An amazing week

On the whole most of my weeks are special in one way or another. The last week has been really special. It all started on Monday has most working weeks do. We got to visit Stourbridge College and chat with a group of young adults with special educational needs & their teaching staff. On the whole we enjoy these sort of things & it reminds me how kind and caring people can be. The innocence of the groups are always refreshing and wanting to fuss Quasia is always nice. 

On Tuesday  we spent time at Gather trying to help and chatting about what was happening later in the week. 

Wednesday was going to be a busy day, the day started with a visit to Brierley Hill Social Care Building and lending a hand to Health Watch Dudleywww.healthwatchdudley.co.uk & a chat with a lovely lady that was being interviewed for the safeguarding board. We spent a good while chatting in a group session & I loads out of it. It was mainly disabled people and I think we made a big impact. On the evening we were back at Gather for the passing out presentation for Princes Trust that had done so much work at Gather. It was a really great night, Gather finally came alive everything that Stuart & Lorriane been saying over the last month or so seemed that bit closer. All the young adults told some of their stories. Each told how they had gotten Different things from the course. We all were amazed how great they all were, some had come though some hard times & they were all a pleasure to know & chat too. After they had all gone we had the chat about how the evening had gone and how the space worked & all over a few beers ( have you noticed a pattern yet). It was a great night that I really enjoyed spending time chatting and listening to some great folk. 

Thursday meant a load of running about. We popped into the new ALDI and were so happy to hear so many local accents from the staff, something a lot of local people had wanted. In the afternoon we had my daughters parents evening. They both had done us proud, their teachers so positive about both, even thanking us for letting our daughters attend the school. We walked out very proud parents. On the evening we were attending the Dudley CVS awards. It was a packed venue and a great evening was instore. There were a lot of inspirational people and stories in the room. I only ended up winning the community action award, completely gob smacked by it and lost for words, something that does happen very often.

2 old friends from Hospital Radio also won awards which made the evening even more special. 

On Friday we popped in to show my parents what I had received, they were so happy and proud. It never seems to get old being told by your parents that they are proud of what you have achieved. The Gornal grapevine went into overdrive and over the day I got calls & texts about the prize from my family besides from friends & twitter went wild. 

So Saturday morning we set off and spent the day with Quasia’s puppywalker, with loads of tea & cake. Quasia & Lexi spent the day playing with the puppywalker’s dogs. Everyone was really happy. I went for a drink on Saturday night with a friend so all was good with life. 

Sunday morning I woke with a shock at just after 5, one I had slept in compared to a normal morning & secondly I woke with leg cramp. I had decided to make broccoli & Stilton soup and some bread at home, the broccoli being grown at DY1. I got sorted and dropped at Gather with all the stuff I needed to do an additional soup, so with the help of 4 unwilling teenage volunteers supplied by Donna they set to work on 10 pumpkins. We used the pumpkin meat to make a spicy pumpkin soup. So a few hours of chopping & cooking and we had managed to make a community meal. We got to spend a great 5 hours in the company of friends and people that we’d never met before. My girls got to do pumpkin faces & lots of arty stuff. I got to try lots of soup & coffee, plus lots of chatting. A really enjoyable Sunday one that I hope to repeat most months. 

It funny sometimes how you start a week with no expectations and it finishes with you looking back thinking what a great week you’ve had. 

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Incredible edible

So I’ve started helping at my community volunteering centre, to be precise in the growing zone. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that my idea of gardening is Tarmac painted green with a bar-b-que & a bar. A lovely lady called Donna wanted to turn part of the outside space over to growing some fruit & veg and asked for some help. She had managed to get the Princes Trust to build some raised beds and make some tyre planters. So I went along to see if I could lend a hand. 

Getting out & planting is not a hard thing in fact the hardest part for the first couple of weeks was keeping dry. Being out helping brought back memories of helping both of my grandfathers in their gardens has a young child and then has a teenager with their failing health. I’d forgotten how much I had learnt of them both. 

So why grow when you can buy so cheap from supermarkets etc. The first thing I’d say is freshness, there’s so much tastes that goes from a plant has soon as it is harvested. Next you decide what is put on everything, no poisons or anything that a commercial farmer might need to use. Growing things you’d might not get easily from anywhere else. The achievement of growing something and then being able to cook with it, has to be one of the best feelings. But for me one of my biggest aims was to help Donna bring together different parts of the community that might not normally cross paths. I’ve already  met a few new people, Geoff & a local PC Paul. So it has started and I have to admit I’m enjoying it. 

So far we have planted potatoes, carrots, shallots, bocolli and a fruit bush. We have plans for tomatoes and more fruit trees, I’ll keep you posted. 

A step too far

I promise this is my last moan post for a while. 

It seems everyday there is more info and comment coming out about shared spaces. They are places I avoid like the plague, in my view they are confusing not only for me but my Guide Dog. There is nothing to stop vehicles coming close & frienghtening Quasia. The principles behind them is that you make eye contact and decide where you are going, rather difficult when 1 of you are blind. 

When we have used them Quasia has kept has close to buildings had doggy possible, then we hit all street furniture and A board etc. Really unpleasant places for us. 

So this morning I attended my local hospital for Physiotherapy. We walked there missing the little bit of shared space in Dudley Market place, onto the Guest Hospital. I entered the path as normal to be met by cars on the path. Now this is the main path into a hospital that by some fluke of construction been turned into a shared space for whatever reason, no notice or help. Luckily for me Quasia managed to guide me to safety.

I was taught the 5P’s of construction Planing Prevents P*ss Poor Preformance, something my local hospital and construction company seem to have never heard of. Not a happy Guide Dog owner to say the least. 

Refused Access

So I’ve been blind 5 1/2 years & in that time I have met & interacted with some truly remarkable people. Made friends with people I probably would have never even know existed. The flip side of this is I have a also met some people I rather not have met, namely those that refuse me access or a service. I thought I’d mention the 3 that come to mind & effected me most. Now I partnered up with Quasia not only for my safety but that of my daughters. I want a normality of life back that went with my sight. I wanted to be able to do the normal things, like taking & fetching them from school, taking them shopping for presents & most importantly for days out. 

So we’d been given the talk about the DDA 1995 and refusal of assistance dogs. I’d read about refusals on Twitter and online & alwas thought it never happen to me I’m too strong willed to take no for a answer . I know my rights and the law & being a grown man know how to fight my corner. I always offered help and advice to others who had been refused service. 

So the first time I got refused service was on a cold wet night early December 2012. I was absolutely gob smacked when I was told I couldn’t get in because Quasia was wet. I argued that I had told them when I’d booked the taxi that I had a guide dog with me & I’d wait for a suitable car. He drove off and I called the taxi company back. All of a sudden they’d lost my booking, I ended walking almost 5 miles home with us both soaking wet. I got in & felt that I had let Quasia down, I hadn’t fought hard enough for her.  I did complain but without witnesses or evidence it came to nothing. 

For my youngest daughters 4th birthday we went to Stratford upon Avon Butterfly Farm. We walked in & was told straight away that there were no dogs. I asked to speak to manager has I pointed out it was unlawful to refuse entry. Manager wouldn’t come & talk. I ended up standing outside while my family went around. People were coming up to talk to us & in no uncertain terms I let them know what they had done to us. Quite a few people walked away with the words if there is no guide dogs I not giving them money either. So then come the hard part, explaining to a 4 year old why her dad had been treated has a second class citizen. I explained that there was a law & she said phone the police. I then had to explain not all laws were enforced by the police. My daughter was really upset that I’d not been part of her birthday, I put her to bed that night and then sat down & cried, this time I’d not only let Quasia down but also my daughter. 

The first big place I’d ever taken Quasia was my local Zoo. www.dudleyzoo.org.uk I phoned ahead of our visit to find out if it would be ok. The lady said she get the head keeper to give me a call back. Later that day I had a call, it was a real breath of fresh air. Not a problem bringing Quasia, just a few places that she’d not be able to go where the animals were running free, but if I wanted to go in they get a keeper to look after Quasia whilst I was led around. We went & all loved it Quasia probably the most. The Tigers were really interested in her, we had a photographer follow us around snapping the animals reaction to Quasia. In fact we loved it so much we had a annual pass & went a awful lot of times, money very well spent. 

So the last refusal that is a painful memory. My sister sponsored a snow leopard cub for my oldest daughters birthday at Tywcross Zoo. In the pack was a free entry for my daughter, so we all went and took 1 of their cousins with us. We entered & were pointed to customer services were I was give a line drawing of the zoo with almost all of it off limits to Quasia. I argued to no avail. Again it ended up Quasia & myself outside with my family inside. So my family rushed around the zoo & we left, with my daughters birthday ruined by a service refusal. 

So to the point of the post is this, if you run/own a company & you refuse an assistance dog service, it’s not only the dog you are refusing it can be a whole family. You could be leaving a bad memory in a child thought not a great one. You might not be lighting the way but you might find that it really impacts your business in a very negative way. Assistance dogs usually get a very positive reaction where ever we go & the companies who embrace us get the same. I tell everyone how wonderful and caring the staff are at Dudley Zoo & how guide dog friendly they are. 

Guide Dogs are a life changing dogsto anyone lucky enough to be partnered, don’t be the person to change it back.  

For those with sight some pictures around Dudley Zoo, please visit

 
    
 

Numbers Game

So over the last couple of weeks we have gained a new member to our family has some of you will know. A Labrador puppy brought for my wife and daughter. So the feeding, 3 times a day, weighing and increasing the food. Insurance costs, walking etc. in fact all the normal thing that comes with having a puppy in the family. Now our home is a bit more usual than most has we have a Guide Dog in it that has been trained by someone else. But with that training come over 80 years of experience. So little Lexi (that’s the puppy’s name) is doing rather well. She sits when told, stops at kerbs, feeds to command and returns when told in the most part, mostly thanks to Quasia. They play well together apart from Lexi seems to think she is a German Shepard, boy is she going to be shocked if she finds a mirror.
Anyway back to why I am writing this. My life in the most has always been about numbers. I used to do a lot of sports and they were all about times & scores, you see where I am going with this. In my working life as an electrician it was all about numbers. With Quasia it has been maintaining her weight, the amount of work we do together. Working with Guide Dogs it has always been about trying to raise funds for the next Guide Dog.
Seems my life continues to be a numbers game & long may it continue.

My Grandfather

As with most grandfathers I always thought what a great man he was. He was focused, articulate, well educated and always had a wise word when asked. One of his favourite sayings was “education is the foundation that society is built”. As a family we have always instilled that education is never wasted if you want take on board what is out there to learn.
Now I did ok at school but now know I could have done even more. Some of my teachers were just that. Some of my teachers were true educators, people that I ended up learning a lot from. When I started my working life I ended up back at college and though further education. In fact all the while I worked there was never a year were I was not in a classroom somewhere. Before my Grandfather died a few years back, we used to talk for long hours about just about everything. Over a bottle of Port one evening he said that when I decided not to go to university he felt a great deal of disappointment has he thought I could achieve so much. He went on to say that over a few years he came to realise that I had carved out my own career path. He also went on to say that he had come to realise that education had many paths some easier than others. Now my grandfather had always been very proud of his children and grandchildren, what we had all achieved and on the most part how we lived our lives.
So onto today, this morning I went to my youngest daughter Bethany’s school assembly. She received a certificate ( not the first I might add) for always giving 100%. Sat there listening to the head teacher talk, my grandfathers voice came into thoughts and his favourite saying. Seems my daughter is well on her way to being a foundation stone. One proud father today as I am most days, but it is always good when others know

The simple things

So my sister who is a head teacher at a primary school and has such I am extremely proud of all her achievements . My sister has asked if I might like to go in and help teach yet again. The year 6 children are doing a project about treasure and my sister has always are encouraging them to see things from a different angle.
So the idea is that your sight is a treasure in its own right and how you really should protect it any way you can. It the blind leading the sighted as it were. Funny thing in life you rarely realise what you have till it is gone.