Bell X1

Last Saturday myself and a couple of friends went to see Bell X1 in An Culturlann in Derry. Its a small venue which holds about 150 people. I’d never been before, and hadn’t seen the band in a few years. They were doing an acoustic tour, playing songs from all their albums, stripped back to how they would have written them before they were recorded. As usual, they were brilliant, and it was great to hear the songs played this way to such an attentive audience. I particularly loved hearing Dave Gerity on piano (and many other instruments), and he had a chance to sing a few tunes too. I really like his solo albums so I was happy. The night finished with a cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘she’s a mystery’ which was really beautiful.


Its great when I can take OJ to a gig with me too, and to some people’s surprise, he stays completely relaxed. He was happy last night for two reasons. Firstly, he’d had a long walk and a run on the beach during the day. The staff and people who were involved with putting the gig together also gave us a great seat; at the end of the front row, where O J had lots of room to stretch out and not be disturbed. I had great sound, and my mates had a great view! O J stood up a few times, when Paul Noonan first started playing the drums, and then  mostly just to get petted. He got a lot of attention from people after, and a guy from our town was determined to use this to our advantage. The band were packing up to go home and he wanted to meet them, so decided to break the ice by telling them that O J wanted to say hi. It was embarrassing but they all came to talk and pet him and get photos, and it made things a bit less awkward for everyone. Dave in particular is a dog lover, so O J took full advantage of this and licked his ear when he bent down to pet him. My dog is so spoilled, but apparently, acording to Dave, “sure he works hard and deserves it!”


I’m very fussy about where I bring O J and what I bring him too. I’d never bring him somewhere that’s too loud or too busy. In a situation like a gig, if I’m with sighted friends I might not necessarily need him, but sometimes its good to be independent and follow people with the dog instead of always being guided around. Its also interesting to see how venue staff react, and I think it helps to make them more aware of guide dogs when they see one in their premises. Some venues, like An Culturlann make no big deal of it, and try to do all they can to help. Others can panic a bit, and think that accomodating the dog involves a lot of work, which of course it doesn’t. I’m going to a gig in Belfast in a few weeks, which hasn’t had a guide dog before. They have asked a lot of questions already, but are keen to help, so we’ll see how that goes.


If you like Bell X1, I’d definitely recommend their ‘field recordings’ album, which is a two disc CD of many of their songs played live and acoustic. You need to be familiar with their recorded music to really appreciate it, but its really good!

Keeping an open mind

I practically have something on every weekend between now and Christmas. Week days are busy with work, a course I’ve started, and other bits and pieces. At the end of January this will all change slightly, when my work contract runs out and I’ll have no job. In some ways I feel like I’m in the exact same situation I was when this happened three years ago; I still have no idea what I want to do and nothing has really changed. In other ways I know I’ve changed a lot, and I’m slowly starting to accept that maybe I’m going to be one of those indecisive people who never really know what they want to do as a career. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing if I am always working, but not having some sort of a job isn’t an option for me.


In February 2010, during my first week of being unemployed after my last job in an arts centre, I was offered a receptionist job for two months in the Centre for Independent Living, where I currently work. I had no experience of this type of work, and no interest in ever becoming a receptionist. Taking that job and becoming involved with people with disabilities led on to lots of great things. My colleagues have been brilliant, and I was offered work opportunities and courses that I am very grateful for. It’s a great feeling to work with people who acknowledge your disability only when they need to. They treat you like everyone else and encourage you to do new things. An example of this is the level 7 disabilities studies course I’ve recently started that they funded part of. It runs until April and will be a lot of work, but will keep me busy after Christmas. The more I learn about different types of disabilities, the more I want to know. I am studying this course with a couple of work colleagues, people with disabilities and people who work in the disability sector so it’s a nice mixture. We’ve only just finished the second week, but already it’s making me think differently about many aspects of the lives of disabled people in our society. I know that my enthusiasm might die slightly when the assignments start piling up!


The disability field is an area I avoided as much as possible until recently, partly because I didn’t think about it much when I was younger. I wanted the fact that I am blind to be as far away from my work life as possible, but delivering school awareness programs has taught me that maybe I can use it to my advantage to help others. I understand living with a disability better than some people who don’t have one. I regularly come into contact with people who provide services and think they are experts, but with no personal experience of disability, how can they completely understand? if that keeps me interested and helps me to find work then maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it like I did when I was younger.


I can’t say that my current job or this new course has provided me with a definite career option, but they have helped me to broaden my areas when looking for jobs. I still enjoy editing sound, interviewing people and hearing their stories. I hate computers, but the idea of having my own business/service that I could provide online could be another option. Don’t ask me what kind of business, because I haven’t thought that far ahead yet! Although I don’t think working with dogs is a realistic money-earner for me, its still something I’d love. I won’t be limiting my options though, and if something comes up that mightn’t seem too appealing at first, I’ll think about it carefully. I have learned to take opportunities when they come up, and to make the most of them, because by dismissing something quickly, we might be missing out on other great things.


Expect a few of these random blog posts in the next while, especially as I try to get used to the idea of having no job. When I’m thinking about stuff, sometimes I just need to write! I’d love to hear people’s thoughts and experiences of finding work, trying to decide what to do etc. Other people can sometimes be a great help.