A journey into the humming termites nest...

Gavin Hageman

Gavin Hageman

First published in News

I am now having my second week of training with my new guide dog Ritchie following the retirement of my first guide dog Peter. Guide Dogs have been absolutely fantastic to me and the new partnership is building well thanks to my great guide dog trainer Adrian.

I am determined to help Guide Dogs with its campaigns both to promote the charity itself and for other visually impaired people for whom the campaigns provide support.

One particular gripe of mine is pavement and street clutter that causes me obstruction and difficulty. So when the Guide Dogs asked me to go with them to present a petition signed by 5,000 people to Downing Street as part of their Streets Ahead campaign, I quickly agreed, forgetting that busy places like London are the places I fear most and find most difficult to navigate. The handing over of the petition at Downing Street was last Wednesday and I duly went on my journey into the termites nest (London).

Although the journey to London was relatively simple by bus and train to Paddington, I had to make do with my white cane because Ritchie, my new guide dog, was not yet ready to make such a journey. Representatives from Guide Dogs met me from the train at Paddington and we then made our way to Downing Street by taxi. The first security stop was at “plebgate”.

Thankfully I resisted making any sarcastic jokes to the policeman manning the gates.

It was here that we met The Right Honourable Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham. He had been working closely with Guide Dogs to get this petition organised. We, and all of our possessions, were put through a scanner to make sure that we weren’t carrying anything threatening and then it was straight along to number 10 to knock on the big door.

The petition was quickly handed over but unfortunately we did not get to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, because he was off on a trip to Brussels dealing with EU business.

After that we all had our photographs taken by the front door of number 10 and then outside Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Unfortunately by the time I had made a quick detour to Islington to meet a friend it was 5pm and the termites nest was absolutely humming. Miraculously I managed to stay on my feet and make my way back to Paddington to catch the train back to Oxford.

But I must say that much credit goes to the amazing young stockbroker who helped me at Paddington and King’s Cross stations. I have to admit feeling an amazing sense of empowerment as thousands of people rushed towards me in one of the underground corridors but the crowds of people, pushchairs, children and scooters parted like the seas for Moses as they saw my white cane being swept from side to side.

Unfortunately I was so tired by the time the train got to Oxford that I was fast asleep and went right past and on to Charlbury. But never mind, it was a satisfying thing to have done and I feel that I met a great challenge.

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