A World of Mist and Cold

It looks like Silent Hill outside (I took this last year but it’s a pretty decent approximation if you triple it and remove the sun plus it saves me having to leave my duvet on the sofa). Like the original game, where it was used to masterful effect and you genuinely felt claustrophobically lost.

Except with ice that wants to kill you.

I took a tumble (not ice related but ow) at the weekend and so I’m much more cautious than usual (which is to say I’m at DEFCON 1 normally) but this weather, ugh. The cats agree with Ceri roasting on the windowsill, D curled up between my ankles on the duvet and Isis nesting behind the sofa with as much fur contact on the radio is as possible without her actually, you know, cooking.

I have smart cats.

Imbolc is coming in just a few days and I live in hope we’ve broken winter’s back. The constant grey bleughness is miserable. Oh and it was so bad yesterday, Norwich had an alert out. Good job I wasn’t out there then.

My memory is still bad, January isn’t a time to try dealing with insomnia. Frankly, January isn’t a time for dealing with anything.

But yeah, surviving over here. Sorta anyway.

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The January Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder, coupled with the depressive side of bipolar and a slight issue when it comes to a loss of my beloved canine mobility aid, means January is sucking hard. There never seems to be enough cash lying around (and I just bulk bought cat food for my feline overlords). Said cats are trying to compensate with ALL THE LOVE but it’s not quite enough to tip the tide. Oh and apparently it’s going to snow tomorrow.

No. Just no. At least, if it does snow, I have a couple of books to read, good books and a comfy sofa on which to sit.

Sadly the sunrise is something I’m seeing little off, it’s usually dark for most of my commute into the city. However, when I do see them, they’ve been stunning. I usually sit in the cab of the bus, right behind the door which affords me stellar views of the A47 (/sarcasm).

And, oh fucking gods, please don’t snow.

Understand I don’t hate snow per se, I just hate what it does to my mobility, specifically in the frozen and slush stages. I have zero issues with walking while it is snowing and, in fact, quite enjoy it. It’s the best time to go to the supermarket, in fact, as everyone else is not there.

I’m neither properly depressed nor manic at the moment, but I am still miserable. I don’t want to go into supermarkets (because it’s all too easy to spend money) and I certainly don’t want to go out after dark. Even putting a letter in the post was too much this morning (so I gave it to the postwoman as she brought me a Lakeland catalogue). I’m able to get coffee and go into the city but that’s about it.

However I’m also trying to meal plan and use up the contents of my freezer, I’m also trying to cook a meal a day and eat lots of soup. Soup is warm and filling and the garage sells nice baguettes that are right next to the bit where I stand to get my coffee. If it does snow, I know I have gyoza and bread, leftovers from tonight, various meat stuffs and enough to make spag bol for the weekend.

January, by its sheer definition, just seems to make everything harder. I can’t concentrate (though that could just be because I’m watching Homeland which requires it.) I need to go to Zumba but the idea of being in a room of people with loud music after dark just makes me want to hide behind my sofa with Isis. This also means I can’t settle on a project, even though I have a new short story on the front burner. I just lack the motivation to work on it, or anything else. I’m waking up but from then on, the days just drag, then it gets dark and cold … Rinse and repeat.

At least, if I go into town and top up my Nero card, I’ll have coffee and a comfy seat that doesn’t keep moving (my desk chair is now making death-rattles and sinking every time I sit down in it). Warmth, a croissant and WiFi is a bonus. I just feel lost, uninspired and very mundane which means spending a lot of time just surfing the internet and watching TV shows on Netflix. I know all this is a passing thing and it will get better. Just hugging Bramble the other day did me wonders, ditto the small puppy I fussed as I waited for the bus. Watching Gismo and D size themselves up is also entertaining (and D is currently losing the war).

New Dog would help right now but it’s not going to happen on my schedule, it’ll happen on Guide Dogs’ (which also explains why today sucked because they called me and, for two glorious seconds until I saw it was their main switchboard number, I thought it was THE call, even though I know better). No one does matching visits in January because there aren’t any dogs (another strike against the month IMHO).

Yeah, I wish I could say positive things but I can’t. I’m going to take an eARC and curl up on the couch with some music on then go to bed, it’s all I can do until this weather decides if it’s going to be awful or not.

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The Days of Quiet and Reflection

The weather is oddly mild for December, indeed I currently have the windows open and the heating off while my dryer does its thing. The sun is bright and it feels about as far from winter as we can get.

I’m having a glorious couple of days; yesterday I watched Doctor Who all day and today I’m beginning the annual Game of Thrones rewatch. It’s a time of peace, quiet and reflection. Oh and coffee, alcohol and going through my packed fridge full of food. It feels weird without a dog in the house though, especially as I missed my Christmas Day walk with Uni. D came with me as far as the main road and then whined from the safety of the B and B’s garden while I went into the garage to get myself a coffee.

And by ‘whined’ I mean yowled so loudly the people filling up their cars could hear him and were probably wondering what was being disembowelled.

Christmas Eve involved Norwich and it was nice, drinking coffees, catching up with other GDOs and having far too many mochas. Norwich was actually quiet, though all the restaurants were packed. It was nice having the morning to just read stuff on the internet and run into old friends I’ve not seen in ages (and who have also defected to Nero’s). D is once again trying to get on Paul’s good side (which is easy) by purring and using him as a human shield so Gismo doesn’t eat him. Gissy won’t but D doesn’t know that so, you know, there.

I ordered myself a second Sonos:1 as two will cover my entire flat. The sound is gorgeous, the apps are a little more annoying but there are work arounds and this is for another post. Even Paul wants one now he’s seen how powerful this little speaker is. I just like the depth of the sound and the ability to play the same song in multiple rooms so it feels like I’m floating in music.

Plus it’s made me love listening to the radio again.

I don’t feel much like writing and I’m trying to listen to that. I had one story I wanted to finish for an anthology call but it’s just not going to happen. The angle is wrong and four days isn’t enough time right now.

I don’t like it but it’s okay. I’m supposed to be taking some time off, right?

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When You Can’t See the Stars

I left stupidly (like getting the first bus at 6:20am) early this morning. I’ve been waking up before dawn and struggling to get back to sleep. It’s Christmas Eve and those are usually very quiet.

As I left the house, I noticed the crone-like crescent moon hanging right in front of me, along with an orange blob which definitely wasn’t a star. I thought it was Venus but it was only when I pulled out my phone and opened my favourite astronomy app that I realised it was actually Jupiter.

Talk about feeling tiny. That little orange thing is a gas giant … that was so cool.

You see, on account of the blind thing, I want to love astronomy but lack the visual acuity to see anything. Even with the most powerful telescope, I just can’t make anything that far away not be blurry. I had a telescope as a kid and once just about found the Pleiades and was stoked (they’re my favourite stars, next to Sirius and Orion). I can navigate the common constellations by eye, of course, except that you have to be able to see the stars to do that.

Apps help. I keep wanting to buy a telescope, a really good one, and rig it up so that my phone can tell me what I’m looking at (using an app and the compass, it’s really easy to find and identify things). I find winter especially magical for star-gazing as the nights come so early/leave late and are much clearer which actually gives me a fighting chance, even if it’s cold.

Often, I find, it’s the little moments like this morning when the size of the cosmos really hits home. Technology just helps make that beauty a little more accessible to people like me, who want to partake but find it a tad challenging.

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My Plan for 2017: Be Like D

No seriously. Look at him, this is the most chilled out, ‘I don’t give a fuck’ cat on the planet. He’s the world’s best feline role model, even if he’s bitey.

For my health, I need to chill out. I’ve spent 2016 taking on too much, pushing myself too far. It’s not that bad; I got off with a micro, stress-induced manic phase and one hard-core suicidal one, coupled with time of the month crashing (thanks, body). That’s light considering the Five Manic Episodes of 2015.

But it doesn’t mean I can do that shit again.

2017 is going to be about self-care, about being a little selfish. I need to get my triggers and IBS under control, as well as focusing on snowballing my way out of debt. Plus 2016 was a shit year (bar like two things) and needs to burn and the earth salted. I don’t know if next year is going to be better but I need to take it out.

Writing-wise, my aim is to quietly potter on whatever calls my attention. I will still try and submit short stories (I have enough for a collection at this point and sending them out is easy enough that I can do it in my sleep thanks to the Grinder). I’m also aiming to get some work done on longer projects before doing a full rebrand once I have the money in 2018, republishing all my books under the Asha Bardon byline.

But as for publishing and, especially, editing. No. I haven’t got the energy to go through the process, much less the crowdfunding side of things. I’ve got to learn that saying I’ll do something doesn’t bind me into actually doing it and things will get in the way which will always call issues.

I need space to breathe, space to write without expectation. That’s what 2017 is about.

On a personal front, I’m coping pretty well. I’m adulting, though I hate it, and surviving without bipolar medication. The trick is staying calm, monitoring my moods and using the 30-day waiting period before purchases, big or small. It’s still a fine line and I don’t know when the next obsession or manic phase will strike. That scares me.

I’m still worried about Class and New Dog but it’s on the backburner. I don’t need to worry about that right this second. New Dog will come when she’s ready and I’m very used to waiting. For now, all I can do is enjoy the end of year peace, the chance to reflect. Gods know I have a heap of things to look forward to in the coming months.

It’s hard, though. My brain is stuck in ‘what awful thing is next’ mode. It’s a bit like flight mode except it’s more about anxiety than instinct. I have an amazing therapist whose helping and I’m finding that if I can avoid things which trigger me then I’m much more able to cope. I spent the rest of my time reading up on living with various conditions, coping with narcissistic people (avoidance/NC works for me).

Some things are unavoidable but Habitica gives me bonus points for those.

I’m lucky in that I have people around me who are amazing, a core group who are my chosen family. Ironically, it’s taken the last year for me to realise who that actually involves. Some of my oldest friends are no longer friends because their worldviews differed so much with mine, and my needs, that it turned nasty. I don’t need people who spew poison or try to control me in my life, especially not when I’m trying to dig myself out of a hole I’ve created.

The important people, they’ve been at my side all the long and I can’t thank them enough for it.

So yeah, the next twelve months are about me. I’m actually looking forward to it as my main focus has been ‘I need to be x in case y or z calls’. The trick is shifting my focus to ‘I’m going to x because I want to, meeting up with an alphabet of people is a bonus’. I need to teach myself that it’s okay if I want dinner or see a movie, I don’t need other people unless we make a date. I need to live my life for me, not for anyone else, even though all the people in my life are awesome enough to get that I’m stupidly altruistic and don’t abuse that.

At the same time I like my routine, it keeps me from descending into slobbery and I’m proud of that. I don’t want to be the stereotypical ‘on benefits’ person who sleeps into midday and, besides, productivity is my friend. Early mornings mean peace and quiet and I value that a lot, just as I do the odd quiet day at home with a queue of movies lined up.

So wish me luck as we finally see the back of 2016 and begin a new, fresh, year. I’m looking forward to it already.

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Bath, Winter 2016: The Christmas Market Mini-break

I don’t ‘do’ Christmas, too many bad memories and I’m not a fan of the encroaching darkness or the cold weather. However I’m also really keen to change my perspective on the season and rewrite the crap memories with better ones. This includes going places with my friend, Shannon, who appreciates the chance to explore other places while living in London.

Bath has a massive three week Christmas Market and the entire city takes it very seriously. I’ve wanted to see it for years but bus trips down are expensive. Also because of Uni things were difficult (coaches and dogs don’t mix, there’s simply not enough room). I saw a three day trip advertised for over £200 and the accomedation wasn’t even in Bath! Fortunately, between us, Shannon and I are savvy travellers and knew we could do a similar trip of our own devising for half that so I sorted the train and she did the accomedation. Our normal choice of the White Hart Inn was booked up so we managed to get a room at the YMCA on the northern side of the town. It was cheaper than the inn but also a bit more of a walk.

Shannon had to work so she ended up coming in on Monday night, giving me the entire day to travel down (I was down by 2pm) from Dereham, check in and do whatever my little heart desired until she got in just before 9pm. I ended up having dinner and a pint of Somerset cider at my favourite pub, wandering the market as it got dark and going to the Thermae Spa (disabled people get in for 1/2 price or with a free companion which is a bonus). I ended up curling up in a Caffé Nero by the bus station which was, to my surprise and delight, open super late till 10pm with The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Glorious! Oh and there were even a few, magical, flakes of snow as I wandered, sipping mulled apple juice.

Tuesday was our only actual day in Bath so we decided on our own walking tour, dipping in and out of shops, having Japanese food at a kaiten sushi place for lunch. We walked around the market (I got to explain that if you say ‘let’s get a mulled cider’ in Britain before half past eleven, people will think you’re an alcoholic; Americans and Canadians think ‘cider’ is non-alcoholic. It’s not and never should be. Especially not in Somerset). But that amused me no end; for just a second I though Shannon was serious.

I got to sit in a lovely little coffee shop that could only seat fifteen or so people, right on the bridge by the weir. This has memories for us as we passed it while walking into Bath for the first time, with Uni, along the tow-path. Shannon wanted to visit a maze so I sat and had a drink while she nipped across the bridge. I spent the time percolating an idea I’d had for a short story based on a city with a visible but hidden second one beneath it; Bath has an entire network of streets and passages under the paths that you can see if you look at the houses, most of which have basement floors. It’s in full view but no one notices it, it takes a tour guide to show you (ditto the Masonic iconography). It was just screaming to be used in a fantasy story involving magic and arcane things.

After lunch and a pit stop, we headed our again, this time to look properly at the market. It was starting to get busier and had plenty of free samples when it came to food and alcohol. I’d discovered rhubarb vodka and adored it; I’m not a vodka person ever but I do love rhubarb and this was delicious (and available, cheaper, on Amazon *grins*). I also got to introduce Shannon to good, proper, honey mead; it’s sweet as fuck but delicious in small doses. Oh and cheese! So much cheese! I came home from Bath with a wheel, quietly maturing in my spare room, and some of the best cheese straws I’ve ever tasted.

Then we went to the spa and spent two glorious hours in the healing waters (seriously, my feet didn’t ache when we left though the chlorine/walking has really agrevated my still-healing, post-op scar). One of my few happy memories of childhood/adolescence is going to Center Parcs at Elvedon and spending the dark evenings outside in the rapids, watching as steam billowed off the hot water. By the time we got in, it was black as night and dead quiet too. The pool inside, downstairs, has a beautiful light display but the pool on the roof was breathtaking, stream rolling off it and a blue, almost bioluminescence to the water thanks to some well placed lights. Actually Monday night was more impressive; it was fucking freezing and the hot water/cold night combo was really impressive. I got to watch the sunset too. We floated, we swam, we enjoyed the jacuzzi bubbles and the steam rooms. It was chilled out (bar near-obsessive clock watching).

We left at nine and were in the Odeon down the road shortly after with ice cream and everything. Shannon hadn’t seen Fantastic Beasts yet so it seemed the perfect (and free) way to end the day. Actually, on the finance front I was expecting to spend a lot more than I did. I was amazed how reserved I was when it came to the stalls but much of the stuff I had no need or use for. Though it was a lot of fun to visit.

Wednesday was going home day but we were going to enjoy the morning first. Shannon was hunting Pokémon (you can tell people who do that because of how their hands move on their phones/carrying powerpacks), resulting in some interesting pictures. Bath has some weird Christmas displays from the baubles in a telephone box to a giant deck chair and several igloo-bauble things. The cool thing is wandering the Southgate area, the modern shopping complex near the station, and just stumbling on things you don’t expect to be there.

The journey home wasn’t too bad. We got coffee and I read, then we caught the train in a nice, calm manner back to Paddington. We didn’t get lost which just proves I need a dog because I can’t concentrate on walking and trying to navigate. Uni was awesome at exits and I, sadly, am not. That said, it was nice not to have to go out in the rain or the dark so she could pee and we were able to reallty maximise our time. I still want New Dog though and this just confirmed it.

Shannon and I parted at Paddington. We went into the wrong part of the station and took the Circle line so I had to change at Edgware Road (I miss the old Circle where you could go either way) which wasn’t too bad as I had my GoBag which made steps and escalators a breeze. Despite the echoes of the called-off Tube strike, it was easy to get back to Liverpool Street so I took myself off for ramen. I’d actually specifically scheduled a food break and I ended up with time to sit in Starbucks with a cold drink as well. Oh, my train home wasn’t cancelled and I managed to catch my bus perfectly.

The cats missed me (despite not starving) which was nice. They’re all being super-friendly and affectionate in acknowledgement that, sometimes, I vanish for a few days. I admit, I really should have bought that wooden plaque which said ‘dogs have owners but cat have staff’. It’s true and I’m glad they appreciate me.

I’m looking forward to going back to Bath for a writing retreat in the spring, it’s a nice place to go for a few days and it was great to be able to go to the movies for a late showing without having to worry about getting home. Bath is a tiny town compared to Norwich but it has a lot more in it, oh and all the designer stores you could want. I don’t but it’s nice to have the constrast between the modern shops and the little indie stores selling random stuff as well as the Roman and Georgian sections of town. Next time I do want to visit the Temple of Minerva though.

Overall an awesome trip. Definately some good memories to put into the bank.

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The Great Name Change of 2016: The Quick How-to Guide

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It’s been nearly a year since I became Asha and six months since it was a legal thing. I still don’t regret it but I did want to do a short post for anyone else thinking about doing it.

First off a quick disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer and this is just how I did it. There are other ways. You don’t need a deed poll to be known as someone else (and you’re perfectly within your rights to name yourself whatever you want) but if you want a passport or other legal documentation, then I suggest doing it this way rather than going via one of those up-selling websites which promise to do everything for you.

Also bear in mind the personal backlash. As a society we’re groomed to accept the names we’re given at birth, gods forbid we chose one ourselves. Your reasons for changing your name are your own and you don’t have to explain or tell anyone why you decided on the change. If someone can’t adjust, that’s their problem and not yours. If you have parents they’ll probably be mortally offended but again, not your problem.

I’m going to assume, for the sake of this, that you’re over 18 and a UK citizen.

  1. Think about it: a name change isn’t something to jump into with no consideration. Test run your name first (social media is a good way to do this) amongst a circle of friends (and for a chunk of time: six months is a good length). Remember there is no shame in tinkering with your name until you find the right one, or changing both your first and surname. Do take your cultural background into consideration and try to pick something simple or, at least, easy to spell because you’re going to spent a lot of time doing this over the phone.
  2. Read the government website on changing your name and download the Deed Poll documentation.
  3. Finalise your name.
  4. Get an appointment with a notary, this a particular kind of person who deal with documents and whatnot. Google one in your local area (solicitors can do this; notaries are basically a kind of solicitor, but are more expensive). It helps to have the forms filled out and emailed over, as well as bringing copies to your appointment. Make sure you have identification and can confirm your address, it also helps to bring your brith certificate as well.
  5. Find somone you trust whose known you for ten years (I know) and who has ID (a passport or driving license) and a utility bill to confirm address). They’ll be your witness.
  6. Go get the forms notorised, you should send the original forms via Recorded delivery, along with payment, to the Royal Courts of Justice. You can ask for a copy of the forms to tide you over until the enrolled deed poll gets back and it doesn’t hurt to digitise these or photocopy them.
  7. Celebrate!
  8. Wait.
  9. Once the enrolled deed poll arrives you can then use it to apply for passports, driving licenses and whatnot. Banks will update your account name (which is actually the least important detail; it’s the sort code and account number which matter).
  10. Get official ID and celebrate again, then ring around everybody from HMRC to your dentist to let them know of the change, providing the form. Also don’t forget your local council and the Electoral Roll so you can vote!

That’s basically it. The cost to change my name was, including postage, around £150 which isn’t too bad for such a drastic change. It’s definately a worthwhile one just be prepared to spend a lot of time on the phone (look for free numbers!) ringing people to explain what’s going on.

But that, in a nutshell, is how you change your name and enroll a deed poll in the UK.

 

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Hey, I Have Superfast Internet!

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I realised I’ve been with Sky for over a decade now. This was partly as, when I moved into my own place (as opposed to renting), I had a TV, a Sky DVR and loved the newness of WiFi and being able to do things without having to switch on my computer (previously routers needed machine on to connect to the net).

Ten years later and I’m on 7mbps, not bad for Norfolk but not fast either.

Ten years with the same router …

So, on a whim last month (after seeing a friend and his Android phone), I wandered into Carphone Warehouse and it turns out they do broadband now. Or rather they act as a third-party seller allowing me to look at all the options from different companies and find the best. I admit, it wasn’t actually the promised speed, it was the switch over handling which seduced me (essentially it follows the bank model where all the leg work is done for you, you just sit back and wait for the switch date).

My new router arrived last week but I was able to use my existing ethernet and longer telephone cable (the power cord and the filter are the only things I’ve used aside from the new router itself). This means, rather than sitting on my bookshelf, the router is on my desk right next to my computer. Wireless is fast but I prefer Ethernet unless I’m on my laptop.

The set up was easy but there was a gap, or at least there was supposed to be Sky ‘stopped’ my service last week but the change over didn’t happen until yesterday. Oh and I was anticipating a full on net black out but no, it was actually surprisingly easy (and gave me a weekend to see Allied and catch up with a close friend I don’t seen any much as much as I’d like too). I’d prepped for this, backing up my data and watcing lots of offline movies, but the net started cutting out yesterday afternoon but I was all prepped for it and then, bing, an email dropped in my phone telling me Fibre was now live.

I got 37mbps …. yeah, safe to say I’m currently happy.

I dislike change, especially when it comes to making ‘adult’ decisions like changing providers for things or getting new tech. WiFi is like running hot/cold water in my personal hierarchy of needs. I’ve not been this chuffed since I got my Nest thermostat (and that’s still the best decision I made). Actually, while we’re on that subject, the big thing I had to do was update the router’s name and password (because having a router called TalkTalkRandomNumbersandLetters isn’t the easiest thing to find) and then my devices. My laptop auto-updated but I had to tell my Nest there was a new network, it detected the loss of the usual one and it was actually cool to do. You put your password in as if you were cracking a safe, by rotating the dial and selecting letters/numbers. It was this little moment of Mission Impossible-style coolnesss that my inner geek really appreciated.

Just FYI: my Nest is not yet sentient, which was the biggest concern when it came to allowing it access to a faster internet speed. We’re all good, even if, when I told it about my name change and email address the other day on the net, the info was auto-fed to the Nest itself. That’s a tad scary but also awesome.

So now I’m enjoying watching a Final Fantasy XV Let’s Play, calm in the knowledge the video won’t stuffer and it’s full 1080p, rather than the usual auto of something stupidly low like 420.

The weird thing, aside from the little things like YouTube awesomeness, it’s hard to see the difference. Except when downloading stuff, anyway. Things are definately much faster but that’s about it. We live online now, as opposed to dialling up, so it’s very much a under the hood thing.

But I’m pleased. I hope I stay that way.

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Asha’s Adventures in Getting a Guide Dog: Attributes = Time

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I am Gismo, you must love me.

This week has been all about getting me back, officially, on the list for New Dog. This would probably been a tad easier had I not had surgery the proceeding week but when is my life that simple?

This blonde 40kg battering ram is my friend Paul’s dog, Gismo (he isn’t too be fed after midnight and for the love of all the gods do not get him wet). Gissy loves leaves, he also really likes me and could probably knock me over if he tried. However he is the perfect example of the colour dog I want.

This is important because when I met my GDMI earlier this week, I had my list to hand. The thing you need to understand is there’s a process in all this, a reason for the madness. There is paperwork to be filled in and boxes to be ticked off.

A came prepared with the standard paperwork which interested me as it’s been at least eight years (I had to wait 18 months for Uni) since I last did this. The form covered everything from my home environment (including things like the fact I live alone and have cats) to suitable spending areas (Uni’s pen is still there) to the important bit: What kind of dog did I need.

A and I had a very frank conversation about my matching with it essentially boiling down to extrovert dog plus introvert human equals ‘never again’. We have those a lot though this is the first time we’ve openly admitted to each other that Uni, while awesome, was never a good match for me.

A’s been my GDMI for almost as long as I had Uni, taking over from his similarly named arsehole of a predecessor who, thank the gods, no longer works for the organisation. I fired his predecessor but it did mean that while I qualified, I had to learn the ‘advanced’ stuff on my own or with the help of Mhairi and Paul.

Before we got to the ‘choose your dog’ adventure though, there was a little practical stuff to do. To be fair, it was quick and I explained I was in a post-surgery place of pain, also it was cold and drizzling. Basically, GDMI’s pretend to be a dog, giving you a harness to hold and seeing how you move and respond.

The thing is anyone who’s had a dog will tell you it feels all wrong; the level of the harness, the weight, the gait, the pacing. It’s not meant to emulate being a dog, just make sure you can move with the ‘dog’ and to assess pacing (mine is normally slow but due to my wound I wasn’t quite hobbling but still much, much slower than usual). Most people hate this bit because it’s embarrassing; you would through a crowded place with a human, harness and potential-GDO and have to use commands and reprimand the ‘dog’.

But, this time, I didn’t care. This was a momentary thing, done thankfully in a quiet corner but it’s one of those things you do in order to get back on the list. Mainly I was just cold and wanted to get back inside. A is well aware I do not do winter, indeed one of my specific requests was not to do Class during the winter period. I hate ice, snow and sleet and my SAD is my worse enemy.

Having a harness in my hand again, though, was weird. I’ve just gotten used to my cane again. It feels wrong but when you walk with your potential match, well it just feels like flying. There’s a freedom and it’s natural, like two pieces of a puzzle slotting together. I still remember how magical my first walk with Uni felt (character-wise we were a bad match but she and I always worked brilliantly together).

I made clear my desire for a ‘calmer’ dog which instantly excludeds Shepherds, retrievers and labradoddles (they’re weird, end of). I wanted something a bit more like Bramble, Mhairi’s dog, a labrador who is Uni-sized and calm (the cat thing is key as I’m not having the guide dog versus cat discussion; Isis and Ceri are fine but Dion would lose). At ther same time I won’t say no to a darker dog, my preference is simply for a lighter coloured one as, due to my specific brand of visual impairment, dark is hard to see.

One other disturbing thing I did learn about however (to the disgust of myself and every GDO who’s heard about it) was that someone (ansd I know precisely whom) sent a poison pen email anonymously to Guide Dogs giving them a list of ‘reasons’ why I shouldn’t be allowed another dog.

The disciplinary proccess for GDO’s works a lot like employment; you get unofficial warnings, official warnings and the last resort ‘stop fucking up’ written warnings. Taking a dog from their human is a last resort and is only ever done for the welfare of the dog. Sometimes it’s a temporary thing (in cases of, for example, over-feeding) but other times there are other reasons. If the dog is young (around 2), they might be able to be re-matched but any older than that and it’s a flunk and the dog is retired.

This is general, by the way, it’s a lot more complicated and situation specific as well.

The sheer fact I heard about it at this juncture shows how seriously the Mobility Team were taking it. Anonymous stuff is seldom given credence and every guide dog owner breaks ‘rules’, or rather we bend them as far as we know we can go. There are no perfect GDOs and there are some situations (my personal favourite is the four pram plus guide dog plus trolley on the bus situation which was the fault of the bus driver and forced me to put Uni onto the seats because that was the only room for her).

Anonymous listed stuff, I never saw the email but it was enough for identification. Fortunately, because I’d been very open with my GDMI, they were already aware one person now no longer in my life took Uni’s retirement very badly. This is purely because of timing and the fact it happened so fast. The irony is, had they bothered to actually identify themselves rather than using a burner email, then it might have been taken more seriously.

Some of that stuff is true but all of it was minor; I’m known for bending rules but I know how far I can go. And yes, I fed my dog, but we all do that. Big deal. My friends, even the non-guide dog owning ones, were all outraged when I told them. It’s the equivalent of trying to take away a person’s wheelchair or ringing up the DWP and dobbing in a disabled person because you saw them doing something stereotypes say they shouldn’t.echnically, a disability hate crime.

Technically what this person did is a disability hate crime.

Yep and actually I don’t think that one note occurred to the writer. That they were not only being malicious but also committing a crime. I confronted the person, I don’t expect anything to come of it nor do I care.

I’m on the list and that’s all that matters.

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D is taking the dog-free zone rather well.

The one thing we have been trying to do in the mean time is remind the cats (specifically D) is that the lack of a dog in the house is a temporary thing. Isis and Ceri are fine, the former ignore everyone bar me and the latter just loved Uni so I’m hoping New Dog will find a similar place in Ceri’s heart.

This comes from a cat who, for the last six years, has met us when we come home at the end of the day. Ceri has little fear of dogs but she’s also smart, she knows just how far away to sit in case an unknown dog tries to go for her. Plus, despite being rotund, she’s also fast and good at running under cars.

Isis … well, she’s just a ninja and a fan of high places and dark corners.

D on the other hand, well he’s confrontational. This is why we’ve been using Gismo toi put him in his place. Gissy is basically a wuss but he’s also a typical male dog (aka not a genius). If the cats sit still then he ignores them entirely.Him and D have had a couple of showdowns, all carefully choreographed with the right amount of enthusiasm and hissing. Oddly, even when he has an out in the form of a cat flat, D would still rather wait for a human to open the door.

Maybe he’s not as smart as I’ve been giving him credit.

The upside of all of this is the sheer amount of cat love I’ve been getting. Ceri and Isis were pre-Uni. D came about six months after Uni and so the two grew up together.I know Ceri and Isis will basically chill, acknowledge New Dog, and get on with business. D has one choice and I get to be the one who acts as New Dog’s protector. I’m assuming eventually equilibrium will be reached and all will be well because that’s the only option.

Dogs and cats can live together and quiet happily too. It’s all about time.

I’m hoping the London list is short (rumour has it that it’s one of the shortest in the country). I should find out in a week or so but I’m going to assume it’s six months. If it’s shorter then it’s a bonus. Generally speaking, though, rematches are a higher priority than first timers and I’ve tried hard to keep my wants and needs down to a minimum because, as previously discussed, the rule of thumb is the more things you ask for in a dog, the longer it takes to match you.

So, for now, with all the medical forms done and the paperwork filed, all I can do it wait and watch lots of movies and survive the winter.

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