Church Gate Collection 2013

I did the annual Irish guide dogs church gate collection last weekend in Buncrana. It was a week later than usual, which meant it took place over St. Patrick’s weekend, which was probably a good thing. Nicky helped with it this year, so it meant that we had another dog for people to see when they passed the gate.
We did the usual two masses on Saturday evening, and three on Sunday. There were four masses on Sunday, so Nicky and I went to two different churches which had masses around the same time. The weather was cold and wet, but I’ve collected in much worse weather.

I know I say this every year, but I honestly can’t get over the generosity of people in our town, whether it’s offering to collect, or donating money. Its a recession, people don’t have much, but we still managed to raise 1,924 euros, our highest amount ever! It means a lot, especially since I am currently the only guide dog owner in the town, so it isn’t exactly a local charity that affects a lot of people here.

Apart from an amazing amount of money, collecting was enjoyable, because it was so entertaining. We had lots of friendly chats with people on their way into mass. Some of the comments and things people said included:

“God, its a terrible day. You must be freezing. You could have picked a better day.
How olds the dog? God, he’s on the go a long time!
How did you teach him to be so good. I wish mine was that good.
I hope you feed that dog well.”
And my favourite:
Woman: “He’s lovely. Is he your best friend?”
Me: “Yeah, one of them.)
Woman: “Oh, so you have two guide dogs?”

People are brilliant! I honestly wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

IPhone

I’ve finally given in and bought an IPhone. Many blind and visually impaired people would say I should have done it ages ago, but I was being stubborn, until I saw that there really isn’t a phone available that is as accessible.

I bought the blackberry curve and installed the free screenreader
last June
The phone had a faulty battery and i got a replacement two months later. Overall, I liked the physical appearance of the phone, and the way it worked, but the screenreader still has some issues that caused the phone to freeze any time I needed it to do something online that took a bit longer than using twitter. I would rarely go online or use apps, and I didn’t even consider connecting it to my email account. That would confuse it completely! I sold the phone at the end of January, used my ten year old one for a while, and bought the IPhone 4s at the end of February.

Its true that the IPhone can’t be beat when it comes to accessibility. Apps and emails are easy to use, and everything works without any bother. I did prefer using twitter on the Blackberry and found it much quicker. The bluetooth keyboard is much easier than texting on the phone, but I hope to look at Flexi soon, because I’ve heard good things about it. The phone is definitely slower, and it has taught me to have more patience, but I’m sure things will get faster the longer I have it. The touch screen is less of a learning curve than I expected, but it helped that I was able to look at other people’s phones first. I would advise anybody getting one to try and do this, or just get it and be determined to figure it out. Sometimes the more you ask, and the more you think about getting something, the more you put yourself off it, and that’s what happened to me. When I bought the phone, I wasn’t excited about it at all, but I’m glad I have it now.
For piece of mind, its definitely worth the money, but its still annoying that they are rediculously expensive on pay as you go, and not everyone wants another bill every month, which costs more than they would normally spend on credit.

I’m never going to become one of those Apple crazy people, who constantly talk about the latest app or the latest new thing their phone can do. There’s enough of them out there! Seriously though, for me, its just another thing I use to help me to communicate with people.
I don’t want to dismiss the Blackberry completely. I think Research in Motion are doing fantastic work, and I hope they can continue to improve on what they have done. In the meantime, they are great at replacing broken phones within a short space of time, and that’s one good thing 😀

Edinburgh

Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee first, this is a long post!

Last weekend, Nicky and I went to Edinburgh. It was something I’ve wanted to do for years, and the flights were my birthday present. The whole trip was brilliant from start to finish, everyone was so helpful and lovely and it couldn’t have gone better.

I got the bus to Dublin on Friday morning and met Nicky and Orrin there. The assistance in Dublin airport was fantastic. The people bringing us around were friendly and professional, we didn’t have to queue at all, and had an hour for coffee before they brought us on the plane. The dogs did great, and O J was a good example to Orrin, who was flying for the first time. Again the assistance in Edinburgh were great, and brought us to a bus to the train station when we got our luggage. My parents got me a very handy suitcase for my birthday that you can just wheel and walk with it beside you, which I’d definitely recommend for anyone travelling with a guide dog.
The only minor problem we encountered was at the train station, because we hadn’t booked assistance in advance. We told them that we’d just got off the plane from Ireland, and they said it was a busy station and that there was nobody free to take us. We had to wait almost an hour for the next train, and were brought to it by a man who worked in a different department. I completely understand that you have to book assistance in the UK, and the station is obviously busy on a Friday, but it’s not nice to be made feel like an inconvenience because you need help that wasn’t planned in advance.

We spent the first night in North Berwick, which is a small seaside town. My cousins took us for dinner and drinks after, and it was lovely to spend time with them because I don’t see them often. I was surprised by how many people had pet dogs in the pubs, just lying there being well behaved. I wish people could do that here.

We visited my cousin’s flat on Saturday, and they brought us to visit my uncle’s grave. I’d never been before, so it was nice to finally go and say a prayer there. Then we all drove to Edinburgh and had lunch together, before checking into our hotel there. The hotel was in a great location, and it was very easy for us to find our way around for the next couple of days, when people gave us directions. My cousin Sharleen helped us to find grass for the dogs, but it couldn’t have been closer. Sharleen and Ben gave us a walking tour of the city, including the graveyard, going near the castle and reading me the plaque outside ‘the elephant house’, where the first Harry Potter book was written. We went to the cinema with them, before they went home, and I’m glad to report that O J wasn’t sick this time!

Another thing we wanted to do while in Edinburgh was meet
Jes
who has guest posted here before. I’ve been reading her blog for a few years and really enjoy it. We had intended to meet on Sunday but when she texted to see if we were busy, and said she and Mr. K were in the area, I was very excited! They came and met us in the bar of our hotel for a few drinks, and within 5 minutes, I knew we were all going to get along well. Its great to meet someone unline and discover that they are just the same in reality. Its also nice to spend time around positive blind people, who do lots of interesting things and can talk about other things, apart from dogs and being blind! I don’t mean that to sound negative, but people reading this who are blind might understand what I mean.

Saturday evening was good fun, and Jes and her husband invited us to their flat on Sunday for the day. We started the visit by taking all five dogs for a free run, so that they could get to know each other and use up some of their energy. It was a good idea, because they were relaxed for the rest of the day. We had lunch in the lovely cafe Jes often writes about, and the three guide dogs were very quiet. Jes and Nala have just finished training together, and make a great team. She seems so settled and well behaved for such a new dog. That cafe sells the nicest rockie road I have ever tasted!
We spent the rest of the day listening to music and talking lots, with lots of furry company! That’s my idea of a perfect evening!! Ottis and Hermione are such cute dogs, and I couldn’t stop cuddling them whenever they came near me.
I hope we can all meet again soon, maybe in Ireland next time. These two like adventures, maybe I can convince them to move here 😀

We spent Monday morning in a cafe near our hotel, before getting a taxi to the airport and flying home. Everything went as well as it did on the way over. Its great to be able to travel with the dogs and have everything go so well. Scotland is such a dog friendly place, and the people being so helpful made it a lot easier. One interesting thing I observed about Scottish people though, is how relaxed they are. So relaxed in fact, that even short distances seem further away and take them longer to get to. If you asked for directions, they might tell you something was two minutes walk away, when in fact it took 30 seconds. Or ifn the case of the train station, the platform for North Berwick was very far, which meant a five minute walk. It was just something we found funny!

I was expecting O J to be tired at work on Tuesday, but we were back working in schools and he was full of energy.