Monday, 4 November 2019

Different Attitudes. Home and Away

I have recently been on holiday to Spain and I found it quite interesting how attitudes vary towards sight loss. 

I read before we travelled that the airport do a pink lanyard, which shows staff that you, or somebody in your group, may need extra help. I considered this, but I thought I would use my guide cane so they can see that just like they can see a pink lanyard. It said online to look out for any pink areas, as these are help zones for any passengers that have any questions or are struggling to find their way around. So it all sounded really positive.   

When we got to the airport however it was a completely different story. When we were in the check in area it was like me and my white cane were invisible. Other passengers were constantly knocking into me and we just checked in as normal. It wasn’t until we got to security that a man actually noticed me and checked we were all ok. He said that we should have all asked for a pink lanyard so that they would know that we needed extra support. I never really thought about it this way before, but if I had got a lanyard then they would have known that I was there and that there is somebody coming through that will need help. So they would actually look. Now that I have seen it that way, next time I will definitely get one. But I still think my cane was pretty obvious. When we went through the body scanner, I really wasn’t sure which way I was going. With all the machinery and people around it was hard to see which way to go. I tried to follow my Dad who went through first, but it was still hard. My cane had to go through the hand luggage scanner which I do understand, but it meant that I couldn’t use it to guide me. I always have a person or my cane guiding me, so I felt quite strange and anxious. I was the only one of us that didn’t beep. So my Mum and Dad were taken to one side to be searched. The man on the scanner made a point of telling the body searching staff that I was with them but I hadn’t beeped. I tried to move nearer to my Mum and Dad to get out of the way and they wouldn’t let me anywhere near them. I was just stood, not really sure which way I was going or not going until they had finished. I was just kind of stood in the way. 

After we had finished in security we had the fun job of finding the gate. We looked around for the pink zones that were mentioned. Eventually we found a pink machine that was out of order. Not very useful at all. That was the nearest thing we saw to a pink zone. 

Getting onto the plane was amazing! We had to go up the stairs and not an air bridge which I really don’t mind. It’s not the same getting an air bridge. I love going outside and seeing a massive plane. I was so excited. I walked up the stairs at my own pace, trying to concentrate on where I was walking and staring at the plane both at the same time was quite difficult. But I didn’t feel rushed by anybody which was nice. A lady from the cabin crew was stood by the plane door trying her best to help me onto the plane and I accidently headbutted her! Oops! I apologised and she was fine… I hope. But there was an announcement before we took off about their friendly behaviour policy. My Dad was joking saying that they only played that announcement because of me. 

When we landed in Alicante, the staff saw me with my cane and let us straight through, while everybody else had to queue around barriers. Straight away we all thought, that is so different to the airport at home. This was one of the few moments where my sight loss came in useful. I smiled as we walked past them all feeling very pleased with myself. 
However, while we were actually on holiday, I found a lot of things not very accessible. Hardly anywhere had accessible toilets and the few places that had ramps where very narrow wobbly ones that were just placed over steps. Again, completely different to at home, but in the other way. People just didn’t seem to understand or recognise what my cane was for. I am not sure whether they are actually used in Spain or not, but even other tourists just ignored it. I wasn’t really after any special treatment, just a bit of space to get around. I did have one positive experience though in a wildlife park.  We went to see a dolphin show and they let us sit on the front row. It was still hard to see and we got quite wet, but it was very nice for them to let me do this. 

We also went on a coach trip to Valencia. The travel rep was very nice and had saved some seats for us near the front of the coach. However when we got to Valencia she was supposed to be taking us to the meeting point for coming back and everybody left us. We couldn’t catch up and lost them very quickly. 

We all really enjoyed our holiday, but the support for visually impaired people was very unpredictable. 

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

My Tramlines Weekend - Ken

The Tramlines music festival took place on Friday 19 July for 3 consecutive days at Hillsborough Park Sheffield.

I, along with my PA plus my guide dog Barley attended all 3 days.

We arrived at our destination via the Super Tram and located the special admission entrance which saved us standing in a long queue.

We were issued with wrist bands which we wore throughout the 3 days, which saved us having to produce our tickets every time we were admitted. The first 200 attendees received a voucher for a free drink at one of the bars scattered around the sight.

Initially we walked around to determine where each stage was situated as there were 3 to choose from, the main stage, the Leadmill, plus the Library stage. Eventually we managed to obtain a programme with details of who was appearing on each of the 3 stages and on which day and time.

There were lots of food and drink stalls around selling a variety of food attracting lots of people to purchase their goods although they were very pricey.

The weather was cloudy on our arrival and the heavens opened around 6pm turning the solid ground into a wet, slippery and muddy surface. However that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the crowds that attended.

There were portable toilets scattered around the sight which you had to be desperate to use but you know what to expect at a music festival.  

Appearing on the main stage, amongst other performers, was a group from Liverpool who sounded professional, tight and varied their style to accommodate different tastes. The Manic Street Preachers appeared next playing there most famous songs and performed the Guns and Roses track Sweet Child Of Mine which the lead guitarist performed superbly the well-known middle solo.  Finally to round off the first evening, the Two Door Cinema Club concluded the first nights entertainment which most of the people attending enjoyed.

My PA and I proceeded to the Super Tram stop for a return journey to town. There were long Queues but a representative from the Super Tram instructed us to walk to the front of the queue and await further instruction.  When the next tram arrived he guided us on to the vehicle and pointed to a couple of seats near the front for us to occupy.  When it came to disembarking from the tram, there were so many passengers stood up that some of them had to disembark, allowing us to do likewise before they climbed back on board to resume their journey.

One of my dear friends joined us for the 2nd day of the music festival. It had been raining heavily throughout the morning. Most people on arrival at the site expected the ground to be a quagmire but surprisingly it was firm and the afternoon and evening became very pleasant and warm.

We arrived in time to see the Everly Pregnant Brothers who are a comic group changing the words of famous songs to incorporate their own rendition of the tune. We then decided to walk to the Leadmill stage which was inside a tent but the thrashing loud music didn’t appeal to either of us so we left and had a walk to the Old Fashioned clothes fair which was on display. We then returned to listen to Miles Kane who along with his band was superb playing an outstanding version of Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff. Next to appear were Sheffield’s own Reverend and the Makers who were very entertaining and performed brilliantly. Their rhythmic playing got everybody dancing and they received a tumultuous reception on arrival and on conclusion of their program. Half an hour later Johnny Marr performed songs including some of the tunes made famous by the Smiths which he was an original member of. His guitar playing was outstanding. Finally to round off the evening, the Courteeners performed playing a variety of tunes both fast and slow which was superbly received by fans of music.     

A couple of our friends kindly offered us a lift from the venue which we gratefully accepted. The first two evenings concluded at around 10pm.

The final day had been sold out for weeks and the weather was gloriously sunny. We set off early in order to catch the Happy Monday’s who were performing on the main stage at 1:30pm and we were not disappointed on our arrival. They were superb and displayed skill, entertainment and some cracking rhythms to listen to. Two bands with differing styles which I was unfamiliar with appeared next. In-between sets, my PA and myself walked to the front of the stage to watch the roadies strip down the equipment and off the stage while another set of roadies set up the equipment for the next performing band, all within half an hour. During this process, I bought a Tramlines 2019 t’shirt for a special friend.

We then decided to walk to the Leadmill stage to listen to Peter Hook and the Light. Peter was an original member of Joy Division and latterly New Order. Peter and his superb musicians performed tracks by Joy Division and New Order. The tent was packed and the atmosphere was electric. On completion of their hour spot the audience were singing Love Will Keep Us Apart long after the group had departed from the stage. It turned out to be a memorable and enjoyable gig.

With the singing still ringing in our ears we returned to the main stage in anticipation plus excitement of watching and listening to The Rag And Bone Man who along with his backing singers plus the musicians backing him gave a superb performance playing songs he had written himself. The spot we chose was ideal with the sound coming across crystal clear. 

Finally it was down to Nile Rodgers and Chic to conclude the festival and they didn’t disappoint playing a variety of sole songs which Nile had written for various artists including Chic, Cool and the Gang, David Bowie and Diana Ross. He more or less had the packed audience eating out of his hands finishing the set just before 9 pm. It was a memorable 3 days. We took away lots of happy, interesting and superb musical memories. Barley my Guide Dog received so many strokes and cuddles that she was in her element and behaved superbly coping very well with the vast crowds she had to contend with.

The journey back to the city centre was delightful with people singing their hearts out sounding in a very good mood with some of them already looking forward to next year’s Tramlines Festival. 

Monday, 1 July 2019

Para Archery World Championship - Phil

Hi everyone

My name is Phillip Tranter and I have been asked to write a blog about my experiences as a blind archer at the Para Archery World Championship in Holland in June 2019.

I was extremely pleased and honoured to be chosen to attend the Championships, along with my full time spotter Marina. Even though I had a place, I knew it was going to be tough, as I had been having a few issues with my performance. Realistically, I was hoping to achieve a good placement, if I was able to medal, it would be absolutely terrific!

We found out the attendance at the Worlds this year was the highest ever with 301 athletes due to compete. For the visually impaired section, we had 17 athletes from 9 different countries, also a record for us.

We flew out to Holland on Saturday 1st of June and met up with the rest of the team at our Hotel in Koningshof. Following our orientation to the hotel, which was a vast 3 storey complex, set in its own largely wooded grounds, we settled in and got our bearings. A meeting after dinner was arranged and we went over the itinerary for the next few days. Our venue for the Championship was at a large Rugby field in Eindhoven  and we had to adhere strictly to the time slots given to us.

Sunday was a sunny and very warm day, 30 degrees, this was our official practice session of 3 hours. This included, the setting up and removal of equipment, so we had to make the most of the time given. The field was very busy, with a total of 40 targets in use. We had 9 targets, which were set at 30 metre distance. The other targets were for the archers with physical disabilities and set at distances of 50 and 70 metres. When practice was finished, we went to see the other Team GB archers, to catch up on how they were. 

Over the next two days we all would have Elimination and Head to Head rounds. When we were not actually shooting, then we would be supporting and cheering on our compatriots.
In the elimination round, I managed to come 5th, which I was quite pleased with. This meant, on Tuesday, I was going head to head with Mark Schrand from the USA, who had come 4th. Whoever won this round, would go forward to contest the Bronze Medal.

Tuesday afternoon, was another cloudy but warm day, storm showers were expected later. I was nervous and tried hard to contain this in the run up to the match. The scoring system for the round was, 12 arrows each, in rounds of 3. The highest score was awarded 2 points, a tie was 1 point each, first to 6 points was the winner. I managed to win my head to head 6 points to 2. I was mightily relieved to have progressed through to contest the Bronze medal. 

Later that evening the storm arrived, with loud thunder claps, brilliant flashes of lightening , hail and torrential rain, lasting well past midnight. Thankfully, by the time finals took place at 2pm, it was dry and sunny again.

The Bronze medal match was against my fellow team mate Nick Thomas, it’s always more difficult to shoot against someone who you know. The scoring system was the same, first to 6 points was the winner. We were close in scores, but each time Nick managed to get one or two points more than me. Alas, he won 6-0, I will have to hope for a rematch if we get to the Europeans next year. Even so, I am still ranked 4th in the World. Steve Prowse won Gold, for team GB, his 3rd World title.

After a mad dash back to the hotel to eat and pack, we were on our way back to the airport by 9pm. We arrived at our hotel at 10.30 pm and were just in time for a quick celebratory drink before bed and an early flight home the next day.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Light - Amy

Today is the International Day of Light (May 16th), so I thought that I would write something to explain what a difference the light makes to somebody who is visually impaired. 

For me, I LOVE British Summer Time hours. Long light days mean that I can be more independent, for longer. In the dark I can’t see well at all, I am not confident going out alone in the dark. If I do, I get a taxi and I sometimes need help from the driver with getting into the taxi and walking me to the door when we arrive. When I am in the taxi I find it quite hard to tell where we are. I put my total trust and faith into the driver and hope that they get me there safe. What does help is when businesses and iconic buildings have decorative lighting or big clear signs that are lit up. For example I know I am near town when I see the big old building with the blue lights by the roundabout. And I know I am nearly home when I see the lights from the petrol station near my road. They help me a great deal to recognise where I am and also follow my journey and feel confident that we are going the right way. Busses, trams and walking alone are not an option for me at all when it is dark. If I am with somebody that I know well and trust then I am fine, but if not then I am just not confident enough. Talking busses and trams do help a lot and if it was guaranteed on every bus and tram every time, then maybe I would venture out in the dark. But I have heard stories of bus drivers turning the talking off because it annoys them, how true that is I don’t know. And so far in Sheffield, talking busses are just on one route, the 120 route. This is a bus I only usually use to travel through the city centre, so it is very helpful, but not a bus I use all of the time. And as I do not live near a tram stop it is quite rare that I use the tram. 

Light evenings mean that instead of aiming to be home for 4pm, I can aim to be home for 8pm or later. That is a massive difference. Depending on where I am travelling from and how confident I feel, I sometimes want to set off before it even starts to go dark. Twilight is worse than the dark in some ways. It is so disorientating. So in winter, this means leaving at around 3pm! Coming home in the light means that I can see where my house is, so that I can tell the taxi driver when to stop, more accurately. Plus they can read my house number easier when it is light. If I am confident with the route I may even decide to get the bus home. This does depend on how busy the busses are likely to be though. I do avoid going on busses alone during busy times as they are scary and hard to find a seat. Also if a lot of people are stood up, it is hard to see through the windows, so I will struggle to follow where we are and recognise my stop. 

Being in a well lit environment is also very beneficial for me. In a dull or very shaded environment I find it hard to see what I am doing, I find it hard to see where potential hazards are and I find it hard to look for things. Some restaurants and bars are so dull, the flooring is dull, the furniture is dull, the walls are dull and they hardly have any lights on!  Why???  It makes things so difficult. I understand the whole ambience thing, if they want to sit in the dark then fine, but they could do more to help. Like having the furniture a completely different colour to the flooring, so that there is a big contrast. Make it look funky with all bright, random colours and styles. Making doors and door frames a different colour to the rest of the walls. Make lighting good enough to read the menus and see your food.  There have been occasions where somebody I know has used their torch on their phone just to read menus. And she has quite good sight. I just don’t understand the logic of how some places are designed. One thing that I have noticed is that some places seem to forget that making things accessible, also means making things accessible for visually impaired people. Not just people with a physical disability. 

This is just a description of what is right for me. Everybody’s sight is different and some people really struggle with the light and brightness. That would be better described by somebody else. So if you are one of these people then please tell us what you think?

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The London Marathon. Interview with Nicky.

This time we have decided to try a new way of doing the blog and have decided to do an interview. So this blog post has been written based on the answers to the questions we gave Nicky and the discussion between her and Amy:  

Nicky has always been visually impaired and has not known any different. She finds reading and writing very difficult and uses a guide dog to help her to get out and about and stay as independent as possible. However she hates shopping and does most of her shopping online. Her two favourite pieces of equipment are her iPad and her Apple watch. She told me that she doesn’t know where she would be without them. She uses her apple watch to give herself daily goals and achieve them. 

Nicky had always wanted to run, but never thought it was possible because of her sight loss. She was visiting the gym one day and spoke to her gym instructor at the time, Craig. He said to Nicky “We can do that”.

With his motivation and support she started running and her love and confidence for it grew. She worked her way up to doing at 10K race in preparation for a half marathon. The opportunity then came along through SRSB for Nicky to take part in the London Marathon. She had always watched the London Marathon on TV but never even dreamed that one day she would be running it herself. Craig really had boosted Nicky’s confidence and helped her to stop doubting herself and her abilities. She describes him as ‘the lovely Craig’. He guided her while she was running the marathon. Since doing the London Marathon Nicky has taken part in three more 10K races. 

She hasn’t always been an active person. Around ten years ago it came to a point in her life when she realised that she needed to do more exercise. She had been yo-yo dieting for years and had realised that she should work on her fitness. Her sight problems had always been a big barrier with this. Gyms can be very daunting places, especially when you are visually impaired. So she felt like there were a lot of things that she couldn’t do, or that would be too difficult. 

As well as running Nicky also enjoys tandem riding, walking and swimming. She also enjoys going to the cinema. 

She enjoys using the Ponds Forge gym in Sheffield because it is easy to get to and she has got to know the instructors quite well. I asked Nicky if more support was needed to help visually impaired people get into exercise and fitness. She told me that the support she got at Ponds Forge was very good, but other gyms and leisure centres vary a lot when it comes to understanding disabilities and offering the right support. Some are really good and some are awful. She said that it would be helpful if any existing VI gym members would make themselves available to show potential new gym users around and introduce them to people. This might help them to feel less alone and they would have somebody to chat to.
Nicky is unsure of her future in running as she is due to have surgery on her knee. She thinks that she will probably no longer be able to run, but she is staying positive and is going to take up tandem riding instead. 

She feels that she has gained a lot of confidence from doing the marathon, and she now believes that she can do anything if she puts her mind to it. She feels comfortable with leaving her life in somebody else’s hands and just having fun. 

On a personal note I heard Nicky’s story a few years ago on the news and she is the one that inspired me to take up trampolining again. I realised that if somebody who is visually impaired can run the London Marathon, then I have no excuse to not at least try trampolining. So thank you so much Nicky for sharing your story, inspiring me, and no doubt inspiring many others too. 

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Feeling Spiritual - Amy

If you have seen one of my other blog posts you will have seen that last year I started a yoga class at SRSB. Yoga has helped me quite a lot recently and I haven’t really realised how much until I sat and thought about it properly. 

For the past five years I have known that at some point in the future I would need an operation. They were delaying it as much as they possibly could because of my other health problems. They said it would be quite risky and I wasn’t really in any pain. So they said it wouldn’t be worth the risk. Last year my condition was getting a lot worse quite quickly. At first I was getting sharp pains every so often, but it was mostly just discomfort. I didn’t feel safe doing trampolining anymore, which I love, so I decided to try yoga. Slower movements and a lot less risk of me injuring myself. I had never really been interested in yoga, but I was definitely hooked. I really enjoyed it and became quite balanced and strong and confident with some of the poses. My condition then started to get worse and this problem was getting bigger and more painful. I still managed to do yoga but some things were quite painful. Laying down flat was one of them. At the beginning of each session we have a few minutes of mindfulness and meditation. We lay down flat on our mats and pay attention to our surroundings, how we feel, and how our body feels. In one session the teacher told us to draw attention to parts of our body that need a little love and attention. My tummy was hurting. So I sent all my positive energy to my tummy and focused on how it felt and what it needed. I knew that I was getting nearer and nearer having my operation. I was worried and scared and trying to imagine what lying like that would feel like after the operation. Then I started thinking, I might not even be here after the operation. But that wasn’t going to happen, I was stronger than all that. I couldn’t imagine not having any pain though. That was my last yoga session before I ended up in hospital. Three times, I always do things in threes! I was on very strong painkillers and I was definitely having my operation. I couldn’t sleep or get comfy at all. Pain is bearable when you are able to find a comfy position, so at least you get a bit of a break and are able to sleep. With this, there was no comfy position. So when I couldn’t sleep and I was trying to relax I used to think about what the yoga teacher would be saying to me. I was definitely mindful of the pain I was in, there was no doubt about that, but I tried to make sense of it all and meditate. I tried to take myself to a comfortable and happy place. 

The night before the operation I expected to be so nervous and scared and completely inconsolable.  But I wasn’t. I still couldn’t sleep because all of these things were going around in my head. I wasn’t too scared though. I was just awake. I didn’t really mind though. I didn’t want to go to sleep, because then I would wake up and it would be tomorrow. The day of the operation. I was quite happy as I was. I would get plenty of sleep tomorrow anyway. For years I had been thinking the worst about the operation and trying to prepare myself for something going wrong. It’s not that I didn’t trust the doctors, I didn’t trust my body. It has gone through a heck of a lot and I really didn’t know how much more it would take. The night before I was really surprised about how calm I was. After a bit I got bored and decided I should probably try and get some sleep. They were going to wake me up really early to get ready for the operation anyway. I was first on the list. I am diabetic and they said that diabetic people recover better when they have had their surgery in the morning. So I was first on the list, couldn’t decide whether that was a good thing or not. At least I wasn’t going to be waiting around all day. It took me ages to get to sleep, so again I tried a bit of mindfulness and meditation. We are all so busy getting on with our lives and we often don’t pay attention to what our bodies are saying. So in yoga they teach us to tune in to our bodies and think about how it feels, if anything hurts, if you have any aches or pains, your breathing, which parts of your body move when you breathe. Just taking a few minutes to listen to what our bodies are saying to us. That night, mine was saying “I hurt, and tomorrow I will hurt more, but I’ll be ok, because I’m strong and I have been through worse, and I’ll carry on being OK and I’ll get better”. 

I stayed really calm right until I went in to the anaesthetic room. They wanted to give me an epidural, and all of a sudden the operation didn’t seem so bad. It was the epidural I was scared of. The thought of it made me cringe, a lot. For anybody who doesn’t know what an epidural is, I would explain, but I can’t without cringing. So Google it, or ask somebody who is a Mum! 

The operation went really well. I would say it all went to plan but it didn’t, it went better than the plan.  It was planned that I would spend a few days in the High Dependency Unit and that I might need blood transfusions. I didn’t need any of that. I just spent a bit longer in recovery and then went back up to the ward. While I was in recovery I saw somebody who I went to school with. She works there and was looking after me. They say that you always look your worst when you see an ex or somebody from school. I definitely did that. Fresh from theatre, in loads of pain and fashioning a hospital gown and oxygen mask. Stylish! It was nice to see her though, chatting to her was a good distraction from the pain. They let my Mum and Dad in as well so I had them to distract me too. 

Other than when I first came out of theatre, I wasn’t in as much pain as I was before the operation.  It is crazy to think your own body can hurt you more than surgery. I was in a lot less pain than I expected. My Mum said that I had already been through the worst. I wouldn’t be in any more pain than I was before the operation, it might just feel different.  I didn’t believe her, but she was right. Don’t tell her I said that! It didn’t take long for me to feel better than I had done in months. 

Twelve weeks later I was back at yoga. It was hard because I hadn’t done it for so long. But it was so good to start moving again and doing something with my body. A few of the poses were actually easier, because my tummy had been sorted. I expected to maybe still be a bit tender and not be able to do some things just yet, but I could. I could do them better than before. At the beginning of the class we did the usual meditation. I was laid there thinking, it’s gone, it’s over, there is absolutely no pain in my tummy while I am laid here and it feels strange. But I like it!  Five years of worry have come to an end, I don’t know what to think about now that I haven’t got that to worry about. That took a lot of getting used to actually. 

Together my mind and body have worked as a team. Now I can get on with the rest of my life, each day getting stronger and feeling free again. 

A massive thank you to everybody who has looked after me so well at The Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield!

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Last Christmas at SRSB - Amy

Christmas at SRSB is always fun, with lots of things to do for clients, supporters and volunteers. I bet the staff have a bit of a party too! 
Last year was a pretty rubbish year for me health wise so I had to take quite a long time off from the blog. By Christmas I was just about ready to come back and see everyone again. So I decided to go to the volunteers party and to one of the Christmas lunches. I was really nervous before the volunteers party. It sounds a bit silly but it had been three months since I had last been to SRSB or seen anybody from SRSB.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go, but I knew I would enjoy it when I got there. It was just my brain confusing me with negative thoughts as usual. I always used to follow these thoughts because they say you should always go with your gut instinct. I have learnt over the years that my gut instinct seems to be faulty. So I do the opposite! I am better off for doing it that way. As I expected, my gut instinct was wrong. I did enjoy myself. There were friends, food, music, coffee and Christmas sparkle. What else could I possibly want? I got lots of hugs and people saying they were glad to see me back. That always means a great deal to me, feeling loved and wanted and missed if I’m not around. So I left the party feeling very happy and excited to start work again in the new year. SRSB is such a lovely, friendly place. I always leave feeling warm and happy. It is just one of those places that you walk in to and instantly you feel the love, you feel welcome and you feel at home. There aren’t many places where you get that feeling. Especially when you are visually impaired. You are never made to feel awkward or different. Sight loss is our way of living here, it’s how we function, it’s how we work, it’s what we are respected for and we are always made to feel normal. As if there is no different, as if the outside world doesn’t exist. 

When I came for Christmas lunch I arranged it well so that I could go in the same day as some of my friends. There is always a Christmas tree in reception and they have Gerry Kersey from BBC Radio Sheffield to come and switch on the lights. They make it an event every year and have a few songs and a bit of a get together. When you go through into the dining area the room looks huge with a very long table. It’s a bit noisy and scary at first but I got used to it. The table was set with Christmas table cloths and crackers and napkins. All very festive. The arts and crafts group had made some decorations for the walls. The meal was cooked and served by mostly volunteers. They will have had so much hard work to do even just on one day. There is a Christmas lunch every say for five days so they must have been exhausted. They did a brilliant job though.  They have a raffle on each day and I won so many prizes I felt really guilty about it. I offered some of my prizes to people but nobody would take them! I thought about sharing them with everyone in the office but the only one I could really share was the selection box and that was mine!  Sorry :-) I heard that the day before I went, some of the Sheffield Wednesday players visited SRSB, so you never know who you might bump in to. 

Being in such a friendly and festive environment really cheered me up. It felt like I hadn’t been away and I was really looking forward to starting volunteering again in the new year. 

Now I am back and can’t wait to hear from you and all about what you have been up to recently.  Please share it with us so we can use it on the blog.  Email us at  Alternatively you can speak to Jane or me, Amy, in the Mappin Street Centre.