podcasts and nice weather! (updated)

I’ll give the guide dog stuff a mention first, since that’s what this blog is supposed to be about.

Kerie Doyle from Dublin recently trained with her first guide dog called Zonta. Before she went to Cork, she was featured on the
stuartlawler.ie podcast
And also on Audioview, a program about sight loss, presented by Joe Bollard on Dublin city fm. Audioview is broadcast between 1.30 and 2 PM on Wednesday afternoons, online on
or you can hear the podcast at

You can hear Kerie talk about her preparations for a guide dog, how the training went and how she and Zonta are getting on since, on Joe and Stuart’s podcasts. I wanted to mention it, because future guide dog owners might find it useful. She talks realistically about what its like, particularly in the early stages of guide dog ownership. There are always things you can learn working with a guide dog that they don’t teach you in training.
You can check out Kerie’s blog
Ker’s Kosmos

I’ve been making the most of our brilliant weather when I’m not working. OJ has had some nice swims at the beach. My parents took him there on Sunday because I was in Bundoran at a surf/music festival. Myself and some friends made a spur of the moment decision to go on Saturday evening and it was great fun. We got two free tickets so just had to buy two more, so it worked out cheap for everyone. I saw Mick Flannery, who I’ve wanted to see for a while and he was great. I heard a couple of Fred songs and we watched the Super Furry Animals set. They were very entertaining, and I had great fun on the boy’s shoulders. We had an 8 man tent but didn’t fancy trying to find somewhere to put it up in the middle of the night so slept in the jeep instead. We didn’t hang around long on Sunday because the surfing events were cancelled because there were no waves.

RIP Michael Jackson. Its still hard to believe. I couldn’t stand him when I was small, but realized how brilliant his music is as I got older. The production on some of his tracks, and the showmanship he had was incredible. He’s the only performer myself and group of five close friends could all go and see in concert, without arguing about how good the music is, but that will never happen now.


I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but I hate posting links so only getting around to it now. If the links don’t work copy and paste them cos I don’t know how to fix them.
I want to mention and thank all the people who follow my blog, some of whom comment here regularly.
So in no particular order, here goes:

Darragh Doyle
Linked to all his followers a while ago, which is where I stole the idea. I find his blog inspiring and although he doesn’t blog as much as he used too its still great stuff! He is a professional blogger, who can tell a great story and does some nice interviews too.
Check out his sight at:

Clive’s Blog
About his life and work as an Irish assistance dog, helping a boy with autism, is my favourite recent discovery. It is informative, entertaining and updated regularly. I really hope it’s a contender for an Irish blog award next year.

Darren Byrne
Is a very funny man, who can tell a great story. He is currently on Big Brother, but is keeping us all updated on activities in the house on his blog.

Kirk’s photo blog
Has a photo for every day of the year, with some ramblings in between. I can’t appreciate the pictures properly but that doesn’t mean they aren’t good!

Blogs about opinions and personal bias, from the wonderful world of autism. \its another great read.

the life of a lost girl
Is a lovely simple diary of personal life and the search for employment. Her happy personality and appreciation for the simple things in life always makes me smile.

Often comments here. I met her about 18 months ago for a project I was doing in Belfast. A few months ago she found my blog, contacted me to say hi and now she visits this blog regularly. She recently wrote a nice article about “the not so accessible public transport network”, and you can read it and check out her blog over at:

Cruisin with Cricket
Is Becky’s blog about how she “sees life through an adorable guide dog, Cricket-a 4-year old yellow lab. She describes herself as a “(blind from retinitis pigmentosa) 40 something woman, wife, mom, daughter, friend and marriage & family therapist. Her blog is great.

Is training to be An assistance dog in the Us. So is
And the dogs on
the Brax blog

perspectives from a blind point of view
Is Alena Roberts’ blog. She describes it as “A blog dedicated to how I see the world as a 20 something blind woman, as well as news inportant to the blind community. Not all of my opinions will be based on my disability, but I hope to bring a new perspective to the blogging world.”

And last but not least, check out the adventures of
the Karensbrae terriers

I like the diversity of people who follow what myself and O J get up too. Hopefully someone will discover a new blog that they like by looking at some of these links, and new followers are always welcome!

Student life and guide dog ownership

I got an email from the editor of the RNIB’s
Sites. She wanted to know if they could feature my blog and if I would write an article for their websites. She said that a lot of visitors to the site enquire about what it’s like to have a guide dog when you are a student. I didn’t have OJ when I was at university, but thought I’d write about the important things students should consider before applying for a dog while they are at college.
She gave the blog a nice mention, and the the link to the article is

I have my annual training review on Thursday. That’s when a guide dog trainer comes to visit to make sure me and OJ are working well together and aren’t fighting! I know he’s working well but I always still be a little bit nervous at the beginning.

Christy in Buncrana

Where can I start. What a gig! The atmosphere was perfect. Christy and Declan were on top form. The crowd were silent when appropriate (well most of them anyway) but everyone had the craic too. They played solidly for two hours, and the set list included some requests from audience members. When people start asking for songs at the beginning, he tells the audience that him and Declan will play for a while and then go into “dukebox mode” where the audience can choose the songs. This system seems to work well, as you don’t get people constantly shouting throughout the gigs.
It was brilliant to see an event with so many people in the town, and it was nice to see the venue being put to good use as well.

The staff were very helpful regarding access, and brought myself, OJ and my aunt to a seat as soon as we went inside. OJ slept happily through most of it. Even during powerful versions of Joxer and Lisdoonvarna, he lay curled up at my feet. He looked around a lot when the bodhran started because he hasn’t heard it before. He was also a bit confused when we stood up for an encore and sat back down again for the last couple of songs. OJ thought he was going home.

After the gig I waited with my aunt until the hall emptied out a bit. We talked to some very nice people, (some from the 4711ers forum) and lots of people petted OJ and commented on how well behaved he was. The owner of the Plaza and a man who worked with the musicians came up to ask about OJ. They were keen to keep me hanging around for a while and said if I waited five minutes I could meet Christy. Of course I was delighted and wasn’t expecting it at all. I was also a bit nervous, because I’ve been listening to his music since I was about seven. He’s been playing for so long and had such an interesting career. I would have loved to ask him about something I’ve always wanted to know about his music but I didn’t have time to think about intelligent conversation. I was also distracted by people who were a bit obsessed with me being blind, but I won’t go into that now.

I was in a bit of a daydream when Christy came over and shook my hand. He was like I’d imagined, a gentleman and really sound, and although we only talked for about two minutes it was lovely to meet him. He asked all the questions, not me. I just stood there grinning like a fool, as usual. He asked about OJ first and petted him. We talked about the gig, gigs I’d been to, where I work and what I do there. He seemed genuinely interested, and promised if I contact him before his Derry gig next spring he’ll call up and visit. We shook hands and made it a deal, so we’ll just have to wait and see!

I had a camera with me but didn’t really want to bother him by getting a photo. I’m sure a lot of people would have wanted to meet him, and all he wanted to do was relax so I really appreciated the chance to say hello. I also got a poster signed by him and Declan. I would have taken an album but I wasn’t expecting it to happen. I wouldn’t have met him if it wasn’t for OJ being so good looking, attracting people’s attention in the first place. Its a tough life being a guide dog owner!!

Set list:
1. Wise and Holy Woman
2. North and South
3. Magdalene Laundries (the most immotional song I think I’ve ever heard)
4. Hiroshima Nagasaki Russian Roulette
5. City of Chicago (the singing from the audience was great)
6. Pity the poor Immigrant
7. Duffys Cut (love this song)
8. Listen (a gorgeous song and the title track on the new album)
9. Does This Train Stop at Merseyside
10. Barrowland (Christy said this could also be about the Plaza ballroom in Buncrana)
11. Smoke and Strong Whiskey (one of my favs)
12. Ordinary Man
13. I Will (Declan Sinnott)
14. Missing You
15. Viva La Quinte Brigada
16. Bright Blue Rose
17. Don’t Forget Your Shovel (funny as usual)
18. Mcalhatton
19. Back Home in Derry
20. Voyage (one of the nicest songs ever written)
21. Joxer (a man kept laughing really loudly, (causing Christy and Declan to stop playing and laugh too)
22. Victor Jara (another amazing song)
23. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (their version is unique)
24. Well Below The Valley (Bodhrán)
25. Ride On
26. Lisdoonvarna (pure class!)


27. Rory’s Gone
28. Beeswing

Safe and sound

Over the last year I’ve been regularly checking
Beth Finke’s blog
And reading her interesting posts. Beth is a teacher, journalist and award-winning author from Chicago. She has written a memoir entitled
long time, no see
Which unfortunately I haven’t read yet. I absolutely love her children’s book
safe and sound
Which explains how she works with her guide dog Hanni. I have the Braille version of the book, which also has print so that blind and sighted people can read it together. I have taken it to our local primary school and the children really enjoyed looking at it.

Beth was recently given the chance to drive a Mustang convertible, and her experience sounded like so much fun. You can read about it in the recent entries on her blog:
and you can
To her describe it here.
It really makes me want to go for a drive!

lots of stuff!

The past week has been a little bit busy. Before I tell you what I’ve been up to, I have to mention
Stuart’s website
The podcasts are the main feature of the site. They are lively, informative and fun! When it comes to technology, Stuart really knows his stuff.

On Friday afternoon I went to Malin to meet the cyclists finishing the Mizen to Malin cycle for guide dogs. The weather was amazing and everybody was tired but in great form. We stopped in Malin town for a while and then they cycled to the head, where they had food, drink, icecream and took lots of pictures. OJ enjoyed the sun, and loved meeting Jake the guide dog. Everybody kept calling OJ Jake’s little brother, because they are so alike. I met a few people that I hadn’t seen since last years cycle, as well as most of the other cyclists. They are convinced that I’m doing it next year, and so many people have offered to cycle my tandem, even though I haven’t actually agreed to do it yet. I’d really love to, but it will require a lot of training, as I’m not very fit and have no strength in my legs for that kind of journey. I’m going to seriously think about it over the summer and make a decision then.
We all went to the pub and back to the hotel that night. It was great fun and everyone was so friendly. It was such a random night, that if I started to explain I wouldn’t know where to start!

I got home after 5 on Saturday morning, so was delighted when my mum got up to feed the dogs and took them for a very long walk. I went to the beach and met them when I got up, and that was exactly what I needed to wake me up. OJ had the longest swim ever. I thought he was never going to come out of the water. His recall isn’t always 100% when he’s out in our garden and he gets easily distracted, but thankfully it is always excellent at the beach.

On Sunday I walked the dogs and then my family went to Belfast zoo. I hadn’t been there since I was about 4 years old, and really wanted to go to see my nephew’s reaction when he saw the animals. I rang the zoo to ask if they allowed guide dogs but they said they didn’t so I left OJ at home. When we got there my eldest nephew noticed a sign saying no domestic dogs. Assistance dogs welcome. I was a bit disappointed, because it would have been a lovely walk for OJ. The animals were far away so he wouldn’t have been a distraction for them. I also got the bus home alone because everyone else stayed and I had to work the next day so it would have been nice to have OJ with me.
We mentioned that I was told dogs weren’t allowed when we bought our tickets, and the man was very apologetic. I didn’t have to pay because people with disabilities get in free, but he let my mum go free to guide me around. I didn’t get to touch anything, and we missed the animals feeding times, but I’m still glad I went.

I went to work on Monday, raging that it was a bank holiday in the republic and everyone else seemed to be off. The weather was amazing as well. I turned on my laptop, and it died after about two minutes. The power lead kept making a strange noise and wouldn’t work, so at ten o clock they told me I could go home. I sunbathed for the rest of the day. Talk about brilliant!
I got my new power pack on Wednesday and my radio training went really well. The centre has been busy all week, mostly because of the
2D comic festival
taking place from June 4th-6th. There is a great buzz around the place, and the nice weather makes it even better.

OJ has to go to the vet for his annual vaccination today. I’m also going to find out about getting him a pet passport, as I’m hoping to take him on holidays the next time my whole family goes away. I’m getting tickets for the Swell Season in Derry on August 18th today, even though I said at first I’d give them a miss this time. I’ve seen Glen Hansard at least once a year since 2002, so it would be rude of me not to go this year! As usual I’m not sure who is coming with me. I tend to buy the tickets first and then worry about who is actually going to take me after. It’s a good summer for gigs, with Christy next week, Bruce Springsteen in July and the swell season (or the chilled out frames) in August. I’m always happy when I have live music to look forward to.