Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stepping Out

A number of close shaves have recently led me to the conclusion that someone is out there to get me. There can be no other rational explanation and indeed, it may be worse. The range of different people involved in this plot can only mean one thing - those that can't see are being targeted by those that can.

For example, last week I was out on my own with F!ash and had only got to the end of my street when an attack took place. I needed to cross the road, which was busy with school-run traffic. The lane nearest to me was very busy, and soon filled with a lot of stationary traffic. The other lane was less busy. I waited until I could hear a gap in the far traffic and gingerly ventured out into the standing traffic to assess the chances of getting across safely. Just as I step into the road I hear a woman's voice - "Go on love, you're alright, it's clear". I'm pretty sure that's whatt she said, but it was a bit tricky to hear, due to the noise of a car approaching rather fast. So I ignored her encouragement to step infront of said car and eventually she called out "No! Not now!" - an entirely unnecessary warning as I wasn't about to follow her original instruction. I have learnt over the years one of the golden rules of living with sight loss - don't trust people who can see.

This incident came shortly after another attempt on my life which took place while I was undrgoing training with F!ash. Thinkinng about it, perhaps this was deliberate - maybe they thought we were an easier target. Again, we were waiting at standing traffic. I patiently waited for the traffic lights to change and for the vehicle in front of me to move away, before I gave the instruction to F!ash to cross. As I was still training, my pursuer clearly hadn't realised that I had an instructor with me. Thankfully, she noticed that the van that had just pulled away had not judged the lights properly and didn't have time to complete his move, so then decided to reverse back towards me.  She was able to stop him before he could mow us both down.

Disturbingly, I think whoever is overseeing this plot to do me in has also enlisted the help of my nearest and dearest. In fact, I've had a number of near misses with the dear missus. One of her favourite ploys also involves road crossing. As we stand waiting to cross a roadd togetheer, she has a habit of saying "OK" about 5 seconds before a car whizzes past. So far, I've always heard the car approaching and ignored her. She claims "OK" means "OK to cross once this speeding car has gone past" but I'm not so sure.

It's no wonder some blind people don't go out much!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I'm still sitting

I have to admit, I would not have thought of parting with any hard earned cash to go and see Elton John. I don’t class myself as particularly trendy or alternative, but he’s always been a wee bit too middle-of-the-road for me. And after the diamond jubilee, I felt I’d had my fill of ageing queens. But when I was offered tickets to go to his gig in Newcastle, I thought it best not to lead a gift horse to water without closing the stable door first. When I asked my loved ones who wanted to come with me, the excitement was almost existent. Dom finally decided that, although he ‘hated’ Elton, he didn’t despise him enough to turn down a free gig.

On our arrival at the venue, Dom confirmed that he probably was the youngest person there, and there were quite a lot of older people. I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. Am I one of them now? I guess so...with failing sight, grey hair and a recent hernia op scar, I probably didn’t stand out in the crowd of coffin-dodgers.

Although the seats were pretty close to the front, they were a little wasted on me. I could just about make out a few different shaped blobs on the stage. One of the blobs seemed to move in a familiar way, and I assumed this was the man himself. I like to feel I was looking in the right direction and not giving one of the backing singers the wrong idea.

As if I needed any further confirmation of my status as an old fart, I found myself fairly quickly wishing that they would turn the volume down a bit. The drums in particular seemed to be drowning out almost everything else, and at one point I was worried that if I turned my head to one side the sound would blast straight into one ear and out of the other – not a pleasant prospect for the person sitting behind me. I was also convinced that the bass was loosening my fillings. What’s more, Dom seemed concerned that the lighting might induce me to have a fit.

An hour and a half in, it dawned on us that Elton was on top form and enjoying himself, so any prospect of an interval was highly unlikely. I felt some crumb of comfort that at least I didn’t need the loo and that, given the average age of the audience, this would not be true of many of them.

“Oh Nikita you will never know

Just how much I need to go”

And I was actually enjoying the concert. It’s hard not too...Mr John and his songs seem to have been around forever. They were certainly part of the backdrop of my youth and hearing him belt them out in a non-stop high-energy performance was strangely evocative and incredibly impressive.

Two hours in and I have to admit I was getting a little uncomfortable perched on my plastic seat. I cursed the fact that I hadn’t worn some more stretchy jeans, as the pair I was wearing were rubbing a bit on my scar and my mid-life paunch wanted to come out and join the party. I had to concede that if the whole experience had taught me something it was “Goodbye normal jeans’.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

medical notes

The last time I was admitted to hospital was when I caught chicken pox at the age of 30. ‘after having some sort of fit induced by incessant barfing, I must not have been a pretty sight for the ambulance men. They may well have considered saving the NHS a few quid by taking me straight to the morgue, but instead whisked me to ‘a and E. There I was questioned, prodded and poked by a series of nurses and junior doctors, none of whom could find much wrong with me, aside from looking like I’d just crawled out of a local cemetery. One doctor, who clearly hadn’t bothered reading my notes, was disturbed by the fact that I was unable to see how many fingers she was holding up. ‘Apparently she had turned quite pale, presumably at the thought of having to break the bad news of my sudden sight loss. This time, at least my visit was pre-planned. I had already had my pre-assessment visit the week before, which I mistakenly thought was to check that I was fit enough for the planned hernia repair. It was only as I sat, somewhat dazed in the waiting area, one of the nurses having just let me head butt a magazine rack, that I realised they were testing my resilience for what was to come. She did reassure me that my head was not punctured, unlike my abdomen, which would be repaired by cutting me open and sticking some sort of mesh patch in there. A bit like mending a flat tyre. I wish she hadn’t used the word tyre...a bit too close to the mark. Fortunately, the staff who looked after me when I was admitted a week later, were a little more careful. In fact, a little too careful for my liking. Once they had decided that I shouldn’t risk walking to theatre so had ordered a trolley, I resisted the temptation to object and point out that my eyes may be f***ed but my legs still work ok. Who knows, they may been protecting me from some particularly vicious magazine racks en route to theatre. The issue of signing a consent form caused some degree of agitation. They were quite keen to get someone to witness the form to make sure no-one had amended it before I signed – not sure what they were expecting – a junior doctor with a sick sense of humour perhaps, crossing out hernia and replacing it with penis enlargement? I should be so lucky. The fact that, if properly guided to put the pen in the right place, I could actually sign my name, seemed to amaze some of them. Anyway, as I sit at home recuperating, which involves not moving very much, apart from to find and consume food, I now wish I had checked with the hospital staff that they were going to put in elasticated mesh. Otherwise I fear I may be back for another puncture repair before too long.

Friday, April 6, 2012

bad sight stops play

This picture, believe it or not, is of me playing cricket during the great warm weather we’ve been having recently. I offer it here as photographic evidence of the potential dangers of playing VI cricket without the appropriate protective clothing.

Thankfully, when I play for my club, Durham VICC, we tend not to play on raised pitches, with a sheer drop to rose bushes and other garden-related dangers. And even if we did, I don’t suppose we’d set up the stumps quite so near the edge of the grass. And even if we did, I guess I would, as befits someone with my degree of sight loss, enlist the help of a runner – i.e. someone who can see where the hell they are running – someone who is, therefore, able to avoid going for a quick single, setting off at an angle and ending up doing a twisting half-pike of the wall into the thorny rose garden.

Oh, how I guffawed when Mrs B, normally oblivious to anything to do with the game, showed some remarkable knowledge by suggesting that I should be playing at the Rosebowl. Lol, as they say these days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Achieving Closure

My weekend trip to the Retinal Awareness Group annual shindig in Blackpool last weekend got off to what can only be described as a bit of a shocker.
I was keen to show Mrs B, who was accompanying me, how well I could manage on the train. So I confidently headed towards the toilet on the York to Blackpool train. I knew from previous experience that closing and locking the loo door was going to be the hardest part of the task, but surely I’d come across all the various types by now. Or so I thought. An initial scout of the usual places where the buttons are located found nowt. And, to be honest, there is a limit to how thoroughly you want to run your hands around a public lav. But I had checked the place out several times to no avail, apart from finding a small metal lever, which felt too sturdy to be what I was looking for, but it was all I could find. The door then closed by itself, and I found myself trapped, so I decided to give the lever a pull – after all, what else do you do with small metal levers?

I reckon it can only have taken around 8 seconds for the train to stop, followed by a pause and the rush of feet towards the door and then a knock.
After checking I was ok and showing me politely where the damned door buttons were – the smallest I’ve ever not found in a train loo, I have to say – they left me to get on with it.

Thankfully, they did not bother to announce to all the passengers the reason for the extra stop. That train stops so many times anyway; I don’t think they’d have noticed.
Mrs B had, of course, seen the drama unfolding. But I think she was enjoying seeing how well I coped on the train. She’ll feel so reassured about me travelling on my own.

Blackpool itself was kind of what I expected, but it stretched further along the coast than I had realised. It was full of the usual tat, but we were fortunate enough to enjoy glorious weather. It was just like Blackpool, but with sun.

The conference was interesting. It’s good to hear a lot of positive optimism about the future of genetic testing and potential treatments. Who knows, one day I might actually be able to find those buttons in the train loo without incident.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Go, Foley, Go!

The toughest challenge of last week, and possibly of the year to date was the problem of getting a urine sample from my guide dog, Foley. Anyone who knows me might suggest that I don’t normally have an issue taking the piss, but this was tricky. Guide dogs are generally clever animals and often quite sensitive in nature. So, Foley is none too keen on anyone following him around, encouraging him to piddle and then shoving a pot under him. Not surprisingly, it spooks him a little and so he has learned to wait until the weirdo with the Tupperware gets bored, after which the floodgates open.

What the poor fella didn’t realise was that this time we weren’t taking no for an answer. After several dry runs, so to speak, the vet’s conclusion was that if he wasn’t going to supply it, we would have to go in and get it. The mere mention of the ‘c’ word – catheter – makes me feel a bit queasy. The vet offered to take him out the back to do the dreaded deed. After a millisecond of wondering if I should go with him, I decided that I would probably just get in the way. So I sat and waited, legs crossed in sympathy.
Thankfully, there were no howls or yelps, and he returned to the consulting room full of vigour and not so full of urine. The irony, which I think may be lost on Foley, is that there is a type of catheter called a Foley catheter. I hope for his sake this is not an omen.

Having established that there was no sign of infection in the urine, the only thing that the vet was concerned about was that it was rather dilute – I suppose it must have tasted a bit watery to her – so I needed to get a nice fresh sample in the morning. ‘Oh joy’ I thought, ‘here wee go again.’

This time, I called in the experts. The vetinary nurse had suggested trying a pot tied onto the end of a broom shank, so it could be slid into position surreptitiously. This was a project for my 11-year old son. It sounded right up his street – you can probably get a scouts badge for this sort of thing. As I thought, he relished the challenge, and by bedtime the piss-pot positioning prototype was ready for action. The next morning we pretended everything was normal, which it was, until it was time for Foley’s morning piddle, at which point he seemed somewhat distracted by the sight of Dominic approaching with his Blue Peter style wee-catcher. Now we really had him spooked, and he wasn’t about to ‘get busy’ until we were well out of the way.

Child number one having failed so miserably, it was time for number two to have a go. She accepted the challenge in that gracious way that teenagers do when you ask them for help. “What? You want me to do that! OMG!” She was even more delighted when I told her that Foley was too spooked to go in the back yard, so we’d have to try and catch him unawares in the street. The street where her friends would now be walking to school. Incredulous with the potential for utter shame, she reluctantly agreed. Thankfully, we didn’t have to go far before Foley needed to go, and she expertly managed to sneak up and capture a good splash of fresh pee. Of course, this almost frightened the crap out of Foley, which is something we should remember for when we need a fresh stool sample.

Anyway, the vet confirmed that this time, it was of the right concentration. Which reminds me, I wonder if my home brew cider has cleared yet.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Stall Stormy

I woke suddenly and grabbed my trifle. I knew there were beards around there, and I couldn’t afford to diet. Snot snow. It wouldn’t be fairy on Skate and the skids. In many case, I didn’t want it to bend this way.

I don’t know if it was the freezing cold hair or the thought of that beard that made my chair stand on mend. A beer buzzed at my gear, and pants crawled wall cover men. I felt will inside. I was in spain. A lot of spain.

I needed to get gout, butt howl? I goat to my fleet and rank towards my cart. But then I stripped, almost knocking myself doubt. Was this bit? Was it tall mover?
I reached out and grabbed a frock, just tin case. A warm windy blew lover my cheeks and I felt brain falling. There was a sudden snip in the pair. My heart traced. My fears heard the beard and in nod timer fat tall I pickled pup the fart frock and hurtled tit at the beard.

And sod I liver to telly the stale.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Charity Appeal

Your Help Needed
It is a little known fact that literally tens of out of work actors suffer from a debilitating condition called Severe Overdramatic Death Syndrome, or SODS. Sufferers of this cruel affliction are compelled to enact outrageous scenes of their own demise in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

And it’s the families of sufferers who need our support. Like Julie, whose husband Tony has not worked since he was wiped out by a plane crash in Emmerdale. Julie weeps as she remembers their daughter’s wedding last year. “It was all going so well. Then the vicar asked if anyone had any good reason why they should not be married....Tony jumped up, screaming and clutching his chest, staggered to the front and collapsed over the altar. Then he just got up, took a bow, and with a big grin went back to his seat. “ Sufferers like Tony have a certain amount of control, and can lead a reasonably normal life, able to resist the urge to keel over in all but the most inappropriate environments – weddings, funerals, job interviews and the like. Tony is one of the lucky SODS.

Others, like Amanda, are known as useless SODS. They have little or no control over their desire to expire at almost every opportunity. Amanda died four gruesome deaths yesterday. The most embarrassing involved rolling around her local Morrisons fish counter, being attacked by a killer mackerel. Then at lunch, she couldn’t help but choke violently on her egg Mcmuffin, spewing it over horrified onlookers before staggering to the front of the restaurant for a grand finale, sliding down the window into a crumpled heap on the floor.

Your donation can make a big difference, and help these poor SODS.
Call now to donate, before it’s too late. 0800 777 111.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

the one that nearly got away

When I think about it now, I should have been prepared for this mini-crisis. I had, after all, heard numerous tales from family members who had attended pilates classes and either suffered the same fate themselves, or even worse, been on the receiving end.

But for some reason, I was blissfully unaware of the risks as I arrived for my one-to-one hour-long session. I may have missed it, but I don’t recall the health questionnaire at the start of the session including a question on problems of digestion or flatulence. Not a very comprehensive risk assessment, now that I think about it.

Anyway, it was all going swimmingly – I found I was particularly good at lying on the couch – the result of years of training. Breathing in and out also presented few difficulties, as long as I didn’t think about it too much. Before long I had progressed onto the trickier exercises, like rolling my head from side to side and lifting my arms up and down.
If only the session was half an hour, I would have stopped there and escaped without incident. It was moving onto the legs that caused the problem. Moving my long and rather heavy lower limbs around required a little more effort from my core region. While the teacher was very pleased with my ability to isolate my movement to this region, I was starting to feel a certain internal pressure that I was fairly sure would not impress her if at any time I lost control of my pelvic floor region.
But she seemed determined to make it happen. Pleased with my ability to move my legs, she now wanted me to roll my hips. “Keep your shoulders and ribs relaxed,” she said, “You don’t want to grip tightly”. “Oh, yes I do lady” I was screaming in my head. I was one untimely cough away from ending my pilates experience, and there was nowhere to hide. I couldn’t look around at anyone else accusingly, and Foley was too far away to be a suspect. Anyway, the teacher was standing right next to me, holding onto my hips. She was going to feel the full force. Nobody deserved that, let alone a complete stranger.

Thankfully, it passed. In a good way, that is, and I managed to complete my session with dignity intact. Apparently, next time she is going to try some more difficult exercises on me. :-0

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

up, up and away

This morning I called up the experience company to arrange my one-hour flying adventure. I had bought this gift for myself last year at a charity auction; I’m not sure why – I think a mix of 40-something desire to ‘live a little’ combined with a few glasses of merlot.

As I made the call to arrange a time, somewhere in the back of my mind, quite near the front, I wondered if my lack of sight might be a problem for the organisers, at which point I could gracefully duck out, egg flying over my head rather than on my face. I lost no time in letting the nice lady on the other end of the line know that I was blind, and that the flying instructors may well have an issue with this. Before you could say ‘chocks away’ she had offered me two dates and checked with the instructors – “no problem – they are fully aware of your sight problem and are quite happy with the booking”.

Wouldn’t you know it? Where’s ignorance and discrimination when you need it? Normally I can’t venture anywhere near an adventure without some jobsworth stopping me on health and safety grounds. But not this time.

Note to self – can you still buy bicycle clips?