18 empty products from June!

The make-up, skincare and haircare products that I used up in June, what I thought of them, and whether I would buy them again!

I’ve had some samples to try, and partly because I’m making a serious effort to finish things up that have been open for a while!

Don’t forget to leave me your empties blog or Youtube links in the comments! Also, I’d love to know if you’ve tried any of these products, and what you thought of them.

I have included the link to the Latest in Beauty site, but when I talk about products from there, the links are to Amazon, because you can’t buy individual products on Latest in Beauty.

Bath and shower

As a lover of all things pineapple, I tried the pineapple and lime bubble bath and shower gel from Faith in Nature. When I tried the chocolate one from this range, I was a bit disappointed that the scent disappeared very quickly, but this didn’t happen with the pineapple and lime. You get a decent covering of bubbles, and the zingy fragrance stays around for the duration of the bathtime! I liked this and would buy it again.

Hair care

In the May Lovelula box, we got two hair care minis from John Masters. As someone with very long, very thick hair, I do wish these hair samples could be a bit bigger, but I tried them both out. I like the fact that this is a natural brand, but I’m not too keen on the scents, so I probably wouldn’t buy these again unless I found other scents in the range. The shampoo was the lavender and rosemary shampoo, which was fine as a shampoo, but I didn’t really want my hair smelling of lavender. Fortunately the lavender scent didn’t stay around for long, and I blasted my hair with mango detangler after I’d finished. It was a similar story in terms of the citrus and neroli detangler. Some people were using this as a leave-in treatment, whereas others used it as a conditioner. I love citrus, but I don’t love neroli! It worked fine as a conditioner, but I wouldn’t buy it again.

I’m hard to please, aren’t I? The quest for the best shampoo and conditioner continues, and this month I tried the Schwarzkopf Gliss liquid silk shampoo and conditioner, mainly because I used to use Gliss conditioner as a teenager and loved it. However this wasn’t the same – the bottle wasn’t the same and it didn’t smell the same, which made me sad! I wasn’t that impressed with the way these products smell when you apply them, but I do love the silky, glossy finish, and because of that, I may buy them again. However, there are other things that I want to try first.

On the other hand, I can tell you that my Magnificent mango crazy hair tamer ran out and I already had another one waiting in a drawer! I love this stuff! It smells wonderfully of mangos, and helps me to get the tangles out of my long hair.

Skincare

I’ve already raved about the Skinfood sheet masks in my February favourites, and now I’ve discovered some more! I think the Tonymoly I’m real sheet masks are a little thinner than the Skinfood ones, so you have to be a bit more careful when putting them on, but I like the variety in the range of food bases such as pomegranate and rice masks. I am such a fan of sheet masks and if I’d known about them sooner, I’d have been into the whole face mask thing a lot earlier. I hate the idea of mud masks on my face, but this is something pleasant and relaxing, and there is no horrible mess to clear up afterwards!

I’ve mentioned them before, but I finished up the grapefruit face wipes from Yes To. I was happy enough with them, but I bought them before realising that the different lines were for different types of skin, and these weren’t the best ones for me. Still, I’d recommend them if you’re looking for something to even out your skin tone. I’ll probably go back to the cucumber ones.

One of the samples I picked up when I was still subscribed to Love Me Beauty was the Caudalie eye cream. I enjoyed using this. I don’t really suffer with dark circles, but it was pleasant and soothing on the skin, and not too thick and greasy , as some eye creams can be. I know this is not a cheap brand, but I don’t think I could justify the price of this, when there are other eye creams on the market that in my opinion do an equally good job.

You already know I’m not a fan of neroli, and as such I probably wouldn’t buy the PHB brightening hand cream again, but I have to say that I really liked the formula, which left my hands feeling super-soft for a long time after application. I was glad that Lovelula introduced me to this brand and I’m looking forward to trying new products from PHB. For best results, hold the container on its side and squirt down into the hand, otherwise it can squish out all over the front of the pot!

Staying on the subject of hands, I decided to try the 7th heaven nail and cuticle finger masks that were available on Latest in Beauty. I was not impressed with the first hand mask that I tried, but this one was much better, as there was no product on the outside. The product was only on the inside of the finger gloves, where you put your fingers. The masks come as two sets of 5 and are a bit like gloves, but they only cover your fingers, not your whole hand. I bite my cuticles if I’m stressed out, so this mask was a nice treat for them. I hadn’t seen anything like this before, but I would do it again.

I’m a definite Korres fan, and when a mini of the Bergamot and pear body milk came up on Latest in Beauty, I was eager to try it out. I wasn’t disappointed! I really like these body milks, especially when you want something a bit lighter for the summer, and the only reason I didn’t buy the full size is because there are other Korres ranges that I want to try out first!

Another of my skincare favourites is Sanctuary Spa, and I was pleased to see a mini of their luxurious body balm on Latest in Beauty. It contains cocoa and shea butter, with almond and vitamin E. I like it for night times to give your skin a moisturising pamper before going to bed. I would definitely buy this again, and I can’t stress enough how happy I am with Latest in Beauty, because it allows you to try mini versions of products so you don’t waste money buying full sizes if you don’t like them. Some of the products in the list are even full size.

Now to a moisturiser, and it’s the Vine(active) three in one moisturiser from Caudalie – anti-pollution and anti-wrinkle and brightening. I wanted to like it, and I did finish it up, but it managed to make my dry skin feel greasy, so I wouldn’t buy the full size.

I mentioned the Madara micellar water, back in February when I got it in my Lovelula box. In the past I’ve been a bit dismissive of micellar waters in favour of cleansers, but I really enjoyed using this and finished it all up when I was in France at the end of June. I haven’t replaced it yet because I got another one from a different brand in the meantime, but I would definitely buy this again.

Make-up

Something else that ran out at the end of my time in France was my L’Oréal Paris true match foundation – golden ivory. I do have another foundation on the go, but I like the L’Oréal formula more and will repurchase soon. Also, I can’t tell which shade would be best ffor my skin without help, which is another one why I pick one or two foundations and stick to them.

As I can’t see the brush, I don’t tend to try out lots of new mascaras. I need to learn the shape and length of it, so if I find one I like, I tend to stick to it. I already had a replacement for my L’Oréal million lashes for when it ran out. For me, the size and shape of the brush are as important as the formula, and this one ticks all my boxes!

I didn’t actually finish this product, but I disliked it so much that I didn’t even try to find a new home for it! I’m not really a fan of liquid lipstick, but when one turned up in my Lovelula box, I was willing to give it a go. To be fair, I have seen good reviews on blogs and Youtube for the Bellapierre kissproof lip crème, but I thought the whole experience of applying and wearing it was nasty! It was so sticky, and it didn’t dry down. It’s the kind of thing you would give as a gift to someone who never stops talking in the hope that it will stick their lips together. I don’t enjoy having my lips stuck together, and I’ve seen a couple of Youtube live demos where people had the same problem.

As this was my first experience of liquid lipsticks, I even bought another liquid lipstick from another, cheaper brand, and I was glad to discover that they aren’t all like that! Still, I won’t be using up the Bellapierre one.

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This post contains some affiliate links. All views, either good or bad, are my own honest opinions!

Get to know Kirsty – guest post on the Beafreee blog!

Do you know the Beafreee blog? If not, why not go and check it out?!

At the moment, Bea from Beafreee is running a “get to know” series of interview posts, and this week she interviewed me. You can read the post here.

Have a great day everyone!

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Picture of Kirsty

Our visit to the Ice Bar in Amsterdam

Our visit to the ice bar in Amsterdam – how it felt and my cool four-legged friends!

There is an ice bar in London and years ago I had intended to go there with some friends, but I had to pull out at the last minute.

When I was looking for things for us to do in Amsterdam, I discovered that there was an ice bar there too, so I added the Xtracold Ice Bar to my list of suggestions!

We went at the beginning of December, so we were already dressed quite warmly, but you also have to wear a special jacket and gloves when you go inside to make sure that you don’t get too cold because it’s minus 10 degrees in there!

Inside the bar, everything is made of ice – the walls, the bar, the furniture and some “cool” sculptures!

I think my favourite part was the polar bear ice statues, which had been carved out of blocks of ice. I liked the fact that they were tactile and you could feel the details of the head, ears, muzzle and big paws! I even took my glove off to feel how smooth he was, and I was very happy that my hand didn’t stick to him!

The bar is based on the experience of Dutch explorer Willem Barrentsz, who was stranded on the island Nova Zembla in the Arctic for 9 months.

In the ice bar, you can get either vodka and orange or just orange (I had just orange juice because I don’t like vodka), and it comes in glasses that are made of ice. They are very thick, presumably so they don’t melt, and it’s a funny sensation to be drinking out of ice glasses!

There is another bar outside the “freezer” and your ticket entitles you to a beer or a cocktail there as well. We had cocktails, which were very good!

I try to look for things to do that have some kind of sensory experience, and sitting in a bar at minus 10 degrees definitely ticked this box. You stay there for a limited time so you don’t get too cold, and to keep the flow of people moving. It’s a fun thing to do and I would recommend it to anyone else who wants to brave the cold! Having said that, it is cold, but not uncomfortably so. I felt worse when I locked myself out of the house in the middle of winter and had to wait in the snow for a friend to come and rescue me! So although it’s cold, the experience is more about appreciating the room made of ice.

Other Amsterdam posts

If you’d like to find out what else we did in Amsterdam, I’ve also written about the cheese tasting event that we attended, and our visit to Anne Frank’s house.

How about you?

Have you been to an ice bar? What did you think of it? Do you have any other tips for us for when we go back to Amsterdam?

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Baths, mocktails for the skin, and some citrus sents

Why I have been enjoying baths and caterpillar cakes, and the beauty and skincare products that I’ve been enjoying this month!

These are the things that I’ve been enjoying this month. Have you tried any of these products? Do you like any similar products that you think I should try? Let me know in the comments!

Bath and shower

This first favourite isn’t a product, but it’s always the way – if someone tells you that you can’t have something, you just want it all the more! I wasn’t allowed to have a bath for a couple of weeks at the beginning of the month because I’d had a hospital operation and the wound needed to heal. But when I was allowed to have them again, I appreciated them all the more! I know some people always just hop in the shower, but there is something luxurious about a long, relaxing bath. They really help me to unwind!

I was very excited to discover that the Body Shop has brought out two product lines for the summer. Actually I think they’ve brought them back, but this is the first time I’ve tried them out. The pinita colada line is a fresh and fruity set of products that smell like holidays – pineapple and coconut! It reminds me of drinking pina coladas in Cuba and is definitely a summer scent. I got the shower gel and body sorbet, which is a more lightweight body lotion, perfect for the summer. I also got the shower gel in the virgin mojito range, which is lime and mint. I preferred the pineapple, but both of them are good!

You can look for these products on the Body shop site or, if anyone is interested in buying from a Body Shop at Home consultant, I recommend Heidi’s Facebook group. However, I am a bit late with this review, and due to their popularity, these products have been selling out fast. So if it’s too late, watch out for them next year – I know I will be!

Hair care

I’ve already talked about one Avon hair mask in a previous favourites post. This month I discovered the Avon hair treatment mask with grapefruit, passion fruit, and vitamins, which is said to give hair shine and radiance. I have very thick, long hair. It’s not damaged, but I like to give it some love in the form of a mask a couple of times a month, because who doesn’t want some extra shine and radiance? And of course, it’s got grapefruit in it, so it must be good. I was really happy with this mask and would definitely get it again.

Make-up

As someone who can’t see the colours or read the packaging on my make-up, I like to have lipsticks and eye shadows from different brands, so they’re easier to tell apart. This means I get to try out different brands, and I can quickly identify things by their packaging. Now that my collection is getting bigger, I am starting to need to label some things with Braille or markings on the packaging, but some brands have very distinctive lipstick cases and I know them straight away.

My Rimmel the only one, you’re all mine lipstick has the word Rimmel in embossed letters on it and I like its creamy formula. When I discovered the moisture renew sheer and shine range from the same brand, I decided to try one of those too, so I picked Red-y set go. People have said good things about the colour on me, and I like the formula.

I also got the Wet n Wild raunchy red lipstick because I wanted to try out something from Wet n Wild. I don’t like it as much as the Rimmel one, but I’m still glad that I got it and it’s a good low-cost addition to the collection.

Food and drink

Totally unhealthy, but totally cute! When my mum came to visit me after the operation, she brought, among other things, some mini caterpillar cakes from M&S! I can’t find them online, but seriously you should try them if you haven’t already. Like a mini roll, but with more chocolate and a little caterpillar face! Who remembers the very hungry caterpillar from primary school?!

Perfume

I have decided not to do unboxings for Latest in Beauty and Lovelula, but each month I’m going to pick out my favourite product from each one and talk about the rest in my empties or other posts. My favourite from my Latest in Beauty build your own subscription box was Thé Vert & Bigarade from L’Occitane. This is how the fragrance is described on the website, seeing as I’m not the best at describing scents: “A lively encounter of aromatic and citrusy freshness. Sparking citrus notes burst forth in an accord of sweet and bitter orange while hints of green tea and yerba maté give a softening touch before the aromatic base.”

I think I like it because of the citrus scent. I hadn’t tried any perfumes from this brand before and I love the way that Latest in Beauty gives me the chance to try out new brands and types of products.

Skincare

This was a case of “Twitter made me buy it!” I was reading an article about lip products when I found out about the Lanolips banana lip balm. It’s not the cheapest balm on the market, but it is packed with banana extract, shea butter, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep the lips smooth and healthy-looking. It’s a very rich, creamy formula and although it doesn’t say so on the packet, I like to use it at bedtime so it can soak in whilst I’m sleeping.

I watch a lot of unboxings on Youtube. Not really so that I can sign up for all the boxes, but so that I can find out about what’s out there in terms of things I’d like to try. Staying with the lip care theme, I found out about the Baby Lips sweet apple lip care from Maybelline. It is marketed as a winter product, and I think the spicy apple scent is more of a winter thing, but I found out about it in June and didn’t want them to sell out. I like the texture and the scent, but maybe this is something that I’ll get out again in a few months when the nights are getting colder!

My favourite product from Lovelula this month was the daily defence cream from Madara. This seems to be something for protection from the winter weather too, but it can be used anywhere where you have dry skin and something in it smells good enough to eat. It’s a rich, moisturising cream and contains ingredients that I’ve never heard of before such as northern cloudberry and sea buckthorn, which soothe, hydrate and restore the skin in cold or dry weather. I use it anywhere on my hands and body that feels dry.

I mentioned my Sanctuary Spa lemon and orange blossom hand cream a while ago because it was a Christmas present. I had to finish up some other hand creams first, but I’ve really been enjoying this. It’s fairly lightweight, so you don’t have to wait for ever for it to sink in, which means it’s a good one to have out when you don’t have time for a full hand ritual! I love the citrus scent – I haven’t yet smelled anything from the Sanctuary that I don’t like – and my hands are softer too!

What have you been enjoying this month?

Be sure to let me know about your June favourites in the comments, whether that’s a few lines, a link to a blog post or a Youtube video! I’m nosey and I love to hear about new products, or just things that I haven’t tried before.

If you’d like to read about my June Empties, you can find them here.

I’ve got a few things planned for July, such as a skincare post for coffee lovers, the story of my friend Holly the Labrador, and an interview post about a different kind of holiday experience. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog, or sign up for my emails if you’d like to read any of these posts.

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This post contains affiliate links, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Seeing ourselves as others see us

My interview with Brendan Magill on his workshop to help blind and partially sighted people think about how they present themselves and how these choices affect the way that others see them.

Seeing yourself as others see you

Introduction

As a child, I wasn’t really interested in make-up and dressing up nicely, but I remember having a big basket of things for the bath and little bottles of perfume (my Nan was an Avon lady!)

When I went to High School, things began to change, and I became more interested in what I wore. I had my first venture into make-up and changed my hairstyle dramatically, which was a disaster, but at least I learned what I really didn’t like and could grow it out again!

I’ve always had friends and family who would give me honest feedback about how I look. My boyfriend knows that if I ask “does this look ok?” I’m looking for an honest answer before we leave the house! But what about blind people who don’t have anyone to give this feedback or who genuinely don’t care how they look? How can they get feedback if they want it, and what impact can not caring about their appearance have on them?

I know Brendan Magill because he runs a number of mailing lists for visually impaired people. The one most relevant to me is UKVISE, the list for self-employed visually impaired people.

When I discovered that Brendan had designed a workshop to help blind and partially sighted people understand more about how to present themselves at interviews and in the workplace, I decided to find out more about it. Why did he think this training was necessary? What mistakes had he seen people making?

I did a telephone interview with Brendan and this is what he told me.

1. How important is your own physical appearance and presentation to you as someone with a visual impairment?

I have congenital cataracts, but I’ve always had a useful amount of residual vision. My brother has the same condition and my dad was partially sighted. He could see more than us, but he always presented himself very well.

I can still hear my mum saying things like “head up, chest out, tummy in!” That was just what we did.

As my sight has been getting worse, I have come to understand why a lot of blind people don’t hold their head up high. There’s nothing to focus on. But still, it does look better if you sit up straight, with your head up, and face the person that you’re talking to. Not doing this draws attention to yourself in a negative way, because people wonder why your posture and body language are not the same as those around you.

I never thought about why I do some of these things. I just did them. I turned myself out well.

I went to New College Worcester. Whilst we weren’t pushed very hard to present ourselves well, we got involved in activities locally such as a youth club or dance classes. That was good for us because it helped us to become more social in the wider world, even though we were going to a special school for blind people.

When I got my first job, the first thing my dad did was to take me out to buy some new clothes for work so that I could look my best.

2. Why did you decide to create training to help visually impaired people to present themselves appropriately at work?

Throughout the following few decades I was always decently turned out when I went to work or into town. The result of this was that I seemed to get on very well in the community and people treated me well. I didn’t realise how much of that was happening until much later on when I started doing some IT training at RNC. I hadn’t thought about personal presentation much before then. I was teaching a group of students of various ages. I thought “some of these guys are actually quite scruffy! They won’t get a job looking like that.”

I was teaching them IT, but I said on certain days they had to come dressed as though they were coming to work. Some did and some didn’t.

One guy was in his 40s and he’d been losing his sight for a while. He used to come looking scruffy with a shirt he’d been wearing for a few days and a scruffy jacket. He needed a shower.

I took him into the office and had a chat with him about how he could spruce up his clothes. The following week was an improvement.

A few weeks later he finished his course and came back for speech day. He came to see me and was looking much better. Not only that but he’d got a job.

He probably did know that he wasn’t looking his best, but I think he hadn’t thought about it and how this would affect how other people thought of him.

The other one was harder. It was a girl in her early 20s, fortunately the same age as my own daughters. She used to come in to class dressed as though she were going clubbing with very revealing tops. She would do this even on days when she was supposed to be dressed for work.

I pointed out how revealing the top was. “If I could see more than I can, I would be able to see more than I should. You might want to dress like that on a night out with your friends, but it’s not the way to dress for work or college.”

After that conversation, I really needed to mention it to another member of staff. I talked to one of the female members of staff who was interested in the way people dress and present themselves. She was running a make-up session and said she’d include some tips about how you dress as well.

On speech day, the same girl came to me. She still looked gorgeous, but this time she looked presentable as well. She got a job too.

Those two experiences got me interested in the way people who are visually impaired are turned out. I started thinking about my own experiences, and watching what the blind and partially sighted people around me were doing. That’s when I got the idea for the workshop – seeing ourselves as others see us. This was nearly 20 years ago. I got a lot of advice from the female members of staff, particularly for the girls. I ran the workshop a few times for different organisations. I haven’t run it for a long time now, but I think it’s something that is very important.

It’s all about understanding that you can’t be totally free in the way that you present yourself. You need to fit in with the workplace as it is. If you can’t see how other people are dressing, you might not know what’s appropriate.

When you’re in work, you make friends with people. Blind people shouldn’t be afraid to ask their colleagues what they wear. But first you need the colleagues, and you won’t have those if you don’t pass the interview stage because of the way you look.

3. What would you say are some of the consequences of getting it wrong, and how can inappropriate personal presentation reduce someone’s chance of passing an interview or being fully integrated into the workplace?

If you turn up at an interview and are not presentable, you probably won’t get the job. Personal presentation is so important, particularly in jobs where you have contact with the public.

Regardless of your skills and experience, the interviewer might think “we don’t want someone like that turning up for work.”

If you’re already in employment, It makes you more segregated and you get known for the problem or unusual fashion choices, not for what you bring to the team.

Even if you know what’s appropriate, if you can’t see for yourself, you may need to get advice about what colours and styles can be worn together.

4. In general, have you found that sighted colleagues mention when something does not look appropriate or something is not right?

Most colleagues would be unlikely to tell you. Maybe it’s easier for girls, but first you have to build up trust and a good working relationship with them so that they feel comfortable about pointing things out.
There is a fear that things can be taken the wrong way. Sometimes colleagues don’t like to tell you about things that don’t look good because they don’t like to think they’re criticising someone with a disability. Also, they might not be sure how the blind person will react? Sometimes they even think that blind people don’t care. Sometime they’re right about that.

5. Why do you think that some blind and partially sighted people don’t have access to information about presenting themselves in the best possible way?

I think a lot of it is to do with political correctness. It’s seen to be wrong to criticise disabled people.

Families sometimes don’t know how to deal with it, or they don’t want to address uncomfortable issues.

6. What tips would you give someone who finds it difficult to go shopping for clothes on their own?

Start off by asking your family and sighted friends for help and advice. We need those sort of friends who can give us honest advice, and taking part in mainstream activities is a way to meet sighted people. Find a hobby or an activity that you can share with other people and explain to them what you need, rather than expecting them to know about blindness-related issues.

Sometimes the staff in shops can be really helpful, but the level of help available varies a lot between shops, and it’s hard to tell someone that they really don’t look good, which is why some shop assistants may be reluctant to do this. An honest friend or family member may feel more comfortable suggesting that you try something else.

Also, if you ask for the truth about how you look and the comment isn’t totally positive, take it on the chin and don’t be overly sensitive.

7. Do you ever get questions about make-up? How do you deal with those?

Very rarely. I used to refer them to my wife or my granddaughter. If you don’t know something, it’s better to say “I don’t know about that but I know someone who does.”

8. Where can we find out more about your work?

You can go to my website.

Final thoughts

So, you know that on English with Kirsty I talk a lot about various beauty products. I’m not saying that everyone should take the same interest in make-up etc as I do, not being able to see is not an excuse to not care about how you look because even if you can’t see yourself, the people around you can still see you.

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My friend Cindy – the golden guiding girl

Four paws, 10 happy years together, and a big, waggy tail. I’d like to tell you about my friend Cindy the golden retriever!

I’d like to tell you about my friend. She isn’t around any more, but you can see her picture on both of my websites. Many of my friends met her, but for anyone who hasn’t, this is the story of Cindy, my golden guiding girl.

If you asked me about my favourite dog breed, I’d tell you it’s the golden retriever. This is because I spent 9 happy years with one – firstly as my guide dog, and then as a friend and companion because she stayed with me when she was too old to work.

Cindy was not my first guide dog. The first one was a crazy Labrador who had some behavioural issues and after a year it was decided that she was not suitable to guide. She retired early and became a family pet. I knew I could make it work with a guide dog. I saw how much happiness and freedom they brought to other visually impaired friends. I have loved dogs since I was a small child. We always had them when I was growing up because my grandparents loved dogs as well.

When I was 4, we got a new dog, who was also called Cindy. I grew up with her, and she was my childhood friend. When I was 5, I thought she was smart enough to learn to read. “Wag your tail if this word says cat”! That didn’t work out so well, but she was a smart girl and we had a lot of fun together, in our garden, on holiday, on walks, or just chilling out. The first Cindy died when I was 15.

Cindy the retriever bounced into my life when I was in my early twenties. You don’t get to choose the name of a guide dog, so it felt quite special that this girl shared her name with my childhood friend. Each litter of puppies is given names beginning with the same letter – so all of Cindy’s brothers and sisters had names beginning with C.

We trained out of a hotel in Greenwich, London, which meant that we were close to a nice big park for walks after the training sessions.

During the next years, we did everything together! Cindy sat under my desk in my various offices, helped me to negotiate two of my least favourite obstacles on London streets – roadworks, because they are never in the same place twice and completely change the landscape that was otherwise so familiar to us, and tourists, because many of them are so intent on taking their pictures and completely oblivious to the fact that there are other people on the streets who might actually need to get somewhere, such as to work!

I had a lot of dog-loving friends, many of whom worked long hours, so they couldn’t have a dog of their own. We all went for long walks together, mostly in the Surrey countryside, and sometimes we went for long weekends to visit a friend on the Isle of Wight, where the golden girl could swim in the sea.

This is something I wrote on her 4th birthday and it sums up a lot of the happy memories we had together:

Four years – where have they gone?

The golden wagging bundle of fun
Who bounded in to my house one day in November In preparation for our December class.

Something about you got my attention
Your love for life and sense of fun
Your ability to keep calm and wag whatever happens.
I loved the golden puppy girl straight away!

I’d been so disappointed with a failed match
Willing to put my trust in a new guide But feeling under ridiculous pressure to make it work.
Pressure of my own making – but still it was there.

Class was fun in the training centre.
We learned together.

A few months in, you were naughty
Not wanting to walk past the vets
Because you’d been in there for ear treatment.
Not wanting to go home
If you didn’t think our walk had been long enough!

But somehow along the way things fell in to place And we became a team, and good friends.
I think we’d always been friends
But were just getting to know each other.
You learned I don’t like mornings
I learned you love to run and chase after sticks And bark at them if they are too big!
You love to sing and do headstands when you’re happy
And can pick up if I’m annoyed or upset,
Coming over to make sure I’m ok,
Laying your head on my lap And not leaving till you’ve made me smile.

So many happy memories
Chasing in the park after your ball
Diving in to the forbidden muddy pond
When we were supposed to be going out for lunch.

I was so proud when we did our first walks together
And you remembered the places we’d been before.
You soon got the name Singing Cindy
Because of your happy songs!

We explored our new area together
When we moved house, under a year after we met.
Would you find our door again? Would we get lost?
Only once did you try to have me break in to another house with my key
But that was months in to our time there and I wasn’t paying attention!

The time when you were so ill after eating a firework
I was so worried because you couldn’t breathe.
Rushing you to the vets to get you cared for.

Then moving jobs to a brand new office and company
You looking out for men as you always do Unaware of their place on the talent scale!

How many secrets do you know about me?
It’s a good thing you can’t talk!!

I was so proud as you took in each new place with ease
Learning routes and following other dogs without going crazy!

It’s fun to see you out on walks
Loving the feeling of freedom
Running like a crazy horse
And carrying logs twice your size!
Rolling in the dry grass
And telling off any log which is too big for you to carry!

With you I can stroll around town confidently!
Not feeling clumsy or dependent,
But travelling quickly and freely because I know you’re looking out for things in our way.

The time that the knife-wielding men fled at the sight of you
After trying to terrorise the train carriage.
Meanwhile you were sleeping – oblivious to the whole thing!
The time we accidentally got on the TV news,
Because I thought the live reporters outside our building were a bunch of tourists
And urged you forward so we could go inside!

How many people say how beautiful you are
And want to stroke that golden head!
Sometimes it’s annoying
But I’m proud to know you’re so stunning

Sometimes people try to deny you access
And that makes me really angry.
I’ll take on the argument, and usually win
But how embarrassing and degrading is that?
We just want to have a meal or a drink with friends in peace
And don’t always have the energy to make people aware of the law.

We’ve done so much together!
The long trips we’ve taken
The new people we’ve met.
Apart from your tendency to want to be everyone’s best friend
I know I can take you anywhere And that you will behave impeccably.

And the Cindy hugs,
When you jump up on your back legs And give me a hug.

And the times when it’s all got too much
And you let me cry in to that silky fur!
Staying with me, no words necessary!

I asked for a speedy dog, and I got one
Happy to trot along when I’m late
Quickly but carefully!
Trying to stop at the taxi rank
To see if I’ll pay for a ride home
And in doing so give you the evening off!

We’ve had so much fun over the last four years
And I look forward to the next years together with you My golden guiding girl.

Well, We had more than four more years together after that. As Cindy grew older, she had a number of health issues and we later discovered it was pancreatitis. This meant various types of medication before and with her food, and that I had to be so careful that she didn’t get anything other than the special prescribed diet. Otherwise she could get very sick.

This became easier when I changed my job and set up my own business. No more 3 hour commutes into London! That was wonderful and although we’d both had good times with our colleagues in London, in the end we were glad not to have to travel any more.

I was so relieved when I got permission to keep Cindy when she retired. This doesn’t happen automatically and if you can’t find an approved home for your guide dog, the Guide Dogs Association will rehome your dog, but the new owners are not obliged to stay in touch with the original guide dog owner. After we’d been through so much together, I could not imagine anyone else looking after her but me. After all, we’d worked together as a team for so many years. She’d looked out for me, and I wanted to do the same for her in her old age.

It all worked out well in the end. I worked from home, and Cindy stayed with me. At first I thought about applying for a new guide dog straight away, but then I moved house again and decided that I didn’t want to put Cindy through the stress of having a young dog bouncing around.

When Cindy was 12, she developed a tumour. At first nothing happened, but then it began to spread quickly. I had to make the hardest decision that any animal owner has to make, but I didn’t want her to suffer, or to keep her alive just because I couldn’t bear to say goodbye. The vet came to our house to make it less traumatic and Cindy fell asleep for the last time in my arms.

I don’t plan to get another guide dog at the moment and this is not the place to ask about that. This post is to celebrate my friendship with a wonderful golden retriever who brought so much happiness to my life. She wasn’t perfect – anyone who has lived with a golden retriever knows just how stubborn they can be – but I certainly wasn’t perfect either, and that’s what makes a friendship real.

If you’ve written a post about your dog, please drop the link in the comments. I would love to read it!

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Anne Frank’s house

I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was about 13 years old. I was old enough to understand the seriousness of the story, but it was only when, around 20 years later, I stood in the rooms where Anne and her family, plus four other people, had gone into hiding during the Second World War, that I began to get a glimpse of how cramped and terrifying life must have been for them.

If you want to go to Anne Frank’s house during a visit to Amsterdam, you really have to book in advance because the tickets sell out very quickly.

My partner and I went there in May. There are audio devices that you can borrow, which are activated when you are in the correct area. This meant that my boyfriend had to take me to the activation points, but I didn’t need to do anything to the device to make it work. The explanations and diary extracts were available in a number of languages. There is also information to read and there are some artifacts to look at in the various rooms.

It’s a self-guided tour and you are let in in groups so that the building doesn’t become too full. My partner guided me around. It’s fine for a relatively fit blind person, but anyone with restricted mobility may find the steep steps difficult. Throughout the tour, there is information about the life of the Frank family before, during and after their time in hiding, and part of the story is told through extracts from Anne’s diary, which range from descriptions of everyday happenings, to her deepest thoughts, hopes and fears.

Anne Frank was born in Germany, where she lived with her parents and older sister Margot until 1933, when the family moved to the Netherlands, following concerns about Hitler’s rise to power. They felt safe there for a short time, but the sense of freedom was short-lived because Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and life became increasingly difficult for Jewish people there too.

One of the things that struck me was that the family didn’t suddenly find themselves in a situation where they needed a place to hide. Things were getting progressively worse. Anne listed a number of things in one of her earlier diary entries such as Jewish people weren’t allowed to ride the tram, use swimming pools, be outside after a certain time, visit the houses of non-Jewish people etc. So it was a creeping misery. Maybe, in the beginning, some people thought it would never end in a situation where people were fleeing for their lives or looking for somewhere to hide. But it did. If you don’t stand up to bullies, unfairness, or smaller injustices, they gain power and momentum until people really are powerless to stop them. I think there’s a lesson in there for us, too.

When Anne’s older sister Margot was called up to be sent to a German labour camp, Otto Frank, Anne’s dad, and the only survivor of the eight people who went into hiding together, decided to take his family into hiding with the help of his employees.

I am someone who needs time alone. Not time away from my partner, but time away from lots of people in general. If I don’t get it, I can become grumpy. And yet day after day, these 8 people were in that small series of rooms, with nowhere to go. No opportunities to go outside for a walk. Nowhere to get away.

Not only that, but they had to entrust their survival to complete strangers. I don’t just mean the people who were keeping them alive by bringing provisions, but they had to trust each other. No flushing the toilet during the daytime. No loud noises. NO accidentally letting a door slam shut. No dropping things on the floor. What about in the summertime if people got hay fever? No sneezing! Doing any of these things could have resulted in them all being found and captured. Trusting family members and complete strangers with your life like that must have been really hard on the nerves.

The family of four, plus four other people, hid in this small series of rooms behind a slidable bookcase for two years, until they were discovered on 4th August 1944. It is not known how they were discovered or if someone betrayed them. They were first deported to a transit camp and then sent on to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Anne later died of typhus in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.

Anne wanted her diary to be published after the war, and in 1947, her father made sure that this wish came true. Now it has been translated into more than 60 languages and has been read by children and adults all over the world.

As we came out, we were immediately back in the world of parties and happy people having fun. The loud hustle and bustle of a city full of people enjoying themselves. Such a stark contrast to the place that we had just left behind. It made me want to go out and enjoy life because life is so precious, whilst at the same time not forgetting what we had just witnessed. How persecution of people based on race or religious belief can lead to such misery and cruel loss of life.

I haven’t tried this because it is a visual presentation, but you can apparently move around a 3d presentation of the house here.

Have you read the diary of Anne Frank?

Amsterdam

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do there?

Click on the link if you want to find out about the cheese tasting event that we attended in Amsterdam on a previous visit.

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ested this because it’s a visual presentation, but apparently you can look inside the Anne Frank house on this page