Tag Archives: humour

the amusing side of being totally blind

Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln
I love that! It’s got nothing to do with my blog post – but I just thought I’d pop it in!
I’ve been blind since birth so I have a slight idea about what I’m talking about when I say sometimes blind people can experience silence.
It’s not sad at all – it’s the total opposite.
I remember one day going into my Mum’s room and regaling her with a hilarious incident which happened to me while I was walking home from college with my first guide dog.
I finished speaking, stood for a while then said:
“Mum?”
My five minute monologue had been unheard.
We also experience silence when I ask someone on a bus which stop is the next stop – or when I’m waiting to cross a road and turn hopefully to ask a person if it’s safe to cross, only to discover on closer inspection that the person is in fact, a tree!
But there’s another side to experiencing silence as a blind or partially sighted person.
We can feel ignored and rejected when trying to access or find things other people take for granted.
Whether it’s finding a job, trying to make friends or, in some cases finding a partner – it can be difficult.
OK, OK, stop whining love – it’s hard for me too – I hear you cry!
It is, I know, but you have something a lot of people without sight don’t have, the ability to raise your eyebrows, glare, nod, shake your head ETC. – you have the language of silence.
I remember wiling away ten minutes of my life which I’ll never get back when I asked a friend to try and teach me how to glare. I just ended up looking like a dog with a mouthful of bees!
I’m too smiley to glare – but I sometimes wish I could.
Even accessing healthcare can lead people who are blind or partially sighted people into a world of silence.
The lack of provision to access goods and services is thwart with dramas. How do you read the letter you get through the door? How do you find the hospital department in a huge, badly lit and not sign-posted properly building.
I totally appreciate it must be heaps worse if you can’t hear – but that’s not what this blog is about.
As I said, silence to me is often part of the hilarity of my life – as it is, as it has always been, and how it will always be.
I choose to try and educate people on how to break the silence – and I hope others will join me.
The RNIB does a heap of good work to try and break down barriers for blind and partially sighted people, as well as those who are in danger of, or are losing their sight.
Please try and become part of this brilliant organisation.
You can find out heaps of volunteering opportunities by visiting:
http://www.rnib.org.uk/volunteering

books and authors you simply must read – part 3

It’s the final 6 letters of my A to Z of authors and books you simply must read and some narrators.
U is for: unusual
I like reading books I wouldn’t normally be interested in. As I mentioned last time – I’ll read almost anything apart from horror.
So, because of the latest (and if I may say absolutely brilliant show) Bodyguard on the BBC – I thought I’d read something to do with spies and spying.
I’ve started reading At Risk by Stella Rimmington.
It’s part of a series she’s written about a lady who works for MI5 (Stella Rimmington was the first woman to be director-general of MI5!
I’m actually really enjoying it!
V is for: vet
If I’d have been born with eyes which work – I’m pretty sure I’d have been a doctor, lawyer, vet or a police officer.
However, I wasn’t – so I’m not.
But that hasn’t stopped me devouring any vet books I can find.
James Herriot is without doubt my favourite – but I’d also recommend books by Jo Hardy.
W is for: Will you help me?
OK, so this is a bit cheeky – but as the old saying goes: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
I’m trying to raise £1500 to get a talking book recorded for children.
Only 10 % of any book published in the UK is available in an alternative format like audio.
I know the cost is high – but it covers admin, recording and editing fees.
Anything you can donate is fantastic – and even better if you can persuade your family, friends, colleagues or anyone else you can cajole into helping me!
You can visit:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook
to donate
X is for: xciting
I adore thrillers – I never used to, but when I started training with my third guide dog I had long periods of sitting around waiting for the other lady on class to do her training.
I now read about 4 a month – as well as all the other books I read.
My favourite authors include:
Clare Mackintosh, CL Taylor, Paula Daley, Sam Carrington, BA Paris, Camilla Way, Alex Lake and KL Slater.
Y is for: Yipeeee! On the theme of thrillers – I get really carried away – and have been known to cheer incredibly loudly when hearing of the demise of a particularly nasty baddie!
I’ll also shout – in manner of someone watching a really rubbishy person on a TV quiz show.
Z is for: Zoo quest
I wasn’t around when David Attenborough presented his landmark series, Zoo Quest, but, but I’ve read the books (*which he narrates* and they’re brilliant.
It’s about his visits to countries like Uruguay, Guyana and Madagascar, the tribespeople he meets and the animals he encounters.

the best piece of tech ever invented

When I was younger, people used to ask me what products would help me the most.
I’d always reply with the same two things.
“I’d like a self-driving car and something which reads newspapers and magazines to me!”
The proverbial genie has granted one of these wishes – and half of the other.
We’ve almost got self-driving cars (I say this because, as yet, they haven’t met my exact idea of a self-driving car, with speech ETC)
But, I can read newspapers and magazines now.
We’ve had a service called Talking Newspapers for a few years. Lovely volunteers would select various items from the daily papers and read them onto a tape, which would plop through your letter-box days after the events had occurred.
But now I can read the papers, any paper, every day – by myself.
I use a phone device called In Your Pocket which allows me to loll around on a Saturday morning and read the supplements.
I say read (and I’m not prepared to get into a row about this, listening is reading – end of discussion) but I can listen to every daily newspaper, several local ones plus some magazines, including my favourite – Readers Digest.
Mum used to read snippets from Readers digest to me when I was little.
It was during these times that I learned about Mummies (Egyptian ones) and a myriad of other interesting facts which have come in very useful (particularly in quizzes).
Now I can get up each morning, make a big mug of coffee and read my papers!
I love it!
The same device has over 100,000 podcasts, 100,000 books and will also tell you the time, weather (in any country or city in the world) and allows you to make phone calls)
It costs £20 a month to access it all – but if you think about how much the Readers Digest, and other magazines/papers cost each month – you’ve more than covered the subscription.
I also love the pure simplicity of operating it.
You don’t have to faf around with swiping, tapping or waving the phone around!
You just use a voice command for anything you want it to do – for example: “Find podcasts about dogs.” Or: “Read the Times/Guardian/any other paper of your choice.”
You can skip sections, search for articles about any subject and slow down/speed the speech up.
There are about 8 different voices – including Australian and something I think is meant to be a Welsh accent but – but definitely isn’t!

At last, I can do something millions of people take for granted – and that, in my opinion is fantastic!
You can find out more about In Your Pocket at
http://www.inyourpocket.net

books and authors you simply must read

As many of you know, I adore A to Z’s.
So, to celebrate the fantastic world of audio books, here is the A to Z of audio books – in 3 parts.
A is for: Audible
I have been a member of audible for almost 10 years and during that time I’ve listened to over 100 books.
The first one I read was called The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams.
I used to read them on the way to work on the bus. I worked in Bangor at the time and it was an hour long journey each way.
B is for: Breath
I’m going to take this opportunity *it’s my blog after all* to recommend some books, authors and narrators I’ve really enjoyed.
I moved to Cardiff 4 years ago and didn’t have any TV, smart phone (I know, can you imagine?) or CD player.
The only means of entertainment I had was a battery operated radio, but, much as I adore radio 4, there’s only so much you can listen to!
Breath is by one of my favourite male authors, Tim Winton.
It’s set in Western Australia which holds a very special place in my heart.
It is about a paramedic who explores the theme of “breath” as part of his work, and his time as a teenager when he and his friend used to dare each other to hold their breath underwater for as long as they could.
The first part of the story isn’t drawn to conclusion until nearer the end, and the outcome left me – well almost breathless! *sorry*
C is for: Catherine Howard
If – and it’s a big if I ever went on Mastermind, one of my specialist subjects would be Catherine Howard.
I’ve always been drawn to “tragic heroines” and there’s something really appealing and enigmatic about Henry 8’s fifth wife.
Suzannah Dunn’s excellent book The Confessions of Catherine Howard is about the relationship between her and Cat Tilney, a distant relative and eventual lady in waiting to Catherine.
It depicts Catherine’s total naivety – but also shows how in the end, even your closest friends can’t be trusted.
I’d really recommend this to anyone who’s interested in Tudor times – it’s easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable.
D is for: dogs
I adore dogs! One of the very first books I heard was 101 Dalmatians.
I heard it on a cassette (for anyone under 18 reading this – ask your parents what a cassette is)
It was read by Joanna Lumley.
I loved the stories of Pongo, Mrs. And Perdita.
I recently re-read it – and also The Starlight Barking (which I hadn’t read before) and it was great to be re-acquainted with this brilliant book.
E is for: Emma Powell
This is the first of some excellent narrators I’m going to feature in this blog.
Emma Powell’s voice is kind, reassuring and great to listen to.
I’d recommend you listen to The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ally McNamara.
F is for: favourite
I have so many favourite authors I thought I’d pop them in a big long list for you to check out at your leisure.
Lucy Dillon: (try Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts) I first read a Lucy Dillon book during an immensely stressful and traumatic time – and it helped me through the awfulness of the experience by providing a small crumb of comfort.
Lucy Diamond: (try The Secret of Happiness)
I love Lucy’s books so much, I’ve purposely not read them all, as there’s nothing worse in book land than reading everything by one person then waiting ages for their next book to come out.
Warning: You’ll need tissues when you read these authors.
Liane Moriarty: When I read The Last Anniversary it was like one of the characters had been written just for me.
I could relate so much – and when an author does that, there’s something special about them.
Liane isn’t afraid to explore deep and dark themes either.
I purposely didn’t watch Little Lies as I knew it would never be anywhere near as good as the original book (sorry Reece and Nicole)
Read anything by her – and also her sister Nicola who is a brilliant author in her own right.
G is for: giggling.
I giggle – a lot! In fact, I’ve often startled various animals, people and birds with a particularly uproarious snort or screech!
I remember reading a really hilarious part in Neither here nor there by Bill Bryson and I laughed so loud the whole train carriage I was in stared at me in a concerned manner.
I love Bill Bryson and have read nearly all his books as well.
I recently re-read Notes from a small Island and laughed at exactly the same bits I’d found amusing almost 20 years ago.
H is for: heavy going
I have five devices I can use to listen to audio books. They use a variety of speeds – but none of them can make a book, or a narrator sound interesting if they’re not!
Recently I had to abandon three books (I won’t name them) because the plot was heavy going – or too slow for me to commit to.
The same goes for narrators.
I’ve abandoned a book which could have been really good, if the narrator had injected some enthusiasm (or even a change of tone) into reading it.
I is for: Impossible to choose
How do you choose which book to read next?
I’ve written down a whole file of books, narrators, topics, names and authors to choose from. I like to pick something or someone in the manner a lot of people pick horses in the Grand National.
This has meant I’ve read things I might not have considered reading before – from children’s books to a book about Labradors by Ben Fogle (another book I’d highly recommend)
I also love the website Good Reads where you can recommend books – and find books and authors similar to each other.

J is for: Jeremy Paxman
I have always adored Jeremy Paxman. I was actually sitting next to him at the BBC once when I went for an audition for a quiz and was waiting in reception – but I was too star-struck to chat to him.
I read A Life in Questions earlier this year and it was one of the most interesting and enlightening books I’ve read.
He narrated it himself, which is fantastic, as most celebrities or famous people don’t do this.

Next time: more narrators, books and authors I’d like to recommend.
Please may I take this opportunity to ask you to consider helping me with a fundraising challenge.
I’m hoping to raise £1500 for a talking book to be recorded for children through the RNIB.
The cost covers narrator fees admin and other costs – but will have a dedication at the beginning to the Canton and Ely talking book challenge.
Every little helps- so please give whatever you feel you are able to – and share as far and wide as you can.
You can visit:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook

my first ever tube journey with a guide dog

I’ve travelled – a lot. I’ve done a work placement in Australia at a radio station, walked with lions in Zimbabwe and scaled the dizzying heights of Auckland Harbour Bridge in New Zealand.
But, up until last week I hadn’t been on the London underground with my guide dog, by myself!
The mere idea of it made my underarms drip with absolute dread!
I’ve been on the tube, lots of times, but I was always with someone else, or just with my white cane.
Now to some people, especially people who use white canes that’ll sound strange.
How is it different being with a guide dog, to relying on a cane?
It’s complicated, and very simple at the same time.
A cane can be pulled out to its full length, in turn showing people that I am in need of some assistance.
It can, if needed trip people up (admittedly I’ve only done this once)!
Jimmey, as you may know is my third guide dog. He’s my first boy and incredibly outgoing and sociable (like I am) but he can also feel incredibly unconfident and needs reassurance (like I do at times)
It’s not just me I need to worry about with a dog, it’s both of us, which doubles the anxiety I sometimes feel.
So, I did what any normal person would do in this current climate – I took to twitter.
I asked how one would go about doing a tube journey with a guide dog.
Will I be helped? Would they abandon me half-way through my journey? Would I actually end up where I wished to go?
A wonderful lady *who I’ve never met, and probably never will, although I’d like to), called Amy assured me that it would be fine – and it was.
Amy doesn’t have a guide dog yet, but she regularly blogs about her adventures with a cane, including tube dramas and triumphs.
In fact, I actually enjoyed it – which really surprised me.
Not that I’m keen to repeat the experience any time soon, nor would I be happy to do a journey by tube on a daily basis) but some kind reassuring words from a stranger made me do something I’ve never done – and that, in my opinion is a very good thing indeed!

you can follow my adventures in twitterland at
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Nicki’s adventures in bookland

When I was doing my English literature A level, we had to read – a lot!
Now I’ve been a prolific reader since the day I learned the last component of grade 2 braille, and would devour anything and everything.
Even now |I’m rarely found without at least two books on various listening devices.
So, I applied the same ferocity to reading the texts for our A level.
It was then that I discovered my favourite book so far – Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
Now, if you haven’t read this phenomenal book (and I would urge you to download it/buy it straight after you’ve read this blog) it is the best thing I’d ever read.
Tess is slightly marmitish, you either cry over her appalling treatment by most of the men in her life, or you just want to grab her and shout: “Get a grip love, you hate your life, OK, but change it and stop whining!”
I cried when I read it – and I still can’t read it or even consider the ending without my bottom lip wobbling.
I won’t say too much about it in case you haven’t read it, but it says a lot about the church in Victorian times and rural life.
Tess finally fights back, but the unanswered question she asks Angel Clare still has the power to haunt me when I re-read it.

I’d like to say the same about the other main text we had to read – but I can’t, because I hated every page of it.
So, what was the book which almost made me leave the course?
Pride and prejudice by Jane Austin.
What rubbish!
The other people on my course loved it, although this might have had more to do with the fact that there was also a dramatized version at the time on the telly where Colin Firth unrobed himself and jumped into the water.
Even with audio description it did nothing for me!
I guess I’m just not that into Jane Austin!
This is the start of a series I’m calling Nicki’s adventures in book land!
Periodically (as I’m a very busy person) I’ll write about books that changed, or didn’t change my life.
If you’d like to donate to my justgiving page, where I’m trying to raise £1500 to sponsor a children’s book, please do so.
It’s at:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook
or follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly
What are your favourite books, or books which you had to read, or were recommended and didn’t like!

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:
http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/cantonelytalkingbook

why do we call New Zealanders Kiwi’s

Mark Twain wrote: ““Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
This is really true.
over the last 20 years I’ve travelled to almost 20 countries.
I’ve immersed myself in the smells, sounds, touch and taste of each one, but there is still so much more I want to see.
I’ve missed out a vital sense I hear you shout!
The reason for that is I have been blind since birth, so I can’t offer any reliable knowledge about what a country “looks” like.
So, in the first of two blog posts, I’m going to write the A to Z of my sense of New Zealand.
It’s not a travellog – (come on, who really cares how long it took you to get to the airport, what the food was like on the plane or what the hotel receptionist said to you)!
This is a description of the people, places and parts of New Zealand you might not know about.

A is for:
Anzacs

My trip coincided with Anzac Day – the 25th of April.
Anzac stands for Australia and New Zealand army corps.
In 1914, when World War one broke out, the population of New Zealand was 1 million.
18,000 men died in the war, including over 2700 in the Gallipoli campaign.
Out of the 3000 who fought on the first day, 650 died.
One exhibition in Wellington was especially poignant. It showed a video with the words of nurse Lottie Le Gallais who was one of the women who went to treat wounded soldiers.
The exhibition features stories of ordinary people from New Zealand – and larger than life sculptures and objects from Gallipoli.
B is for:
Birds

Many of the birds in New Zealand are not natives, having been brought there by British settlers in the 1800s.
However there is one worth pointing out.
The Tui is a bird from the honeyeater family, feeding predominantly on nectar.
They are very good mimics, a bit like Starlings.
Their song sounds like someone whistling, while trying to push open a rusty old gate!
Random fact: The collective noun for Tui is an ecstasy.
C is for: climbing Auckland Harbour Bridge

I’ve climbed Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I thoroughly enjoyed – so I was interested to see how the bridges compared.
The summit of the Sydney bridge is 134 M high, whereas the Auckland one was a mere 64 M.
However, for hard work and effort to get to the top I think the Auckland bridge is by far the best.
There are 332 steps on the Sydney bridge climb but over 450 on the Auckland one, not including the hundreds of rivets which have to be navigated.
D is for: dogs

I left my guide dog James with friends while I went away.
In Queenstown we met a man with his dog and I started chatting to him.
I told him about my guide dog and jokingly asked if his dog did anything for a living. he said he sings!
OK, so it’s difficult for you to appreciate how funny and adorable Happy (the appropriate name for the dog) sounds, but he’s on YouTube so you can listen to him there.
His owner, William Ingle first discovered Happy liked singing when he was playing Ring of fire by Johnny Cash.
William has written several songs for the dog which he loves accompanying.
E is for: earthquake

On the 22 February 2011, Christchurch suffered one of the worst earthquakes in New Zealand’s history.
185 people died.
The iconic Christchurch cathedral was destroyed.
A temporary “Cardboard Cathedral” was constructed and we went inside to hear a talk from one of the volunteer guides.
The walls are made from shipping containers and 60 M long cardboard tubes as well as steel and timber.
Outside the cathedral are 185 chairs to commemorate each person who died, each one is different.
F is for: food

There were two things I wanted to eat while I was in New Zealand.
Lamb – and pavlova.
I wasn’t disappointed by either of them, in fact *and I’m prepared for a backlash on this* I think the lamb in New Zealand is better than the lamb from Wales*
Each breakfast we’d eat juicy plums, not prunes, but proper mouth-watering fruit!
I even tried Black Doris plum ice-cream which I highly recommend.
G is for: guides

I didn’t go to New Zealand by myself, although I have been to many places on my own.
I went with a company called Traveleyes.
It was founded by Amar Latif, who is blind, and set it up so that blind and partially sighted people could enjoy travelling with sighted companions.
The prices for sighted people are subsidised which in turn makes prices for blind and partially sighted people a bit more expensive than the average holiday.
But, it is worth it knowing you’ll have someone to share the holiday with who will describe things, guide you – and in our case spend days just giggling and enjoying great company.
H is for: huntaway

One of my favourite trips was to Agridome, a working farm which puts on talks and displays to showcase the talent of the sheep, dogs and other animals.
We met the Huntaway, the New Zealand version of our sheepdogs.
They bark to get the sheep where they want them.
They come in different colours and can be either long or short haired.
I is for: interesting facts

Random fact time again!
The biggest export from New Zealand is milk powder.
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu*85 letters* is a hill near Porangahau in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island.
*Llanfair¬pwllgwyngyll¬gogery¬chwyrn¬drobwll¬llan¬tysilio¬gogo¬goch only has a pathetic 58*
There are 9 sheep per person in New Zealand.
New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893.
J is for: James Cook

James cook, didn’t actually discover New Zealand.
It was founded by Polynesian people about 800 years earlier – but it was Dutchman Abel Tasman who was the first European to discover it in 1642.
He named it New Zealand after the Dutch province of Zealand.
James Cook came along in 1769 and European settlers started coming to the country.
K is for Kiwi

Kiwi is the term for anyone from New Zealand.
Now, do you think it refers to the fruit – or the bird?
The Kiwi fruit actually originated in China and was known as the Chinese gooseberry.
The birds are flightless, about the same size as a chicken and are the only birds which have whiskers on their beak.
But, the name Kiwi as a term for the people of New Zealand comes from a type of boot polish used in the first world war.
It had a picture of the Kiwi bird on it which is why we call people from New Zealand kiwis.
L is for:
Lakes

I’m only popping this in as one of the weirdest moments I had was when I heard a lake with waves.
I had no idea that lakes had waves – but my friend, who used to be a geography teacher explained that some do – for example Lake Galilee.
M is for: Maori people and culture

My favourite day was when we had a fantastic experience of the Maori culture, entertainment and food.
We visited the carving and weaving schools in Rotorua to see how Maori people make objects out of wood and weave things from flax.
We went into the third Kiwi house of the holiday but as they’re nocturnal birds, they were asleep.
However, this was the only time we were given the opportunity to feel the feathers from a Kiwi. They’re incredibly soft!!
We also touched the beak of a stuffed Kiwi.
Their beaks are surprisingly long for such a small bird.
Then we were treated to some Maori dancing and singing.
We learned about the Hongi, a traditional Maori greeting where forehead and nose are pressed together with twice another person.
The “Ha” or breath of life is exchanged through this greeting.
The lady showing us (choosing a rather bemused member of our group) said that he should be careful not to do it three times, or they’d end up being married!
Then we heard some brilliant singing and dancing, and a few ladies from our group got up on stage to join in with the dancing. Then they performed the Hakka.
You haven’t experienced the true terror and beauty of the Hakka until you’ve seen it performed live in New Zealand!
It’s a Maori war dance and strikes fear into every sports team who witnesses it.
Finally we sat down a “Hangi” traditional Maori meal.
The food is cooked in the ground over hot stones.
We enjoyed lamb, chicken, pork, vegetables and salads!
Then it was pudding time!
There was pavlova, trifle and mousse – I could go on, but I’m sure you’re dribbling with jealousy already!

Next time:
What does minus 18 degrees feel like – and does water squeak?

You can follow my adventures on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

Love is blind?

I’ve given up trying to find Mr. Right – or even Mr. Goodenough.
I’ve accepted that the only man I’m going to have in my life has four legs and enjoys nothing more than running in and out of puddles and shedding copious amounts of fur!
I’ve been on a few dates, but most of them have been so disastrous I’ve decided I’m much better off being a feisty independent lady!
Here are just two stories of my dating adventures.

I should have known Ben *not his real name* 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 for about thirty seconds, then he says:
“Right, shall we go in then?”
So, I think, that must be Ben, my date!
I have no sight at all so tone of voice is more important to me than body language.
“Ah bless him!” I think.
It must be daunting for him to be on a date with a really attractive blind lady and her even more stunning guide dog!”
Ben and I met on a Christian 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 and I’m sure she keeps glancing at the door!
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!
I tell him Chelsea and I will be fine if he leaves us at the corner before my flat.
He scurries off into the night and I rush inside to ring a friend and update her on the date.
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!”
Needless to say he got an abrupt reply back and we never spoke again.
Fast forward five years and my sister comes running down the stairs, brandishes her IPhone at me and squeals:
“You never told me you’d been on a date?”
She was one of the 2 million people who saw the first dates for guide dogs video on Facebook last year.
I was part of a group of four visually impaired people picked from hundreds of applications to appear on a video to promote guide dogs.
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, won 4 TV quizzes, worked at a radio station in Australia and completed two long distance walks.
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.
This really upset me as two out of the four dates stayed and got on really well with their matches.
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 think it can be quite daunting meeting a disabled person for the first time, but it’s equally stressful for me as a blind person trying to find someone.
My main problem is the eye contact thing. I can smile, ask heaps of questions, wear lovely clothes and everything you’re supposed to do.
But I often find that when men have fussed over James and found out everything there is to know about him, they forget there’s something attached to the other end of his lead.

I’m never going to let not having a partner define me – as I’ve achieved so much without one and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
Maybe there’s a quiz loving, outdoorsy, able to cook, funny, loves reading and travelling man out there, but until he finds me I’ll keep celebrating the good things I have in my life.
You can follow me on twitter at:
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly

the top ten best things about being blind

In my last post I wrote the top 10 annoying things about being blind. So, here is my top ten list of the best things about being blind.
1 The awkwardness of sighted people when you refer to yourself and another blind friend as: “The two blindies in the corner” this happened at a pub quiz once and I’d given the quiz master full permission to call us that. A lady kept giving him dirty looks until I bellowed: “its fine, I told him he could call us that!” We won the quiz a week later with the quiz name the two blind mice.
2 Going out the house having attempted to do your own make-up, and knowing that the people you meet will be too kind to tell you its awful!
3 Having a guide dog and knowing you’re never alone. I love taking James everywhere, within reason and just being able to give him a little stroke or cuddle when I’m unsure about a situation is fantastic.
4 Related to that, knowing that people will talk to you if you have a guide dog. Admittedly, sometimes it’s annoying or plain rude or unnecessary.
Yesterday James needed to relieve himself, very rare that he needs to do it out and about, but when he was in the throws I heard a man’s voice saying: “eoeoeoeeeroeoeoooo!” I said to James *and him* “Oh James, we seem to have an audience. If I’d have known that I’d have charged for tickets!”
5 A fantastic little device called RNIB in your pocket allows me to read all the daily papers, lots of magazines and gives me access to over 20,000 books. It’s really easy to use, you just speak to it and let it *or her, she’s called Sam* know what you want to hear. You can even access hundreds of podcasts.
6 A special mention has to go to our local society for the blind. It’s actually called Cardiff institute for the blind (I hate the word institute, personally I think it should be society) but the staff and volunteers there are amazing! I recently moved here from another part of the UK and the help I’ve had from CIB has made such a difference.
7 Being able to encourage *I hate the word inspire* other blind people *and sighted people* to try new things. I’ve been so lucky to have had so many experiences. From swimming with dolphins, competing a half marathon, two long distance walks, a skydive and taking part in 7 TV quizzes to name a few. I know lots of people have done these, but I’m also aware there are lots of people who’d love to be able to try something new, but are scared or worried about it. Earlier I was part of a show called Weatherman Walking and we went to the local RSPB reserve in Conwy. We showed people who having a sight problem was not a barrier to enjoying nature. A few days later I had a tweet from the manager of the reserve saying how a young man had been inspired by the programme and had made his first visit to a nature reserve since his sight started getting worse.
8 The kindness of strangers. I know before I said at times people can be rude and unkind, but 99 % of the time I meet lovely kind people. From the lady who gave me £5 for a taxi when a bus driver left me stranded four stops from my home at 7 PM on a winters night, to the man in a local shop who looked after Chelsea for an afternoon when James and I had to take Mum to hospital after she broke her wrist. Someone once said that when you have a disability, you attract a certain kind of person who wants to be caring and helpful – and while a lot of disabled people might not agree, I think there’s a lot of truth in it.
9 This is silly, but knowing that if I was ever caught up in a power cut I could still amuse myself by listening to my battery operated radio or reading a braille book.
10 Being able to laugh at myself every day when I commit a “blindism” this could be apologising to a clothes rail in a shop, or giggling uproariously when I’m told by my university lecturer not to say “see, watch or look!” my response: “OK, do you want me to say guess who I felt in town the other day?” queue a very, very stunned silence from her – and helpless giggling from me.
If you want to know more about the fantastic organisations mentioned in this blog you can visit.
http://www.rnib.org.uk
http://www.cibi.co.uk
http://www.guidedogs.org.uk
http://www.rspb.org.uk
or follow me in twitterland at
http://www.twitter.com/nickiandchelly