Nature At Its Best

The spring is my favourite season of the year. To me, there is nothing more beautiful to listen to, nor peaceful to enjoy, than the sound of birds singing. Our garden is currently alive with blackbirds, wrens, chaffinches, robins, tits and even the odd song thrush, all competing for territory and food.

I cannot think of anything more beautiful in the world than listening to the song of the blackbird as it hops onto a telegraph pole, or perches on a branch. And the sound of a dawn chorus is the voice of nature at its glorious best.

On the wall in our living-room hangs a gorgeous clock that has 12 pictures of various garden birds on its face. On the hour, a different bird sings. The clock has a light sensor so that the bird songs are quiet throughout the night, and grow louder as the light improves. As I have no sight, this is a great indication to me of when the light changes. It is available from the RSPB,

There are also plenty of bird apps for iPhone and Android, my favourite being one by Clever Matrix called Birds of Britain. It provides a wealth of information about the habitat of birds, the migration period, and even has their songs that you can tap to listen to. Some apps also allow you to record birds outside so you can identify their call.

So, the next time you go for a walk, or are busy in the garden, listen to the birdsong around you. After a while, you will be able to identify their call, even if you can’t see them. Make the most of the springtime and the wonderful sounds that it brings.

A Degree Of Studying

Part of my chronic back pain management strategy is not to give way to it, but instead try to keep my mind active. I have found one successful way of doing this over the years is studying. I love learning new things, rising to a challenge, and being rewarded with a sense of achievement.

I have acquired many qualifications with the College of Media and Publishing,
due to my interest in journalism and writing. But I have now decided to study with the Open University,

I discovered that I could transfer some credit from the HND I completed in 2004 towards an Open Degree with the OU. With any luck, I will start a module in October which I can put towards my degree. So far, the signs are good in relation to accessible materials, but I will know more once the course begins.

Studying with the Open University can be quite expensive, so I am currently investigating the possibility of financial assistance to help with course fees. It is a bit of a minefield!

There are several advantages to distance learning, particularly if you don’t live near to a college or university, and your disability makes it physically challenging to navigate a campus. Another benefit of distance learning is being able to study when and where you want to. This is particularly useful if you work, or have commitments that make it difficult to attend a college or university during normal working hours.

The Perils Of A Smartphone Splash!

Owning a Smartphone is an expensive enough business without shelling out more money when it gets damaged as I discovered this week …

I bought the new iPhone 6 when it was launched last September. Call me mad, or even sad, but I decided to trade in my older device for Apple’s new kid on the block.

But six months down the road with my shiny toy and I had my first ever Smartphone calamity! Hooked to my trousers on a belt clip, my phone disengaged itself and took a nose-dive in the bathroom last week before I could stop it. It landed … you guessed it … in the toilet!

But despite my howls of despair and frustration, (not to mention a string of expletives), my iPhone died. I left it for several days on the window-sill above a radiator, checking it periodically to see if it had dried out and had any life in it. No such luck though.

And when the computer didn’t resuscitate it either, I knew my only option was to journey into Belfast for the Apple medics to take a look.

Surprisingly enough, the guys at the Apple Store were able to check it out the same day. I had visions of having to send it away to be refurbished with a couple of weeks wait. But, luckily for me, there was a spare slot where I could book the phone in to be examined if I didn’t mind hanging around for an hour or so. I went for a cup of tea at a nearby Costa while I waited.

I was allocated a very helpful gentleman who took the phone away for a few minutes to run a couple of diagnostic tests and open it up to look inside. I got the news I was expecting when he came back. “Your handset is water damaged”, he told me. It was lucky I was firmly seated on a stool, because the next bit was really eye-watering. A like-for-like replacement would cost me £229. As I didn’t have AppleCare or other insurance on the phone, I would either have to pay and have a phone again, or do without. There wasn’t really a contest, I had to pay up!

The morals of this story then?

1. Consider taking out insurance or cover on your handset if you can afford to. AppleCare costs £79 and lasts for two years from the date of purchase, and covers accidental damage.
2. Don’t take your phone to the bathroom, even if you are waiting on a call as I was. For that matter, keep it as far away from water as you can!

As Sick As A Dog?

I have come to the conclusion that one of the worst aspects of having no sight at all is being unable to see to clear up after a child or animal when they are ill. I appreciate this topic is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the post is prompted by my guide dog Bumble being very unwell this week.

When a child or animal is sick all over the floor, we want to wipe it up as quickly as possible. When we can’t see exactly where it is, however, our efficiency is severely compromised. Guided by the smell of our task ahead, we crawl gingerly with disinfectant and paper towels in hand to the spot where we think the vomit is lying. This is where, for someone with no sight, the problem becomes really tricky and messy! We want to clean up the mess, but preferably without putting our hands in it first.

I have the added difficulty of not being able to bend very well because of a chronic back problem, and certainly not to the extent of crawling round the floor looking for puke!

Imagine my difficulty and frustration this week then when poor Bumble chucked up all over the place. Dogs have a tendency to walk around while they are being sick, making it harder still to track the mess!

So, grabbing a roll of kitchen paper and the necessary fluid to mop up, I groaned in pain and frustration as I went in search of vomit. It brought back memories of when my son was a toddler with a tummy bug.

Happily, Bumble has now recovered, and the house is sick free. But it is one of those occurrences I absolutely dread.