A dyspraxic horse rider.

So here’s a thing, I have dyspraxia. The inspiration for this, one of many rants, comes from a closed minded fool of a professional psychologist telling me I can’t have dyspraxia, because I am able to ride a horse. No other reason, just that. So, I have decided to tell the story of exactly how a person with dyspraxia can learn to ride, because people like me can, and do, not only ride, but successfully compete. A quick google search will tell you that, you moron.

When I was six years old, I asked for pony riding lessons. I had no idea what dyspraxia was at this point, there was absolutely nothing to suggest to me that I wouldn’t be an amazing horse rider. My earliest memory of riding was being put on a pony, the pony standing in the middle of the arena with someone holding it, and being absolutely terrified every time the pony shifted its weight from one foot to another. I remember clinging to the saddle and saying I wanted the pony to just stand still. But of course this was a silly idea and not allowed.

My next memory is of trying to learn rising trot. I was about 8 years old at this point. I hadn’t had consistent riding lessons but I had had more than enough for a normal child to have mastered rising trot by now. I would do the typical rise and then bounce for a few strides, rise then bounce for a few strides. It took a long time but eventually I did master rising trot. Still on the lead rein at this point, and still holding onto the saddle.

After a couple more years, at ten years old, I could finally trot off the lead rein. I was lucky enough to be bought my very own pony, a fat, cheeky, little 12.2. I spent a long time just walking and trotting and going on hacks with my mum leading me. I probably would have carried on like this forever had it not been for instructors pushing me. I was quite happy to just have a pony, and maybe sit on it once in a while.

The first time I cantered was under the influence of peer pressure. At a party of one of my friends, I was 11 years old. We were doing lead rein gymkhana races. At the end of the day they let us all have one canter round the arena. Most of these children had never ridden before, and all had a canter around the arena. By the time it was my turn I felt I couldn’t say no, they all knew I had my own pony too, to refuse would make me a laughing stock. So, I clung to the saddle and cantered for the first time, didn’t fall off, nailed it. This gave me an unusual amount of confidence and the next time I rode my pony, I cantered for the second time. This time I did fall off.

I did, a few months later, learn to sit to a canter without falling off, but could never do it without at least one hand holding onto the pommel. My mum would stand at one end of the arena and I would canter down one side so she could stop the pony at the end.

I eventually mastered cantering without holding onto the saddle when I got my second pony aged twelve. She was a strange, beautiful, crazy pony and when I first rode her she cantered all the way round the arena without me asking her to. I remember bursting out laughing because something I had struggled with for so long was suddenly easy! The reasons for this were that she had a very comfy, steady canter and she had a dressage saddle, a Keifer no less. I have never gone back to a GP saddle. This pony gave me a lot of confidence in my abilities.

Sadly, she died a few years later, and at age fourteen I got my third pony I still have this pony eight years later (yes I am vertically challenged). By the time I got him I was mad keen on dressage. I was determined I was going to be in the Olympics (could happen bro).

By this time I had fallen off many times, mostly off my first pony but a few times off my second pony too. There had been many, many tears and feelings of giving up, but I loved horses far too much. But I still didn’t know how to really ride a horse. Cue third pony. He taught me everything I know about dressage. And he made me work for it. I suddenly had to up my game, I had to learn how to sit still, how to precisely ask for things instead of just kick and hope for the best. Many more tears of frustration came with this pony, silly little things like I couldn’t hold a schooling whip at all, I just couldn’t position my hands to hold the reins effectively whilst carrying the whip. I found it hard to tack up, there was one point where it would take me up to an hour to tack my pony up with boots and all the gear. I couldn’t do sitting trot. I had many patient instructors and soon I did my first walk trot dressage test. I was the happiest fourteen year old ever. Terrified, but proud. Over the years I built up to doing prelims and novices. I had to develop tricks and my pony had to adapt to me and the way I ask for movements. I always had a reader for my tests which helped a lot. I never got brilliant marks, but they also weren’t terrible.

After a few years I attempted my first elementary. I’m not going to lie, I felt very snazzy, very snazzy indeed. However, it did not go well, we ended up cantering down the middle of the arena instead of the long side, the odd buck over X, me bouncing all over the place, but that didn’t stop me! I carried on competing at elementary and the marks started to improve.

I never did make it to medium level, I couldn’t master sitting trot, I couldn’t quite sit to the canter without my butt coming out of the saddle, I struggled with some movements like half passes. I didn’t get chance to work on these things any further because the day I was due to compete in my first Petplan area festival, my pony damaged his suspensary ligament and chipped the bone in his leg. He was off work for a long time. After he recovered from this he developed a keratoma in one of his hooves. He’s had this removed now, but it will be another year before I can get back to riding him (so 3 years off work in total). But we will be back next year and I won’t be giving up with dressage. And It’s not all bad because I still have fat, cheeky 12.2, and am able to hack out every so often. But I missed really riding properly, so I went for a lesson at a riding school. This did not go smoothly, not at all. Up to this point I have only really ridden my own ponies, giving me time to adjust to them and learn to balance to their trot and canter. Upon cantering on the pony at the riding school, in a GP saddle I might add, I lost my stirrups, felt like I was going to fall off and came skidding to a halt in the middle of the arena. OK so I gave it a few more goes and started to only lose one stirrup after a while, but still. This was kinda depressing. So I didn’t go back.

One week later I’m talking to the psychologist I mentioned at the start. “You can ride? Well that’s not what you’d expect of someone with dyspraxia, people with dyspraxia would find that very hard and give up, so you can’t really have dyspraxia.” *Cries* You know, this upset me for a while. I did try to explain that it’s taken me a long time, but he couldn’t get his head round somebody not giving up with something so difficult. He doesn’t know anything about me and yet here he is making these assumptions. But then after a few days I realised it’s just nonsense. I’m not the worlds greatest rider and the Olympics is probably out, but I’m proud of what I, and everybody else with dyspraxia who has conquered horse riding, have achieved. So Mr. Psychologist, you’re wrong. It may take us longer, but people with dyspraxia can achieve anything.

A Uni Survival Guide

The real guide to fitting in at University. There is no other way.

1)  Say you are going to join the gym, but never actually join the gym.

2) Tell people your lectures are incredibly boring, even though you find most of them quite interesting.

3) Make it clear to everyone you had nothing less than the time of your life in that sweaty, oxygen deprived night club, being elbowed in the face, losing all your money and coming home and throwing up and missing all your lectures the next day.

4) Tell everyone you intend to join about 10 societies, but actually join none.

5) If you get a wristband from a club, wear it for at least a fortnight.

6) When you play the ‘Have you ever?’ drinking game, lie. Lie your ass off.

7) Even though you worry for your health, don’t wash up, ever. ‘Tis not the student way.

8) Make sure you show your disgust at your student card picture whilst waving it in front of everyone’s face and fishing for compliments on a picture that really isn’t that bad.

9) If you do go back home to visit your family and friends, definitely don’t tell people it’s just because you’re missing them. Be sure to make up some lame excuse.

10) If you’re into decent music, do not reveal this. You like hip hop and house.

Note: I’m joking. This is what I’ve seen the majority of students doing, desperately trying to fit in, be liked and enjoy their time at Uni. Personally, I think you should just be yourself. Don’t just be the sort of person you’re expected to be as a student. Join whatever societies you want to. If you don’t want to join any, then don’t. If you don’t want to join the gym, don’t. You don’t actually have to pretend that you’re going to. And obviously there is many people who do enjoy spending all their money on losing their memories for the night and their lectures for the next day, (aka getting very, very, very drunk) but if you’re not one of these people, then pleeeaase don’t kid yourself that you are.

The bystander effect.

I’m going to tell you about the bystander effect, a strange behaviour exhibited by most people, who aren’t even aware it’s happening. I’m going to tell you, because I think once you are aware that it exists, you’ll want to stop it, much the same as when someone points out a habit you weren’t aware you were doing, and because you’re now so conscious of it, you stop.

Studies have been done by numerous psychologists, but as an example, I’ll use a study conducted by Latane and Darley in 1970. As a brief outline of the experiment, they left their participants in a room to fill out an unrelated questionnaire, and staged an emergency in a nearby room, in the form of a woman apparently severely hurting her ankle, which the participants could hear. They measured how many of the participants reacted to actually get up and help the woman. Their results are surprising. They found that out of the participants who were completing the questionnaire alone, 70% of them reacted to help. However, when there was another participant present, only 40% of the people reacted. This means that in the presence of another person, we are less likely to react to an emergency. Even more shocking, when the participant was left with an actor who had been specifically told not to react, only 7% of the participants reacted to help the woman in distress.

So what has happened to cause the change from 70% to 7%? What is it about being surrounded by other people who aren’t reacting that makes us choose not to react also? When people are in these situations, they can either chose to help, or not help. As you have seen however, when in the company of others, people more often chose to not help, even though they might feel like they should. What goes through peoples minds is something along the lines of “there’s plenty of people here, one of them will help” and “maybe if all these people aren’t helping, there’s no real danger anyway and I’m over reacting.”

In my opinion, this is silly logic. Don’t copy everyone else, don’t leave it up to someone else because ‘it’s not your responsibility’. Trust that little niggling feeling you get, forget what everyone else is doing, and act.  Something I’ve noticed is that people want to help. They love feeling important and needed. Once you’ve decided to help, loads of people will follow you in relief, they just needed that first person to make the decision, because often people feel that maybe they should just mind their own business.

Since learning about the bystander effect a few years ago, I have always tried to help whenever I’ve seen someone in trouble with nobody else helping. I can’t think of a single time when the help was not gratefully received. One time that springs to mind is an older woman who was stranded in her car in the middle of a very busy junction. We were sat in a queue, and watched as tonnes of people drove past this poor woman, some getting angry and beeping their horns, but not a single person getting out to help. As soon as we were able, we pulled over and went over to help. And guess what happened? People started pulling over left right and centre to help. With all the people there, we could easily push the car safely to the side of the road and the woman was able to call her husband to pick her up.

I hope after reading this you will agree with me. And if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re thinking “someone should do something”, then you’ll be that someone. You’ll help. You’ll make someone’s day.

Latane, B. and Darley, J. (1970) The Unresponsive Bystander: Why doesn’t he help? Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall.

 

Crazy things I believed as a child.

Here’s some crazy things I believed as a child. Feel free to reminisce and comment if you shared my beliefs!

1. Baked beans are cats toes. Ok this is odd, I’ve never met anyone else who believed this one. Apparently my Mum and Dad thought it would be OK to tell me, as a small child, that baked beans are cats toes (only cats with pink toes, obviously) and I believed this for a lot longer than I’m going to admit. I don’t know how I thought they got the toes off the cats, or why I was still OK with eating baked beans, because cats were and still are, my favourite animals, so let’s just let that one slide…

2. The moon followed me. I think this one is pretty common. When I finally realised that it didn’t, I was quite sad for a long time. I thought I was special! *sobs*

3. Snowballs (those chocolate covered marshmallow things) grew on trees. Again this was something I was told as a small child, by my cousin, this time. He put a few of them under a tree and said “look, see where they’re dropped off the tree?” Cruel. It’s just cruel.

4. Parents had eyes in the back of their heads. Another common one. I performed numerous experiments to try to test this one out, but somehow my mum would always know when I was up to something. Evidence is still inconclusive.

5 You had to duck every time you went under a bridge otherwise you would get your head chopped off. Just, don’t even…argh. I did this obsessively for years. Including in the car. Moving on…

6. Very small people lived inside the TV. I mean, it’s the only logical explanation.

7. If you swallowed apple pips, an apple tree would grow inside you. Now, this one, I distinctly remember being told was false by a friend, only to argue back that it was definitely true because all that seeds need to grow is water because we did that experiment that one time in year 2 and it’s real OK you can’t swallow apple pips! I still don’t eat apple pips.

8. There were monsters under the bed. I read a lot of Goosebumps books. I am holding them solely responsible for the scar I had on my shin for a long time, where I had taken a running jump off my bed and collided with the door, to avoid having my ankles grabbed by the monsters. I can only conclude that it worked, because I was never grabbed by the ankle by a monster from under the bed.

9.. Toys come alive at night. I blame Toy Story. I think most people that watched that film as a kid believed this one. I would try to catch my toys off guard and take them by surprise by bursting into the room. Admit it. You did that too.

and finally…

10. I was a witch and I would get my Hogwarts letter when I turned 11. Yes, I GENUINLY believed this. Perhaps the most heart breaking thing to come to terms with, not receiving my Hogwarts letter.

So there you are. 10 silly things I used to believe that turned out to be false.

Well, most of them anyway.

We’re proud to be nerds!

Something I have noticed over the years, is that some people, who I will refer to as ‘non-nerds’, seem to be under the impression that nerds and geeks are the way they are because they don’t know how to be ‘cool.’ This is not true. We aren’t merely content with our nerdiness, we haven’t just accepted the fact that we will never be ‘normal’. We are the way we are because we love it. We are proud to be nerdy.

These non-nerds, I think often feel sorry for us. “Aw look at that poor little nerd, we should invite them to a few parties, maybe it will bring them out of their shell.” Um, no. Does it not occur to you that maybe we like our shell? Maybe we find parties dull as hell because, let’s be honest, they are?

I think that actually non-nerds are the ones that are missing out. They don’t seem to have the ability to get super excited about stuff, they haven’t quite grasped the fact that they are allowed to like whatever they want, regardless of whether it is socially accepted or ‘the done thing’. Because that’s all we are. We’re the people that say, hang on, actually I’m going to decide for myself what to watch on TV, what to read, which places to visit.

So if you’ve ever been called a nerd or a geek by a non-nerd, as if it’s something you should be ashamed of or embarrassed about, just remember, you’re the one who was brave enough to say, “nah mate, I don’t fancy being a sheep actually, so see ya around, I’m off to watch vlogbrothers.”

DFTBA.

 

The secret to a good photograph smile revealed!

I’ve finally worked it out! How to smile when you’re having your photo taken so you don’t look like an absolute idiot! You wanna know? OK I’ll tell you.

Warning – this is much easier for fangirls and fanboys.

When people smile in photographs, it often looks forced and unnatural. All you have to do for the perfect smile, is think of something that GENUINLY makes you really happy. I say this works better for fangirls/boys because we are much better at getting super obsessively excited about things. Here are some examples of things you can think of. Imagine you are having your picture taken standing next to the Doctor. Imagine you’ve just found out you’re going to the Harry Potter Studio Tour. Imagine Steven Moffat’s just announced there will be another series of Sherlock before 2030. Just think about something you really love, something that make you grin like crazy, and your photo will look awesome! You’re welcome.

Watching Sherlock Series 3 Filming in London!

Vickster51Corner

I started to write about my fantastic experiences watching filming of series 3 of Sherlock earlier in the year, more so I didn’t forget it and now I have a blog and now the episodes have aired I thought why not post it, so forgive me if this rambles on a bit! SPOILER WARNING – If you have yet to see the episodes this does contain spoilers.

I find the production of film and TV incredibly interesting and tend to watch filming if I come across it, which living in London does happen occasionally, especially since I learnt from the wisdom of others what those neon arrows I often see on lampposts mean! Therefore I was hopeful of catching filming of the new series of Sherlock when it ventured to London, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to get to Cardiff due to work.

I had already caught the…

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I’ve only just figured out how to switch my laptop off.

It is true. It is not some kind of crazy metaphor. I have had my new laptop for just over a month and I have only just figured out how to shut it down.

Now, I mean no disrespect to the laptop or the version of Windows it has on it (I’ll leave you to guess which one). I take full responsibility. When it comes to technology, I am useless. For instance, when I was about thirteen, I bought an iPod. To this day it has a total of no songs on it, because I could never figure out how to get them on there. Not for lack of trying, I might add. But apparently the use of technology just doesn’t come naturally to me. This morning I shouted at my laptop because it had been inconsiderate enough to put the address bar for the internet, at the bottom of the screen instead of the top, and it took me about twenty minutes to realise. (Yes I know, not the laptops fault.)

Technology is increasingly becoming a massive part of our lives, whether we want it to or not. You can do almost anything online these days, pay your bills, do your shopping, chat to friends, hell you can even ramble on about technology and post it in a blog, available for anyone in the world to read it. Another big change has been the introduction of Smartphones. I’ll admit at first I didn’t want one. As you can tell from the previous paragraph, technology and me, we don’t always see eye to eye. But after getting my first Smartphone two and a half years ago, I couldn’t imagine life without it. The best thing, for me, is the magic of Google. I am constantly wondering and forming questions to everything I see throughout the day, so to be able to whip my phone out and instantly search the web for the answers I’m looking for, it is a thing of beauty.

I do wonder sometimes though, how far technology will go. What gadgets will we be expected to know how to use, just to get through the day? Will all money be virtual, will we do away with real people in supermarkets and rely solely on those self service machines? (I hate them. I hate them with a passion) and here’s a worrying thought, will there be no more paper books published, will we have to download all books in the future? What does this mean for those of us who are like me and find themselves virtually incompetent with Kindles and iPads and, what’s that new one that’s in the form of a watch?!

Of course, maybe it wont get any more complicated, maybe we’re all safe. But at the rate technology has been growing in recent years, I’m worried. I’m very worried.

The Harry Potter generation.

The Harry Potter generation. Have you heard of it? Probably. Do you understand it? Well, if you’re not a part of it then there’s a good chance you don’t. You may think you do, it’s just those freaky, geeky nerds that still obsess over Harry Potter even though they’re in their late teens or early twenties, right? But in truth it is so much more than that.

Take me, for example. I was around six years old when my mum started reading Harry Potter and the Philosophers stone to me, way back in 1999. I used to sneakily carry on reading under my quilt with a torch when I should have been sleeping. But shhh, she still doesn’t know that. She read the first three books to me and from then on I began to read them myself. I distinctly remember buying my copy of Goblet of Fire from ASDA when it first came out. I also remember watching a news report about it, they had gone to a primary school and filmed all the children who were reading GOF in the playground. By the time Order of the Phoenix came out I was completely insane with love for Harry Potter, I had reread the first four books about ten times and I went at midnight to queue up and buy my copy of OOTP as early as possible. So this takes us up to the year 2000, June 21st to be precise. I had just turned ten years old. In this time, literally, all of my friends had read Harry Potter. It was probably one of the most discussed topics at school. Even our teacher was obsessed. I remember the day she came into school and proudly announced, within two days of its release, that she had finished OOTP. We were gobsmacked that anybody could read such a huge book so quickly! The general time taken to read it for me and my friends was two weeks. We played Harry Potter in the playground. We played quidditch in my back garden at home, running about with tree branches and throwing balls at each other. We tried to convince my younger cousin we were in fact witches. Is it becoming apparent just how big Harry Potter was yet? It meant so much to us. We genuinely believed there was a chance we would get our letter, delivered by owl, telling us we had been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Alas, we received no such letter and started muggle high school, a tad disappointed. By the time the sixth and seventh book came out I was starting to receive the standard “aren’t you getting a bit old for Harry Potter?” questions. To which I always replied “No! And don’t you ever speak to me again!” (I didn’t say that.) The truth is the Harry Potter books get a lot darker towards the end of the series. The characters in the book had grown up at roughly the same rate as the readers, so they never got too childish for us. Finally when the I finished the last book, aged fourteen, the last page, the last sentence, “All was well.” I felt, well, I can’t even put into words what I felt. This was something I had grown up with. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. It had finished. No more Harry Potter. Everybody gets a bit nostalgic over childhood memories, but Harry Potter was such a phenomenon, I don’t think there will ever be anything quite like it. Something loved and shared by children across the world, for such a long time. And the thing is, it wasn’t just some crazy phase that the world went through, the Harry Potter books are truly amazing. They create a whole world to slip into, with so much detail, and I think this is a large part of why they are so loved by teenagers and adults. When life gets too stressful, you simply open up a Harry Potter book and disappear into the world of wizards and magic.

To the adults that read Harry Potter now, they will love it for sure, but they will probably have their own childhood books filled with nostalgia and memories. The children that read Harry Potter now, they will also love it, but it’s likely they will have already seen the films, and they wont have the same experience of everybody in their class reading the same book at the same time. They wont have the arguments with their friends about how to pronounce ‘Hermione’. They wont be able to discuss mad theories about why Voldemort is immortal or who Harry will end up marrying. For those people, they will just be brilliant books. But for the Harry Potter generation, they will, always, be so much more. Thank you J K Rowling.