Posts tagged Ralph

Recent happenings and upcoming stuff

Many people tell me that they read my blog and I do be surprised at some of the people that have told me that they enjoy reading it. We will see after this post if any of you care to respond. I am very inconsistent with it so that must not be a good thing.

Anyway, things have been happening in my life. Last Friday I graduated with a certificate in Employment Management Relations from the National College of Ireland. This was a course that I started doing through work. My job, that is the one that pays the most bills for me at the moment centres around employment law. I do like it. I have found myself bored at times and frustrated where I work because of the constraints of the job and sometimes I do find it restrictive but I can’t really go into it much here. Lets just say that I would like to be able to continue working in this area but hopefully some day work slightly differently and come at it from a different angle. Anyway, I, being my usual self didn’t want any fuss for the graduation. I managed to drag my very good friend Jen with me. I really must thank her for getting up so early and travelling down to Dublin to be on time for it all. It was an early start for her but I do appreciate it. I have mentioned it before on here but do check out her blog Paws For Thought and I am sure when you read that and discover what a real blog is like compared to this one you probably will not be coming back to read this one any more. Anyway, we arrived at the Convention Centre for about 12:00 and I met some people from work and after a lot of waiting around and unfortunately some photos we eventually got seated for the formalities to begin. Ralph I am happy to say was very good for Jen and Mark. Mark is the partner of a work colleague. I think that both Mark and Jen managed to keep themselves from getting too bored with all the waiting around and stuff they had to do. Thankfully photos have now come back from the event for the family to be able to see and they are very happy with them. I wasn’t going to have pictures done at all cause I didn’t really think that they would matter when I couldn’t see them but sometimes I would forget about maybe my parents or other family members wanting to see them and well, at least now I can put one up here in the house.

After coming all that way, Jen decided to come a little bit further and spend the weekend here in Carlow with me. It was a great weekend and the unfortunate thing about good weekends is that they just fly by far too quickly. Still, it wasn’t as rushed for her as the last time she paid a very quick flying visit for my birthday last May.

Apart from all that I am getting ready now for the final run of shows for Glor Tire. The last of the three pre-recorded shows will go out tomorrow night. I have been very pleased with the reaction to me so far on the show. People are very nice and kind and I really do appreciate all the support that I have gotten. I will not forget some of the nice personal messages that friends have sent me. It means a lot to me to have good friends and to be able to receive such nice thoughtful messages. I don’t like to comment on any particular things that the guest judges have to say on the programme but some people have been annoyed with John Creedon for his comments to me about moving around on the stage or trying a bit of dancing or something like that. John just gave his thoughts. He was asked for comments and I respect his opinion. I will not be dancing or anything like that. I would like to try and hope to be able to present what I have to offer in different ways. If that doesn’t get me first place in this competition then so be it. I am very happy that none of the guest judges have touched on my blindness. I have huge respect for them for that. It is not an issue and I never like it to be. I like to be judged good or bad on how I perform and not because I can sing or play or its great that I can do that even though I am blind kind of thing. I still need all of your support so I would be hugely grateful for all your votes. As I am sure you all know by now you can vote for me by texting glor 7 to 53307 here in Ireland or by texting the above to 81108 if you are in the UK.

So, that is all the really important things for now. I will try to write a lot more now particularly with comments to the shows. It could be all over for me after the first elimination show on the 30th which is one week from tomorrow but we will wait and see. I am very happy at the moment and have a lot to be grateful for. They say good things happen to those that wait and right now over the past few months I do not have much to be complaining about.

Where have I been?

So, where have I been?

I just haven’t gotten round to updating my blog in ages. I am not going to go into a week by week account of what I have been up too but I have had an eventful few weeks. I have been bowling again and I haven’t done that in years. I have also tried my hand at throwing a dart or two but Hmmm, well, that didn’t quite go to plan although I do have to say, I wasn’t the worst at that one. I have also been quite busy on the gigs front too.

Tomorrow fortnight the 9th of November will see me back on the box on Glor Tire on TG4 here in Ireland for the second programme that I will be doing for the show. There is one more pre-recorded programme that I will be featured on which will be shown on the 23rd of November and the week after that will see the start of the live eliminations where people will be voted off the show each week. There will be four of these shows with the winner announced the week before Christmas. All the details about the programme I have wrote about in an earlier post so I won’t go through it here again.

Today has been a mixture of a day for me. I had written before that Ralph will be facing into retirement very soon. Well, today saw the start of it with a visit from an instructor from Guide Dogs to re-interview me to be put back on the waiting list for a new dog. I was actually dreading this day over the past while as I found it a little sad to think that I would be discussing a new dog and what I wanted to have in a new dog while Ralph was still here and also, facing into the fact that Ralph would have to stop working soon and retire and that he was not going to just go on for ever.

Anyway, I met the person from Guide Dogs here at my house just after 1:00. I had decided this morning that I just had to face this and there was no point in being silly about it all and try to see it as a positive experience. I know that Ralph will be very happy in his retirement living with my parents. I suppose its just hard to think that he won’t be working with me any more and that I will have to put my trust in a new dog. I have to say though that the trainer was very nice and extremely understanding of how I was and am feeling about it all. She totally relaxed me and I found myself enjoying the visit and really being able to chat to her very much in an informal way about what I would like in a new dog and about my circumstances at the moment with work and my home life and my social routines and so on. Guide Dogs need to collect this information if they are to make a successful match with me and a potential successor for Ralph.

At the end of our walk which went on longer than I had thought it would we went for a short walk around the block here at my house. She asked me if I just wanted to do the walk with Ralph and she could see my walking pace from that or would I like to walk with her. My walking pace has to be measured so that the dog that I am matched with will have as similar a pace as I do. I chose to walk with her even though I hated having to hold on to a harness and walk with her like that. I would be just thinking of people walking past thinking, “what the fuck are they doing”? Anyway, we did pass one or two people but they didn’t even know me so it was all good. I thought she would get a better feel for my pace by walking with her than taking Ralph out. We finished chatting and she went on her way just before half 3 so it was a good meeting and very beneficial to me I felt. Because of commitments I have and stuff between work and music I probably will not train with a new dog till at least late February or March and Mr. Ralph will keep working with me till then.

There are a few people that read this blog that have been very supportive to me over the last while when I have bored them with questions or just talking about how I felt about it all and you know who you are. I would like to thank you for your support and really, its great to have friends like you. I am also being told of more people stumbling across this blog and its great that you are enjoying reading it. I update when I can or when I have something useful to say so do keep checking back and I do welcome all comments.

Happy Birthday to Ralph and retirement talk

So, quite a bit to say about Mr. Ralph in this post. I was actually going to write this blog post last week but a lack of motivation and other things on my mind and stuff lead me not to bother till now.

Let me start off by talking about Mr. Ralph’s birthday. It happened on Tuesday. He is nine this year. I know the birthday thing is more my sort of thing. Ralph doesn’t really know its his birthday really but I like to remember it, especially as he is nine now and because this will probably be his last working birthday.

We arrived into work as usual and it was raining and pretty miserable in Carlow so my dad came in and drove me to the office. One of my colleagues remembered me telling her that it was his birthday and brought in some treats for him. I let her give him one and he was delighted with himself. He knew that something out of the ordinary was happening and he was nice and happy. I have kept the rest of them and will give them to him over the next while. I don’t want to be spoiling him with treats and having him getting too use to them either but it was very nice of Kerry to do that for him.

The rest of his day was fairly uneventful. Because of the wet weather we didn’t even get to walk home ourselves. We got out to stretch our legs at lunch time and for Ralph to do his usual important nature calls but another colleague gave me a lift home in the evening. I have decided that in the next while I am going to have him washed and groomed again as it will help just clear all the dead hairs and stuff and have him looking nice and shiny again. I am sure he looks lovely but his coat feels fairly oily and stuff at the moment. Now, maybe its better when it feels like that? Some person more knowledgeable than me on this one might care to comment.

So, what has retirement talk to do with his birthday?

Well, last Wednesday I received a call from the Guide Dogs HQ and, as it happens it was from my instructer that trained Ralph and myself. He is now a team leader and I had mailed him to just see what the story was and stuff and would Ralph need any assessments given the fact he was getting on a bit now. He informed me that I would have an aftercare visit in the next couple of weeks and at this time I was going to be put back on the list for a new dog. Ralph will probably retire in the spring or early summer of 2012. Now, I do feel very strange at the way I am able to talk about this and write about it. I am not sad or anything at present. I don’t think that it has properly registered yet. When it does happen I know I will be very sad but I also know that Ralph will have a great retirement and I do want that for him. At least I know now what will happen in the lead up. While I don’t want to have to think about having to get a new dog I would like to think that enough planning will go into it all to ensure that I can get a good match next time like I was lucky enough to get with Ralph.

After a post that I wrote a few weeks back where I discussed Ralph’s prospects and wondering how long more I would have with him I received an email from Dominique. Dominique is currently on her second dog Opal and she shared with me her story of retiring her previous dog Holly and how she has adapted to life with Opal. She gave me an excellent account of her last working day with Holly and her immotions when she had to take off the harness for the last time but thankfully Opal came along very quickly and they have been a great match and Holly her retired dog still lives with them. Ralph will live with my parents when he retires but it was nice of Dominique to share her story with me.

So, its onwards and upwards hopefully until the middle of 2012 for Ralph. Unless something happens him in the winter with cold weather or something like that we will just take each day as it comes and hopefully he enjoys every minute of the working time he has left.

A little bit reflective

On the 6th of September next which is only literally a few weeks away my dog Ralph will be nine years old. Why is this such a big deal you might say. Well, there are a few reasons why it is. Some friends that read this blog will already be aware of them but I just thought I would write about it here and allow others to comment and I am interested in what people will say about this.

I was matched with Ralph when he was 17 months old. I remember it all well as if it was last week. My god, so much has changed in my life since then apart from getting him but that is for another day. I can just remember hoping that this time round I was going to have a lot more success with this new dog than I did with my previous dog Richie. I did a guest post for Jen on her blog about Richie and some of our little problems and adventures so hopefully she sstill has that archived and you might just pop over there to her blog and read it.

I arrived in Cork on a Saturday afternoon to stay at the centre for three weeks residential training. We just did the usual pre class stuff like familliarising ourselves with the building and talking about the next day when we would be given our new dogs. There were four of us on that class. Some classes can be bigger now but that was the usual size for a class back then. Sadly, one of the people that trained with me on that class died in May. She was still a young woman with many more years to live and I am sure lots of more things that she might have wanted to achieve but it wasn’t to be for her.

Anyway, not to drag this out too much I will continue to the next day which was a Sunday and the day that I took charge of Mr. Ralph. We had just been doing some last minute preparations in the morning and just quick harness walks with the instructer and of course I was getting into panick mode and thinking and saying to the instructer that this was probably not going to work out and could he promise me that this experience for me would be totally different and maybe I could have a completely successful partnership this time. I have to say that from the very beginning he was brilliant with me. He knew the difficulties that I had gone through and was very supportive and quite confidently told me that this was going to be different and that he couldn’t 100% promise that I wouldn’t have problems but this dog was a very good dog and he was satisfied that I was the right person for to have him. I am happy to say that what he told me about Ralph was spot on. His description of Ralph’s personality and his confidence about Ralph’s standard of work were also on the mark.

Unfortunately after having Ralph at the centre for a few hours he became very unwell. Infact, it was during the night it all started. He had a very bad bug that attacked him everywhere so, without going into too much detail we had a few interesting accidents to clean up. This meant that he had to rest up for a few days so I was on me tod with nothing to do untill the Wednesday while the rest of the class started their training on the Monday morning. We quickly settled back into it all when he was better and the few days we lost out on made no difference to us. He just wanted to do everything we told him and he just had, and still has this willingness to work well while in harness. He is by no means the perfect angel. Give him an inch at times and he will take a mile if I am not there to correct him but that is just around the house and if he thinks that he can get one up on me.

It wasn’t till Ralph was five that we moved back to Carlow for work. As I have said before we use to have to travel from here every day before that by bus or train nd that round trip from house to the office would take about two hours each way. He adapted very easily to the change and I think at first he was expecting us to jump back on the trains again and start getting up at the usual early hours that we would have had to be up at before but settled into his new routine and loved all the attention he got from my new colleagues. It was a really good time for us to make that move also as he was in a working sense, a lot more mature at that time and while he had a nice few challenging and busy years in Dublin he could now relax and get to know this small quiet little town a lot more. I say quiet, as that is what it must appear to him to be when you take into account what he would have had to deal with in Dublin.

So, bringing this nicely around to how I started, he is going to be nine on the 6th of next month. Had we been still working in Dublin every day and doing the trains and busses going too and from here I believe that he possibly might have been retired by now. Its in my head so much now about how long more we might have as a partnership. I hate the questions from people now about his age.

How old is he?

How long more do you think you will get with him?

I don’t know how long more truthfully we will have. At the moment he is in brilliant form. His pace hasn’t really changed much unless he is walking for quite a long way and then he will slow a little. I think at times he gets a bit bored but that is cause he tends to do repetative routes around here. I see him totally change when we go to Dublin and he loves going up there and can remember every single place we use to visit when we worked up there. I don’t even know what to look out for. I know I can’t work him completely to the end either as in to the point that he is totally exhausted and I want to give him a nice quality of life for when he retires and allow him to just be a normal dog. I also have to take care not to be selfish either. Of course I want him to work for ever. I trust him completely. I love working with him. I love taking him away with me when I am going places. I love letting kids say hi to him as he is so quiet and it just makes his day for someone to acknowledge him. Now, for anyone here reading this that thinks its ok to just come up at any point to pat any working Guide Dog its not. I will make the decision if someone can talk to him. Some handlers have to discourage any interaction as some dogs get far too excited and can be hard to handle.

So, that is it. I didn’t mean for this to be as long but really, any comments or advice welcome. I know its probably the last few months of our working relationship now. I could not expect him to be still working when he reaches ten. I will consider us lucky if he sees out the winter.

Guide Dogs and fundraising

Ok, so I have talked here before about my dog Ralph and what a difference he made to my independence. I thought that I would just tell you a little about my volunteering with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Last week I had a lunch meeting with the CEO of Irish Guide Dogs. For little over a year now I have not been actively fundraising for Guide Dogs due to some personal reasons that I am not going to go into here on this blog. People that know me well will know why and really, there is no need for me to go into it all anyway.

Only a few weeks ago the lady that founded our local branch here in Carlow sadly died. For the past 5 or maybe 6 years I was the chair person of the branch and had a number of committee members with me to take over other roles such as secretary and tresurer. We took over the branch from this lady as we wanted to build up our profile here and also, she had done so much good work for the organisation over the years that it was nice to allow her to sit back and to attend events that we had organised or to come along and help us out if she was able. I am prowd of the work that we have done over the years and we raised much needed funds for IGDB.

Its funny, when I stepped back from it about a year and a half ago I felt sad but did think that I wouldn’t miss it too much. I suppose there are always times when you are involved in something that you just wish that you could just get a break or that someone else would take over and share the work for a change. I have to admit that it wasn’t long before I missed it. When I do something that I really believe in like playing music, or singing, or something like that I can really put all I have into it and it was the same about the fundraising. I particularly loved to be able to talk about Guide Dogs in front of people and just share my experience as a Guide Dog owner. I always have said to people that I can talk and talk all day but really I am actually standing beside the product of the hard work that IGDB do day in and day out which is to train dogs like Ralph to give me and others our independence. In returning to the fundraising this time round though I have decided to set myself some boundaries. I am not going to be chair person of our branch. I am going to be a committee member yes but will hold no post of responsibility. In a fundraising sense Ralph is a very vital part of the branch but also, we have our own activities other than fundraising that we want to keep up with also. I think its good to strike a balance so hopefully we can get back into the swing of things and not be too busy at the same time.

For information on the work that IGDB do or to get information about being a volunteer in terms of fundraising you can visit the Guide Dogs site and you can like them on Face Book also and even following them on twitter.

If people read this post or any of my posts that may be connected with fundraising in the future and you are in the Carlow area and would like to become involved with us in any way at all do feel free to get in touch with me for more details. We always love to have some people to help us out at the many events that will hopefully be organised. If we get enough people to help we may only require as little as an hour of your time in a year. For me personally its just all about making a difference and being able to give something back in return for the brilliant opportunity to be able to work with Ralph. It is costing at present thirty eight thousand Euros to support a working Guide Dog throughout its life. That is a lot of money but as any person that works with a Guide Dog will tell you, its worth every cent.

My dog Ralph and some Guide Dog info

Well, some people will know of my Guide Dog Ralph from my tweets. if you follow me on twitter but maybe some of you might not have heard of him, so I would like to write a post about him and also just tell you about something that is happening very soon concerning fundraising.

Ralph is my eight year-old Lab Retreaver cross Guide Dog. I don’t have a photo of him to stick up here but at some point soon when I am more sure how to do it and when I actually have a picture of him I will put one up for all to see.

In late 2004 I put the wheels in motion to purchase my house which I am still living in today. I was still rather young at the time and some of my mates thought I was mad to be settling down with a mortgage at that age but I was satisfied that I was making the right decision and I have to say that going through with it was one of the best things that I have done. I needed independence. Where I was brought up was out in the countryside. I loved the area and still do, but I couldn’t get from a to b independently on my own even with Ralph with me so the only thing for it was to move closer to town and to where I would have access to shops and pubs and restaurants and cinemas and other amenities like that which I could use and not have to depend on people to take me where I needed to go all the time.

The house purchase was completed in February 2005 and myself and Ralph moved in. This was when we just took off on our own adventure. We had been commuting too and from Dublin for work on a daly basis and were living at my parents house. This was a two hours round trip for us which started with my mother taking us to Carlow train station by car. I was now lucky in that I had purchased my home close enough to the station that I could walk there and back with Ralph and we had everything close at hand. He was still rather young at the time but he was very relaxed and mature and enjoyed this new challenge and loved getting out and about learning new routes around the town. Having grown up here apart from the time I went away to attend school I was delighted to learn more routes by myself and be able to get too and from places that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own before.

I can only use the word fantastic to describe what it feels like to me walking around with Ralph while he is working. He loves it and is so prowd and confident in what he does and he really shows it also. I just feel that I can see because I am guided around obstacles that I wouldn’t have known were there and because I am not walking along tapping a cane around to find things to bump into or make contact with before getting on with my journey again. I can go at the same speed as anyone else while walking and I am a quick walker. My direction also certainly is more acute with him also. I am not sure why this is. I think it is because we just walk around at a normal speed and also it might be something in how Ralph is trained to walk in a straight line and stop at the edge of a kerb when he can’t go any further and wait for more instructions from me.

At home he is also a great companion to me in the house and I never feel alone with him here. Our friendship is not like the human kind so people saying that he must be my best friend does annoy me at times. I have plenty of friends and some very good and supportive close ones. Just because a blind person has a Guide Dog doesn’t mean this dog is automatically their best friend in the world. I do love him yes and have some great chats with him but he can’t talk back. Now, if he could he would tell me to shut up I just know he would haha.

I am not going to go into the responsibilities of having Ralph and how he has to be looked after and stuff in this post. I wanted to just give you a sense of what he means to me and what its like for me to have the independence that he gives. My good friend Jen does a great job of topics Guide Dog related on her blog and I would recommend you all check it out. If you are a music lover like myself she might even interest you with her musical postings also. Her latest post at the time of me writing this one refers to Darragh and his post Thanks Freddie which he wrote about his retired dog Freddie. This post that Darragh wrote got great attention from people and when you read it you will understand why.

My main reason for writing this post came about over a week ago when I was asked to write a peace for Quinn’s blog to just talk about myself and Ralph. This peace is being used in a post about a head shave which is taking place in Kerry at the end of this month. Apparently one of Quinn’s owners is getting all his hair shaved off and all proceeds will go to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Do check it out and if you can at all give a few quid towards this very worthy event. A big Thanks must go to all Quinn’s Kerry family for their hard work and dedication to Irish Guide Dogs. As a Guide Dog owner I think I can say on behalf of other Guide Dog owners a huge thank you to you all and keep up the great work.

A good reaction and radio interview

Ok, so anyone reading this latest post will correctly observe that it was this night last week that I wrote the previous one. I am not going to just write on Wednesdays either. It just came about that way. The object here is to try and write as much as I can about what is happening with me and my music so that people can get to know me and also to get to know what I choose to share about myself.

Anyway, before I continue with the point of this post I would like to thank those people that sent me comments on my last post. It was nice that you took the trouble to read and give me feedback. I welcome comments from people and at least I know that if you are commenting then I am not just writing to myself.

Mostly Saturdays are usually days of relaxation for me. Well, the mornings certainly are anyway. However, last Saturday I needed to meet my friend Stuart as we needed to practice for a wedding that we are playing at this Saturday. So, this meant an early enough start for myself and Ralph from Carlow.

In complete contrast to most of today, last Saturday morning was a lovely bright sunny one and I had debated bringing a jacket with me in case it rained but I was glad afterwards that I didn’t.

We arrived at Stuart’s apartment mid morning somewhere after 11:00 and got the practice out of the way for the Wedding. I brought along my new CD for Stuart to listen too. Stuart broadcasts an internet radio show every Saturday on hkc radio where he does a mixed bag of a programme. Sometimes he will have guests on the show with him and other times he just has features which he has prepared and then usually just bits and peaces of chatter about entertainment and things that are catching his interest at the time of the show. He decided to review my tracks on the show after hearing them for the first time. He seemed genuinely impressed with them and, knowing Stuart as I do I knew that the musical arrangements would certainly be something that he would observe.

After some lunch we headed into the studio to start the show. We had a late start for reasons beyond our control. I was amazed at the reaction of the people who listened to the tracks. While talking to Stuart we were both getting messages from the listeners saying how much they liked what they were hearing and just generally saying that they were enjoying the show. It was nice to have some friends listening to support me also.

Ok, so this particular interview was not the most serious one I have ever done and it certainly was good fun to do. Myself and Stuart go back a long way so when I sit in a studio with him and talk to him I forget that we are actually really broadcasting a show and that lots of people will be listening to it. Its just like two friends having a bit of fun really. I like that though. Its natural and its not stuffy or anything. I don’t know if we made the best of radio presentations and after hearing the podcast I said to myself, jesus, did I really sound as bad as that? Anyway, we all say things like that about ourselves when we hear back interviews or recordings of ourselves so it probably was grand. You can actually hear a podcast of the show by visiting Stuart’s site and look for the latest one. He podcasts all of his shows and shur why not check him out on hkc every Saturday from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. And that is Irish and UK time for anyone reading this from other countries. Thank you Stuart for reviewing my tracks on your show.

As I write, my site is starting its overhall and over the next while there will be changes to it. I will tweet and blog about all of this when it happens.

Law and order

\Ok, so I am sitting here listening to a current affairs programme on the TV and I have to just wonder what are people going on about?

When I bought my house almost 5 years ago I came to live in it on my own.

I remember the day very wel when I moved in. It was a Thursday evening and I remember when my parents who were helping with the move, left locking the entry doors and checking that I had done it. I had my dog Ralph who thankfully is still with me here and I felt safe but there was always the realisation that something could happen and I was on my own in a house that I had just bought not knowing many people around me and I had to be alert.

I have heard countless radio stories about people terrified because of some shitheads that have taken an opportunity and entered a persons home illegally and either beat them up or just robbed them of what they had. A lot of these stories will be about elderly people or people that will not have the means to protect themselves. The question I asked myself for a long time up to now was why?

Now, finally someone is seing some sense.

We are being told of a new bill which is at the moment being put together by the law reform commission here in Ireland which may help to change some of what has happen.

Now, if a little shithead tries to enter my home uninvited I may have the power if I wish to use it to fight them off. If I feel threatened I don’t care bill or no bill I would do what ever I could if I felt that I had the nerve to do it but if this law is passed it will protect me because at the moment I am just meant to retreat and wait to be rescued by the police.

So, why am I writing about this cause surely this is great news?

No, this is terrible news. The burglar won’t have as many rights as before. Imagine, our friends in the Irish council for civil liberties are shocked to hear that we could be doing something that would diminish the rights of a burglar that may get into my house and possibly threaten me or put me in danger. “Remember, a burglar has rights too.” That is what I heard one of them saying on a programme I listened to recently and that really infuriated me.

So, tonight I heard it being debated again and yes, the old bullshit came out again oh we just give them bigger sentences in prison and leave all alone. But thankfully the government and myself are on side on this one. It seems that we will get some sort of protection and that I know if I hear someone coming into my house ready to rob it I can try if possible to protect myself and my property and know that the law will be on my side.

So, just in case they lose the plot as sometimes happens I would urge that anyone that reads this blog entry contacts their local TD and just gives their support to thisbill and encourages them to bring it forward and hopefully we can hope that people will feel secure in their homes.

The weather and a little rant

Ok, before you start commenting and say why am I ranting about an “act of god” I am not. I am just fed up with all that has been going on in this country over the past week.

We have had this cold spell for about 3 weeks now. The week leading up to Christmas is one of my first memories of hearing about very bad conditions in parts of the country and then at around that time it started getting very icy round here also. Indeed, I had a near miss with a stupid plonker that was swinging his car out of a business premises as I was walking across the opening in front of him. I had the right of way to walk and he just put his foot to the floor and drove right out in front of me narrowly missing Ralph my Guide Dog.

IN the mornings and evenings going and coming to work Ralph was very good. He would walk slowly and we would have some ice under foot and it was quite slippy. I could live with that and just decided to give myself extra time but then it started getting worse.

After Christmas as I have previously wrote I went to England for a few days. IT had rained on Christmas day here and I thought we might be coming near the end of it and the place might be heating up but was I wrong!

In England we had a few frosty nights but nothing like what I came back to last Saturday. I had a few drinks with my sisters and my sister Audrey’s boyfriend in a pub down town and when we came back out to the car sometime after 10:00 one of the doors was frozen closed.

I am not going to start recounting all of my days from then until now but needless to say the weather was getting very regular and you could depend on it being cold. And on Monday the alarm bels started to go off when we were told that the supplies of salt were running low and we needed a lot more of it to keep the roads clear.

Since Wednesday we have had snow here. I mean the ground just got covered in the space of two hours. I had a late lunch and it was starting to fall at around 2:00 and by 4 when we abandoned the office it was still falling and the ground was very well covered.

So, then starts the blame game. First we are told that its the responsibility of the local authorities to keep the roads clear and they are on top of it. Well, maybe they were trying to be but it is, and was always clear to me that they weren’t.

I don’t blame the local authorities at all. I realise the important task they have with the limited resources. Its always the case though. The people at the top will never take responsibility and will look for the heads of the people at the bottom. I mean, you have the government followed by the department of the environment who are responsible for all local authorities and then the authorities themselves. In fact, our environment minister was so confident that they were all on top of things that he then decides to hand over the control of the gritting of roads to the NRA. Now, they probably should hav had a more active role in this from the beginning as they have knowledge of the road network for the whole country. And, if all this is not bad enough and if you are not sure by what I am writing that they are definetly on top of things which they keep saying they are, we are hearing that by next week in order to conserve the stocks of salt that they are fast running out of we might have to have some road closures.

But don’t worry folks. They are on top of things. Everything is fine. Hospitals are reporting people with injuries as a result of falling or slipping on ice and just today it has been anounced that all schools are to close next week. Public transport is being suspended in certain parts of the country including areas around here.

I do feel sorry for Ralph. He has been very good over the past while as I haven’t been able to work him. I bring him to work when I get a lift and today I worked him to the shop next door as I had a colleague walking with me. I have also heard that this bad freezing weather may be bad for his paws also so will have to be careful with him over the next while. I am not going to go on about how great he is and the independence that he brings to me cause well, if you have seen a Guide Dog working or know someone that has one you will know that already but I could not go back to using a cane round here at the moment. It would be difficult at the best of times to use one in this locality and especially at the moment with this weather so hopefully I can manage with lifts and some nice slow walks.

I suppose the only winner in all of this is the heating suppliers and I am dreading my bill coming in the door.

So, I will slide out to the kitchen now and make my tea.

England and the new year

Well, I went to England on the 28th which was last Monday actually a week ago today as its after midnight now when I am writing this. I wasn’t sure how the roads were going to be for travelling to the airport and I had been offered a lift so I wouldn’t have to take the train and I was glad of that. I had a gig the night before and the roads were terrible trying to get there and coming back but we managed it.

The phone woke me at 9:00 and I was leaving at 10:00 so it was all go to try and get myself packed and ready.

Got to the airport nice and early and got myself and Ralph through security and down to the gate with plenty of time to relax before getting on the plane. For anyone reading this for the first time Ralph is my Guide Dog and I was taking him with me for the few days. He has flown before and doesn’t mind it apart from the take off and landing.

I was very impressed at Stanstead when the lady that was assisting me asked if Ralph might like to go to the toilet. I also found her to be very friendly and efficient and also the guy that assisted me on the way back was the same so I would have no problems flying in and out of there again as I think this is the first time Ralph has been in that airport with me. I was also impressed with Ryanair who, on this occasion apart from forgetting to put my assistance needs requirements forward to the airport assistance people didn’t give me any further hastle and I had a nice pleasant experience both going and coming back so fair play to you lads. I will fly again with you and Ralph will be happy to also.

You will remember in my last post I said that I didn’t have an idea what Louise had gotten me for Christmas. Well, the moment of truth came when I got to her dads place. She bought me an iPod Nano. I have to say its a lovely little thing and I am still getting use to it but I am excited as to what it will allow me to do now in terms of being able to buy and download music and even books. I would like to start reading more so hopefully I can start getting my hands on more audio books. I also have to thank my good friend Stuart Lawler for his assistance in getting it working. An iPod was something that I had thought of getting for a while but I always go on about things like that but never act on it so I expect Louise was fed up listening to me talking about it and thought it would be the ideal present and, I have to say I am thrilled with it now. I have to get myself familliar wit putting podcasts and stuff on it now but I expect it will all come in time.

The rest of the week just consisted of going to London to meet a friend and catching up with Louise’s family.

We celebrated the new year at home with her dad and a few beers and some food. It was nice. I hate the evening actually. Its always very depressing and if you are in a pub you get people coming up and hugging and kissing you and stuff and I just hate all that. There was a few bangers going off outside but it wasn’t too bad.

Saturday I got home to freezing conditions. I mean, it was cold in England before I left but nothing like what I experienced when I stepped off the plane. And, if that wasn’t enough when I got on the train home there was no heat on it and I am almost sure that it was blowing out cold air.

so, its all over now.

All the hipe and rushing around, and presents and then the waiting around for the new year and the crap movies and stuff on Tv.

Its back to work in a few hours and who knows what the new year will bring from here on. But, I am ready for it so lets go.

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