Birthday Celebrations In Belfast!

I know, you’re thinking when is this birthday thing ever going to end? It’s not every year you turn 30, so you might as well make the most of it.
My five best friends went together and gave me a brilliant thoughtful present that they knew I’d love, and that I’ve been looking forward to since February.

Last Friday Nicky and I took buses from Dublin and Derry and met up in Belfast for a weekend in Benedicts hotel. It’s one of my favourite hotels ever, with helpful friendly staff and a great welcome for guide dogs. I’m always impressed by the bowl and bed for the dog in the room, and this time the receptionist who showed us to our room said that if the dog liked the bed, the manager said I could keep it because they have lots!
We ate dinner in Made in Belfast in the Cathedral Quarter. I absolutely love this place! Again the staff were amazing, particularly the man working at our table who could not have been more helpful. When I thanked him at the end, he said he was only doing his job! The steak was lovely, and I really wanted dessert but I was too full up to even attempt it.

On Saturday morning after a lovely breakfas,t we got a taxi to the Victoria shopping centre so Nicky could go to the apple store. After he bought a charger and we asked about a couple of products, we found a Costa coffee to pass a bit of time. A staff member brought us to a nice seating area and came back to take our order. This was nicer than standing at a busy counter, trying to keep Sibyl away from food and low tables of nice smelling things. When he brought the coffee and muffins, he would only take £2 from me, saying that he wanted to give us our drinks free, and that I could use my money to buy something for the dog instead! People are so nice.

Along with our hotel, my friends booked us tickets to do the Titanic tour in the Titanic
exhibition centre. It’s not something I’ve really thought much about doing, but after living in Belfast for three years and doing nothing cultural at all, it was about time I did something. When we went inside the huge building, the first person we met was Stevie. It turned out that he would spend most of the next two and a half hours with us, doing much more than his job required him too. We had tickets for the longer tour inside the building, as aposed to the shorter discovery tour which takes place outside and is accompanied by a tour guide. At first we thought this might be a better option since we had no guide, but it turned out that the other one that we did was much better and really informative and interesting. We wore headphones which gave us short audio described pieces at different stages of the exhibition. There were also some videos we could listen to as we walked around. Obviously it was very visual, so there were bits we missed out on, but the audio was a great addition. There was a great variety of things to experience, including a short cablecar type ride that you went on to experience the sounds, the heat and the working conditions of the people who worked in Belfast during the building of the Titanic. There were a few seats along the way, and we watched a short film in the cinema towards the end of the tour. It is very well put together, with lots of things to entertain children if you had them with you. The staff are helpful and really know their jobs well.
The fact that we had nobody with us, and there was no tour guide inside made it a bit more difficult to know exactly what direction to follow on each floor. The staff kept an eye out for us, and Stevie was practically there for most of it. He took lots of time talking, explaining and describing things, as well as sneaking lots of pets of Sibyl along the way. She was very patient throughout the afternoon.

When we finished the tour, Stevie brought us to the carpark to wait on our taxi back to the hotel. The only small downside of the weekend happened when it came, and the driver said he didn’t have to take the dog because even though he worked for a particular company, he was driving his own private car. We asked him if he would call us another taxi then. When he did, and told his colleague that he didn’t want to take “a big animal”, they obviously told him who was boss, because he quickly changed his mind and said he’d take us. We didn’t speak on the way back, and I was careful that Sibyl didn’t put her face or head anywhere near him. He was helpful with his directions when we got out of the car, and we weren’t expecting that.
We met a friend for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant, had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and all sat chatting in our room for a while before she went home.

We didn’t stay around Belfast long after breakfast on Sunday. It was frustrating not really knowing my way around much, because the weather was great and I’d have like to have walked more with Sibyl. There is a park with grrass close to the hotel, and it took a bit of practice for Sibyl to find the lights, even though it wasn’t too complicated at all. The location of the lights are different in Northern Ireland. They aren’t very consistent which is annoying. Sibyl wasn’t trained to locate the button like O.J was, but I’m teaching her how to do it because it’s very useful. This weekend reminded me that I need to find reasons to go to Derry regularly and practice this with her. Our town just isn’t busy enough.

So there’s just one other birthday celebration to go. That is the Bruce Springsteen ticket I managed to find and by for myself. Because of course you should always buy yourself a present too, right?! The concert is this weekend, and to say I’m excited is an understatement!!

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This was a good week!

There are a few reasons why the last week has been really good.
I love trying new things, and I got to do a couple of them this week, which were unplanned, not part of the 30 challenges, but still good fun!

My two younger nephews were off school last week so I told them I’d make them lunch and take them to the cinema. My PA drove us to Derry and left us off there. The road where the bus lets people off would be too dangerous to bring a dog and two small boys. They were so excited that Sibyl was coming too, even though they’ve been to the cinema with her before. We went to see the Jungle Book, mostly because I wanted to see it myself, if I’m honest. Anything with animals, and especially the fact that I knew the story so well made it seem like a good choice. We got treats and drinks and sat down to watch it in 3D. A man who worked in the cinema came over to ask if I wanted earphones for the audio description. I’ve never used it in the cinema before, and didn’t actually know that the Moviebowl cinema had it, as it’s not very well advertised. I was glad of it because the film was so visual. I was able to adjust the volume separately in both ears so that I could hear the boys to my right and hear the film louder in my left ear. Every ten minutes one of them would say, ‘what’s she saying now? What’s she telling you now?’ It was very funny. I must remember to ask for them next time I go, although every film is not audio described. If I didn’t have Sibyl with me, they probably wouldn’t have noticed that I was blind and wouldn’t have offered them.

The weather has been lovely, so I’ve been doing lots of walking and Sibyl has been doing lots of free running. Tuesday morning was really warm, and when I went to yoga, the teacher (who is my aunt) told us that she was doing the class outside. It was really strange for the first few minutes, being on the grass, listening to the birds and the sea. Most of the things we did felt different, but it was really enjoyable. We actually had to go inside for the last 15 minutes because it was so warm.

In between the walks and enjoying the good weather, I’ve been busy transcribing. I get nothing for a while and then everything comes at once. I could have a potentially big project coming up soon, so hopefully it will all work out, and I’ll be very happy.

The best part of the week was my new nephew being born yesterday morning. Everything went well, and he’s a gorgeous healthy little boy, with three big brothers to look after him. I’m looking forward to getting lots of cuddles in the next few days, especially when he comes home.

Darkness into Light 2016

This morning at 4:15 A.M, I took part in the first darkness into light walk ever to be held in our town. For anybody who doesn’t know, DIL is an annual fundraising event to raise money and awareness for Pieta house, the centre for the prevention of suicide and self-harm. The walk from darkness into light simbolises the hope that pieta house brings to the people who might need it’s services. The first walk took place in the Phoenix Park in Dublin in 2009, with a few hundred people taking part. This year walks took place in almost 180 venues around Ireland, as well as in other countries around the world. It is amazing how such a simple idea can be such a success.

I went to bed early but couldn’t really sleep. I gave up and got up and had a shower at 3 A.M! I felt wide awake, and Sibyl was too. Dougal had the sense to know that it was the middle of the night, but Sibyl was full of life so I brought her for the walk with me. I went with my mum and my three aunts. It was a very mild night, not cold like I had expected. We joined over 400 other people at the local secondary school and began the 5K walk in the dark at 4:15. The event was very well organised, with lights along the way. We brought torches, but weren’t as prepared as the people who had lights on their pet dog’s collar. We’ll have to do that next year! I kept forgetting it was so dark because obviously I didn’t really notice. I found it funny when people didn’t recognise each other, and didn’t recognise voices when people said hi as they walked past. It was all very normal for me. The route was very well chosen, and we had to walk along the beach for part of it, which I loved. We came back to where we started just before 5:15, as it was gradually starting to get bright. The birds were singing, and the atmosphere was very special.

There was tea and refreshments in the school for people who had taken part in the walk, but it was very busy, so we went to my aunt’s house and had a lovely breakfast and a chat. I came home at 7 and fed Sibyl, who went to her bed as quickly as she could. I think she had the right idea!