A quiet February

My definition of a quiet February probably isn’t the same as most people’s. By quiet, I mean that I haven’t gone out anywhere at weekends and haven’t spent much money. It’s exactly how I hoped January and February would be this year. Last year was so busy, and although it was brilliant, I definitely want a less busy year.

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve got some things done that kept being put off, which is always good. The CD holders that I got in Ikea were finally put up, and all the CDs are almost labeled and sorted. They are much neater now, and I have a lot more space in my office. Getting a shelf up in the kitchen has also been a great help. But in a way, the most useful thing my brother in law put up was a hook to hang the dogs leads and O J’s harness. Sounds simple, but it makes life much easier!

I had a lovely few days before and during my birthday last week. Got some lovely presents as usual, lots of cake and lovely food in my sister’s house. Apart from making soup twice in the last week, I haven’t cooked dinner in my own house which is rediculous!

O J has been doing some great work recently. The weather is improving so we’ve been getting out for lots of walks. Even with Dougal trailing behind us, he’s been so enthusiastic to work which is brilliant. In the last few days he’s been randomly getting up from his sleep and coming over to be cuddled for a few minutes, then happily going back to bed. It’s actually very funny. Sometimes I wonder if he’s having a mid-life crisis or something these days, because he has these bursts of energy that are just hollarius. He has such a funny personality and makes me laugh every day. Nicky and I went to Kilkenny at the beginning of the month, and it was O J’s first time there. Not that he cares where he is, but I’m hoping to take him to a few new places this year. I’ve been thinking a lot about the great job puppywalkers do recently for some reason, and if O J’s were interested, I’d love to take him to see them again this year. See if I write that down, then I’m more likely to do something about it! Any excuse to travel 🙂

Another new place O J and I went recently was to Dublin for a training day for work. We stayed in the accomodation in
which reminded me of my student days in Belfast. When my colleague booked our rooms and told them that I had a guide dog, they asked if there was anything they needed to do for us. There was lots of grass outside, and O J got a bit of a run around in the morning before we left for training. The staff asked how our stay was when we were checking out, and told us that O J was the first guide dog they’d ever had staying there. My colleague found it interesting to watch O J properly at work, since he’s usually relaxing beside my desk most of the time when we’re in the office. He was fascinated at how I know when there’s a step ahead. O J will put his two front paws on the step going up, and pause slightly before walking on, and of course I can feel this through the harness. I sometimes forget that people don’t really understand how a guide dog works until they see them in action.

I got much more from the training day than I had expected. Everyone was very friendly and helpful, and I think that deciding to link up with this particular organisation for funding for the schools project was a very good idea. If we decide to apply for funding for next year and are lucky enough to get it, I have a lot to think about in the meantime. Working only two days isn’t easy since I always like to be busy, so I’m doing a lot of thinking and googling these days. Two part-time jobs might be easier to find than one full-time one.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to. Not sure who cares really, but I like writing haha.

A little bit of ‘banter’ at Other Voices

This is the second year that
Other Voices
has come to Derry. Basically if you like the kind of music that I do, it’s the perfect weekend. Since 2002, St. James’ church in Dingle is the venue where bands perform over three nights, which are filmed and made into a Television series called ‘other voices’. These gigs are streamed in pubs around the area, and lots of live music takes place in the town during the weekend. Around 80 people are lucky enough to make it into the venue, and tickets are given away through competitions.
Other Voices came to Derry for the city of culture last year, and returned again this weekend. Despite entering at least five competitions each year, I’ve never been lucky enough to get tickets. Last year I watched it online and didn’t go near the city, but this year I was determined to attend at least one thing. Most of my friends don’t like the same kind of music as me, and if they do, they aren’t always the most adventurous type when it comes to discovering new music. It’s not practical or sensible to go to a busy venue with O J on my own, so nighttime gigs weren’t really possible. I would have just loved to have spent the whole weekend in Derry, wandering around finding new music, but being blind makes that impossible. This isn’t meant to be a poor me post! So I’ll talk about the one thing I did have the chance to attend.

Music journalist Jim Carroll hosts an interesting event called
where he interviews a wide range of people in front of an audience. It has become part of Other Voices, and I went to The Cottage in Derry’s Craft Village yesterday to have a listen to a few of the speakers. The afternoon began with a couple of tunes and a chat from
Colm Mac Con Iomaire,
violinist, composer, and member of The Frames, who had played in the concert the previous night. He’s working on some really interesting things at the minute, and the music he’s making is beautiful. My aunt stayed to hear him and was really impressed. She left then to go shopping, and I listened to Conor Masterson talk about the making of his film
in the deep shade
which is an art documentary about the frames. I have the DVD, so it was interesting to hear the ideas and thoughts behind the film. It’s a fantastic film about how such a creative group of musicians can work together and make music. Definitely worth checking out if you like that kind of thing at all. I’m not just recommending it because they are my favourite band!
Next was a discussion with David Caffrey, one of the co-creaters of ‘love hate’. I hadn’t planned on staying for this bit, and although I didn’t watch the series, it was really interesting to hear how films and TV programmes are made. I left at four to go for food with my aunt, but there was still a couple of talks to go, which I’m sure were interesting too.

I think ‘banter’ is a great idea. It’s very relaxed and informal, and Jim Carroll really does his research and knows his guests before interviewing them. It was nice to meet him, and for anyone who is familiar with him, yes, he does talk that fast!! I had O J with me, and of course he got lots of attention. He got petted by David Caffrey and Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who came over for a chat before he played. I hadn’t spoken to him in so long, so it was nice to have the chance.

Although I only attended a small part of Other Voices, I’m glad I did, even if O J was the only one who came with me. Sometimes the thought of going somewhere on your own with a group of strangers is worse than actually doing it. I need to remind myself of that next time I’m debating whether to do something or not.

Want a laugh?

I’ve often written about the funny conversations I’ve had with children in schools and when I’m out and about with O J. I’ve worked in a couple of primary schools recently, where some very entertaining conversations took place. Here’s an idea of how they went.

Teachers spend a lot of time teaching children the rules of the road and how to stay safe, and it obviously pays off, because they are obsessed with how on earth a blind person can possibly cross a road. They sometimes seem disappointed when I tell them that it’s me, not my guide dog who decides when it’s safe to cross. How can a blind person possibly know when it’s safe, sure they can’t see?

Before handing children their names in Braille, I asked them if they knew who invented it. A boy put up his hand enthusiastically and asked,
“Was it Jesus?”
Trying to hold in the laughter I told him that it wasn’t, and then his classmate wanted to know,
“Was it God then?”
The real answer, Louis Braille seemed boring when I told them.

In a class of almost 60 children, I explained how technology helps me to do everyday things, just like they can. I told them that my phone talks, so I can make phone calls, read and send text messages and go on the internet. A small seven year old boy gasped when I said this. And by gasped, I mean this kid was in complete shock! I turned up voiceover on the phone, slowed it down so that they could understand it, and showed them how I write a text message. When I’d done this, the boy put up his hand again and said,
“You know when you said your phone talked? I thought you meant that it had a mouth!”
No wonder the poor kid was in shock, trying to imagine what a phone with a mouth would look like.

I have a talking colour detector which I often pass around the classroom to let children have a go. Basically you put it up against something, press a button and it tells you what colour it is. I explain that I might want to use it if I have two tops that are the same but different colours, or if I want to make sure I’m not wearing too odd socks. One girl was worried that the colour detector might let me down.
“If you put it on your sock and it said black. Then you put it on the other sock and it said black, but maybe another part of the sock was white, the part that the colour detector didn’t touch, you’d still be wearing two odd socks!”
I was exhausted. These kids think of everything.

We went for dinner yesterday evening for my mum’s birthday. I was trying to keep my 3 year old nephew Harry entertained on my knee, convincing him that playing hide and seek around the room really wasn’t a good idea. Firstly, I told him that it’s not allowed, and anyway, if we could play, how would I know where to find him because I don’t know my way around. He’s an intelligent kid and I love challenging him and making him think. His answers make it worthwhile.
“Oh yeah, if you had Dougal and O J with you we could play, because they would sniff and find me.”
I doubt Dougal would be much help, but I agreed. After that he asked me,
“When are you ever going to learn to see?”

The answer is never Harry, but I’m not sure I would even want too. If I could see, all these funny conversations would never happen, and I love them.