Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Come up and see my etchings!

For those of you who can see please click on the following link to my past etchings..rather than having them stuck in the attic I thought it would be a good idea to have them out in the virtual world!

picture of etched cottage on the hill in the distance surrounded by leaveless trees
Ian Hamilton Etchings   

Friday, 16 September 2011

sound and vision..something for all my friends

Before Lorne set off on his 8 x 8 challenge he climbed the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe Scotland.  and played his Bag pipes at the top his friend Greg carried the Bagpipes..his Sherpa!...he meet some German Tourists at the top and they had a go or "blaw" of his pipes also..... enjoy...sound and vision

No matter where you are in the world  He is 57% of his way to his target   please help
 support Guide Dogs and Lornes' challenge at

AMAZING Achievement for Lorne and Guide Dogs

Lorne Brown, 80, achieves Italian eight peaks climb

Lorne BrownAfter completing the climbs, Lorne is already thinking about his next challenge


An 80-year-old man has achieved his ambition to climb eight major mountains in eight days in the Italian Dolomites.
Lorne Brown, from North Lanarkshire, began climbing the via ferrata routes just days after his birthday to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Using ropes and ladders, his 8x8 challenge took him up overhanging cliffs and precipitous slopes to some of the highest peaks of the Dolomites.
He was due to celebrate his achievement with a tandem paraglide.
Mr Brown's daughter Christine told the BBC Scotland news website: "I'm just really proud of him."
Lorne, who lives in Dullatur, was a late starter, only beginning to climb Munros at the age of 75.

A via ferrata is a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, stemples, ladders, and bridges to assist climbers.
Each day Lorne walked and climbed about 3,000 feet (900m) - the height of a Munro - to get to the start of each via ferrata.
He trained for the 8x8 challenge by going to the gym three days a week and climbing once or twice a week to strengthen his muscles and increase his stamina.
"He hadn't bought a pair of gym shoes for over 60 years," Christine said.
"He feels vindicated that someone who is 80 can go out and do these things.
"And he is raising awareness for guide dogs at the same time."
Lorne has so far raised £6,000. He hopes to hit his target of £8,888 and has set up a Just Giving website. This year is also the 80th anniversary of Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Tandem paraglide
"Sometimes you have no time when you're younger to follow your dreams," Christine said. "It's like he's gone into his peak in his 80s. He's really found his niche."
In April last year, Lorne gained his husky driving licence following a 10-day trek in Greenland.
He faced sub-zero temperatures as he led a sled pulled by the dogs to the Arctic Circle.
He also provided the entertainment after taking his bagpipes along.
"He's already thinking what his next challenge is going to be," Christine said.
"He's doing the tandem paraglide just for fun. It's another thing he's always wanted to do."
Following the paraglide, the group Lorne is with are taking him on a short climb, using just ropes.

Christine added: "He said 'no wonder he's losing his hair'."

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A Big Thank You - know who you are

A big thank you to all my Blogger readers and writers out there

I cannot believe that my Blog has had 22,202 hits...people are reading it from all over the world from Morocco to Japan - India to Skegness - please keep reading and sharing and enjoying....and learning.

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Audio Boos

AudioBoos are an audio Twitter - and I just love them.  I have a Twitter connection at the top of the Blog page but I have noticed that the AudioBoos do not seem to play from this Blog page so I've listed a few below.  They were great fun to do.. let me know what you think...and if they a blind person I can just about use them..the application on the computer is much better and comprehensive than the App for the is early days  and the developers are still working on it...enjoy the Boos

Interview with Lorne about his raising funds for Guide Dogs..
Good morning from Renton
working from home in the sunshine

Sunday, 14 August 2011

One year on....

Ian being a big sook and offering Renton a nibblet for being a good boy

It’s hard to believe it’s nearly a year since the Guide Dog Association brought Renton for his matching visit with me. Basically, this is when they bring the dog for a test drive. It’s at this point when you decide whether this particular dog is the right one or not. 
This can involve a number of factors. Like: walking speed, size, breed and temperament. Admittedly, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions from such a short meeting, but often it’s best to follow your gut instinct and get some further background from the instructor. 
However, it’s always best to look between the lines as guide dog trainers can be a bit like estate agents. 
“The dog is very keen” 
Translation -  they’ll drag you off your feet.

“He responds well to firm handling.” 
Translation -  you’ll have to wrestle him to the ground if a cat goes past.

“The dog shows great caution at an obstacle.”
Translation - dog requires some kind of bribery usually food, to get them past anything. Even then they’ll require counselling for their nerves.
I am not saying that it has been plain sailing. He has had plenty of his own challenges to overcome. Like his suspicions and hate of cats, horses, small dogs, [not large ones he’s not stupid.] squirrels. He is a bit too enthusiastic when people come to the door, but we are working on this also.  (do you like my estate agent speak there...translate..he barks the house down until you are deaf!!!...anyway other than those, Renton who had his 3rd birthday last Wednesday  is maturing nicely  and it feels that I’ve been working with him for years.
Talking about his barking... this has been new to us..we are a quiet house and Moss rarely barks, far to much like hard work for a Labrador. However, Renton likes to bark at dogs going  past the gate, the postman, [particularly the postman.] visitors to the door. We can quieten him down a bit and then he coughs and splutters instead.

Renton sitting at the window watching for someone to bark at!
We have had loads of laughs with him, and I mean loads, he is incredibly intelligent and caring even to Moss. (which I've talked about before)
Moss and Renton with Ian at the front of the house

Moss is still not sure about him. Renton is far to fussy and loud for Moss (the Buddhist dog) He tends to put up with Renton, but we noticed that they have started to lie together out in the grass..and run down to the gate maybe there is a change happening.

So..from this sad dog who arrived, not long from the kennels, missing his handler, not eating anything and wanting to stand in a dark corner in the bathroom..we call this his ubend phase!..he was a bit disorientated at first and I think it has taken this full year for him to finally feel confident and at home..His work, however has always been good...but, I now have this big bouncy, Gucci pawed bear of a dog..Renticus Giganticus, his guiding work is just brilliant  and we both love him to bits.


Monday, 8 August 2011

The Cost of Caring

Nicola my camera person has managed to put our latest film on to the internet. The film was completed for Newsnight Scotland on BBC2 Scotland.

 This is part one which looks at the Cost of Caring

Let me know what you think.......

My first Golfing Cup win at the Scottish Pairs

My first Golfing Cup win at the Scottish Pairs

Championship Scottish Blind Golf Society..

Ian wearing his Greg Norman hat and holding the Golf Trophy

I was partnered by my sighted  golfing partner Paul Bell.  It was the last competition of the season and we both decided to just relax and enjoy it....there were a few strange hits...the ball hit off a rake and rebounded onto the green...and then we won...and it was just great.  Alan White the Golf Pro at Lanark Golf Club has been giving me lessons...he keeps up to date with all the new techniques of teaching blind people about balance while hitting the ball and so on.....and his hard work has paid off hey..we won!!!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cost of Care for the Baby Boomers in Scotland- Newsnight Scotland

I thought you might be interested in my recent Report for BBC Scotland

We have been warned that the population in Scotland is changing.....but it has already what are we doing about?

Newsnight Scotland  the link is only available to people in the UK and for  1 week only.

Monday, 25 July 2011

time for giving Renton a good grooming!

With all the doom and gloom which around just now I thought I would share with you

Well it was a sunny afternoon, Renton was kind of snoozy and as Christine was complaining about the amount of dog hair over the kitchen floor, (German Shepherds cast constantly) I decided to groom normally he is very patient and stands for ages as I make his majesty look spiffing...however yesterday he just wanted to play..he stuck his head under my arms, and wouldn't stand up and rolled about on the grass and got up to all kinds of hi-jinks...and made us laugh..when I stopped he came after me for more attention....and gave me a big paw and playful bark...
Pict: of Renton rolling about on the grass

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Bagpipes at the top of GlenCoe - in aid of Guide Dogs

Lorne playing his bagpipes at the top of Glencoe
Lorne is preparing for a his next challenge for Guide Dogs, by climbing the Aonach Eagach (The Toothed Ridge) of Glen Comhain (Glen Coe) I'll tell you more about this later..but is quite spectacular.  He is 79 and 3/4yrs old I have to point out!!

Lorne Brown finally gets to play his pipes - Just click on the link and you will see what happened when he climbed to the top with his friend  "Sherpa" Greg McShane (the carrier of the Bag pipes)  who was also behind the camera. .
S'math sinn!!  enjoy

to raise money for guide Dogs  just click on Lorne will also get a peek as to what his next amazing challenge will be.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Buses and rickshaws continued.

Pict: steamy view of hotel pool and undergrowth

Pict:swimming in the downpour

Arriving at the end of the late monsoon season meant I experienced not only the torrential down pores with high temperatures, but I also suffered with the heavy atmosphere which was thick and sticky.  I became extremely appreciative of the efficient air conditioning in the bedroom. However, with the astounding temperatures and humidity in the bathroom, especially after having a shower, I was always anticipating a violent thunder storm in the hall, as two great air systems collided.
Pict: exotic wooden door in the hotel surrounded by plants and stained glass

Large hotels can often leave me feeling lost with their never ending corridors, open plan bars and self serving restaurants; I end up feeling more blind than I normally would.   Quite often hoteliers choose a room far away from the main hub, (us blind people like "quiet"  you know and, and it can take me a fortnight just to learn the route to the bar.  Heathers’ hotel was such a blessing, with the swimming pool, Bar and bedroom being in close proximity. Consequently, if I wished to do my own thing around the grounds, I could, without having to be guided from one part of the hotel to another.

Our friends' hotel (Mollys Retreat)was perfect for getting around, and yet despite the compactness of the grounds I still had to be cautious when moving around. Between the perimeter wall and the pool was a narrow path lined with sun-beds. When using my white cane, if I didn’t concentrate, I could potentially catch one of the beds and pole volt myself into the deep end! 

Pict.view of the swimming pool from the balcony, detailed wrought iron bars

Pict: back of bamboo curved chair- neat crossings of bamboo
Pict: vines climbing up the tree with lots of lush leaves
In the early evening I looked forward to sitting on the balcony and being surrounded by the sounds and smells of what was obviously an incredible country. The warm aroma of the vegetation and early evening wood fires mixed with the sounds of the frogs, Hindu Temple music and faraway voices.  My western senses were being enveloped by the Easternexperience, as I quietly contemplated what would be happening the following day.  
Pict by Steve: pretty lemon flower with petals like tissue 
Pict:lots of green long leaves together with light coming through the gaps

Visually, I really knew I was missing out on something spectacular, with the Asian ladies in their vibrantly coloured saris’ and the landscape with its vivid fruit, flowers and luminous green vegetation.  This was all described to me in detail by a captivated Christine, as we were driven through the countryside.  

Pict: Figs on a branch in the sunshine
 A car journey that normally takes an hour in Scotland, takes approximately three in India. This is mainly due to the busy and poor condition of the roads.  The driving was mesmerising as we never ever came to a stop. We continually seemed to be curving back and forth to the beat of the car horn, like some Indian snake, moving along the road. 
Pict by Steve: busy Indian street view from the car

On one particularly hot, sticky day we decided to head to one of the Indian hill stations where the air promised to be fresher and cooler. It was going to be a three hour car journey, short by Indian standards. My friend Mark, who is also blind, came prepared for the journey; talking books, head phones and lap top computer games.    Our white knuckle ride came to an end when we beat a rickshaw filled with 8 children, to the top of the hill. When we were passing them for the second time, they shouted ”how are you? My name is?” Impeccable English.

Pic: of a row of Risckshaws taken from life and change in an Indian village (Blog)

At the top we stretched our legs and took great lungfuls of fresh air.  But I was disappointed, it didn’t sound, smell or feel any different from the hill-tops in Scotland. 

Pict: steamy mountain top which looks like Scotland

I could have been anywhere in the world and as I wandered around over the hill and in best Scottish traditions the topic of lunch was raised.

 We made our way back to our driver and he drove us down to a Beer bar offering great food and a bottle of beer for the weary traveller.

Pict:Indian Cobra beer top

Going through the door I was hit  with the strong aroma of urine. I really did hope it was an Ammonia based cleaning product.
With noses twitching we reluctantly took our seats. Someone whispered in my ear. “Ian it’s not the cleanest.” Eventually someone came out to take our orders. The choice was vegetable curry, or vegetable curry. We all agreed, “Well, we’ll have vegetable curry then.” from the kitchen we heard the most incredible sounds of someone clearing their throat. “Hack! Hack! Hack! Spit.”. We shuffled nervously in our chairs as our lunch was being prepared. I heard the sizzling of the vegetables and then another whisper in my ear, “we can’t see out the windows too well and my chair is stuck to the floor with grease!  The hacking intensified, not only in regularity, but in volume too.

Pict: bowl of vegetable curry

We were waiting for about 30mins...our nerve broke, getting to our feet we made some pathetic excuse of running late for our driver, so had to go…NOW!. Apologising for wasting their time we offered way over the odds for the bill before heading for the door and to the safety of the car.  But where was the driver? I was frantically shoved into the back seat and Christine ran off to find him.

We waited for what seemed like an eternity, until the driver finally returned looking bemused that we had all been so quick. “We didn’t want to be late going home” we muttered  “lets go.” but wait, where was Christine now?., we still couldn’t go, and we had been spotted by the proprietor, who very graciously started to bring out the curry sauce and chapattis to our car! Where was Christine?, she returned five minutes later carrying crisps! Snacks encase we were hungry, but she was confused, why were we all passing soup plates full of curry sauce between us like an unexploded bomb? And why was no-one eating?  She got into the car made me stuff a chapatti into my mouth, and passed the plates back to the waiter. We asked the driver to step on it, and so we left the Beer bar far behind.    
It must have been the slowest getaway in history. Normally, criminals order the food, eat it, and scarper.  Not, order it, pay in advance, pay more than they asked! and then do a bunk. 

Pict: Indian ornate metal padlock and bolt
                                     Masters of crime we aint. 

Trip Advisor for Mollys' Retreat

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Travel to India part one

Pict: of Indian Rooftop and coconut trees - looks like it has been raining

Where is our summer? It’s May and we should be having some decent weather by now. The last time I can remember being truly warm out doors is when we went to India In 2008. I had gone with Christine and some friends, one of whom Mark is also blind. The year previously I recall hesitating before booking the holiday and wondering if India really would be a good destination for someone who is blind to visit. 

The descriptions from other sighted friends had left me confused as they had described the congested, frenetic, bustle of the cities and towns, people taking their lives in their hands to cross the busy roads and of being surrounded by beggars and hawkers desperate to sell their wares just to survive another day.  

However, they also assured me that the country is host to smells, flavours and atmosphere in abundance, an exotic country, which would be a challenging place to visit.  What finally convinced me, was that we were to stay with a mutual friend who had moved from the UK and opened a small eight bedroom hotel in Kerala, at the southern most tip of India. This would bring a stable base to travel from and invaluable local knowledge. 
So getting there! Airplanes are boring enough when you can see, but imagine wearing a bag over your head, with a set of headphones which are playing white noise and you will start to appreciate  what it’s like for me. As for the on board entertainment, forget it! that’s normally inaccessible and requires me to continually dig Christine’s ribs to find a film with dialog I can follow.   So a 14 hour flight to India was going to be mind numbing.  My experience of flying as a blind person, divides into two categories. First: I get treated like an item of lost luggage being passed from one bored member of staff to the next. Or secondly:  I’m treated like a sickly child, overly pampered and slightly patronised. 
I’m pleased to say this wasn’t the case with Emirates Airlines. At every step of the trip I was met and assisted in a professional and adult manner. During the first part of the trip from Glasgow to Dubai, the Cabin crew took the time to explain the extensive on board entertainment console, with its buttons and touch screens. In all my experience of many years of flying, this was the first time that anyone had ever attempted to show the workings of the in-flight entertainment to me. The technology still wasn’t totally accessible, but I was able to scan through the radio and TV channels and bombard myself with vast quantities of comedy to take the edge off of my journey.   
Pict: of lots of green leaves in the sunshine
And…Just to put the icing on the cake, or Champagne on the ice, for my onward flight to India I was upgraded to first class!  I stretched out in comfort but oddly, the crew in first class were more bemused by a blind passenger than they were in Economy and kept looking to my partner for re-assurance as they found it difficult to communicate with me directly.  Does this say something about their training, or perhaps speaks volumes about how many blind people fly first class. Of course this is something I’m determined to rectify! This experiential India trip was looking good already and I hadn’t even landed!. 
When the aircraft cabin door opened and we stepped onto Indian soil, it was like being enveloped by a boiling wet blanket, as the sizzling humidity filled our lungs. The air was so wet and thick, I could have gathered up huge arm fulls of the stuff and posted it home. We were met by our friend Heather at the airport, whose unmistakable Sunderland accent rose above the cacophony of  Indian voices.  Shortly after getting into the car a silence descended, and I assumed that perhaps we were all a bit tired, but slowly, gasps, barely concealed screams of terror and car horns were filling my head. I couldn’t see what was happening, but I could hear trucks, buses and powered rickshaws driving all around us.  Welcome to India. Everything felt alive and we were being reminded of our imminent death!
Pict: busy Indian street by Steve
Pict: of Bus from car window by Steve

Mark and I agreed that we were lucky not to be able to see the potential carnage which surrounded us and the pair of us sunk down in our seats, and the let our senses soak everything in.

At the hotel, Heather had given her staff a mini disability awareness course. They were instructed; “Under no circumstances should you run to Mark and Ian’s assistance, as they like to be independent and find their own way. So even if you see them heading towards the swimming pool, or a table of glasses in the restaurant, don’t panic, just stand back they’ll be fine!.”   Aye-RIGHT! On a number of occasions I found myself teetering on the edge of the deep-end of the pool as I headed out for dinner.  Somehow, Mark and I were often strangely attracted to a table full of strangers who sat horrified unable to speak as we advanced slowly with our white canes… Only for us to via off at the last moment as we got closer to the clinking sounds of the bar.
Pict: Ian and Mark with their white canes making their way round the Pool, Sally behind

EXPERIENTIAL HOLIDAY! What was I thinking of, it was only the end of the first day and I was already exhausted. To be continued.. ….