Monthly Archives: October 2011

Blindness = stupid, naive and needy

I’ve already devoted more space to blindness than first was intended for this blog. But it’s a part of me as much as the fact that I’ve got curly hair, or that I like reggae. It has defined and shaped my character, my life choices and opportunities to a certain extent. People usually ask me whether I wish I could see and the answer is yes, but not because I’m bitter about the fact I can’t see, or because I want to see the beautiful red/orange of the sunset, or the twinkling stars in the sky. No, I want to see because the society was never made for a blind person. Electronic or braille books was never the norm, and neither was audiodescription in cinemas, brailling in shops and blindness in general really. My biggest reason for wanting to see is that I’m always having to prove to people that I’m capable of living and breathing and that I sometimes have to fight for things sighted people take for granted. And there are people who won’t leave me alone because I carry a white cane. There are old ladies who always think I’m up for a chat, or people from certain countries who ask me who cooks my food or what I’m doing outside after dark. And last, but definitely not least, are the men who think they can get easy access to my body and money just because I’m blind. Afterall, I’m blind, so I must be a bit naive and desperate right?

Luckily this has only happened to me twice, but both times got my blood boiling with anger. I am no fool.

In the first case, it was a rather bad relationship with someone I thought was exciting, but someone I knew was bad for me. To cut a long story short, it ended when he understood I was too smart to let him have full access to my life, be it keys to my flat or bank account.

3 years later, I was friends with someone whom I genuinely had only platonic feelings towards. Sweet guy, but I was taken and he wasn’t my type. This friendship also ended because he realised I was never interested in being more than friends.

Surely, that happens to a lot of girls and it has happened to me in the past, but I can tell the difference between someone who plays on my supposed vulnarability to try and win me over so they can make some extra cash by making me trust and love them and and someone who got disappointed who genuinely thought me a suitable girlfriend and it really makes me sad to think that some people, be it women or men, befriends blind people and try to get with them to fulfill their own needs whatever they might be.

I realise it doesn’t just happened to blind people, but I know of other disabled people this has happened to.

The question I ask those sneaky “do gooders” is Where is your dignity? You certainly wouldn’t like the same thing done to you?

At the same time they make me laugh, because thinking that anyone would be stupid enough to fall for their game, means that they would be stupid enough to fall for someone elses game should the situation have been reversed!

Euro English

As part of my bachellor’s degree in journalism a few years back, one of the required books to read was by the radio and TV presenter, John Humphreys. The book was about languages and how the English language is evolving. One of the things he said, was that there are two kinds of English, one type of English spoken abroad, and one spoken in England. He said further more that people from abroad, whatever country, could understand each other perfectly well whilst they could not understand English people.

This is closer to the truth than you’d think. Before I moved to the UK, my English was really good. I had no problems reading bookss in English and I attended a few International conferences on disability and equality where I had no problems understanding what was being discussed. I also attended a European computer camp in Hungary where I made a lot of friends.

Moving to the UK therefore, was a shock. Of course, the English they speak in scotland can be quite hard to understand, but I also struggled to understand what my English flatmate from Cambridge said. I was frustrated and thought there was something wrong with me. And fast forward two years, I went on a European exchange camp held in England. I was now part of the British delegation. I had no problem understanding (proper English) but this time, a very different and unexpected problem arose. I had great trouble communicating properly with the other Europeans whom, if I’d met two years earlier, I’d have great convos with. They thought I spoke to English English, and I didn’t know what I did differently then to how I spoke before, so I quickly gave up making friends and I ended up hating the whole exchange and leaving early, something I laugh at today, because I met my now boyfriend at that exchange. Not that we knew we’d get together at the time of course.

Through working to prepare everything for this exchange, I had to communicate with people around Europe and one thing me and the English organiser couldn’t stop giggling at, where the funny jargan they had created which they thought were English. While I was in Florence, I also talked about the phenomenon of Euro English with an English girl who is going out with one of my boyfriend’s best friends, and we too, had a few giggles and used the words sometimes as a joke, but of course, not a joke shared by all the Italians we were with. After all, they themselves use some of these words. Here is a list of Euro English words and their definition.

Footing: Running (my favourite.
Watercooker: Kettle. (this one makes sense.)
Seadog: Seal. (I’d never have guessed. What does a seal and a dog have in common?)
Pony: Fringe (My Dutch ex’s mother used to use that and I always pretended not understanding what she meant. |It doesn’t make sense though.)
Responsibles: Camp leaders/organisers. (Sounds a bit creepy.)
Chicken skin: Goosebumbs. (Alright, I’ll allow this one as it’s sort of similar ish.)
Pineapple: Acorns/pine cones. (Makes me smile)
Sporting school: Gym. (Creative)
Spots: TV ads. (Aparrently Italians think this really is an English word. How cute!)

I can’t think of any other ones, but please feel free to add your Euro English words to the list. Maybe it would be worth creating a website http://www.euroenglishdictionary.com

There’s also this hilarious email I received a while ago which I’ll paste here. Let’s hope it doesn’t come true. 😛

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than the other possibility, German.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as ‘Euro-English’.

In the first year, ‘s’ will replace the soft ‘c’. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard ‘c’ will be dropped in favour of ’k’. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome ‘ph’ will be replaced with ‘f’. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent ‘e’ in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing ‘th’ with ’z’ and ‘w’ with ‘v’.

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary ‘o’ kan be dropd from vords kontaining ‘ou’ and after ziz fifz yer, vevil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza.

Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer,ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

I’ll end with something a Dutch minister once said: “I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart and my wife’s bottom also.”

My big decission

I haven’t been posting here for a while because I spent some lovely days in Florence, Italy where my fantastic boyfriend comes from. I absolutely love Italy and will probably write about it in later posts, but I would like to share a big decission I made, rather rushed, today.

As you may or may not know, I’m a Norwegian and for 7 years I have been living in the UK. 3 years in Edinburgh and 4 in London. And what a time! I went from being an insecure student, to being saved and baptised in a pentecostal church. I went to London, stopped the church thing and lived a little on the wild side until I got a job in the BBC where I stayed for 3 years. I had to leave because my department went to Salford and I didn’t wanna move. I got back into a wonderful church as well and my faith is stronger than ever.

Ok, so I decided on the freelance thing and it’s still something I’d like to persue, but I’m also realising that I really have nothing here in London. I have a social life and friends, but I don’t have key people I need in my life, like family. Because I do really believe that we all need family. If you’re raised without a family, you’ll naturally do anything you can to make a family around you in one way or another. And although I am a very capable and independent girl, I am blind and I do need people around me I can trust to help me with the few, but crucial things I need help with. I would also like to go back to university, take a masters degree and get a job, perhaps do the freelancing on the side. Whether I’ll stay in Norway forever or join my other half in Italy, only time can tell. There are some lose plans of a Tuscan future, but for the next few years at least, I will live very happily in Norway. And if the future plans don’t work out, I hope he’ll come stay with me. I’ll have family around me, university is free and my chances of getting a job is much bigger when I complete a higher education as very few disabled people with master’s degrees in Norway end up unemployed.

Will it be easy? Probably much more so than moving to the UK back in 2004. It’s after all the place I was born. I speak the language there and I have a network.But I won’t leave London without feeling sad about the fact I’m leaving a couple of very close friends and my church behind. I will also always have a part of Britain with me. After 7 years, you can’t help but being somehow shaped by somewhere you lived.

But I think this is the right decission. I have felt unhappy about living here in London lately and worried about my future. I will hopefully go back around Christmas or new year, so everything will happen quickly. But I’m confident this really is the right thing to do.

My one worry about leaving London, is that my studio recording will have to end. I hope this is not the case and that something can be worked out. Being a Christian, I’ll pray on it and hope the producer doesn’t feel I betray him by going away. It’s just that at present, I need more than a few studio sessions to keep me here.

But, everything sorts itself out for nice girls. Hmmmmm, I’m known to be more naughty than nice though, so need to work on that? 🙂

The shame of being unemployed. Part 2

Here’s the second article I wrote on being unemployed.

Being unemployed really isn’t fun and the days can easily get long and very boring. It doesn’t have to be like that. I personally started off my days as newly unemployed after losing my job due to its relocation by sleeping in, watching TV and generally being quite lazy. It was absolutely wonderful for the first couple of weeks. I did have a social life to, so it wasn’t too bad, but suddenly I found myself moody, restless and getting more and more depressed every day and I figured that something had to change.

First of all, I sat down to identify what I missed about my working life and my main points were:
-Routine.
-social interaction.
-the feeling of having achieved something and being counted on to achieve it.
-Relax after a long day of work.

So, I came to the conclusion that I somehow needed to recreate this in this temporary stage of my life. And I highly recommend these tips if you are currently looking for work and need some purpose to your day in the meantime.

In my previous article I praised volunteering because it gives you a sense of having a job even though you don’t get paid. To get some ideas on what you can do, please read it:

Get a morning ritual. Yeah, it may sound funky and a bit new age, but it really works. I am a Christian, but realised I don’t know the bible that well. So I set myself a challenge to get up no later than 07:30 every morning to do some reading, reflection and praying. And I had a deal with one of my working friends to text and see if I was up. That way I was accountable to someone and this morning ritual has given me lots of positivity plus more time to do job hunting, writing, record my music etc. Also, I know a lot more about my faith which is very helpful in my position as a Christian youth leader.

Your morning ritual can be whatever you want. It can be writing a diary, do some exercise, anything as long as you feel like it gives you a boost. And if it includes some kind of self reflection, it’s even better. Reflect on things like your goals, your dreams, how to reach them, how far you have come in reaching them, anything, but keep it positive. Otherwise this is counterproductive. Having someone in the beginning to be accountable to is also good because it will motivate you to see it through.

Take up a new hobby. I like the feeling of accomplishing something new and therefore I decided to learn a foreign language. Audible have many good ones if you find classess inaccessible, or there are plenty of other things you can do out there. A Thai cooking course, singing lessons, or learning to play an instrument. You might be unemployed, but the good thing is that now you have the time to get good at something you’ve always wanted to learn, maybe even something you can add to your CV? And it inevitably makes the day more fun.

Socialise. You are not the only one who is unemployed and chances are you have a friend in the same situation. Why not meet at each others house and do applications together? You can help each other along the way and two is always better than one.

Finally, get organised. Sure, you’ve got the whole day, but taking breaks in the activities you are doing or not planning them will result in you only doing half the things you planned to do. So write a timetable or a to do list including how much time to spend on each thing that needs doing.

These are all simple little tips that will make a massive difference to your day and your purpose, confidence and security.

Life as an unemployed is not something you should seek, but do all these little things and your days may not be so bad after all.

The shame of being unemployed. Part 1

The follwoing piece is one I originally wrote intended for a website ained at blind people from the time before I decided that freelance writing was the way to go for me. However, I don’t think it ever got published and because it does contain some sound advice, I’ll put it up here. And although it’s written with a blind audience in mind, any sighted person can also find some advice here.

There’s hardly anything in life that’s more humiliating than becoming unemployed. And for a young professional woman like me, who is born blind, losing my job to a great extent also meant losing my pride, since it meant joining UK’s 80% of working aged blind people who don’t have a job for one reason or another.

Sadly, the average sighted John and Jane Doe’s perspective of a blind person is of somebody with a guide dog who has the supernatural ability to do everything a human can do including helping the poor blind person to get dressed in the morning. And we of course have carers cook, clean and feed our dogs. Or do the dogs to that too? Blind people are not able to hold down a job and now basket weaving and piano tuning and working on switchboards are out of fashion, what is there to do for them?

I could write a book about the questions I get both with regards to why I don’t have a dog, and who does my hair every morning, (I do that myself by the way, sssssshhhhhh) and about my employment. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I will include one story I found utterly hilarious. Old woman: “So do you stay at home with your parents then?” Me: “no madam, (I hate the word madam and reserve it for women I can’t stand) I am a journalist. “Old woman/madam: Oh, so you sit in the office and type and then somebody comes in to tell you a story?” It may be rude, but I burst out laughing because I got this video in my head of people queuing up at my desk to feed me readily researched stories for me to write down.

The point of this little anecdote was to illustrate just how embarrassing it would have been to say “No madam, I don’t live with my folks, but I am unemployed.” It would fit her expectations too well. She would have said something sympathetic and started talking about her friend’s sister’s husband’s cousin who died in 1864 who was blind too. And I would have nodded and smiled while doing my best to block her out and wondering if I had to stand her on the bus as well.

So how then, do you re-establish your sense of pride and belonging to something in the time you have to wait for a new job?

Live your dream: I know. Applying for work is BORING! So in between the countless cover letters and application forms, do something you’ve always wanted to do. The fact that you have chosen one career field, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you’ve wanted to do? Maybe you are an accountant, but always wanted to work with children. Or maybe you are a television producer with a secret passion for counselling.

Stop dreaming and start working voluntarily with children by for example becoming a scout or girl guide, write for a magazine. It doesn’t matter if it’s your local church magazine or your friend Joe’s blog. What matters are exposure and that you enjoy doing it. Become a counsellor with the Samaritans, a volunteer who visits disadvantaged people with the Red Cross, only your own imagination can stop you.

If you’d asked me to do any volunteering as a fresh graduate I would dismiss it immediately. I don’t get paid, so what’s the point? Plus, it’s probably boring. But volunteering can be quite fun, I have learned from experience. If you work for the right organizations, you can be involved in exciting travel, working abroad, making a change in someone’s life and last but not least, when that curious old madam prods into your life, you can honestly say “I’m working with children, elderly people, I’m a counsellor” etc. Only you know that your (salary is paid by the welfare system.

What are you waiting for? Start finding out how you can contribute to something you enjoy today and get that pride and sense of having a job that matters back.

In the next article I will give you tips on how to structure your day to give you some sense of purpose.

Third time lucky?

I need a fresh start. At least when it comes to blogging. And what’s better than starting on a hot, sunny October day? I intend to use this space very differently to what I have done previously, if you haven’t seen my previous blogs, don’t ask and if you have, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I’d like this time, to write something my friends and family can read and join in with. And so here anything from excerpts of my fiction, song lyrics, random thoughts and reflections to simple and delicious food recipes and articles goes.

I also think this is a great way for me to keep my writing up to scratch which is important now that I’m officially a freelance journalist. So I’m doing this more for myself and my own development than to impress anyone, but having said that, readers, you’re more than welcome. After all, inputs from others via comments, or just knowing that somebody reads what I publish by looking at my stats will make this way more exciting and will make me more likely to keep up.

So, I’m lifting my virtual champagne glass to a new start! Salut! There’s both plenty of virtual champagne and strawberries to go around, so help yourselves.