Childhood Dreams, Adulthood Reality

I wonder what the material will be like? Will it be fitted, or will it allow plenty of room to move in? Will it have that new clothes smell to it when it is given to me? Do we have to tuck it into the top of our trousers, or do we leave it out? What shade of red is it? I mean, is it that shade of red that I have loved from childhood? What exactly will be printed on it? Why do we only get one shirt when we can potentially be playing for three days and cannot wash it as we will be staying in a hotel? I am not even going to think about how I will keep white trousers clean for even one day let alone three. I am not moaning though as my dream of playing in a sports shirt for my country has come true. Well, almost.

I was far more tomboy than princess whilst growing up and was the happiest whilst caked in mud. Growing up with brothers and having mostly male friends around where I lived meant that I could usually be found playing fox and hounds in forests, searching for tadpoles in muddy ponds or happily running around a pitch. The pitch was probably one of my favourite places. The challenge to shoot past the oppositions, cover immense ground and deliver the ball between the embracing structure of the goals kept the game alive and the passion burning. Usually being the only girl on the pitch meant that the boys took it easy on me, but I wasn’t always as gentle with them. I was an Aries on a mission and had no time for gentle play when our team win depended on it.

Football was okay, it passed the time, but it was not as good as rugby. Rugby was my kind of game. I loved how it was always kept alive, where bursts of energy and unexpected twists and turns made minutes pass by in a flash. When rugby got a bit mild for us, we took the board game Blood Bowl onto the pitch and changed rules along the way to make it our own. The stinging of the icy cold wet ball slamming into my face can still be felt today, but I am so glad that I got to fall in love with the pitch as I did. I was far from the best player (maybe even the worst), but as a child I dreamt big that I would wear a shirt for Wales. Screaming at the television with my father during the internationals only fuelled my desire to play one day for my country. The problem was I only played for fun and never joined a team, so my dream stayed in my head and my heart.

Fast forward nearly three decades and part of the dream has come true. Okay, it is not rugby unfortunately (I don’t think I could be picked even for a toddler’s team), but it is still for Wales. In five weeks, I will be playing Bowls with the Wales Visually Impaired Team in Scotland and loving every minute of it. Okay, the adrenaline may not rush though my veins like it did on the pitch, but it still sounds fun to do. With a body built for comfort not speed these days, I am looking forward to wearing my shirt with pride. After listening to Wales win the Grand Slam this weekend, I can only imagine the pride of the boys and girls being able to wear their shirts through the win that has lifted a nation.

Childhood dreams can manifest into reality in a multitude of different ways. It is never too late to achieve what you once thought was impossible, even if it is not in the way that you expected it.

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Swan Lake

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“I demand you get back in here NOW”.

How dare he come into my lake (okay my pond but my home so I will call it what I want) and leave without permission. Does he not realize how magnificent Swans such as I are, and that we decide who we welcome or reject in our home? I knew straight away that he was one that could be easily manipulated. He was as threatening as a leaf as he gently tip toed into my territory. I could sense straight away that he wasn’t one of those small yappy dogs that wanted to fight everything including its shadow. He was a big softy.

Led by his mischief, he come close enough to say hello but far enough away not to get pecked. I am glad he knew the rules that he must abide by with me from the word go. Having a quick gander around I could see most of the other swans and ducks were elsewhere so I thought I may as well have some entertainment with my new hairy friend.

As the featherless and relatively hairless two legged being that was with this dog chatted away to others of the similar species, I heard him say that the dog was not his, but he was a friend of the owners. How ridiculous the two-legged species can be believing that they own a dog. Try owning a swan and see how far they get.

Apparently, my new play mate was called Munch. I instructed Munch that we would be playing chase around the pond and he seemed fine with it. Obviously, I was the leader and he trailed behind me like an after-thought. Okay well, he was quite a cute after thought but I didn’t want to tell him that and inflate his ego as I didn’t want him thinking he was equal to a swan. Gliding off gracefully in my regular haunt, I could hear him panting heavily behind me as he doggy paddled at speed to keep up. It was so much fun circling back around him and chasing him back.

The laughter I heard coming from the banks from the two-legged kind made us put on more of a show. Is it that bizarre for a swan and a dog to be play mates? I heard the man that Munch was with saying that he had taken pictures to show his owner (pfft, Munch told me he calls her his maid). My heart sank a little when I saw him heading for the bank for the last time. He woofed that he will be back soon for another play date. He seems to respect my pond (which I told him was really the best lake in the world and he believed me), so he is welcome to come back for a game of chase whenever he wants.

Until we meet again Munch, keep being the gentle soul that you are.

World Book Day Evolution

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It must have looked weird. A blind woman being led by her guide dog walking around the books shop, but it just had to be done.

As the guide dog whipped past the cookery books, travelled through the sci-fi section and ended up in the land of the fun-filled children’s books, the owner rewarded him with a treat. He had guided her to the place that she missed the most. From Willy Wonka to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, books had always been fun companions during her childhood and had always left her wanting more. Along with millions of other children, she loved to escape into books of all types and feel like it was just the author and the reader that were in this alternative reality. Life lessons that trickled from the pages of each book, cleansed her mind from the negatives in the world and broadened her consciousness to what humanity was really about.

Even back then she could not really see the words clearly. There had always been a hazy double vision around words, but she had developed her own fun way of dealing with it. She learnt to read by a method of deduction. A five-lettered word that had a hazy straight line and a fuzzy small hump attached lower down was obviously a h and a slanted blur that extended lower than the other letters was obviously a y. With 2 similar looking 3rd and 4th letters that were seen in double vision, the letter could be nothing else but ‘happy’. As the years passed, she began to rely less on her eyes to see and more on her brain to decide what these words were in front of her. She read at a rapid pace and could not get enough of the author’s voice that came alive in the treasured books.

Time passed and reading books got more and more difficult. Even the ‘sniff it to see’ rule that she had always lived by, where she held the book close to her nose, no longer worker so a plan B was needed. Magnifier’s and other aids from the low vision clinic could no longer help but technology came to the rescue. Audiobooks, e-books with narration and screen readers on laptops all made it possible to remain an avid book worm. Even dabbling in a bit in braille meant that there were no barriers to becoming one with an author again. Reading to another however, was something that she really did miss. Reading large print books with her children as they grew, allowed her to ‘sniff to see; and memorise the books after reading them a couple of times. She now wanted to do this with her sweet 3-year-old granddaughter and thanks to modern day Apps on her phone, she was able to know what the books said and memorize them to read back to her beautiful little angel. Life was blissful again.

Standing in the colourful corner of the book shop where dinosaurs popped out of books and glitter from the exquisite cover left magic on the fingers and heart of the reader, she stood happy in the blur of fuzzy colour that awaited her. Pulling out her phone to use technology to be able to identify what she was looking at, she choose a new book for her granddaughter. Her guide dog patiently waited and sniffed some adventures out to help the best he could. In six months-time, their book would be in a similar joy filled labyrinth of a bookshop which was such a strange but warm feeling. People would soon know how special Munch the guide dog really was and discover what he was really like. The mischief makers secrets would be out and hopefully spread a little happiness to the reader. Stories are always the most powerful when shared.

Here’s to wishing that stories will continue to be spread in a variety of different ways that allows accessibility to all. Thank you to each author that changes the lives of people that they may never meet in person but will always be connected through meetings of the souls.

A Writer’s Flow

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I am not sure which is worse. Writer’s diarrhoea or writer’s block?

As you may have noticed from any previous posts of mine that you have read, I cannot stop waffling on as my firework mind shoots its contents onto the page. I have always admired the talented writers that keep their focus on one subject and allows a gentle trickle from one point to another to offer the smoothest delivery to the reader. As words offer a tempting bridge between the reader and the writer, it seems impossible to do anything but to merge into the flow of words. These are the ones that I imagine really have their s**t together.

The bunged-up writer who struggles with writing blocks are the ones I really feel for. It must be so hard keeping genius pieces of writing in the creative headspace that they were organically formed in and not know how to create the written mark on paper that will mesmerise the masses for eternity. A writer’s block seems so cruel. I belong to the group of writers’ that do not flow steadily or get blocked but the ones that gush like a waterfall which isn’t always a pretty sight.

Writer’s diarrhoea is a thing that I don’t think any prescription can cure. If you are a divergent thinker like me, you know what it is like to go from a to b via x, y, z, around the planet, break the sound barrier and return to your destination via teleportation. Sound familiar? Join the club. In this writer’s runs club, it tends to get a little messy if you loose focus on your original point but if you leave any of your gazillion thoughts out for the reader to try and figure out, it feels like you are letting the whole story down. If you suffer from this leaky ailment try and surround yourself by people who can help mop up.

My angelic mopper upper came into my life in the form of my editor for my book that is due to be released in September. This pillar of sensibility has not only reined in my partying mind, but this genius has been able to make sense of my rambling words and made them flow like a proper writer. What a true miracle worker. The final edit is almost complete thanks to her patience, knowledge and Midas touch and I sit back feeling truly blessed.

Having a touch of writer’s runs means that you cannot easily cut off, so you have a surplus of ideas that need to be channelled somewhere. My ‘somewhere’ just happens to be into another book that I have just finished writing. I didn’t really mean for it to turn into another book, it just kind of happened. From nearly 60,000 words which flowed out over the last three months, I have a fully formed manuscript that I need to tackle the basic edit of which should be fun as I can’t even remember everything I have written.

Whatever group of writers that you belong to, the result is always the same. Our own unique relationship with our work comes out whenever it is ready, and the flow is perfect for us. Nobody’s way of writing is better than another way, it is just our way. If you get there in the end, you are a success.
Keep writing your own way.

Follow The Leader

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Was this the way that he really wanted to go? It is usually the river that he runs to for some active aqua therapy or the field on top of the hill for some freedom therapy. The bird hide isn’t usually his thing. Maybe it was just the Welsh on the sign that was confusing him?

Over the last two years he has become almost fluent in Welsh commands (and swear words) and even joined in with the Welsh rugby win last weekend and the St David’s celebration on March 1st but I suppose asking him to learn the written word in a little too far.

Munch likes a lot of choice in life and loves to mix things up a bit so that’s all you can do with him is expect the unexpected. As he had forgotten his binoculars that day, I did wonder if he really wanted to go to the bird hide and knew as soon as he started down the path that he would change his mind half way through as it seemed a little too civilised for his liking. When he turned on his heel half way along the path, we just followed like obedient staff.

Saying our hellos to a fellow dog walker who noticed the change in our direction, she commented that she would never allow her dog to dictate where she went, and it was the other way around as she felt that she had all the power over her furry companion and that she always chose what he would do.

As we set off in Munch’s chosen direction, I felt so blessed that we were in each other’s lives as our outlook on life is practically identical. If Munch had ended up with the lovely but power-hungry owner that we had just met, he wouldn’t be the same free-spirited pooch as he was today. Mutual understanding and respect work much better that a control and fear-based relationship, as when we find equality, we learn to work in harmony with one another life becomes more blissful .

Believing that we have all the control over another living being speaks volumes about the balance that we believe we have in life and how secure we feel in this world of change.
Munch spends a lot of his time guiding me around which allows me to be independent and more adventurous that I could ever be without him. I give daily gratitude to him for being my eyes, my compass and my doorway to freedom and I will do whatever I can to repay him for his loyalty.

Leaving him to chose what he wants to do on his time off I feel is the least I can do for his guiding. Even his easy adaption to bilingual commands shows that he is far more than a possession and is in fact a talented teraway with a heart of gold and a spongy brain. I would never dampen his flair for free choices even if it means looking to others like I am the one in training.

Changing paths in life is never a sign of weakness but a sign of adventure. Keep choosing to change your mind Munch and I will always follow you into the adventure.

A Surfer’s Spoilt Paradise

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Entering Ecstasy can only happen here, in the waves, as I become one with nature. Riding the waves on my newly waxed board, I glide along in sync with the flow of the waves. Surfing is my heaven on earth. My blissful bubble is burst when I spot something coming towards me in the water. What…. is it….? Is that a fin popping out of the water? Hang on, what has just emerged from under the surface? Is that…a baby whale? At the end of the lengthy neck is it Loch Ness himself? Here? In Wales? No hang on, is that a bark? Oh no, it’s a dog.

I hear voices on the shore line calling this dog back, but he is swimming straight for me at a rapid pace. I hope he is friendly. He is big, and his bark sounds so loud. Oh God, here he comes barking ten to the dozen. “Hi, you” I offer gently to get him on my good side. He begins to circle me barking away although now I know it is a friendly bark which wants to play. His doggy kisses he plants on me tells me that he is a big softy. He swims away and back again, wanting me to engage in a game of chase which I politely decline.

As the three voices on the shoreline get more and more frantic as they call him, he becomes more adamant that he was going to stay here with me, swimming alongside me in the sea. As I see two of his owners coming into the sea fully clothed to get him, I thought he would go but he decided to instead try and jump on my surf board to surf into the sunset. No chance is he getting on my prized possession especially since his name is Munch apparently. If he bit this, it would resemble a small shark bite. He continues to give his owners the run around but, in the end he finally goes back on the sand.

After having a brief chat with the owners who have apologized a gazillion times, I see the little mischief maker trot off to go and make friends with a group of children who are near and cooing over him. The coos soon turn into cries of disappointment as he tramples over their sand castles with his yeti like paws as he greets them lovingly. The owners turn on their heels to make apologize for clumsy Munch for the second time in as many minutes. I was right when I told the owners he was just being a free spirit and loving life to the maximum

As I hear stern words being spoken to Munch, I turn my back on the little mischief maker and secretly chuckle away at him. As I surf off into the sea, I smile knowingly that us free spirits can never be tamed. When the joy of life takes you over, you just want to share it with everyone around. Free spirits like us find it hard to be imprisoned in the dullness of everyday life so we need to let off steam. I think the owners have their hands full with Munch but at least he won’t go anywhere unnoticed. You can never unsee the trail of a free spirit.

Duvet Days And Messy Play

It’s holiday time again.

For the next week, Munch will actually be my friend each morning as he can have a nice lie-in without being disturbed. I have promised him that I shall only disturb him if it is in his interest and there is a fun activity planned. I have solemly sworn that we shall only go places where he shall be rewarded with a chance to cause mayhem. His sceptical stare however, is not so convinced.

With the beautiful spring weather beginning to shine through, being held captive indoors is just so cruel so the plans are to be nurtured by nature as much as possible. Munch is his happiest after a swim or a chance to prance, so allowing his happiness to be omnipresent this week is the goal. Grumpy Munch is not the easiest to live with so whatever it takes to avoid his tantrums, we will do.

There are also a few underlying reason to be extra nice to him this week too. The first being, his Lordship needs a haircut soon which he pouts about each time. It may be the cage he has to go in after he has been washed and cut for a little while or the fact that he thinks I think he is not perfect and needs a change that causes the pouting but he is never a happy bunny there. Another reason is that in two months time, I will be leaving him for five days when I go to Scotland and he stays behind with family. I am under no illusion that he will miss me asking him to work but he will miss his favourite fun dog walker who is coming with me.

This spring like weather that we are being blessed with, is an ideal time to be out and about before the weather gets too hot. Munch is really not a summer loving dog so I am trying to get in as much play as possible over the next few months. When I have my knee operation in July, I may not be fully mobile for at least three months so I supposd we can keep each other company indoors as the world basks in the sunshine. What I haven’t told him is that when we go back to work in a week, we will be working an extra day so his duvet days and messy plays will be slightly less. Until then, we are making the most of the outdoors.

Sometimes, duvet days and messy plays are all that you need and the inbetween can be filled with whatever you want. Balance is key to a happy life and a happy Munch. What else can you ask for in life?

Judge, And You May Need An Umbrella

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Call me pedantic but I really didn’t fancy getting my foot wedged down the toilet again.
After last year’s faux pas of attempting to delicately step over Munch in the toilet cubical and ending up slipping and dipping my toes into what I hoped was clean H2O in the bottom of a Tesco’s toilet, I have been a little wary of our ability to fit into a standard size toilet cubicle. Now, I love Munch dearly, but I often wonder if his dipsey ways are from being away with the fairies or just a sneaky plan of watching on in glee as my mishaps multiply. The day in question, he appeared not to understand the “come on sugar cube, forward” that I used to coax him into getting his pony like body into cubicle, hence my slip and dip routine where my foot decided to dive into the toilet as I clumsily clambered over him. In all fairness, as soon as he heard the splash, he came alive and turned around and closed the door with his nose. If I had functional vision, I swear I would have seen his shoulders shaking with silent laughter. Sorry, I am digressing from my original point. It is virtually impossible for me and lofty Munch to fit into standard size toilet cubicle accident free, so we sometimes need to use the disabled toilets if the standard ones aren’t large enough.
A few weeks ago, when we successfully emerged from a disabled toilet with dry feet, I was happy. That is until an irate woman snarled at me as I walked out. “You do know that this is a disabled toilet don’t you” she seethed. Me being as vacant as ever replied “Yeah I know” with matching puzzlement in my voice and probably my face, “You shouldn’t be using it should you” Chirpy Cheryl chastised. “Do you actually have a disability?” Chirpy Cheryl huffed, puffed and tutted with raised blood pressure. “What?” the childish me snapped back. As I heard the pennies fall in her head, Chirpy Cheryl did become chirpy as she started to apologize profusely for not noticing 31 inch high Munch. This not looking blind malarkey did not half get me into trouble. Chirpy Cheryl would not be the first nor the last to jump to the conclusion of what a disability does and does not look like. My daughter who was waiting outside the toilet heard the conversation and we talked about it afterwards. The accuser of the “queue jumping non-disabled person” herself did not appear to have any external clues of a disability but we did not think about questioning her about her entitlement of using the disabled toilet as our minds were not confined in such a narrow space.
Call me bad minded but I think Chirpy Cheryl has many like-minded friends around the place who also like to question your entitlement to join them in disabled facilities. Being blissfully blind to most things around me, I never see the judgement on other people’s faces but people who I am with at the time do. Parking in a disabled car parking spot the other day, we were bitterly embraced by Cranky Colin who we parked next to us in a disabled bay. As my daughter merrily popped my Blue Badge on the dashboard, she commented that Cranky Colin’s scowl towards us was intensifying. As we gathered our things together to get out, my daughter told me that Cranky Colin had suddenly transformed into an owl as he whipped his head around to watch us go to the boot to get Munch out. Even as we walked away on the pedestrian area in front of the car, I was told he was still glaring and had added a few head shakes and I am sure I felt some heat seeking missiles being aimed at my back. I mean if someone is walking with a Guide Dog and has a blue badge, it is fair to say that they can use a disabled parking spot. The Chirpy Cheryls and Cranky Colins in the world maybe should rethink the judging that they do. People who have disabilities and health conditions that require disabled facilities themselves surely realize that empathy is a far better option that hostility.
Unless we have x-ray vision and a medical degree, let’s not pretend to be experts on how hidden disabilities and health conditions affect people. Surely the Chirpy Cheryls and Cranky Colins in the world that themselves live with health issues should know what it is like to be judged. Tuts, headshakes and snappy comments will always say more about the one making them and little about the person they are directed at. Chirpy Cheryls and Cranky Colins may always exist but we can always take steps to educate them. Failing that, we can always send loving unicorns their way and hope their glittery poop that they drop from overhead adds some sparkle to their dull lives. Love and splattering’s Cheryl and Colin X.

Working With Humans

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How many times can she get it wrong?
Today has been so frustrating. I have been sitting here like the perfect Labradoodle that I am and there she is being the typical scatty maid as she is. Humans are the weirdest creatures ever. We have been here for nearly two hours to record a video of us which will last less than a minute. We would have finished much sooner if my daft maid could string a sentence together without saying “Um” and “no, start again” over and over whilst speaking English, Welsh and Martian all in the same sentence. Why couldn’t the Guide Dogs have matched me with someone more efficient?
Luckily it was my favourite dog walking footman that was with us as he encouraged us to have lots of breaks in filming and led us all to a huge field so that I could have a well-deserved run. Meeting other dogs here meant I could remove my regal robes (or harness as some people not in the know call them) and exercise my gracious body. I even led other dogs to believe that I was an equal as we played together and not the King that I secretly am. Such fun.
Unfortunately, after I had had my well-deserved break, we were back to getting yet another video completed where apparently the maid had gathered her thoughts and was now able to string a sentence together to record the short promotional video for the Writers Workshop for the publisher that we needed to film. I am seriously considering getting another writer for my next book to ensure that not only does everyone know what an amazing guide dog and everyday Idol that I am, but also to let the world know how frustrating it can be when you really can’t get the staff to do what you want.
Working with humans has taught me many things which are.
– They are so fussy about things that they really do not need to be fussy about.
– They need to sniff often, play more and love everything.
– They over complicate the simplest of tasks. Either do or don’t. That’s it.
– They need to run like no one is watching and chase their non-existent tail just to know what it is like to be in the moment more.
– They need to realize that a picture of you from any angle is a good angle because you are perfect just as you are.
We finally got to finish the video when the maid’s mouth became friends with her brain again and I was free to sashay away with grace. Humans can be so hard to control.

The Funhouse Of Mirrors

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The scariest time in my life was when I could see. Well, I say see but maybe I mean see more. OK, so maybe the right term is that I could see something in a little bit of focus. Thinking about it, focus is such a strong word to use here. Sorry am I confusing you? Let me start at the beginning.

There I was sitting in the ophthalmologist’s office nine months after having a cataract operation that did more harm than good but c’est la vie. “The thing is, although it is quite fun walking around like I am looking through a distorted version of Funhouse mirrors, I cannot carry on like this. The lack of depth perception is causing me more injuries than before and looking at out of proportion objects is pretty scary if I am honest” I joked with the blurry stretched man in front of me. He abruptly
answered “we need to give it more time”. “Nine months is enough time, I want it removed” I answered matching his tone.
This stubborn standoff had been going on since I had my cataract operation 9 months earlier and it was long overdue to be resolved. Since this alien object had been placed in my eye, nothing but tantrums and melt-downs had happened in the ocular area with post-operative inflammation and Edema on the retina being the main instigators of the uprising in my eye. I was now requesting an eviction notice to these angry duo as I could no longer deal with their nonsense. So here I was pleading with this nine-foot-tall, egg timer shaped blur in front of me in the hospital room who sat on the rugby ball shaped fuzzy chair. Daily entry into the Funhouse of mirrors really needed to be a thing of the past.

My mule like pig-headedness paid off and I was back in the operating theatre removing the mischievous lens that they had implanted, and I was left lens free and back to being able to live my normal double vision, fuzzy life that I always felt safe in. It seemed that everyone around me felt sorry for me that I was becoming “broken” again after the operation was not able to help me, but I felt a different way about it. I had never felt broken before due to my sight loss, it was just normal. Medical staff and everyone around me seemed to be tempting me into the world of the sighted to “fix” the way that I had been since birth.

When I entered the semi sighted world for that brief amount of time however, life was far from rosy.
I went from seeing birds as gargantuan shape shifters instead of mythical creature that I had never seen, to not being able to reach out to an object in front of me due to the immense difference in depth perceptions in both eyes. Vague faces became things that I could kind of make out but didn’t always match my version of them that I had been carrying around in my head for years. I noticed myself judging things in other people that I had no right to judge, as I began using my eyes alone to absorb my environment and ignored my other senses. I knew that this was not the world that the fully sighted saw as everything was out of proportion and seemed to be the wobbly bridge between the sighted and sight loss world. I was so relieved when I got off this wobbly bridge and returned to the sight loss world with less sight but more confidence.

Seeing the beauty in life cannot be seen through the eyes alone but they can be a magical tool in appreciating the world around us. My time in the Funhouse of mirrors taught me many things and I am glad I had a chance to play around in it for a while. There is always a light-hearted view available in uncertain times of transition if you search hard enough.