words
I arrived on the Saturday, and the first thing I noticed was the vast majority of people on the team were a lot younger than I was. Secondly, there were no off-duty activities a blind person could take part in, so I felt ignored most of the time. I tried to join in as much as I could, but it wasn’t easy. After another day of feeling ignored, I rang my Bible study friend and said I couldn’t carry on with the Beach Mission. She told me to give it one more day, then if I still didn’t like it, she’d take me home.
That evening, I went along to a meeting on Llandudno prom. There, one of the teenage workers gave his testimony. It was in the form of a question and answer, and one of the questions was, ‘How did you become a Christian?’
I can’t remember the whole answer, but the last sentence was the one which changed my life. He said, ‘I suddenly realised that Jesus Christ was the only one who could help me!’
I burst into tears and turned to my friend, Roselyn. Between gulps, I said, ‘That’s the bit I’ve never done! I’ve never asked Jesus to come into my life and help me, do you think he can?’
The team leader noticed something was wrong and came and sat with me. I poured my heart out to him, how I felt so worthless sometimes, and all the comments I’d had because I was blind. He gave me a CD of John’s gospel and told me to listen to it. Normally I would just put the CD under a pile of papers and forget about it, but on that night I felt compelled to listen it – that’s the Holy Spirit for you! As soon as I reached John chapter 9, where Jesus heals a man born blind, I started crying again, but this time it was with hope! Jesus loved blind people! He cared enough to give them their sight.
Blind faith
The first three verses were, and still are so powerful when I hear them.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’
‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’(John 9:1-3).
I realised that as Jesus healed a blind man so that his life could be used to show God’s glory, so my blindness also came from God and was purposed by God to be a blessing both to me and to others. I also realised that just as Jesus showed such mercy to someone who society shunned as a nuisance, he would show that same mercy to me.
I asked Jesus to come into my life – and I’ve never looked back! I was still blind, but I knew I was a child of God and no longer felt I had to worry about what other people thought of me. I’d like to say it has been a totally exciting ride not without dramas! But everyone reading this will know there’s no such thing, even for Christians.
Two weeks later Dad went into a deep depression, brought on by his cancer diagnosis and the fact he’d been so strong during his treatment. I hated seeing my Dad go from a confident, outgoing man to someone who was scared a lot of the time. Then, after returning from volunteering at a Christian radio station in Perth, Australia I had just started a broadcast journalism course at Cardiff University when my lovely Dad, whom I was incredibly close to, died from secondary cancer.
I really struggled, as the people on my course, untouched by death, ignored my grief rather than helped me. But I had two things they didn’t — a guide dog, who sat with me while the silent tears fell, and a guide God who made his presence felt throughout.
The future’s in his hands
I moved to Cardiff three years ago for work and while waiting for my third guide dog I took comfort from the book of James. I love the way James talks about trials, and how they are sent to teach us patience. Dog number three arrived, and his name is… James!
Even though I am still unemployed after having been out of work for three years and I have no idea what the future holds, I know it is all in God’s plans, which are only good and right. Each time I receive a rejection after an interview, I know it is strengthening me for what God has planned for me.
Dad had a favourite hymn which he could still quote even when very poorly. I am so grateful that God doesn’t change and will stay with me forever, guiding me through this life and into the next.
How good is the God we adore!
Our faithful, unchangeable friend:
His love is as great as his power,
And knows neither measure nor end.

For Christ is the first and the last;
His Spirit will guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past
And trust Him for all that’s to come.

You can contact me through twitter at:

change the story for blind children

Did you know? Only 10 percent of any book published in the UK each year (and that’s a lot of books) is put into an alternative format such as audio?
That means that many of the books you’ve probably read, because you read about them in the papers will never be enjoyed by blind and partially sighted people.
I love reading – I positively adore it!
Whether I’m being terrified by a gripping twisty thriller – laughing uproariously at the hapless adventures of a tourist or imagining I’m a dog (now come on, who hasn’t done that)! Listening to an audio book allows you to experience all kinds of different times, places and emotions.
So, when I was asked if I’d like to be part of the RNIB’s sponsor a talking books challenge, I didn’t have to think about my answer.
But, to make things a bit different I’m allowing the community I live in to help me – it’ll unite everyone in a shared love of helping – reading and making a difference to the lives of blind and partially sighted people.
The Canton Ely talking books challenge was set up so people in this community can take ownership of the challenge by raising money any way they would like to. From holding tea parties, quizzes, sponsored dog walks – anything you feel like really, I want everyone to get involved. But, don’t worry if you aren’t from Ely or Canton, you can still support the challenge as you’ll be helping me, and I fall into the category of living in the aforementioned area.

A world without audio books would be a very silent place for someone like me – so let’s change the story for RNIB.
You can visit our just giving page at:

what does silence look like?

I’m Nicki, I’m in my 30s and I’m a home and away addict.
I first started watching it in the late 80s.
Next year, it’ll celebrate its 30th anniversary.
I’ve missed a few episodes over the years due to school, travelling and while I was at college and University and couldn’t afford a TV license.
So, last week I set myself the task of watching them all from the beginning.
Thankfully, some other Home And Away superfans have put summaries of every single episode on a handy website.
I noticed one huge difference when I started watching them again.
The minutes of incidental music used while someone was obviously getting up to no good, or, about to get up to no good were totally silent for me.
About 10 years ago Channel five started broadcasting audio described episodes!
For anyone who isn’t familiar with audio description – or AD, it’s when a pre-recorded soundtrack of the scenery, body language and expressions is interspersed with the dialogue to make things clearer for blind and partially sighted people.
It describes the action.
So for example it might say:
“A girl with long dark hair walks along an avenue lined with trees. She has a yellow Labrador trotting beside her.”
The dialogue isn’t supposed to overlap the description but fills in the gaps.
It’s also available in theatres and cinemas.
Last week I went to a performance by a new theatre company based in Cardiff called Elbow Room Theatre.
Chlo`E Clarke and Sami Thorpe who founded the company are passionate about inclusive arts and making theatre accessible for everyone.
The show I went to see takes audio description to a new dimension. Instead of having to listen to AD through uncomfortable headphones, the action is described live on stage by other actors.
I must admit it took a bit of getting used to at first, but I soon started to enjoy it.
The running around during the descriptions was frenetic and added to the drama of the performance.
Chlo`e is hoping that with some extra funding, they’ll be able to tour the show throughout the Wales and the UK.
They’re certainly a fantastic innovative company and I wish them all the best.
For more information about the company you can visit their website at:
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first dates for guide dogs – what happened next

You might be one of the two million people who watched the “first blind dates” video online for guide dogs.
It was fantastic, a really lovely day.
But what you don’t know is what happened next.
I only knew about the video being online when my sister came racing downstairs, phone aloft shrieking:
“Nicki, you didn’t tell me you’d met someone>? He looks lovely! Have you seen him again?”
OK, time for a disclaimer.
This is only my experience, I can’t and wouldn’t write about anyone else involved in the process.
Right, so on to the story.
I bought myself a new outfit and we had our hair and make-up done.
I went to London, a real adventure for someone who was brought up in a little seaside town.
The dates hadn’t been informed we had any form of “disability” and I was asked to walk into the restaurant and sit down with my dog James.
So, I did – and then followed half a minute of silence.
“Oh great,” I thought
“A stand-off! Let’s see who talks first.”
Then my date did.
All in all it was – as the video depicted a fantastic, lovely time.
We chatted and things were going well, we had quite a bit in common and he regaled me with tales of his travels.
He was totally amazed I’d been sky-diving, on the biggest zip wire and competed in a half marathon.
We both said we’d like to go on a second date – but unfortunately we never did.
As soon as the cameras stopped and I asked him if he’d like to stay and chat for a bit with me and the rest of the people on the programme he said he had to get back to work.
I’m totally OK with it, now.
Yes there were tears of rejection afterwards – and countless replays of Meghan Trainor’s song “close your eyes” on the journey home.
I feel he wanted – and got his five minutes of fame *Yeah, I know it’s fifteen, but the video was five*
I also suspected the last thing he expected to meet was someone like me and he was overwhelmed with panic and the only way he could cope was to use the flight response.
It’s something which happens to people on dates all over the UK.
I have had some very good dates with sighted and non sighted people but I’d invested so much emotional energy in this one that the rejection hit me harder than it had before.
I wish him all the best for the future – and I hope he finds who, or what he’s looking for because he is a very pleasant man.
As for me?
Well, it’s actually made me finally realise how comfortable I am with who I am.
If I meet someone, that’s cool – but if I don’t that’s also fantastic.
It’ll certainly be cheaper this Christmas and next Valentine’s Day.
It also reminded me of another dating disaster.
I should have known Ben was trouble by Chelly’s reaction.
She’s always been a good judge of character, and normally I’m tuned into her emotions.
I’m early, as I am for most things.
I’m just about to go home, thinking I’ve been stood up for the first time when a voice says:
“You’re dog’s not going to bite me is he?”
“No! Luckily for you she’s just had her dinner!” I say, flashing a wide smile.
The voice doesn’t answer.
“Right, shall we go in then?”
So, that must be Ben, my date!
“Ah bless him!” I think.
“He’s obviously trying, but failing to be funny! It must be awful for him to be on a blind date with a really attractive lady and her even more stunning guide dog!”
Ben and I met on a dating website. We’ve skyped once, messaged heaps of times and he seemed a really lovely person.
That’s why I took the plunge and mentioned meeting up before I left Cardiff to go to Australia to see friends and travel for a bit.
Chelly by this time is making her feelings known very well, but as I mentioned before I didn’t pick up on it.
She’s sitting bolt upright by my chair.
If she’d have growled at Ben I may have been more aware.
We have a meal, then walk by the castle for a bit.
I’m feeling absolutely bored!
I think of the pile of ironing waiting for me, and long to be back home!
I’d done the right thing and told my friends I was going out, what time we were meeting and where we’d be.
I fervently regretted not asking them to ring me at an appointed time with a crisis!
But I didn’t think the date would be this dull!
I laugh at his attempts of humour and try and interact with him.
“You’re a trained journalist,” I tell myself.
“You should be good at asking questions!”
I really think he’ll burst into tears when he starts saying how bad his childhood was and how he wishes he’d treated his sister better than he did!
Eventually I hear the words I’ve been longing for all night.
“Well, it’s been a lovely evening, shall I walk you home?”
“Oh, yes please!” I say, resisting the overwhelming desire to clap and do a jig!
We part without so much as a kiss on the doorstep.
“Well Chelly,” I say.
I’m glad that’s over!”
So, I’m totally bemused the next day when I get a message from Ben saying:
“Last night was really good fun! I really enjoyed meeting you! I’d like to take you out again on Tuesday, but you can leave the dog at home and I’ll drop you back after!”
OK, I know my reaction wasn’t kind, I ignored him!
I get back from a wonderful time in Australia to find loads of messages, starting nicely and escalating into rants of injustice!
The last one says:
“Why are you ignoring me! I don’t deserve to be treated this way!”
I respond by saying that I’d been away, I didn’t appreciate him asking me to leave Chelly at home, and asked him if he’d say that to a lady who used a wheelchair!
I never heard from him again!
Note: name has been changed to protect the ignorant
You can follow my adventures with Chelsea and James at:
for more about guide dogs visit

Why some taxi drivers should be given the boot!

I’m afraid I have to blog again about an access issue, this time involving a well-known taxi company in Cardiff.
I’d had a fantastic time out with a friend, celebrating the fact that he’d finished his PHD course.
I normally book with a company called Dragon, who are mostly OK with my guide dog travelling with me.
But this company *I’m refusing to name them because I don’t want them to have publicity, good or bad* but I thought I’d use them for a change.
I’ve used them before, we had a few issues, but nothing like I experienced last night.
as soon as the taxi arrived the man said the dog would have to go in the boot.
I told him that it was better and easier for my guide dog, whom I’ve had for 2 years to sit with me in the foot well in the back of the taxi.
He said guide dogs normally went in the boot, and I re-iterated my reason for having him with me.
All the way home he wouldn’t let it go, and just kept on and on about how he takes guide dogs all the time and they go in the boot.
I felt utterly bullied and it really spoilt a lovely day.
I tried to assure him that we’d had a lot of training as to what to do with our dogs, and that if he was in the boot he’d be more more upset and restless than if he was with me.
The driver said the dog was all scrunched up in the back and couldn’t move, which made me, feel like an incompetent bad owner.
I eventually had to say that I’d had guide dogs for 20 years and I doubted there was anything he could tell me about how to look after them correctly.
His response was to say: “Oh, sorry I spoke, I won’t do it again!”
I do not expect to be questioned as to how I should or shouldn’t look after my dog when I am in a taxi.
I told him that no other driver had ever had a problem with my dog.
His attitude was absolutely wrong – and I refuse to let any other guide dog owner experience what I did yesterday.
I reported the issue to my local guide dogs team – and they were, as always fantastic.
Another thing which has enraged me is that the Email I had back from the company said they’d look into the “alleged” response.
Now, I’m a trained broadcast journo, so I fully realise there are instances when you have to write: “Alleged” but this isn’t one of them – she was basically saying: “If you’re telling the truth.”
I was very shaken and upset when I arrived home.

I had to write this to let other guide dog owners know about the issues, and to let any taxi driver know that what happened to me yesterday was unacceptable!!
Here are some things to read from the response guide dogs have sent to the company.
1. When travelling, guide dogs are trained to sit at their owner’s feet at all times, not to bother other people and not to climb on seats.
2. Providers must make reasonable adjustments for disabled people in the way they provide their services.
3. Drivers should ask the blind or partially sighted person what assistance is needed before making assumptions as to what might be required.
4. If drivers have been hired to carry a guide dog owner, ask the passenger where they would prefer their dog to be. In purpose built taxis the dog will travel in the passenger cabin with the owner. In saloon cars guide dogs are normally trained to lie in the front or rear passenger foot well, between the feet of their owner.
5. If the front foot well is not large enough to accommodate the dog, the guide dog owner should be advised to travel in the rear of the vehicle with the dog in the foot well behind the front passenger seat. The front passenger seat should be pushed forward to make space for the dog. In an estate car, if the guide dog owner is in agreement, the dog may travel in the boot space.
Have you had taxi dramas?
Pop your experiences in the comments section of my blog, or follow me on twitter at:

Don’t put your hands over my eyes!

You are a kind, well-mannered considerate and sensible person. why else would you be reading this blog? I know you’d never indulge in the kind of stupidity this blog is about, but just in case you decide to change your mind, or know someone who’s inclined to behave in the way I describe, feel free to pass this on.
There aren’t many things which annoy me.
The only few exceptions are bad manners, people who eat crisps loudly on public transport *particularly smoky bacon or prawn cocktail* and tourists on mobility scooters who insist the pavement is theirs!
But, top of that list are people who interrupt me when I’m working James.
I encountered three people on Saturday which have forced me to write this blog.
I had been to a local cinema and watched a fantastic film called Their finest.
I was walking home, planning what to cook for dinner when a hand shot out from nowhere and I heard a voice say:
“Hi little champ!”
I then had to say “No!” to James, and he then swerved round the offender and carried on his way.
“What’s your problem!” you may be shouting
“The poor man only wanted to say hi!”
James is a guide dog! That means he guides me, with his eyes!
I have beautiful eyes, but unfortunately they’re no use to me at all.
So, to put your hand out and interrupt him is not only stupid with a capital S, but downright dangerous!
I’d only been walking about two minutes when a lady shouted:
“You’re nearly on the road, the dog wants to take you further away!”
I thanked her, but carried on the way we were.
James walks near the kerb, it’s just his thing, the guide dog trainer is fine with it, so am I!
He’s not going to put himself on the road or me.
But because of that well-meant interruption I had to reset my thinking.
Then, an incredibly drunk man lurched in front of us and shouted:
I carried on, hoping to avoid him and get home when he bellowed even louder.
“Hi,” I said
“You live by me you do, your Mum’s got your retired guide dog!”
I assured him he was right *even though only one statement was correct* and said:
“Sorry, I’ve got to get him home for his dinner!”
Now, I love doing the whole PR thing for guide dogs – I’m quite infamous in the local community for various charity fundraising adventures and other things I’ve been lucky to achieve and I’ll happily answer any questions people have about guide dogs, but I can’t accept behaviour like the three cases I’ve described.
Imagine if you were driving and someone popped their hands over your eyes!
That’s exactly what interrupting a guide dog owner when they’re working their dog is like.
So, unless there’s a huge hole that Jimmey hasn’t spotted, please give us the space to do what we’ve both been trained to do.
You can follow our adventures on twitter at:

if my dog gets ill, it’s your fault!

There’s nothing to jolt you from a lovely dream more than a dog throwing up.
The sound is unmistakable.
I soothe poor Jimmey and then the fun begins.
First, you have to try and persuade the little man not to gobble it up.
Then, you have to frantically find something to clear it up.
Then you have to find it!!
I like to sing to myself as I perform this task. It helps to pass a bit of time!
Then, when I’ve eventually located it I clean it up.
Now, I’m a good dog owner – so I do everything I can to keep my dog happy and healthy.
I can’t say the same about people who use my local park.
I actually had to ban Jimmey from having playtime there because he was literally being sick every morning!
Why don’t people pick their litter up? There’s bins everywhere!
I was prompted to write this post because I’ve just spent five minutes trying to persuade Jimmey to remove his little yellow mouth from a bag of chips which some idiot had put next to a bin on the floor!
When he got back – he had a big bowl of water, belched extravagantly ad flopped down!
It’s not just food either! He’s a total coprphagic! *look up this term if you don’t know what it is – it’s disgusting*
Why don’t people pick up after their dogs?
I’m totally blind and I can do it!
The thing is, if Jimmey gets into a habit of scavenging he’ll get fat.
This means he won’t be able to work.
This, in turn means I will be without my lifeline and independence.
Alternatively he could get very ill if he eats anything which disagrees with him.
Please share this blog with as many people as you can – particularly if you know a person who litters with impunity!

Lastly – scoop the poop – and drop the plop!!

What Chelsea did next

Chelly is 12! I can’t believe it. It only seems like yesterday when the little black whirlwind was running round my house with two toys in her mouth.
Many people ask how she is getting on. After all, this blog started as a result of my preparations to retire her and start training with my new dog.
There wasn’t a blog like this, so I was happy to write mine. I found it therapeutic.
Mum looks after little Chelsea for most of the time.
They’ve settled into retired life very well.
Chelsea even has her own “bedroom” under the stairs.
She’s living a life of leisure.
She’s doing everything she was forbidden from doing when she worked.
This includes:
Jumping on the sofa and settling down with Mum.
Gobbling up everything she shouldn’t, such as bread, eggs and on one occasion Mum’s unattended sandwich.
She sits by the fridge door and refuses point blank to move until a carrot is produced!
At first I was upset at seeing how well she had transferred over to Mum.
Now it’s lovely.
She’ll always be my dog, and we’ll always have a special bond.
But when I am sitting on the sofa with Mum, I have Chelly lying on one foot – and James on the other.
They love each other very much.
The other day, James gave Chelsea’s ear a tender lick as she wandered past him.
They are affectionately known as “rascal and ratbag” among many other pet names.
I’m just so happy that I have two wonderful, comical and happy dogs in my life!
You can follow my adventures on twitter at:

My little boy has arrived!

On the 10th of October 2016, little Johnny whiskers was born!
Actually, his name is John – he’s a life-changer, but he doesn’t know it yet.
The only thing he’s concentrating on is chewing shoes and getting up to as much mischief as a prospective guide dog can.
I was so proud when I got his birth certificate.
To those of you who are new to my blog *and, to everyone else, I am so sorry for the ridiculous length of time it’s taken for me to update my blog*, John is a guide dog puppy which I sponsored by raising almost £6000 by walking from Bath to Cardiff.
He was named in memory of my father who died in 2012.
In a few weeks’ time I’ll get to meet John.
I’ll leave James with friends, as it’s not fair to introduce the two dogs. For one thing, James will probably undo all the hard work John’s puppywalkers have done.
Also, he’s more than likely to tell John what he’s letting himself in for by being a guide dog.
I’m so grateful to everyone in Cardiff who helped me with the walk, no matter if it was by walking with me or donating. Each one of you played a part in John’s life.
The lovely friends in North Wales were also incredibly generous.
So many people from as far away as Australia donated to my just giving page – and I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to give independence and freedom to another visually impaired person.
I’ve got heaps to tell you all, so I’ll write another blog soon.
A date for your diaries, I’ll be on BBC Wales’s weatherman walking with Derek Brockway from BBC Wales, and Julian Hughes from RSPB Conwy.
You can watch it at 7.30 PM on the 10th February on BBC 1 Wales.
Follow my adventures on twitter at:

day 4 – mud, sweat and tears

I hate three things with a passion!
Olives, bad-mannered people, and as of yesterday, the A48 to Newport!
I did all the right things to make sure my foot and ankle would be OK for the next day’s walking.
I put ice on it, slept with it raised up.
But when I got up my foot was very sore.
Mum put a protective dressing on it, and I used one of my knee supports on my ankle.
We started off at the Chepstow garden centre – and for the first two or three miles my foot was fine, I didn’t feel much pain at all.
However when we got on to the A48 cycle path things became incredibly difficult.
It was incredibly overgrown, muddy, very uneven and quite narrow.
I mentioned in a previous post how psychologically draining it is to listen to instructions, try and think about where you’re walking plus coping with the endless streams of vehicles zooming by.
Yesterday I had that to cope with as well as my ankle, which was certainly telling me that what I was doing was stupid and I should stop now!!
Then, as if things weren’t irksome enough for me, I tripped over a bump in a road.
Now, I like to think I’m quite a strong feisty person who can cope with most things – but that was the thing which almost finished me off.
I stopped on the side of the road and gave way to the frustration and emotion I’d been trying to control.
After a little cry – and a whinge about the “Stupid roads!” I carried on.
Frank was an absolute star.
I felt quite embarrassed as we had two other walkers with us.
Rob, the treasurer of the long distance walkers association for South Wales, and Pete, who’d been training with me for the walk but they were all very kind and reassured me things would get better.
We stopped for lunch then carried on.
Towards the end of the day the sun came out and things became even tougher.
I remember thinking:
“I hope John’s owner knows how difficult today was, and just how much energy, both physical and mental I’d used on this day!”
I thought about Dad, who I am going to name a puppy after.
I cried again!
I watch marathon runners and sports people on TV and have never appreciated just how hard they have to push to finish a task.
Now I know I’m not that standard, but it’s very similar, you can’t just sit down on the side of the road and say:
“I’m not doing it anymore!”
Well, some might – but I didn’t.
I remember the lovely Len Goodman saying to a contestant on Strictly once:
“Winners never quit and quitters never win!”
When I got home – I had a delicious roast chicken dinner prepared by my Mum.
She’s been a total star, looking after the dogs, making all the meals and just being there!
The next two days are shorter, and I’m very glad to leave the A48 behind me!
Next stop Cardiff!!
If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page, you can visit it at:
or follow my adventures on twitter at: