Tag Archives: London

Can sight be a hindrance?

As practical as I can imagine being sighted must be I sometimes think sight can be a very big obstacle.

I was discussing a new type of vegetable pasta with a friend of mine and told her how much I liked it, because it didn’t drop my blood sugar levels the way regular pasta does. Especially white pasta. It even tasted like regular pasta. Her reaction was quite funny. She started lecturing me about how stupid the advert was and that she wasn’t tempted to try it at all because of it. Besides, the pasta was different colours because they had different vegetables inside them.

What surprised me, was that just from seeing, the pasta had put her off. I also thought that pasta came in different colours, because I’ve seen that in Italy. But that’s beside the point. The conversation taught me just how quickly sighted people use their sight to judge and that’s sad.

Sight is a remote way of perceiving the world around you, meaning that there’s no need to get up close with objects or food to get a rough idea of what they are. But the key for me here is remote. You’re not up close and personal with what you see, well not always anyway. So if you see something new, you can’t really know what the object is like.

Food is a great example of this. I used to waitress in Dans Le Noir in London. A restaurant where diners eat and drink in the dark, not knowing what they are eating and drinking. One thing a lot of customers said when they came out after their meal and was told what they had consumed and saw pictures of it was: “I’m glad I didn’t know what it was, or saw it, because I probably wouldn’t have chosen it. But it tasted divine.” That tells me sight is a weak sense. But unfortunately a weak sense that has taken over most sighted people’s lives and dulled their other senses.

Sighted people also judge people faster and sometimes on unfair grounds. Blind people do this too, but usually based on more than just appearance.

One time for instance, I was going out to meet my class mates in St Helier, the capital of Jersey where I went to summer school to improve my English. I was sixteen and my host family was scared to let me go on the bus by myself, but they couldn’t exactly force me to stay in.

My bus came in a little earlier than the other girls busses. I decided to cross the road to the point where I was meeting them, but I missed the crossing. And before I knew it, I had three Jersey skater boys offering me a hand. We had been warned not to mix with, or date the locals. Apparently Jersey girls hated Scandinavians, claiming that they stole their boys, and there had been some ugly cat fights, so when a couple of the other girls stepped off their bus and saw me with the boys, they came running and out of breath asked me if they had done something to hurt me. In fact, the boys had been extremely polite and well behaved, but apparently they looked a little trashy. Perhaps if I’d been sighted, I’d not been so nice to them.

So here’s a challenge for my sighted readers. Next time you’re in a new place, close your eyes and experience the place for a few minutes without sight. Do you notice something you didn’t when your eyes were open? Do you smell, hear and feel things you didn’t realize were around you? This is also good to do in a familiar place, like your favourite café.

I always joke that if I get to see one day, I’ll be a ninja, because all my senses will be so well developed. Just imagine how much richer your world would be if all your senses played as big a role in your life as sight. I personally think it would be pretty awesome.

Why I love and identify with L’Occitane en Provence

Disclaimer: L’Occitane is not paying me to write this post. I do it out of love and gratitude.

L’Occitane en Provence is a French personal care, beauty and cosmetics brand founded in 1976 by Olivier Baussan. However, in those days it was a far cry from the International stores which are so popular today. In fact, Olivier Baussan started his business selling essential oils in an open air market in Provence. The first actual store opened in 1978 in Provence and in the 1990s L’Occitane saw International expansion. Today L’occitane shops can be found in over 90 countries in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe.

The products are organic, not animal tested and plant based except for beehive products that are used in the manufacturing process. L’Occitane is also practicing traditional ways of cultivating and harvesting ingredients and in the making of the products themselves.

Most ingredients are sourced directly from Provence though the popular shea butter series containing shea butter is purchased directly from women groups in Burkina Faso as Fair Trade.

I love L’Occitane for several reasons. First of all, the products are nice and my skin loves them. And using them makes me feel beautiful and refreshed.

Secondly, L’Occitane makes their products accessible to blind people. I remember the first time I was in a L’Occitane store in London getting quite emotional because picking up a product and being able to read what was inside it was a completely foreign and beautiful experience to me.

Thirdly, I support what the L’Occitane foundation (La fondation D’Enterprise L’Occitane) is doing. Namely to support visually impaired people and the economic emancipation of women.

L’Occitane works with NGOs to reduce avoidable blindness, particularly, but not exclusively in Burkina Faso. But they also do other things to empower visually impaired teens, such as running perfume schools every year for visually impaired teens from all over the world in Provence. If only I had known when I was a teenager…..

I have always loved the brand because of their accessibility efforts, but I’ve only recently started using it for almost every part of my beauty routine. I wasn’t aware of just how good all the products where, how much the company supported causes I have passion for and I thought it the price tag was high. However, having recently been to an L’Occitane members evening at the L’Occitane store in Oslo, I found out that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Plus I really don’t mind my money going to this company.

I also like the friendly treatment I received from the L’Occitane staff at this member’s night. They advised me on what my skin needed Rather than telling me I needed a million products because they needed to sell. I came away with a lot of shea butter products.

As an artist who works in Africa, is blind and working on setting up a foundation to help blind people in Nigeria with education tools, L’Occitane is the kind of company I dream to one day be one of the faces of.

Episode 11. Karl Lund

Karl Lund
June 11.
Merete had been all ears when I’d called her the night before to tell her about finding my paternal grandmother. And she’d promised to do a little digging around to see whether she could find out more about Frank Mikkelsen and also about the son Gerda had adopted. Now, we were sitting indoors at the place where we’d been eating on Monday because it was too windy and rainy to sit outside.
“Frank Mikkelsen was quite a high profile reporter,” she said flipping through a folder full of copied articles. She’d spent the whole day in the archives digging out information. And there was a lot more about Frank Mikkelsen here than what I’d found at the library.
“On way to mother in Kristiansand before disappearing”
Was one of the headlines.
“Frank Mikkelsen? What happened?”
Was another. The article was speculating in whether the disappearance of frank Mikkelsen was natural or if somebody was behind it. Since he was clearly observed one minute and gone the next.
“Eline denies affair. Says she loves husband and is waiting for him to come home”
Was another topic. I only skimmed a lot of the articles as they were not particularly interesting beyond the headline.
Merete was yawning opposite me.
“I could kill for a coffee right now,” she said. “But I guess I have to make due with tea as I’ve had the share of caffeine I am allowed being pregnant.”
I looked up from my reading and made sympathetic noises. Melissa was complaining about exactly the same thing. Although she’d gone extreme and even stayed off caffeine in soft drinks.
“How can she do that? I’d kill someone.”
“She’s been close to killing both me and her husband a couple of times,” I said. And we have to endure another 16 weeks.”
Merete laughed and got up. “You gave me an idea though. I’ll pretend I didn’t know there is caffeine in diet Pepsi. Want anything?”
“I’ll have a Pepsi too.”
She got up and stretched. “Look at this while I’m away.” She took a piece of paper out of her file and pushed it over to me.
“Was investigating the mid-summer murders when he disappeared,” said the headline. I read on:
Grimstad Daily News has learned that around the time of his disappearance, Frank Mikkelsen was making investigations into the Homborsund mid-summer murders.
It’s unclear as of yet whether he is making the investigations privately or publicly. However, he had been observed looking for old material in the archives.
Mikkelsen is the son of diseased Sven Mikkelsen who was third to drown outside the lighthouse Nellevine.
Could his disappearance be co-incidence, or is this calculated by somebody who was perhaps involved in the mid-summer murders?”
The byline read Karl Lund.
Merete came back with two bottles of diet Pepsi and two bags of ready salted crisps. I grabbed one of the bags and opened it.
“Do you know who Karl Lund is?” I asked after I’d swallowed my mouthful.
“Yes, I do as a matter of fact.”
“It’s not by any chance the boy Gerda adopted?” I asked unscrewing my Pepsi bottle.
“No. He is not that interesting a person. And I happened to know him. Not that I knew he was Gerda’s son until I started researching the mid-summer murders, but he is my ex’s neighbour and his name is Rune Andersen. He’s friendly enough. A painter. Like a painter who paints houses. Not an artist. ” She pointed to her stomach and drank greedily from her Pepsi. “The father of these two little devils. He’s my ex. We broke up.”
“While you’re pregnant with his kid?”
“Yes. We shouldn’t have been together in the first place. But as it happens, he’s a nice guy and he’ll be a good father to them and help me bring them up. But back to Karl Lund.”
“She pulled out a photo from her file.
“Karl Lund is a half Swedish, half Norwegian journalist who worked with Grimstad Daily News for about three years. I called the guy who was the editor at that time and he told me that Karl Lund was known for writing very spiteful opinion columns, which was what got him fired in the end. Although, he had apparently been a good news reporter. He got fired in 1987 after writing a speculative piece on how one local politician might have spent public money to buy a new boat, when he was supposed to do a cozy interview on how he spent the summer when he wasn’t working. The new boat was going to be featured heavily in the interview. Turned out Karl Lund was right about the money coming from public funds, but it was the way he attacked the piece the editor had an issue with.”
She pushed the photo over to me.
“That’s him.”
I picked up the photo and stared at it for two seconds before dropping it in horror.

“Sandra, are you ok?” I sat on the floor with my head between my knees and my breaths were coming out in gasps. I felt someone holding out a brown paper bag and I took it and breathed into it.
“Are you ok?” The voice which I now realized belonged to Merete repeated.
“I am fine,” I said when my breathing had slowed down enough for me to speak.
“Are you able to get up?” she asked.
I stretched my hands up and grabbed the table. And slowly I was able to place myself back onto my chair and push it towards the table. I picked up my Pepsi and drank. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s just that, this man can’t be Karl Lund. His name is Christian Holm and he is, was my step-father.
“Really?” Merete had also got herself back on her chair. “You have to tell me everything Sandra.”
It was May 17th 2001 and the final year I let my mum drag me to the Norwegian constitution day celebrations in Southwark Park. I had really enjoyed it as a child, but as I got older, I found all the Norwegians insisting on parading in the streets and pretending to be in Norway a bit tacky. Mum wasn’t a huge fan either, but thought it was good to instill at least some Norwegian culture in me since I’d not been brought up in Norway, nor gone to Norwegian school. He had introduced himself to mum whilst I’d gone to try and get waffles and Solo, an orange drink similar to Fanta. The queue had been long and they’d managed to strike up quite a good friendship already when I’d returned.
“Sandra, meet Christian. He’s from Stockholm, but can you believe it, his mum is from Homborsund?”
I’d thought it to be quite a co-incidence, but didn’t think more about it.
They went for dinner the week after they met. The dinners became more and more frequent, as did his staying the night. I didn’t mind. I was sixteen, and during my childhood, mum hadn’t been dating anyone seriously enough to introduce them to me. So I’d had her to myself all my life. He moved in gradually and they married a year and three months after they met. Everything seemed to be fine. But when I’d moved out to go to university, I started receiving disconcerting phone calls from mum that had made me nervous. At first, she’d complained that she wasn’t sleeping well and that she was always drained. I told her to take it easy at work and leave more work for her second in command and the shop assistants.
Then she started complaining of headaches and stomach aches and then, she told me she’d started to feel scared and that it was because of Christian. But she hadn’t been able to continue the conversation as just then, he had come home.
The car accident happened the following week. The car accident that had killed my mum, and left me with serious injuries. Christian had just disappeared out of my life. He wasn’t even at my mum’s funeral which was held after four weeks to give me the chance to recover. I couldn’t understand what had happened. His phone had just been switched off and my e-mails were left unanswered. But I had somehow gotten through it, thanks to Melissa, her parents and Emma who had come to stay with me in London for a while whilst I was recovering and taking my exams at the same time. I hadn’t heard anything from Christian, not until recently when he called me at work and when he sent that anonymous text. He seemed to be both alive and well.
“That’s creepy.” Merete said. “Are you scared of him?”
I nodded.
“But the car accident…”
“Another time. Please, “I interrupted her. “I can’t talk about that today.”
Merete put a hand on top of mine on the table and squeezed it. “I’m happy to listen whenever you’re ready to talk,” she said. And I felt as if she really meant it.
“It’s interesting though about his name. Because I found out that Karl Lund was a pseudonym. His full name is Carl Christian Lundholm. And he quite rightly had a Swedish father and a Norwegian mother.”
Merete dug in her file again and pushed another piece of paper and an ancient looking photo over to me.
“And you might be interested to know that his adopted mother Irene Lundholm was Irene Andersen before she married. She was Amund Andersen’s younger sister.”
I picked up the photo which showed a handsome man in his thirties or forties dressed in a three piece suit and with his hair combed back from his forehead. Next to him stood a beautiful bride with dark hair elaborately arranged on top of her head. She was holding a large flower bouquet and was smiling at her groom.
“Who are they?” I asked.
“That’s Amund’s and Gerda’s wedding picture taken in 1963.”
“Wow. Gerda really was quite beautiful,” I said.
“Merete nodded.
“But look,” she said, and pushed the photo of Carl Christian Lundholm towards me. “Don’t you see the family resemblance?”
I looked from him to Amund and gasped. The resemblance was striking to say the least. Like father and son. But was that possible?

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.

10 things I dislike about the UK

In my previous post 10 things I love about the UK

I gave a list of things I love about the UK and this title is self explanatary really. I’m going to list 10 things I dislike about the UK. Don’t take the list too seriously though if you’re one of those people with zero sense of humour. If you do find it funny, feel free to giggle to your hearts content.
1. The difference in class. This was actually a fairly big shock to a girl like me, from a socialist country where class mainly is a political idea. For being a wealthy Western country, there really is a big difference between rich and por to a greater extent than what I expected.
2. The drinking. I love the pub culture, but there seems to be alcohol at every social occasion here, even during the week. Maybe my body has a problem with regular alcohol consumption, but drinks after work with colleagues, or meals with friends during the week accompanied by alcohol always left me feeling sleepy, a little depressed and sometimes hung over, all of which puts me in a bad mood. I do drink, I just need to keep it to a minimum and never two days in a row if I can help it. How boring I am! But, knowing this, I am good at playing drunk when I’m sober. But is all the alcohol really necessary?

3. Bureaucracy. Every country has it, but it seems that England has brought this too a whole new level! I’m in the middle of selling my flat and I still don’t know who I’m doing business with. Is it the estate agents, the sollicitors, someone acting between the sollicitors and estate agent? someone who oversees the work of the sollicitors and the other sollicitors I never knew existed and the buyers sollicitors and the estate agent? or is it simply Bob? I think we can rule him out perhaps, whoever he is, or can we?………

4. The crowds. This is more applicable to London than anywhere else. I remember first coming to London on holiday at the tender age of ten and exclaiming: “Dad, people are running into each other and they’re not blind!”

5. Carpets. They are everywhere and I don’t like them because they are unhygenic, collect dust which I’m allergic to (It’s true,) and they often smell damp. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one in a bathroom though at least.

6. The weather. It’s almost always too windy, too rainy, too cold, too humid, too something. And summer? I think that was a phenomenon of the past. 2006 if I recall correctly. The humidity mixed with cold temperature also makes dressing to keep warm difficult and the cold penetrates your layers. But on the nice days, there’s no place like a British park!

7. Coldness and anonymity. Again, this is a London thing. I have lots of friends, but I have never felt so lonely as I have in London. And though people are nice enough, there are too many who always hurry and/or are rude. London life also seem to suck the time out of you. “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to meet up with you recently, it’s London life,” is quite a common phrase between Londoners.

8. The British cuisine. Fish and Chips, stake and kidney pie, Cornish pasties are not quite my idea of a gastronomic “Must experience” but desserts, or puddings as the British say, like trifle is not so bad. I still haven’t tried a spotted dick……

9. Imperial measurements. Stones, pounds, ounces, feat and inshes, there’s something sweet and old-fashioned about them, but they make me feel kind of stupid because I don’t grasp them. They’re not nice round number like their metric counterparts.

10. The Jeremy Kyle Show. Need I say more? If there ever was to be made a TV ad for this show, I can imagine it would go a little bit like this: “Unemployed and never intend to get a job? Want to make sure the anti depressant business are still going good? Or like to get reminded that your life isn’t so bad after all? Then why not tune in to the Jeremy Kyle show. Which of these 10 guys are the babies father, why Lill chose to become a prostitute and the mother and daughter who share the bed of one man are just some of the exciting stories featuring in the next edition. Tune in on ITV and ITV2 on weekdays.”

It took me a lot longer to write this post than the previous post. So basically my conclusion is that there are many more positives than negatives about the UK. No place is perfect, but just like looking for a partner, you need to find a place you like despite its faults. And should I ever be given a great opportunity in London in the future, I’d definitely take it. For as I’ve said previously, you can’t live somewhere for so long without it becoming part of you.

I’m hoping to write similar posts in the future about other countries I know well.