Residential in Garton

On Friday morning I went to
Garton adventure centre
with blind and visually impaired people from the RNIB and NCBI, (organisations that work to help people with sight loss in the North and South of Ireland.) It was part of the
Sensory Engagement Programme
which you can read more about from the link above. I left the house at eight with my dad and had intended to vote first, but our car had a flat tire so we just about made it to the bus! It picked people up along the way, and nine of us, along with three PAs and two organisers met in Garton at eleven. O.J was the only dog since the other guide dog owner didn’t take his, but that meant he got all the attention.

We had coffee, got to chat a bit and meet people if we hadn’t met before, then settled into our rooms. O.J and I had one to ourselves, even though it could sleep four people. We did some confidence building exercises with Tracy Dempsey, who runs a company called
Soul Ambition
She is excellent at her job and made it a lot of fun. Sometimes I find things like that boring or a bit airy fairy, but she kept it down to earth and lighthearted.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the residential at first. I never really liked them when I was small, because I didn’t go to a school for blind people, so I never knew a lot of the people who went, and it felt like I was just being made to go because me and all these people where blind. When I eventually did give in and go to a couple, I always enjoyed them. The main reason I felt I had to go to this one is that they asked me to record what happened during the weekend for a podcast for the project’s website. I packed my plextalk recorder with its great new memory card, and two microphones and intended to record whenever I had a good opportunity.

After dinner we did what’s called the nightline, where you go into a forest blindfolded and follow a rope to find your way around. The person in front has to give directions to the person behind and so on, so the aim is to be able to listen and pass on clear instructions, and to trust yourself and others of course. The facilitator from Garton told me to leave the recorder behind because I’d need my two hands. I told her I’d just record her instructions before we began then put it away. I knew what to expect as I’d done the walk before, and for a totally blind person Its not as challenging. We don’t worry about every step we are taking as much as somebody who is blindfolded, so we are much more relaxed. After ten minutes I took out the recorder and recorded the whole thing, while holding the rope with the other hand. I did have to put it away to crawl on my belly under a tree! Of course I was delighted with myself and got some great audio. The weather was lovely and everyone had fun. I enjoyed hearing other people’s reactions most of all. We had supper, watched the social network and went to bed.

After breakfast on Saturday we had a talk about education and courses availible and a member of the NCBI came to show us equipment on sale in their shop. I’d seen most of it before but there are a couple of things I want when I move house. We had a talk about benefits, to make sure people know what they are entitled to. After lunch two members of the group demonstrated apple technology to those of us who weren’t familiar with it. This didn’t work too well because there were too many computers and phones talking at the same time. I was more interested in the i phone than anything else. After that we all went canooing which was great!

After dinner we had a quiz. There were three teams and it was mostly music, with two general knowledge rounds at the end. We were allowed to use the computers to find the answers, which is cheating of course, but the aim was to force us to use the technology. I didn’t get far because voiceover kept stopping every time I typed. Tracy and I spent the time laughing, changing the voices and making fun of each one instead. Hillarius, but I think you had to be there. The questions were too old for me and I knew about four of them but we won. We went to the pub and Tracy played the guitar and sang when we got back. She’s an amazing singer, and check out her
and find out for yourself.

We were just about to go to bed and I’d been recording bits and pieces of the singing. I wanted to delete something, and decided to do it with one earphone in my ear while getting O.J ready and talking at the same time. I learned the hard way that I can’t multi-task, because I clearly wasn’t listening to the plextalk’s voice prompts and didn’t have it on the correct setting, and deleted everything I’d recorded. When I got to my room and realised what I’d done, I could have cried. There was a lot of cursing involved. I couldn’t sleep and was in the worst mood ever. I kept thinking maybe there’s some way I can get it back, so decided in the morning to say nothing to the organisers, continue recording and make the best with what I had. I recorded two of the boys getting ready for a tandem cycle, then interviewed one of the organisers down beside the lake. Really all I wanted to do was throw the bloody recorder and microphone into the lake and never see it again. We finished the morning with evaluation forms and more lifecoaching, setting goals for the future and how we were going to achieve them. My goal for that day was to try and forget about the recording but it didn’t happen.

O.J was a bit of a brat the morning we were leaving, but a star when we were there. He did bark at dogs outside during one of our sessions, but it was funny. One of the PAs took him for a walk today, and he stayed quietly in my room during the nightline and cannooing as I couldn’t bring him. It was good to have him to get around as the building was quite big, and complicated at first.

I think this programme could bring good opportunities, and already it was a good chance to meet some nice people. You always learn new things and new tips that way as well, and can pass on things you find useful. The weekend away taught me not to judge things before they happen, like I often have a habit of doing. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, so I won’t dismiss the next one as quickly. I just won’t volunteer to record anything next time!