Monthly Archives: July 2012

A good old rant

Yesterday was the start of the Olympic Games 2012 in my former city, London. I don’t care much for watching and listening to sports, but something like the Olympics is a little different, and when I heard that there was going to be a special audio commentary for the blind at the opening ceremony, I got quite excited.

In good time before the show started, I went online to check whether the link for the live stream was working. Not surprisingly it wasn’t. I was outside the UK, so I suspected it would be like that.

I know BBC radio works from abroad, but I hadn’t used the BBC Iplayer for a long time and even though a couple of my friends told me it had become inaccessible, I didn’t realise just how much.

I found the station where the audio commentary would be broadcast, but love and behold, there was no play button, nor any other indicator as to what I needed to do to get the radio player started.

It may well have been a play button, but it was invisible to me who use a screenreader.

Getting sighted help wasn’t an option and besides, I shouldn’t have to get sighted help for something so basic. So, I didn’t watch the opening ceremony. I probably could have watched it, listened to the artists, speeches etc on Norwegian TV, but knowing that it was available with audio description where everything, even down to the costumes in the flag parades would be described, this just wasn’t a very attractive option.

Optimistic and in a good mood, I logged on today to see if I could find the show in the BBC archives. I’m ex BBC staff and I can access and watch TV programs abroad. But, they had only archived the bog standard show, without the commentary!

I tried the Iplayer again and found the radio show, but not the play button.

I am deeply disappointed in the BBC for whatever they’ve done to the Iplayer. It used to be so easy to use with clearly labelled buttons. What was the point of changing it? If the point was to increase the user experience, could it not have been kept as screenreader friendly as it once was? If it had been, blind people all over the world could have listened and enjoyed the audio commentary blind people in the UK did.

And while I’m at it, I wish more countries in the world could offer audio description on TV and in cinemas. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I refuse to buy DVDs in Norway because they take away the audio description track from the DVD. Why? Why? Fricking why? What’s the problem in keeping it?

Last but not least, Audio books. I am not sure how many of the books published each year make it to audio. Luckily, audio books have become popular with sighted people, so they are both cheaper and there are quite a lot of titles available compared to before. However. The publishing regulations rub me up the wrong way. Why does it have to be such that if you live in the wrong country, you can’t read certain books? Imagine if the same restrictions applied to print books. I know that I can order books from Amazone in the states on CDs, but it’s not convenient and it seems unnecessary when I know the book is available digitally.

I’m also a member of Bookshare, a great site, but it’s not really fair that in America, users have access to 70.000 books, while in the rest of the world it’s less. In Norway, it’s only 16.000. That’s not even 25%. And what if the book I want to read is among the 54.000 not available to me just because I’m not American?

My ultimate dream would be some kind of world library for the blind. I wouldn’t even mind paying a reasonable yearly fee to be a member if it meant I could access books and material from all over the world in the format I wished. All the excellent libraries for the blind in the different countries could contribute with their material and the books could be water marked so that it could always be traced back to you if someone leaked it online. Watermarking is used in Scandinavia, I believe in America and probably many other countries, though the UK is a little behind here. And it works. All members have full and free access to their library and don’t want to lose their borrowing rights, so nobody is tempted to leak books this way.

It would probably eliminate the need for illegal sites. Especially if borrowing audio described movies and TV programmes would be part of the service. It could have a central administration in a country like the UK or the US or Canada, as well as local departments in whichever country you lived.

And in cinemas, since most movies have audio descriptive tracks, you could just walk in to the cinema and request it be put on for the film you wanted to watch. Possibly call them a little in advance. The only drawback I guess is for people who don’t understand English, but it would improve the experience for many.

If only these things could happen, I would be a lot happier.

Sighted people have access to a lot more media than the blind, although the internet is making the gap a little smaller. But only with solutions like the once above, could we come close to everything they are accessing.

Well done if you read this till the end!

Dealing with sight loss

Being blind from birth, I cannot imagine what losing your sight must be like. If it was me, I’d probably not take well to it in the beginning. Eye sight is undeniably practical and having that taken away must be a bit of a frustration.

But I am able to understand at least some of the grieving process you may be going through.

Last year, I got extremely depressed and I couldn’t really figure out why. My life wasn’t going well at all. I had lost my job, because it relocated, and with media contracts being far from stable, I didn’t want to move to another city and build up an entire network only for my contract to possibly not be renewed after a few months. I had lost my mother only 8 months before and I have a terminally ill father who, though he’s still alive today, was sure he’d leave this life last year. But my depression didn’t seem to stem from those reasons. I was in the process of dealing with all of this in my head and knew the depressed feeling was something new, something that hadn’t been there before.

I found myself obsessing about my blindness. It has always been something I dislike and would rather not be afflicted with, mainly because it’s not practical, but at that time I really felt a deep hatred for myself and my condition. I would even say I was embarrassed about it in some strange way.

When I spoke to the few blind friends I had, I kept saying how we must be less worth than sighted people, how we were uglier because we couldn’t make eye contact, how surely we must be burdens for sighted friends and family and how we’d always be at an unfair advantage because if we made a mistake, it was blamed by others on our blindness and not because we were humans.

I know I must have pissed some of my friends off by talking like that, because I was dragging them down with me by offending all blind people out there. The blind friends I have are the kind who have good jobs, working relationships and live pretty much like sighted people, so it was unfair on them and it wasn’t fair on me either.

Now, a year later, I have almost got over how I felt then and it wasn’t long ago that I had a very eye opening conversation with another blind friend about my self-hatred. She became blind as a result of an accident when she was 1 year old, so she can’t really remember what being sighted is like. But she told me that she too had gone through a similar patch to me a few years earlier. With her, it had got so bad that she’d stopped communicating with people she didn’t have to talk to, and she’d gone to see a psychologist.

The psychologist, who specialised in sight loss, told her that when a body loses one of its key functions, it will at some point go into denial because something important has been taken away from it. My friend didn’t have to go through the process of losing her sight when she did, because she was so young, but she’d had a delayed reaction to it which had come out when she was an adult. She said the same thing had happened to me.

I wasn’t convinced. I was born blind so I never knew what seeing was like. She replied that I may not know, but my body and mind are being deprived of sensory stimuli which are so basic to our human biology that at some point, it was only natural for me to experience this grief reaction.

This got me curious, so I asked a number of people who are born blind if they’d ever had such a reaction. Surprisingly many of them said that they’d had depressive feelings combined with anger towards their condition. This had usually not lasted longer than a few months which it did in my case.

If I was a scientist or psychologist, this is a phenomenon I’d love to make a formal study of.

Having gone through that grieving process for myself, I have a lot more respect for people who are losing their sight. I at least didn’t have to further compromise my independence while I was having those thoughts and I don’t have to make the readjustments someone getting used to a life as a VI has to.

Being blind sucks. There’s no way around it. But the two main reasons it sucks, is because of it being unpractical and because of the ignorance of people.

I’m by no means saying to you who are losing your sight that you’re heading for an easy life, but if you have understanding friends and family around you as well as successful blind and VI people who can remind you that life can be beautiful and fulfilling without sight, it will hopefully make what you’re going through less frustrating and over time you’ll learn to appreciate the advantages of blindness which I’m planning to address in a later post.

Take the time to grieve. Be angry, cry, and get the emotions out of your system. Go talk to a pro, a friend, or buy a punchbag, attack it and pretend you’re attacking someone or something you don’t like to maximize the punches. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking your life is over. It isn’t. It’s waiting for you to live it to the fullest when the worst of the pain is over.

The Date, Parte 2

This is the second part of this fictional story about Tony and Jenna. For the first part, see the previous post.

Luckily, the assistance was right there on the platform, and it was someone who didn’t feel like small talk, which suited me just fine. The escalators seemed to take forever and when I got to the top of the first one, there was another one. A busker was playing the guitar and singing Puff the Magic Dragon as I finally emerged to take the last set of stairs up to the open air.

Five past eight. Tony hadn’t arrived. I didn’t mind that, because that meant he didn’t see me getting assisted. I didn’t want people I knew to see me get assisted. Ok, correction. I didn’t want Tony whom I wanted to impress to see me getting assisted.

“Are you ok there?” a woman with a broad South London accent put a hand on my arm. “I’m just waiting on someone,” I mumbled hoping she would disappear. “Yeah, she’s fine.” It was Tony. Arriving in another type of situation I didn’t want him to see me in, but you can’t have it all and at least it wasn’t the worst thing he could have seen. Besides, I probably cared about it a lot more than him.

“Sorry I’m late,” he kissed me lightly on the cheek. “But as you know, I’m terrible with time management and suffer from chronic lateness.” He smelled so nice. Coco butter like usual and an aftershave I hadn’t smelled on him before. “I’ll forgive you, this time.” I laughed and he laughed back. “Let’s go,” he said. He held out his arm and we started walking down the street until we turned into an ally way.

“I love this part of London,” I said. “It reminds me of Quartier Latin in Paris. Similar atmosphere with all the noise and the smells from the restaurants.” “Oh, you are half French of course,” said Tony. My dad was from the south of France, and we had spent every summer and Christmas there. I loved France, so as part of my degree, I had spent a year in Paris through the Erasmus project and I have lived in the Latin Quarter. “That’s why I booked a table at a little French restaurant. I can see your face light up when you talk about France and your French family.” “Oh really? But that’s amazing!” I wanted to kiss him, but felt way too unsure of myself to do that yet. “What is it called?” “”Petit Prince.” “Could it be more cheesy,” I laughed. “I know what you mean, but the food is amazing.”

A smell of sandal wood mixed with the aroma of something I guessed must be Thyme and Rosemary, greeted us as we entered the restaurant. All the smells from the places we had passed on the way had made me hungry and I couldn’t wait to eat despite feeling the mixture of being tense, nervous and excited at the same time. “Welcome,” said a French accented woman’s voice as we moved further inside the room. “Table for two?” “I booked, said Tony It’s under Lopez.” “Perfait, I got you a table outside. Hope that is ok?” Tony turned to me and I nodded. “It’s a beautiful evening,” I said.

Our table was small, almost too small, and the chairs were made of metal and made a terrible noise when we moved them, but I didn’t care. The little garden, or courtyard was perfect. Our table was right under what I assumed was a Jasmine tree from the smell. The ground was uneven and I could hear people chatting at the surrounding tables and the sound of a water fountain a little further away. No traffic sound. “This is awesome,” I said sitting down on the chair Tony had pulled out. “I had a feeling you would like it,” he said sitting down opposite me. Our knees were so close they were almost touching. I drew in the scent of him. I wanted to lean over, grab him and kiss him. He smelled so sexy. “You are looking good, he said quietly. “So are you.” He laughed, but not in a “You’re such a joker,” way which he’d done the first time I’d said this to him. To be fair, I’d said it in a very jokey manner so as not to seem too obviously flirty and after having laughed then, he’d said that I was sweet. But this laugh was, well, more of a “Thanks for the compliment” laugh. “Does it feel like being back in the fatherland?” he said after a long pause. “Yeah, sort of. Except from the fact that most people around us don’t speak French.”

A waiter came out and put the menus down on the table. “Anything to drink?” It was a man this time with an English accent. Quite young too judging from his voice. “Does Her Majesty have any preferences?” Tony asked. “I’ll have some water.” “What about wine?” “Sure, but I am no connoisseur. I know the difference between red, white and rose and whether I like them or not.” Tony laughed and picked up the menu to study it. “Ok, I have to admit my wine knowledge isn’t much better than yours. How about a bottle of house red?” “Fine with me.” “I’ll be right back.” The waiter disappeared back inside without a sound.

“My dad is a lawyer,” said Tony after having read out the menu and we had decided what we wanted. “What kind of lawyer?” “A criminal lawyer. He has this friend he met in his student days. He is the kind of lawyer who helps his rich clients so they pay as little tax as possible.” I giggled.” It’s true! Although, that’s not what he says. But I’ve forgotten what his actual job title is. Anyway, this guy loves his wines and is a proper wine snob. So one day, I must have been about 15 or 16, because I still lived at home, he came over for family dinner. My mum couldn’t stand the man, and neither could I nor my brother, so before dinner, mum switched the wines. Dad had bought a couple of bottles of expensive Bordeaux his friend really likes. Mum switched the content of one of the bottles with a really cheap red to see if he could tell the difference.” “And could he?” “No. Mum had been careful enough to choose a wine of the same, is it depth they call it? Of taste.” “And did you tell him afterwards?” Yes. He tried to laugh at it, but he looked more like he was about to cry.” “And your dad?” “He pretended it wasn’t funny until his friend left.” “That’s amazing! I don’t quite get those wine snobs.” “Says the French girl?” I shrugged my shoulders.

The waiter returned and pored ice water from a jug into two glasses. “Would you like to taste the wine sir?” Sure,” I could hear Tony sniff the wine, before he took a sip. “MMMM, this must be….. I know red wine!” I bit my lip so as not to laugh too loudly while the waiter was there.

For starter, Tony ordered the fried Camembert and I the goat cheese salad with pine nuts. We both chose the sea bass with steamed vegetables for our main course.

My salad was amazing, and we ate in a comfortable silence. The couple at a nearby table seem to be having an argument that got louder and louder. It was getting quite silly too and I was embarrassed on their behalf. Still, I liked nothing more than to listen in to other peoples embarrassing conversations when I was out. “I know you and Kate are getting it on because Fiona saw you!” the woman’s voice was winy and by the sound of it, she’d had a bit too much to drink. “Please Gillian, calm down. Can’t we talk about this later?” “You always say that Fred!” the woman shouted. “But I want, no, I need to talk about this now!”

“Hope that’s not me in 20 years,” I said putting my fork down. “Just make sure you keep fit and dress nicely so I don’t feel like trading you in for a younger model” Tony replied. I put down my glass and leaned forward. Had he really said what I hoped he’d said? “Don’t look so terrified, it was only a joke.” He took my hand which I’d placed on the table. “No,” I said. I mean, yes, of course, but it wasn’t that.” “Gillian, I swear, it was a work thing with me and Kate.” The woman scraped her chair back. “A work thing. That’s what you said it was with Nancy, Emma and Jeanette too! And I didn’t think being an estate agent involved screwing your colleagues. Or have I not seen the job description?.” She started walking away on clicky heels, her husband shouting for her to come back, but she was gone.

“So what was it then?” Tony squeezed my hand. “Nothing, it sounds stupid.” “Come on Jenna.” He picked up my hand and placed it between both his. “Well, you said that you wouldn’t trade me in for a younger model if I stayed fit. Does that mean?” I was struggling to get the words out; “Does that mean I am, we are, you know……” I let the words trail off. “Jenna, Jenna, Jenna. Listen. I’ve been totally mad about you since I met you in that God forsaken corridor at work five months ago. I wanted to ask you out long before, but I didn’t want to seem desperate and besides, I had so many work commitments and I wanted to do it when I knew I probably was gonna be in the country for a little bit more than a week.” He laughed. I smiled at him. “I can’t be sure you feel the same, but you did say yes to this date.” “I did,” I replied. “So, let’s cut the crap then and say you’re my girl?” He tried to sound confident, but I heard a tiny quiver in his voice. “I agree. We’ll cut the crap and say that.” We both leaned forward simultaneously and he took hold of my face. Gently gently, he lifted it upwards until I felt my lips meet his. It was a dry, soft kiss, but it lingered for a long time leaving me wanting more.

“Ahem,” The sound came from behind Tony and caused us to jump apart. “The sea bass is here,” the waiter said putting two delicious smelling dishes in front of us. We picked up our cutlery, but to my horror I realised that not only was the sea bass fillet whole, which I had expected anyway, but it was in sauce which would mean I’d have very messy fingers by the time I’d eaten it. I am ok really with cutting up food, but need to feel for it with my fingertips so I know where to cut. I wasn’t a fan of doing that in front of people I didn’t know well, or in restaurants where they sometimes arranged the food in such a fancy way that I managed to spill all the vegetables everywhere. But, I decided to pretend that I was totally cool with it and I was thinking that should Tony not fancy me when he saw how I cut fish, then so be it.

None of us felt like eating much. Between bits of food, which tasted great, and sips of wine, we were busy exploring how holding hands in different ways felt. I felt as if I had a stupid smile on my face the whole time and I could tell Tony was smiling too.

“What are your holiday plans?” he asked. We had finished our food and our fingers were intertwined under the table. “I don’t have any plans really. I haven’t even decided when to take my holidays yet. How about you?” “Well, I haven’t taken out any so far this year. So I was wondering; This may perhaps seem a little rushed, but have you ever been to Switzerland?” “No.” “I could change that, if you’d like to come on holiday with me for a week in August?” “I would love to!” I leaned forward and kissed him. A quick one this time.

We declined the offer of dessert, but excepted coffee. I was wondering what was gonna happen next. Would he ask me to go back with him? What should I say if he did? On the one hand, I wanted nothing more than to spend the whole night with him, but on the other hand, I liked him a lot and wanted to save that moment, look forward to it at some point in the not too far away future.

“Let’s walk a bit,” he said after having paid the bill. This time, he took my hand and little electric shocks tingled through me. We walked for a long time. We talked about Switzerland, at times we were silent and at times we stopped to steal quick discrete kisses. After a while, we came to a park. The evening was still warm, but had got cooler and I was glad I had my shawl. “Let’s sit down on a bench for a while,” Tony said. It seemed as if we were alone. The sounds of the traffic were accompanied by the sounds from the swans and ducks from the nearby pond. Tony drew me close. “Lucky me,” he whispered into my hair. “Lucky me, I said wanting to pull back. “What’s the matter?” I don’t like making out in front of people.” “Me neither,” he said and turned me towards him. “So when I do this, it means there are nobody around, or at least not near enough to see a lot anyway.” The kisses started off gently and got more and more passionate. Our mouths opened and I could feel the tip of his tongue caress mine. He tasted wonderfully and we pressed our lips ever closer together, if that was possible. I don’t know how long we sat there for. All we did was kiss, occasionally stopping to draw breath. We started exploring each other’s faces and hair. Tony’s nose was bigger than I had imagined, though he did not have a big nose. His hair was soft and wavy. His lips seemed to fit mine perfectly. His fingers felt hot and light against the bare skin on my back and shoulders. I was sure he must have had a lot of experience with women, because he knew exactly what he was doing. How to make me tremble with desire for him. “Jenna,” he breathed after we pulled back for the millionth time. “You know, right now, all I want is to take you home and make passionate love to you all night, followed by breakfast in bed.” He Took my hand and we stood up. He pressed against me and I could tell from his body that he meant what he said. “But I start work at six tomorrow morning and I don’t want to rush it.” “Ssshhh, it’s ok,” I said, putting my finger to his lips. It’s better this way, in the beginning. I really want this to work and don’t want to destroy it with doing things too early.” Tony laughed softly. “Ever sensible. But you’re perhaps right.”

“So you are an item now? Come on! I wanna hear it all!” Rachel passed a chocolate muffin across to me over the cafe table. She had been asleep when I had arrived home around 1 in the morning. “HMMMMM,” I said wanting to draw this moment out for as long as possible just to annoy her. “Don’t do this to me. I know you are.” “And when did you become psychic?” I asked sipping my cappuccino. “You’ve got that silly face I had when I first got together with Ben, so I’m just guessing and I’m also confident that I’m right.” I nodded slowly “I, knew, it!” She jumped up from her chair and gave me a hug. “You seem pretty happy ladies.” The voice came from the table next to us, a friendly old man. “She just got the man of her dreams!” “Rachel,” I hissed trying to calm her down. “That surely doesn’t happen every day,” the man said. “I remember, it was in 1949 when I met my Gladys. Teenage sweet hearts we were, and to me, there’s no prettier woman on this very planet till this day.” He sat there lost in his own happy memories for a while before he said: “How about I pay for your breakfast, and your friend’s too to celebrate?” “But you can’t,” I began. “Oh yes I can,” he said almost Barack Obama style. “I can and I will. Cheers for love,” “Your coffee,” whispered Rachel quickly. I lifted my cup and we leaned over to clink them together. “To love,” Rachel and I repeated in unison.

The date, Part 1

This work of fiction is dedicated to Michelle and her friends.

“Please turn around for me? There, you look stunning.” Rachel rubbed a little bit of eye shadow from under my right eye. “He will love you,” she said pulling back. I put my hands up to my hair one last time to check that it hadn’t flattened, but my black curls were light and my hair smelled good.

I had been getting ready for this date with my work colleague Tony all day, but I still didn’t feel quite ready. I was just nervous and couldn’t believe this was actually happening. My flatmate Rachel had kindly offered to help me doing my hair and make-up and she had also come with good advice on what to wear. I had on a long light purple strapless dress, long silver earrings, a couple of silver bangles and a matching shawl around my shoulders in case it would get chilly. I had on black, high heeled strappy sandals and I had had French manicure and pedicure done at the salon near by the same morning. Bits of my hair had been put up in little clips while the rest hung loose down my back. My make-up was discrete without being casual. Foundation powder, purple and silvery eye shadow and a nice pink lip-gloss which tasted slightly of raspberries. “When are you meeting him?” “At 8, so I still have some time. It’s only a few stops on the tube.” “Fancy a teeny tiny glass of wine before you go out to calm your nerves?” Rachel had already made her way over to the fridge where she took out the bottle of rose. “Go on then, but not too much, or I’ll be too giggly when I finally meet him.” We sat down on the couch with a glass each. It was one of those couches which are too low and impossible to get up from because they are too soft. “I love Ben, but I’m almost jealous of you,” said Rachel sipping her rose. “Nothing beats a first date.” “How long is it now since you got together?” “Two years. He’s banging on about us moving in together as his flatmate is moving out to move in with her boyfriend. I want to, but I really enjoy having my Ben free space at times and well, sharing with you is going really well.” “I’d certainly be sorry if you moved out. I’d have to find another flatmate.” I checked my watch, 7.20. “You say that, but maybe it all goes really well with Tony tonight.” “You meeting Ben later?” “Nah, He’s at Phil’s stag do. I think I’ll be catching up on East Enders and polish off the left overs of the Indian takeaway from yesterday. “Would you mind having a sneaky peak on Tony’s facebook page and give me a slightly better description of him? It’s not like I want to ask my other colleagues.” I asked her. “I kind of know what he looks like, but you know me.” She picked up her blackberry and started typing on it. “All for you my darling,” she said. “What was his name again? No wait, found him. There’s only one Tony in your friend’s list right?” I nodded and drained my wine glass. “Hmmmm, the picture isn’t exactly clear, but from what I can see, he looks pretty good. Caramel skin, nice short hair which is a little red ish brown and really green eyes. Very very good looking.” “Thanks.” I was glad Rachel wasn’t one of those people who replied by asking if his looks really mattered and that wasn’t personality the most important thing? And of course it was so, but everyone wants to date someone they like the look of, even if they can’t see them. I got up. “But I really need to go. I’ll see you later, or at least tomorrow.” “OOOOh, because you might not come back?” “Don’t be silly,” I laughed. “Let’s go for brunch at the caf around the corner tomorrow at 11.” “Ok, deal.” Rachel gave me a quick hug for good luck, before closing the door behind me.

The summer evening was hot and the air smelled of flowers and petrol. I loved warm evenings like this, but I knew the tube was going to be horrible. Good thing I only had a few stops to go. I lived in a very residential area, and my walk down the street was accompanied by children playing and music from an accordion streaming out from one of the windows. I walked at a relaxed pace. Didn’t want to hurry. Wanted to enjoy the cosy atmosphere. A little boy ran in front of me and made me jump. “Sorry,” I said, even though he was the one who ran out in front of me. But the boy had already disappeared before I finished the last syllable.

All too soon, I was out on the main road and the cosy summer night sounds were exchanged with roaring busses and motorbikes. Tony had a motorbike and he had promised me a ride on it one day.

I’d known Tony for five months, since I started working on the news desk for the website Reporting International. He was 8 years my senior and a crime correspondent. The first thing which had made me notice him was actually his writing. For some bizarre reason, his articles had stood out to me. His analysis deep and to the point, yet creative and as a news writer, he was impeccable. Of course that alone hadn’t made me fall for him. I had met him two weeks after I had started working there. He had been reporting on a case in Brazil when I had started and it had developed into something a lot bigger than anyone first thought, so he had remained there longer than what was intended. I still remember it as clearly now as when it had happened. I was finally going for a late lunch after a terribly busy afternoon, and not really being overly familiar with the building back then, I did the classic blindy thing, and turned down the wrong corridor. “You ok?” The voice had made me jump. A man had been standing in front of me. A man with a deep melodic voice who smelled of coco butter and soap. “I guess so. I’m going to the canteen.” “Oh, you must be the new girl at the news desk,” he said. “My name is Tony.” I put out my hand, and he shook it. His grip firm and his hand warm and dry with a nice shape. “Yes, I’m Jenna,” I said and felt my cheeks go red. “I’m off to have a bite to eat,” he said. “Me too actually,” I replied. “Right, wanna come with?” I put my cane under my right arm and took hold of his left. “Hopefully there’s still some food left for us,” he laughed as we were walking.

Throughout the lunch, Tony had me fascinated. By the things he said of course. How he had experience with interviewing people on death row in the states and how he uncovered corruption in the police. But almost more than what he said, it was all the other things which had me transfixed. I loved the swift, gentle way he moved between the counter and table to get things, the humility in his voice when he spoke of the impressive life he had led and his smile. Of course, I couldn’t see the smile, but his smile was of that kind you rarely see in people. The kind which penetrates their entire way of being. His smile was in his voice, his movements and even in his silences. But on a selfish note, the very best thing about Tony was that he seemed totally unfaced about the fact that I was blind. I’d always fancied having a sighted boyfriend for many reasons. Apart from it being more practical, I found that the majority of blind boys had no idea how to manage basic things like properly looking after themselves. I myself was also a very visual person and knowing I would never be able to see, I had, and perhaps this was totally naive and stupid, this idea that if I got someone who could see, I could in some way experience sight through his eyes. With sighted boys, there was usually another problem though. They weren’t used to my blindness, and consequently spent a lot of time asking me about things I didn’t always feel like talking about. A massive turn off in a flirting situation at any rate. I also found that a lot of them were over protective and wouldn’t let me do the things I wanted to do.

Tony wasn’t the first sighted man I’d ever met who was this cool. But he was the first one who was that cool and at the same time had so many qualities I was attracted too. It didn’t take us long to become friends, but we didn’t get the chance to spend quality time that often. I discovered through facebook notes that not only was he a great reporter, but an excellent writer of fiction. He had a way of making every subject exciting and every one of his written words spoke to something deep inside me.

I was headed for the world of falling in love something I hadn’t done since, I couldn’t even remember. Maybe when I was 17? I’d had crushes of course, but that intense falling in love experience I thought only teenagers got, had been absent. It felt good, but it also pissed me off, because it made me feel emotionally vulnerable. Besides why the hell would someone like Tony fall for me? But then, why the hell not? I was as good looking and intelligent as the next girl. I was quite worried that Tony was friendly with me just because he wanted to be friends and every time he said something slightly flirty, bought me a coffee or lunch at work or gave a compliment, I kept wondering why. In the end, I decided that what he did, were perfectly friendly gestures and I had resigned myself to thinking that when last week, on my way to meet a friend in a Tapas bar, he had asked me out.

“So where are we off to young madam?” Kevin, my favourite person at my local tube station ran over to meet me as soon as I reached the barriers. “Looking great today,” he said. I told him the name of the station and even though I know my way around my local tube station, I let him take me down so we could chat. “You’re not off to see a young gent are you?” he said. “Don’t feel bad old Sir,” I replied. “You know you’ll always be my one and only old gent however many younger gents I see.” He started laughing. His laugh was loud, booming and very infectious. “Now, don’t you let him hurt you, or he’ll have to answer to me,” he said as the train pulled up. I waved as I entered and slid down onto an empty seat. The train was as hot and sticky as I’d feared, but at least it wasn’t crowded. Ten to eight. I was on time, maybe I’d even arrive a fashionably two minutes late. I rubbed my lips together and behind one hand, scratched my nails over my front teeth just to make sure there was no lip gloss on them and put some hand cream on my hands. Then I took a couple of deep breaths as the train announced that I had arrived at my stop.

Please stay tuned for part 2.

You will be remembered

“Hi, You’re the girl who’s going to Stratford right?” I turned to the man from the London underground, my face a big questionmark. “Erm, no, I never go to Stratford. I’m off to Acton.” “Oh, I thought you always went to Stratford,” he replied as we started walking down the stairs. “I’ve honestly been to Stratford once, no wait, twice, in my entire life.”

After a bit of confusion, we finally figured it out. The man had taken me down to the tube 18 months ago, and that exact day, I must have been going to Stratford. It may seem a little strange, but this happens to blind people a lot. We do something, and probably because we’re blind, whoever was there when we did it, thinks this must be our habit, and therefore remember it and us when they next see us even though a long time might have passed.

It did use to freak me out, but now I find it rather entertaining and a little sweet. They only want to help after all.

My Stratford story is funny, but the one which has made me laugh the most, was when a friend of mine went in to a McDonald’s restaurant he had visited a couple of years earlier. He had just walked up to the counter to place his order, when the guy behind the counter listed what he had had last time. It was all correct, even down to the size of his drink.

The moral of this post is, be careful what you do if you’re a little bit different. It might just stick with you! And if you work in the service industry, Always ask, unless you know the person well.