Holiday with a difference – 3 sighted guides tell their stories

Three of my friends talk about their experiences as guides on Traveleyes holidays for blind and sighted people who want to travel the world!

Holiday with a difference – 3 sighted guides tell their stories

This is quite a long post today, but once I’d done the research, I didn’t want to leave anything out!
I met Helen from New Zealand, Jane from the UK, and Clara from the US on holidays that I booked through Traveleyes, a holiday company that organises holidays for blind and sighted travellers. The sighted travellers pay a discounted price, and in return they act as guides for the blind travellers.
The holidays gave me the chance to explore new places and meant that I didn’t have to rely on my family and friends wanting to go to the same places as me!
I met Jane on my first ever Traveleyes holiday to Spain, and we stayed in touch, meeting up a couple of times after the holiday for theatre visits and a trip to London.
I met Clara and Helen on a trip to Kas in Turkey. You can see a picture of one of my adventures with Helen as the header image on this post. We went shopping together and mastered some difficult terrain on a hike, which included crossing an old aqueduct with very big drops on either side!
Clara is pictured below and I too remember the race she described. We laughed so much that day! I’d decided that overtaking on the inside was not allowed!
I asked Jane, Clara and Helen 10 questions. Here are their answers:

1. How did you hear about opportunities to be a sighted guide on holidays for visually impaired people?

What made you decide to go on one?
Jane: in the mid-2000s, I was listening to Radio 4’s ‘In Touch’ programme one evening and heard an interview with someone who had recently set up a company providing holidays for people with sight impairment. My circumstances had changed some time before I heard the broadcast, meaning that I would be going on future holidays by myself. Being a sighted guide on a holiday for people with impaired vision seemed like a good way of going on holiday by myself but not being alone. I knew that I would be involved with what was going on and would not be left out or feel isolated.
Clara: I heard about Traveleyes from reading a travel article (I honestly can’t remember which one) and thought it would be an excellent way to go someplace new that I didn’t feel comfortable going to by myself. After reading the Traveleyes website I was sold! I felt like it would help me see destinations in a different and more detailed way and I felt like it would be a great way to meet new people.
Helen: I found Traveleyes through a link on a travel website (can’t remember which one). I was looking to have a week somewhere not too far from the UK. I am from New Zealand and was planning a trip to see my son and his family and was going to be there for a month. It is probably not every girl’s dream to have her mother in law staying for a month so I thought a week somewhere else was probably a good idea! I was immediately struck by the brilliance of the concept and signed up for a trip to Turkey which I had always wanted to visit.

2. What are some of the places that you have visited on this type of holiday?

Helen: I have been to Fes in Turkey, Sorrento in Italy, and most recently to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. In a few weeks I will join Traveleyes for a trip to Iceland for a week.
Jane: I have been on four holidays with the same company. I went to Andalucia, Crete, Rhodes and Sicily.
Clara: I went to Turkey, and did a horse-riding trip in Berkshire with Traveleyes.

3. Has the experience taught you anything about the way that you appreciate the world around you?

Clara: I learned that there is a lot more in our environments than what we first see. When traveling with someone who is visually impaired, I found myself wanting to see every detail so I could describe whatever my traveling companion was interested in. This meant I experienced the environment around me much more intensely.
Helen: I’m sure that I have experienced these places in a different and more in depth way while being a sighted guide than I would have if I had been travelling on my own or even with another sighted person. When you have to tell someone what you are looking at you really have to think about it, and take into account what they might be interested in.
I have also relatively recently taken up painting and this gives me an added dimension to the sights as I am always thinking about how I could paint something. Of course travelling is not only about seeing places or things, but experiencing them in many ways.
The trips are planned to give a wide variety of experiences and Traveleyes is good at taking into account the sighted guides as well as the Vis (visually impaired people).
Jane: when I was describing the surroundings to someone who had a sight impairment, I tried to include all the details that might interest them. The times that were the most absorbing were those when the other person and I were both particularly enthusiastic about what we were looking at.

4. Did you find that different blind people were interested in different information?

Helen: because you change partners each day you will also be changing the way you are describing things and having different conversations with each person. Blind people, just like everyone else, are individuals and have different interests, tastes, experiences and backgrounds. I remember a shopping trip with one woman who loved jewellery and another day with a guy who was really interested in the local food. I was happy with both those interests!
It’s great when there is an opportunity for tactile interaction – whether it is with something organic like plants or animals or even rocks, or something man-made such as statues, jewellery or ceramics. Swimming in hot pools or the warm ocean is another great thing for VIs – nothing to trip over!
There is also always plenty of time just for chat with your partner – about your life and theirs – interests, family, work etc just as with anyone you have just met and will be spending time with.
Jane: when I was on holiday in Crete, one person was really interested in an archaeological site and so was I. Someone else just wanted to go shopping. One young woman told me that I was talking too much, so we agreed that I would limit the information to details about where there were steps – up or down – and uneven ground.
Clara: I learned to ask my traveling companion what they would like described to them and what they wanted to experience when we were first paired together. Some of my companions had sight at some point in their life, so they might know what certain things (objects, colours, animals, etc.) looked like. Others were born blind so everything had to be described in terms they did understand. And some companions had limited sight. A lot of questions were asked. Overall, every traveling companion wanted to know and learn about something different. The majority of my traveling companions didn’t really care about colour. I had traveling companions who wanted to touch things to feel the shapes and textures. Some companions were more interested in the local food. Some were more interested in talking with the local residents.

5. Did you have any worries or concerns before you went on your first holiday?

Jane: I was concerned about not being good enough at guiding people but I seemed to manage just as well as the other guides. In addition, I worried about not fitting in; however, that worry was also ill-founded and I made friends on the holidays and am still in touch with some of them.
Clara: I had no idea what I was getting into other than what I had read on the Traveleyes website. I was definitely nervous that I wouldn’t be a good guide. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to describe things correctly, or that I wouldn’t warn my companion about a step and that they would trip and fall. It turned out that I really shouldn’t have worried at all. As soon as I met my traveling companions I found that all my concerns disappeared.
Helen: I was a little nervous that I would get things wrong, but when I met the first group at the airport, Amar (the owner and founder of Traveleyes), took me through the simple guiding procedures and I quite quickly got comfortable with it. Of course there are slight adjustments to be made with each partner, but with goodwill on both sides it is pretty quickly sorted out.

6. Have you had any funny guiding experiences that you could tell us about?

Helen: on one particular day in Fes I remember going for a walk with a guy and commenting on things along the way. When it came time to return to the town centre I got confused as to where we were but he was able to guide me! He had to rely on his memory and was used to navigating that way – I wasn’t.
Later that same day I was so concerned with watching where we were walking – the ground was uneven and I remember we were walking along the front of some shops and had to step down to the street. This guy was pretty tall and I forgot to look up so he banged his head on the eaves which were quite low. He forgave me later after I bought him a beer!
In Ecuador a very helpful waiter handed one of our group a braille menu. Our VI said he was very grateful, but did they by chance have one in English braille! Unfortunately they didn’t.
Clara: One of my favourite memories was running with Kirsty! Honestly, I couldn’t believe that she trusted me enough to win the race! Another favourite memory is horseback riding. I was helping my companion navigate through some trees and looking behind me, and in the process I ran straight into a branch myself! I definitely felt silly!
Jane: I guided one lady back to her room at the end of one day out and left her at her front door, searching for her key. Unfortunately, I had taken her to someone else’s front door and had left her before she realised she was in the wrong place. Luckily, she managed to find her way back to her own room – and I always check that the person is in the right place before I leave him or her.

7. What are some differences in the type and amount of assistance that people need?

Clara: Something I learned on my first trip was that every companion liked to be guided differently. Some liked holding hands, others liked holding onto a shoulder, others my bag, and others liked holding onto my elbow. Honestly, I didn’t really feel like I was assisting, but more like I was just hanging out with friends or experiencing something new with friends.
Jane: some people hardly needed any assistance at all. Maybe they just wanted to be able to walk by my side and to be told, ‘step down’, ‘kerb up’, ‘tree roots’, ‘uneven ground’. Other people would hold my arm, so that they could be guided. I would give them the ‘step down’, ‘kerb up’ commentary, if they wanted it. The important thing is to ask what assistance people need. On one occasion, I shared a room with one friend who has no sight. One day she was searching for something on the dressing table but could not find it, so she asked me where it was and I explained.
Helen: there are VIs who have lost their sight later in life, some who were born without sight and others who have varying degrees of sight, so they all need slightly different assistance. Those who have recently lost sight might for instance often need more than those who have never experienced anything else, as they are getting used to it. However it is generally easier to describe something to them as it can often be related to something they might remember. Some might need very little physical assistance but can’t read menus. Dealing with foreign currency can be tricky too.

8. What was your favourite excursion, and why?

Jane: I enjoyed all of the holidays and everything that we did on them. The company was good, the food was delicious and the sun always seemed to shine!
Helen: it’s hard to pick a favourite because each trip has been so different. If pressed I would probably say my first trip to Turkey. We were in a fairly small town at the end of the season and we were made so welcome by the locals. It was great weather and we experienced a good mix of activity and leisure.
Sorrento was brilliant too. I loved the cooking lesson there and would love to do that on every trip. Visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum was a real highlight for me, as was the limoncello.
Ecuador and the Galapagos was probably the favourite in terms of destination. It was the longest trip I’ve done and we did a lot of moving – never more than 2 nights in one place – and that is quite tiring. But to go to such an amazing and interesting place was an absolute dream come true.
Clara: my favourite excursion was the hike in Kas, Turkey. I think this is one of my favourites because there were so many obstacles (rocks, bushes, pokey branches, narrow trails, etc.) but there was this sense of challenge that everyone took up and conquered.

9. What are some of the things that you have learned about visually impaired people and how they do things after going on the holidays?

Clara: One of my first discoveries was on my very first trip as a sighted guide at the airport when I was helping my traveling companion exchange money. The person on the other side of the counter wanted to work with me, not my companion. I discovered it was because they could look into my eyes and communicate when they couldn’t do that with my traveling companion, and that made them uncomfortable. Through that experience, I learned that visually impaired people have many more obstacles than I imagined to navigate when they are traveling. On my trips I learned that the visually impaired people I was traveling with were much more independent than I thought they would be. I learned that order is important. I learned that it might take a few more minutes to accomplish a travel task, but that was ok because time wasn’t to be rushed when on holiday. And, on a funny note, I learned that when you show your traveling companions to their hotel room, you don’t have to show them where the light switches are.
Jane: ask people what sort of assistance they need, do not assume that someone needs assistance and force it on them. Say who you are when you speak to someone who cannot see you – do not expect them to guess. Say when you are leaving the room, so that the person knows you have gone and is not left talking to him- or herself. Some of my best friends are people I met on the holidays I went on.
Helen: I have been so impressed with pretty much every VI I have met on these holidays. All those I’ve met are so independent and outgoing. I guess they would not take part in such trips if they were not, but I know many sighted people who need more assistance than most of the VIs I’ve met. I think one of the things that a sighted guide has to remember is that you are not the first person to have described something to this person, or to have tried to explain something. It’s easy to forget but it makes it much easier if you just have conversations as you would with any person, while bearing in mind that they can’t see. Most guides get into the swing of things pretty quickly and if not I guess they don’t do it again!

10. Would you recommend a holiday as a sighted guide to other people?

Helen: Absolutely recommend it! Partly for me it is because I would otherwise be travelling on my own and it is great to have the company – and the organisation that goes with a guided tour. It’s a great way to see somewhere a bit different / difficult to get to as everything is so well organised.
One thing I do like to do is to get my own room. That does make the trip a bit more expensive but for me it is worth it. I am so used to living on my own that I would find sharing a room with a complete stranger – especially for longer trips – rather hard.
Clara: I would, (and have) highly recommend a holiday as a sighted guide. In my experience I have become more humble, I have pushed my own boundaries, and I have made lifelong friends. I had the opportunity to bring adventure and smiles and laughter and learning to my traveling companions. I have learned about a world that I can’t touch but in that same world are so many friends who I admire. Before my trips as a sighted guide so many wonderful sights and experiences escaped me. I have never looked at the environment around me the same since my very first trip as a sighted guide and that is a true gift.
Jane: I would recommend a holiday as a sighted guide. It is a good way of seeing new places and of appreciating those places from a different angle. Going on an organised holiday with people who have vision impairment means that you will get the opportunity to touch things – like archaeological treasures – to smell things, taste things and be involved with activities, such as cookery lessons, whereas you might not get the same chances as a sighted person on a run-of-the-mill holiday.

So what do you think?

Does this type of holiday appeal to you? Have you done anything like this before? Let me know in the comments. I may publish some posts about Traveleyes trips from my point of view, but this post is long enough already!
Thanks to my wonderful interviewees for giving such interesting and detailed answers.

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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!

18 empty products from June
Well, it’s time for the empties post for June, and I have a bumper crop this month – partly because 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

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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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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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

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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!

Baths, mocktails for the skin, and some citrus scents

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.

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 some affiliate links, but I only promote things that I’ve tried and tested.

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 11, 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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