|I have a confession to make - my brain is happiest when it is working with abstract concepts and ideas. I gave it a meal in book-form today called "What If?" by Randall Munroe which it really enjoyed.|
What I am trying to say is - if you are trying to explain something to me you may get what seem to you like very strange questions. (In most cases - the stranger the question I ask the more interested I am in the subject you are talking about.)
I found a perfect example of what I mean propped up by a table in a room I was in on Friday last week.
(This photo was taken of a section of scrap wood which had random splashes of paint on it.)
I am sure that I know at least one person who will think I have lost the plot when I tell you what I thought it looked like a painting of.
(Please do not attempt to use this as any kind of Rohrschache Test - that Psychometric Test.)
When I first saw it (even with the other splashes of different coloured paint elsewhere on the wood) I immediately thought of a waterfall going into a flooded field. That was just based on the brown, the white and the green.
(The human I showed it to told me I should be on a Photography course! I don't think so somehow.)
There are other kinds of abstract concepts in the world around us - you just have to switch your brain off so you can see them for what they are.
Take this advertisement -
To most people the advert will be advertising fees for divorcing your soon-to-be ex-husband or ex-wife???
I was left wondering how you can get a divorce from "Fees" - along with where I can meet a human with such a lovely and unusual name.
(Told you my brain prefers abstract stuff, didn't I?)
I am not sure if it is down to a combination of living with my sight and being able to speak two languages - or if I am just weird.
Society needs people who see things just that little bit differently to the rest of the population. You can be someone who understands things by looking at pictures, or reading reams and reams of words, or listening to a lecture on your chosen subject. We are all different - with different strengths.
I know I have complained about my "education" at school but I am glad it left me seeing the world around me in a different way from other people.
|As you have probably guessed by now I usually rely on Public Transport to get me around.|
This can come with its own level of difficulty and hazards - ranging from what I call "somersault doors" on trains (so called because it feels like I am going to fall out of the train when I lean out of the slam-door to open it), through destination boards which are impossible to see, to people leaving luggage in the aisles, to bus drivers driving off when I am still trying to find a seat (and braking hard at the first set of traffic lights or roundabout they come to).
On Friday evening I took a photo of something else which I find very annoying. In fact, it is worse than that. In sunny weather this can literally make me feel sick.
You may be excused for thinking this is some kind of mirror which needs a good clean???
If I told you that was on a bus which I travelled on you might ask why I took a photo of what is obviously some kind of mirror - and whether I asked the owner's permission.
I wonder what you would say if I told you that photo is of a side window on the lower deck of a double decker bus - taken at night???
If it had been the windscreen of the aforementioned double decker bus - or even the doors or the window on the Driver's cab - the bus could not legally be driven.
I was lucky that it was dark outside - because the grubbiness of the window has been known to make me feel sick when I have tried to look out of it on a sunny day. (Pesky contrasts and speed don't mix - especially when I cannot escape the contrast.)
You may be wondering why I am grumbling about it when it is dark outside and I cannot see in the dark anyway???
Simple - there are some things which I can see in the dark (lights on canopies of petrol stations and the bright yellow boxes of speed cameras, for example) that I use to tell me when I am approaching my destination.
I am seriously considering appearing at the South Wigston Garage of Arriva Midland with a bucket of soapy water and a sponge so I can clean the windows of all their buses.
|We in the West seem to have a rather unhealthy relationship with our health - or rather - what comes at the end of our lives. So unhealthy in fact that we try to medicate death out of existence - ironically using drugs and procedures which are more and more likely to kill us.|
We are already seeing an explosion in Antibiotic Resistant Infections due to Doctors feeling forced to prescribe antibiotics for things like the common cold. As well as Accident and Emergency and Doctors' Surgeries being clogged up with people who should not be there.
What got me thinking about our relationship with - and attitude to - death (particularly from natural causes and illnesses) was somehow getting involved in an argument on a subject I strongly disagree with. Being forced to opt out of the Register for Organ Donation is something I disagree with because being automatically put on a Register, without being asked if I agree with it, strikes me as just about as far from Democracy as you can get. Not only do I wish to donate my organs (I am not even sure they would be suitable for various reasons) but I would not wish to be the recipient of Donor organs.
However, I digress.
There is a flip-side to the "Life At All Costs" argument. There have been people who have been forced to go to Dignitas, in Switzerland, because UK Law does not permit them to have an assisted death even if it could be considered to be in the patient's best interests.
The UK seems to be stuck in this unending loop where it is the quantity of life which counts and not the quality of it.
In the race for the latest cures for conditions - using drugs which (if they have not got nasty side-effects - ie, causes a worse illness than they have been prescribed for) can be highly addictive - we seem to have lost sight of the fact that every single one of us has a built in cure for disease.
Before the invention of antibiotics and the discovery of the ability to transplant organs, etc, people had (in my opinion at least) a much healthier attitude towards death. So much so that it was an accepted part of life.
Nowadays the subject of death is shrouded in euphemisms (passed away, shuffled off this mortal coil, passed over to the other side, etc) - as well as a subject we are encouraged to avoid in polite company. How many times have you been at a party where you were encouraged to seriously discuss the arrangements you would like at your own funeral, for example, whilst you were perfectly healthy and stone cold sober???
Apparently, I should take advantage of every test going and report any "worrying" symptoms to my Doctor (I am not actually sure if I am still registered with my old Doctor's Surgery - and when I attempted to register with a Surgery near where I now live I was put off by their questionnaire). Put it this way - me and Medical Tests don't mix very well. So much so that - when I had tests quite some years ago - I vowed not to go through that ordeal again. Waiting for the results was worse than the possible diagnosis could have been.
It has really come to a sorry state of affairs when death - instead of being seen as a cure and a way of relieving suffering for both the patient and the family - is the one thing scientists are all battling to avoid for as long as possible.
I have read an interesting book (mentioned elsewhere on this blog) by a Doctor who had a radical idea. The Doctor in question not only refused to carry out certain "life saving" procedures on patients for whom they would be of no benefit whatsoever - he also explained his reasoning to them in very blunt terms so the patients and their families knew where they stood and could prepare themselves for the end of their lives.
In an interesting twist - the patients who had that conversation lived for longer and had a better quality of life than other patients who were operated on and put on lots of medications as a result.
I kind of have experence of this.
When we found out that my English Grandma has cancer (a little over a year after my Mum had died of cancer) she was given the chance of an operation to remove it. Her initial decision was not to have the operation (she was in her late 80's at the time). My Dad and a Consultant at the hospital persuaded her otherwise. The end result was that she had the operation and came out of hospital in a worse state than when she went in. She lasted a few more years - deteriorating before our eyes - with several trips back to hospital. After she had died I was left with the impression that my Dad (her son) regretted talking her into having the operation. Her quantity of life was increased to the detriment of her quality of life.
I realise that there are many people who have had lifesaving operations who have come out the other side unscathed - after all, I am one of them (even though there have been - and still are - times when I wished I hadn't had the operation).
We really need to have a debate about whether or not people should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding their end of life care - as well as how much the battle to establish immortality in the Human Race is really costing us, both financially and personally (in terms of emotional costs).
The sooner people realise that Doctors and Nurses are only human, the NHS is not a never-ending well of money, and death doesn't have to be feared, the better off we will all be.
|We are now in my personal least favourite time of the year. I don't like being outside in the dark very much anyway but I really hate it at this time of the year. I hope this blog post will make you laugh as well as making you think about how the most dangerous situations may not be the most obvious ones.|
I would like to start this blog post a little bit differently if I may. I have decided to do a bit of a quiz for you (just for fun).
When attending a Firework display what are people advised to do?
(a) Walk directly through the area where the fireworks have been assembled as they go off - as well as walking directly through any associated bonfires which have been lit?
(b) Stand well clear of the display and view it from a safe distance (a couple of miles away should be clear enough)?
You have purchased some outdoor fireworks and are wondering where to place them for maximum effect during your display (which is to be held in your back garden) - Should you attach them directly to the walls of your house???
(A) Of course not - unless you want to burn the place down???
(B) It is a free country and you can do whatever you want with your fireworks???
(C) Don't know???
For best enjoyment - Fireworks displays should be held continuously during the weeks leading up to Guy Fawkes Night (or Oudjaarsavond - New Years Eve in Holland)???
(a) Of course - we would like as many people as possible to share our joy???
(b) Are you out of your mind??? There is such a crime as Creating a Public Nuisance you know! Not everybody enjoys fireworks as much as some people do???
I admit the answers to the above questions should be obvious to most people. However, there is a very serious point to them - which is totally unconnected with Fireworks, Firework Displays, or Bonfires.
Imagine for a minute that - instead of being about Firework Displays - those questions were about outdoor Christmas Lights???
I am sure you would automatically give the opposite answers. After all - outdoor Christmas Lights are less dangerous than your average Firework Display, aren't they???
Not in my world they aren't.
I have been asked how I cope with Firework Displays (I make sure that I have access to either a well lit place from where I can view them or to a light switch) but I have never been asked how I cope with Outdoor Christmas Lights.
Of course - there is one major difference between a Firework Display and Outdoor Christmas lights. I can avoid the Firework Display quite easily- the Outside Christmas lights are not so easy to avoid.
Using the house from the above questions as an example;
A Firework Display does indeed pose some potentially lifethreatening dangers. However, unless you are planning on using an Army-issue Rocket Launcher to blast your Fireworks over a wide radius, the chances of me being injured by the Fireworks are slim to non-existent. I live in an area where I can view displays from the privacy of my own home (or from the main road near where I live).
Outdoor Christmas Lights - on the other hand - are an evil from which I cannot easily escape.
I am seriously shortsighted but, if you insist on lighting your house up like the proverbial Chrismas Tree, I can guarantee that I will see it - even if it is miles away. Call it one of the "benefits" of Photophobia if you want to.
I have said before that bright lights disorient me (particularly at night). However, there are two additional complications when it comes to Outdoor Christmas lights.
The first is a small word called "context" and the second is those flickering and flashing Christmas lights you sometimes see on the outside of houses but usually see on "Civic" Displays (ie, in Town Centres, etc).
The flashing Christmas lights don't just cause problems for someone with my eyesight - I have a friend who has epilepsy and some frequencies of flashing lights can cause him to have an epileptic fit.
But what has "context" got to do with it???
I blame Leicester City Council for this one. (I asked one of the Twittercops if there is a law against a certain colour of Christmas light - but they were not sure.)
If you were to go to Town Hall Square, in Leicester, during daylight hours you would see a fountain. If you were to go to the Fountain in Town Hall Square, in Leicester, during the hours of darkness you might be forgiven for thinking there has been a major pileup of Emergency Service Vehicles. Especially if you have my sight. You see, the Christmas Lights which the Council have strung up around it are the exact colour (and flash rate) of Emergency Service Vehicles. I suppose they are legal until such a time as someone decides to drive the Fountain away???
If thar isn't bad enough - Leicester City Council appear to be piloting a new type of indicator - which can be fitted to the underside of passing aircraft - so that people on the ground can know if the aircraft is turning left or right. Trouble is - the indicators seem to be permanently stuck on the "Hazard Warnng" option. Yes - they have managed to source some lights the exact coour of indicators you see on road vehicles.
I don't want to spoil anybody's enjoyment of Outdoor Christmas lights but - please remember that "Less is More" and people can end up feeling disoriented (or even poorly) due to them.
|I was hoping not to write about anything connected with the attacks in Paris - mainly because - with all due respect to the victims and their relatives - I am sivck of hearing about it.|
However, the same old alarming narrative seems to be coming into play again. "The West" has been attacked by "Islamists" or even worse "Islamic Extremists" - so we should bomb them to smithereens???
Oh - and anyone who disagrees with this assessment of the situation might as well report to their nearest firing range to be shot for Treason??? They certainly do not support the "right side"!!!
I am sorry but I have a very vague memory of studying how the First World War started when I was in Secondary School.
Archduke Ferdinand got shot and someone shot at someone else in revenge for it - then other countries started piling in.
Of course you could argue that the Second World War started with people trying to appease A Hitler Esq.
So we are basically damned if we do bomb ISIS and damned if we don't. (Depending on which World War you want to use as a template.)
The irony is that by bombing Iraq and Syria you could argue that you would be bombing the source of the ISIS network - but - you would not be bombing either of the countries where the Terrorists were living before the attacks. (Last time I looked at a map of the world France and Belgium were nowhere near Iraq or Syria??? And bombing either of those countries might be against the rules of both the EU and NATO???)
I wouldn't go for a "Diplomatic Solution" with ISIS either because then you are concentrating on the wrong people. By all means involve Iraq and Syria in peace talks - however, whilst various Governments are doing that they need to admit that the power vacuum in both Iraq and Syria are the after-effects of the Iraq wars.
The countries I would strongly urge the UK Government (as well as any other country who is willing to sign up to "Diplomatic Talks") to open a dialogue with are the countries where the terrorists are actually living and where they have travelled to Iraq and Syria from. Yes - the disaffected, disengaged young people from the UK, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, etc.
I would love to see a proper dialogue between the Governments and the citizens of each country who has lost people to fight for ISIS. With a true search for the reasons - and without the implicit aims of driving a wedge between the native inhabitants of those countries and the Muslim populations (are you listening Mr Cameron???).
I object to the words "Islamic Extremist" because it tars every Muslim who is in strict obedience to their faith in peaceful way with the same brush as the violent murderers who use "Islam" as a cover for their evil acts.
By bombing Iraq and Syria we are in danger of alienating the very people who can help us sort the problem out - the peaceful Muslim populations of the world.
|Here is a question for you - are you aware there are Disabled people in existence in yourlocal community??? Are you aware that the person typing this blog post is disabled???|
You are??? Oh good! That means I can get rid of the "Awareness Training" (otherwise known as stop walking around with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears - we do exist you know)!!!
Do you think you, or the people around you, would benefit from being educated about the challenges people with disabilities face in their daily lives??? You do??? Oh good - you see (please excuse the pun) I can educate you about sight problems - and I know quite a few other people who could educate you about the difficulties faced by other people with disabilities (mainly because they face those difficulties every day of their lives).
But how can I be sure that the education I can provide you will change your perception of people with disabilities???
You see - I am battling against a two-pronged attack as far as changing people's perception of disabilities is concerned - the Mainstream Media and the Government.
The Government seems to be under the rather strange impression that all disabilities are the same and every disabled person should be in paid employment (doesn't matter if the job they are in is suitable for them in the first place).
However, the Mainstream Media is (in a way) more to blame for the public perception problem as far as disabilities are concerned. And you may be surprised to know that - in this case at least - the journalists do not get most of the blame.
If I want to be educated about being from a Black and Ethnic Minority background I can watch "Eastenders".
If I want to be educated about the effects of a parent (or carer) of a child being beaten up by the aforementioned child I can watch "Coronation Street".
If I want to be educated about the effects of Bullying at school I cn watch other Soaps.
If I want to see an accurate portrayal of some one like me on TV I have to find a mirror to place in front of the screen after switching the TV off.
When you think about it that is kind of worrying.
Let's face it - even the wildly distorted and negative storylines surrounding Mental Health in Soaps ("If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this programme..." "Hello??? Yes - I would like to report that I have friends who have got Mental Health issues and - not one of them has acted in the same way as your characters - even when things got really tough.") are an improvement on the total whitewash that physical disabilities get in Soaps. Disabled people are either portrayed as in a wheelchair or totally blind (the easy options) and they are supposed to float through life just like anybody else. Of course we cannot have a seemingly able-bodied person walking into either the Queen Vic or the Rover's Return and start complaining because they cannot see or read something, or even start using sign language (as in British Sign Language for the Deaf instead of the various gestures which can be interpreted as swearing) - that sounds too much like real life.
Until we start to see a broader range of disabilities accurately protrayed in our Soaps (preferably played by people with those disabilities) we are never going to change the public perception of disabled people.
There are reams and reams of information on how people with disabilities "should" act - there is very little on how people with disabilities "do" act.
Changing the public perception of people with disabilities will only start when we "normalise" them and make them an accepted part of society - this means getting a wide variety on TV - particularly in programming families are likely to watch - just being themselves.
|I would like to thank Alison Preston for giving me the idea for this blog post (her original idea was to write it in the form of an open letter which could be sent to Councils, Town Planners, Architects, etc). I hope it will give you some idea as to the challenges I can face as I attempt to navigate the Obstacle Course known as the outside world.|
To Whom It May Concern
I wonder if you have ever attempted to walk down a Helter Skelter at a Funfair (if not, may I respectfully suggest you attempt to navigate a spiral staircase when you have a sight problem - I think it would have the same effect)??? Or attempted to break through a "Berlin Wall" (formed of clothes rails or shelving at the entrance to a shop)??? Or seen a pretty pattern on a wall - only to realise it is actually supposed to be a staircase (when people appear to abseil down the wall without any visible means of support - whilst facing outwards)??? Or even been confused by shallow steps and decorative paving which looks identical???
Have you ever needed to use a microscope to read a sign??? Have you ever wondered whether you will need a torch or very dark sunglasses on entering a building of your choice???
Have you ever felt an urgent and drastic need to find a pot of bright yellow paint so other people can see the edges of steps, etc, before they narrowly miss falling and breaking their neck???
Have you ever experienced looking with your feet so you don't injure yourself whilst you attempt to find a seat???
Have you ever tried to look through a queue of buses to find out which one is yours??? (Warning - do not attempt this unless you have the same level of xray vision as Superman - it won't work.)
Have you ever just wished you could rearrange an entire building to make it more accessible for yourself and others like you??? If not, you do not know how lucky you are.
Whilst you are in your hallowed studio - creating your dream landscape and architecture - please spare a thought for us mere mortals who may not be as able-bodied as you are with your seemingly superhuman sight and hearing.
I realise that the mortals who are not the most obviously disabled among the people you are designing for are the "Invisible Group" - but we too are part of this Primeordial Soup.
All we would like is some recognition of your unknowing inhibition - and blockading of our mission. All we want is to be able to get around (and get back home in one piece - safe and sound). Of course, another desire is adequate (unblocked) escape routes in case of fire.
There are many parts of a body and some of them have been known to work better than others, So I have a favour to ask of you - my sisters and brothers.
When you are designing the world we all need to share - please show people like me that you care.
That little spark of hope - without which I just cannot cope - is what makes me wish you will not leave me in despair. A new form of all inclusive Council of Design wold really be a breath of fresh air.
|I don't know about you but I am getting rather worried about the continued focus on the "Academic Qualifications" someone has when it comes to their suitability for a job.|
This blog post was partially inspired by a debate on Twitter which started when somone found an article which stated a proposal for new Police Officers to have a Degree before they sign up. (Please note - noone appears to have decided what subject the degree should be in. Or what level the Degree should be - Batchelor, Master, or PhD.)
It is not just because the highest qualifications I have got are GCSE and NVQ Level 1. Although - the fact that I hated school and I would not class myself as remotely academic do come into the explanation.
The major part of the explanation as to why I never wanted to go to University can be traced back to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, Groby Road Hospital (Leicester), Great Ormond Street Hospital, and "While's Opticians" in Leicester (when it was owned by the Gavzey family).
More to the point - it can be traced back to how the Brainiacs in charge of my treatment in those various places left me feeling. (Put it this way - I got a strong feeling that - the higher up the "Degree Foodchain" you get - the less notice you are forced to take of anyone who disagrees with you. All you have to do is either wave your Degree Certificate at them or point at the scrambled alphabet behind your name. This should shut them up - even if they actually know more about the subject than you do.)
I prefer dealing with people who rely on practical experience to back up their arguments. After all, anybody can sound knowledgable about a topic which they have studied for a qualification in - but what happens when they are faced with a situation which doesn't appear in any text book???
Drilling down a little deeper into this whole argument we get to the question of exactly what subject someone should study for a degree in so they can do their chosen job???
OK - certain subjects would naturally lead to certain jobs (in the olden days anyway). Psychology, Engineering, Physics, Computing, etc.
But I have yet to find a University Degree which teaches kindness, compassion, generosity of spirit, fearlessness, gentleness, patience, and/or humanity as its core subjects.
The other thing I have a problem with when it comes to "Qualifications over Experience" is you are in danger of overlooking the most highly qualified applicants for your job vacancies, or the most knowledgeable people when it comes to discussions on subjects like abuse, disability, discrimination, etc.
You can attend lectures or talks about the latest research on a subject but - I am afraid I switch off if they don't present their work in a way I can argue with. I couldn't care less what "Lab Rat A" did when you injected it with Hydrochloric Sulphuric Acid - however, I would be very interested to hear what you did when you had the same thing done to you. That would tell me you had the experience to talk to me about the subject in language I can understand - and leave me more likely to feel comfortable asking questions if I didn't understand something.
In fact, that may have something to do with why I am enjoying my photography project so much. The roles have been reversed somewhat - the Unqualified Idiot is finally being allowed to teach someone with a PhD about something which she has a lifetime's experience of - yet the only way you can tell how "qualified" I am in the subject is whether or not I am still in one piece at the end of my latest "adventure" (ie, I am still alive and talking to the world at large).
I know NVQ's have had a bit of a bad press recently but, in my opinion at least, they are a proveable way of showing your experience as you proceed through your qualification. Somewhere I have got a folder full of evidence which has been signed off before I got my NVQ Certificate.
I am sure that those of you with University Degrees (particularly PhD Level) are now feeling hard done by because I appear to have tarred you all with the same brush. Even I am forced to admit that not everybody who has the right to put "Dr" in front of their name is a patronising so-and-so who is full of their own importance. (I must admit that the best ways I have found of coping with them are either by using my "Mental Chainsaw" - or to find out that I have absolutely zero interest in their chosen subject to start with. A helpful hint - any Degree involving the word "Mathematics" in the title definitely fits into that category.)
It is just a real shame that the "University Of Life" doesn't hand out equivalent qualification certificates for some of the "courses" we attend there. There would be a lot more people with PhDs in a wide range of many and varied subjects if it did.
|After my Honor 6 Plus had lost one too many arguments with the ground (meaning the screen died on me) I needed a phone and I needed one quickly. I was unwilling to pay £96.00 to get the screen repaired and lose the phone for the best part of a week.|
I went to the Three shop in Gallowtree Gate in Leicester, where I attempted to buy their cheapest phone on a Pay As You Go deal - but they refused to sell it to me. So I started to panic.
Eventually, I went back to the shop and spoke to another (more helpful) assistant who suggested I contacted the Insurance Company and they would send a replacement out within 24 hours. This would still have left me without a phone - apart from that I had promised myself that (after my experience with Virgin) I would only use the insurance if there was no other way on Planet Earth of me getting a useable phone.
The problem I had with Virgin was that I had accidentally dropped a mobile in my toilet. The Insurance company replaced that one. However, the replacement started to develop serious problems with the connector for the flex to the charger. The Insurance company refused to replace the replacement phone. So I changed to the Three network.
I originally wanted an Honor 7 Plus but the shop do not stock that one (the Plus was the 32GB memory version) as a straight replacement.
The phone I bought was the Sony Xperia Z5 (the most up to date version).
There are good points and bad points about this phone.
The good points are that it has 32 GB built in memory as well as a Flashlight (even though you have to search in one of the menus to find it). Oh and it runs on Android 5.1.
The most annoying thing about it is not the fact that you have to go through to the menu screen to get to your Apps (the Honor 6 Plus let you put your Apps straight on to your Home Screen) - instead it is the fact that you physically have to press the volume button until you get to Silent Mode instead of pressing the button to restart the phone and selecting your desired ringtone profile from the handily placed buttons which used to be at the bottom of the screen which asked you if you wanted to switch the phone off or restart it.
The screen is nice and big with clear, easy to read icons and menus. I judge anything I intend to use by the size of the screen and font.
All in all it is a very good phone.
|There are some trips which I feel the need to "psych myself up" for - or talk myself into - and attempt to convince myself it is not going to turn into a complete disaster. These are usually to places that other people have visited and praised in such glowing detail that I become convinced that there is a downside to them.|
Yes - I know - there are only supposed to be Seven Circles of Hell. However, my experience of the new Birmingham New Street Station (and attached "Grand Central" excuse for a shopping centre) left me feeling not just disappointed but actually depressed.
Now - I should give a disclaimer. I can imagine someone who has not got my vision difficulties would almost love the place. They would certainly have far fewer complaints about it. In fact, I was left with the nasty feeling that people who do have vision difficulties were not considered at any point during the planning.
I admit I was never the world's biggest fan of the old Birmingham New Street Station - it was mainly the steep staircases to the platforms which put me off the place (as well as the tiny screens at the top of the staircases showing what time the next trains were due to depart). At least the old version was easy to escape from - and you could easily get from Bimingham New Street Station to the Palisades Shopping Centre (and go from there to the Bullring if you so desired).
The most impressive thing about the new Birmingham New Street Station is that the steep staircases have all been replaced with escalators. To be perfectly honest - that was the best bit of the entire experience - apart from the massive screens which I could see from the "Pret A Manger" concession quite some distance away (pity I couldn't actually read them clearly from that distance). These screens screamed the times of the trains from the various platforms.
When I stepped off the escalator into the main passenger area of the station I was left feeling the train had overshot the station and ended up in either Birmingham International Airport or (more likely) Schiphol Airport. I was left feeling almost as confused as I had been when I had had to change trains at Crewe on one of my trips north 8 years ago (put it this way - if I never have to venture through Crewe Railway Station again I will be extremely happy indeed).
There was nowhere near enough signage for my liking - and what signage there was appeared to be confusing - instead of clearly marking things like the exits the signs seemed to be intent on telling me about how to get to the "Red Lounge", "Yellow Lounge", etc. (These lounges had no seats in them - I ended up more thinking about the "Departure Lounges" you find at airports.)
I spotted an escalator up to something which advertised itself as "Grand Central". This appeared to be a failed attempt to replace the "Pallisades" Shopping Centre.
I only found one electronic "map" screen - which was totally useless for two reasons. One was the map was far too small for anyone to see without a microscope - the other reason was (ironically) the bulb had died on the part of the map which may have told me if I would have been able to get to the Bullring Shopping Centre.
I said "ironically" because - if there was one thing the Grand Central Shopping Centre wasn't short of it was extremely bright lights.
As you may know I am a Bookaholic - so I was really interested to find a bookshop I had never come across the name of before. Unfortunately the lighting was so bright that I walked in and immediately walked back out (with a mild headache). Good for the funding situation but not so good for someone who wanted to browse a new bookshop.
In fact - the darkest places seemed to be the food concessions which were situated below the dome window in the middle of the roof. These were around the rim of what can best be described as the "Balcony" which Grand Central seemed to be - overlooking the main passenger concourse for the main Birmingham New Street Station.
Maybe - if the map screen had been working - I could hve found a way of getting to the Bullring. All I know is there were no visible signs telling me where the little walkways - which were like offshoots of the main balcony - would go.
After I had completed my circuit of the Grand Central Shopping Centre - I got the escalator back to the main concourse of the station and found the "Pret-A-Manger" concession (by this time I was feeling hungry). I thought I might have been able to catch the stoptrain back to Leicester after I had bought my food and drink but I missed that whilst I was being served,
This resulted in me being directed to both Platform 12A and "Yellow Lounge" - no sign of anywhere painted Yellow - never mind any seats. The escalator back down to Platform 12 was slightly hidden from view until you were nearly standing at the top of it.
As I said at the beginning - I am sure that anybody who does not have any vision problems whatsoever would enjoy both Birmingham New Street Station and the Grand Central Shopping Centre. Unfortunately, my overriding feeling on getting back on the platform was pleasure at being back in a not very brightly lit space with a proper contrast between light and dark.
I am sure someone will give it an award for "Best New Station" at some point in the very near future. However, I doubt the judging panel would include anybody with either sight difficulties or any other form of disability.
We really need to build buildings (and Public spaces) which are truly "accessible for All" - and if that includes involving people with practical experiences of disabilities being involved in the Planning stage (preferably in a Consulting capacity) whose views are legally binding - I would be the first to sign up to offer my opinion.
I had really high hopes for the new Station and Shopping Centre - but I came away feeling cheated and more than a little disappointed.
|This blog post was inspired by a tweet I read today which ordered me to "Embrace Reality". My reply to that was "I usually embrace a different reality to everybody else anyway so I will keep on embracing it!".|
If I am to be completely honest - I spend most of my waking life veering between my preferred "fluffy bubble" reality and the rest of the known universe's "solid state" reality (with a few rather surprising tweaks which I will attempt to describe as we go along).
A very quick and easy way of describing my exact level of vision without my glasses on is as follows - A Medical Emergency.
Seriously - I have lost count of the amount of times that I have heard the following on a news report about the symptoms of illnesses like Meningitis, Stroke, etc - "If you experience blurred vision, spots in front of your eyes, and/or your eyes are sensitive to bright lights, please seek urgent medical assistance".
Considering I have experienced all of the above my entire life (and continue to do so) I keep wanting to write to the Mainstream Media and ask them to put an extra clarifying phrase in their advice - "...and you have never experienced these symptoms before...". Unless they would like me to present myself at Accident & Emergency every time an illness with the above symptoms gets discussed in the Mainstream Media???
If that wasn't bad enough - some of the more "interesting" side-effects of my sight could probably (if I try to describe them to the wrong group of people) fall under the classification of "the after-effects of the consumption of large quantities of mind-altering substances" or - in plain English - hallucinations.
I will give you an example. In my "natural" state (as in without my glasses on) you will appear "fluffy" if you are a short distance away from me. Apart from that - depending on the distance between us - your facial features, any pattern on your clothing, any small item of jewellery, etc, immediately disappear (along with any edges - as in the edge of the table we are sitting at, etc).
So - what I am left with is the following;
Your hair colour (but not the style - unless it is either a mohican, or something unusual which stands out from your head).
Your skin colour.
The main (as in most obvious) colour in your clothing. If any item of your clothing matches the colour of the background scenery it will just be swallowed up in it.
Even with my glasses on I have difficulty seeing things like "graph paper" patterns on a shirt - as in very thin lines of a similar colour to the background colour of the shirt. The bigger the pattern the easier it is for me to distinguish.
The above may explain why I hate it when people describe others in minute detail (even down to the pattern on their blouse, etc). Just give me their hair colour, their skin colour (if relevant), the colour of their clothes, followed by something useful that doesn't need my eyes to look at it (accents are a good example, as is a rough description of their size - are they taller than me, wider than me, etc???).
Now for the explanation of my comment about "hallucinations".
My eyes operate at optimum level if it is a cloudy day (or similar lighting conditions).
Bright sunshine has a habit of making things disappear from my view - entire houses have been known to evaporate into the ether, colours on buses, etc, do as well. And I don't know how many times you have had a five minute conversation with a jacket, trousers, and shoes, for example, which have no obvious means of support - yet still seem able to stand in a vertical postion??? This means that the contents of the clothes have got their back to the sun and I am looking straight into bright sunshine.
It gets worse when it is getting dark. Dusk is when the "mobile trees" come out to play. If the fading light catches a human at the wrong angle my brain will process them as a tree - think "The Triffids" and you get the idea. Speaking to me may help me process you as a human.
You already know about the "silent disco" effect I get when I am in total darkness??? What you may not know is another "interesting" side effect of it. Illuminated advertising billboards develop a very interesting sideline at night. Humans have a nasty habit of standing so close to these things that the aforementioned humans have been known to appear part of a three dimensional advertisement - until they stepped away from them.
I did say something about my sight giving the impression of "the after-effects of the consumption of large quantities of mind-altering substances", didn't I???
There is another slightly more frustrating side-effect to my sight - Directions. As in - the more turns you mention the more confused I am likely to get.
I will give you an example which has stuck in my brain since it happened several years ago;
One of my friends had told me two routes to get to the house they were living in at the time. One of the routes was what my friend called "the long way" (very few turns) - the other was not unlike those mazes you get in children's puzzle books (or so it seemed) - this was what my friend called "the shortcut".
We were walking to my friend's house when they decided to see if I had remembered the route and told me to guide them home. I took them via what they called "the long way" - in fact, I seem to remember they complained because I hadn't taken the shortcut.
What they didn't realise was - my brain had deleted the "shortcut" from its memory for being too complicated and supplied what it called the shortcut and what they called "the long way". I got them home anyway.
The ironic thing is that, some years later, the very same friend complained that "you are not like my other friends". No - my friend's name wasn't Albert Einsten nor Sherlock Holmes (or even Dr Watson).
I hope this has given you a small taster of some more aspects of my sight. I am aware that I could delve very deeply into the whys and wherefores (and either confuse you totally or bore you to a very sound sleep indeed) but I wanted to try to keep it "entertaining" (even though the reality can sometimes be more accurately described as "as scary as your worst nightmare".
|There is a new buzzword going around - "Zero-Tolerance". Apparently this is a catch-all phrase which means - play by our rules or else|
Of course there are some things which we should not tolerate - murder, gun crime, theft, etc. For the rest there really needs to be some room for conversation.
Some of the things which appear to have been caught up in this "Zero-Tolerance" culture are things which - in an ideal world - not only should we tolerate but we should actively encourage.
Thngs like Freedom of Speech, The right for a Disabled Person to judge whether or not they are fit for work based on their on personal experience, the right for a woman to have a family and a career if they so choose, etc.
"Zero-tolerance" sounds to me like what A Hitler Esq successfully attempted during the Second World War - as in = creating a race of people who conform to the same beliefs as the leader of the country (or group) they find themselves in.
Everybody is equal with equals rights to be accepted for who and what they are.
As someone said - "I may not agree with a word you say but I will defend your right to say it until I die".
|Every so often I find out about a new way of communicating with the universe. This usually happens when my world seems to have had another bit bolted on to it.|
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Periscope, Blab.im, are all useful tools when I want to educate myself about something. They are even more useful when I want to find out the truth behind some rather worrying headlines.
I don't know about you but - personally - I am getting rather fatigued and nauseous about reading the agendas of the Mainstream Media.
This means I keep searching for alternatives instead of the BBC, etc.
The best alternatives I have found are the people behind the headlines - or who have some clue as to the real story.
Last night I spent nearly two hours being entertained by three men who should really have their own talkshow on a TV Channel.
I get the idea that Blab.im is supposed to be some kind of video conferencing app (a bit like Skype but you can get more people on it on video).
What it turned out to be last night was a brilliant way to find the human side of Sgt TCS, Constable Chaos, and Nathan Constable, as well as learn the truth behind some of the headlines. The broadcast was quite humourously called "Off Beat" - and that is exactly what it was. Just imagine walking into a cafe and being allowed to sit down with a friendly group of strangers and join their conversation without being made to feel uncomfortable as a result.
The Mainstream Media are too busy trying to put a negative spin on everything - maybe you should try broadcasts like "Off Beat" if you want to know the true story.
|There are times when I want to feel like I am as good at writing as the people who have inspired me to write (or even to keep writing) are.|
I admit that you have probably never heard of half of my favourite writers and speakers. You see - I am not into liking people just because the rest of the world thinks they are OK. My favourite writers are the sort of people who write to teach or inspire (or even send into a completely different world).
November is "Documentary Media Month" and I have been asked if I will allow this blog to be part of it. I had no hesitation in agreeing - this might have somethin to do with the fact that person who asked me is rapidly turning into one of my biggest cheerleaders (as well as being the brains behind "Documentary Media Month").
Apparently my blog is going to be used as a kind of representative of the UK - joining people from other parts of the world.
If you are interested in the programme for "Documentary Media Month" please click on docmediacentre.wordpress.com/doc-media-month/
|If I talk to you about reading you would probably assume that I am talking about reading words and letters in a recognised language - However, in this case nothing could be further from the truth. I am talking about reading situations and people in ways which we usually take for granted - until we attempt to explain them to other people.|
You could say that I had a rather unexpected and unique experience last Friday. Someone proved to me that I am not as crazy as I am sometimes led to believe I am.
I suppose I had better start at the beginning?
A few months ago I was talking to a lady I went to school with and I told her that I wanted someone to take some photographs which would show the rest of the population the world as I see it without my glasses on.
She told her one of her sons, who in turn told his photography lecturer. Photography lecturer got in touch with me. We met up and had a chat and decided to embark on what is probably the craziest project he (the lecturer) has ever done.
Have you ever tried explaining something you live with every day - to someone with zero experience of it - in such a way that they can translate your experiences into something people can understand???
In my case it is not as easy as finding things which other people can easily relate to - mainly because there are very few equivalents.
I suppose that is why I do not consider myself to be disabled - instead I consider every new person who enters my orbit to be the disabled one. After all, I have had a lifetime's experience of things like flesh-coloured clouds merging into a variety of colours, looking with my feet to decide where the edges of steps are, hearing descriptions of people which make identifying them quickly nearly impossible, etc. They don't.
I have been let loose with my own camera so I can give the other person in this project a bit of a taster of what I can and cannot see with and without my glasses on.
I have been fascinated by the ease with which they seem to have submerged themself into my "world" and learned some of my tricks (almost without being told what they are).
I must admit to having been a little apprehensive when I initially found out that I was dealing with another Brainiac - I thought I was going to get steamrollered over every time I made a suggestion or attempted to explain something.
Instead the person I am working with has not only listened with their ears - they have listened with their eyes and their brain - coming up with ideas I had never even thought of.
We are only near the beginning still but - as this project goes on I hope to share some of the ideas we come up with with you.
I want to leave you with one thought.
There are many versions of reality - just like there are many people in the world. Don't get so absorbed in your version of reality that you miss the chance to help those people who are struggling with their version. By helping them through theirs you may find an easier way through yours.
|Two days before my birthday I was taken back to what is fast becoming my favourite restaurant (The Riverside Restaurant in Kings Lynn).|
Now - if you know me you will know how much I love water and boats.
My Dad and I left the car in West Lynn and got the ferry across the river.
That small ferry almost reminded me of a couple of ferries I have been on in Holland (except the "Lynn Ferry" is too small to fit any cars on).
Also, the walkway onto it is a bit steep.
However, the best photo I took was almost like the photo I put on here from my trip to Lekkerkerk on my last trip to Holland.
|They say that the hardest truths are sometimes hidden in extremely offensive jokes, don't they??? Usually I cannot stand Frankie Boyle (mainly due to his attitude towards certain sections of society). However, in this case, he actually had a very valid point to make - just not in the way he intended.|
I remember a "joke" that Frankie Boyle told when the UK Government decided that they were going to bring in those implements of torture commonly known as "Biometric Passports".
He made a comment regarding what would happen if one of them was stolen. The comment involved needing new fingers and new eyeballs (at that point there were rumours that fingerprints were going to be stored on the new passports).
Unfortunately, his "joke" about needing new eyeballs hit a bit too close to home for me.
Readers of the original Inkyworld blog may remember that I wrote two posts about the Biometric Passports - both of which pointed out the extreme difficulties I have had with mine.
I will do my best to condense those blog posts into one blog post in an attempt to explain. First - I have a bit of a puzzle for you;
Below are two photographs - your mission is to decide which photograph would allow me to travel the furthest.
(Both of the above photos are examples of photos which appear on documents which are connected with travel.)
The answer may surprise you.
Legally - the photograph without my glasses will get me into any country I desire to travel to. That is the photo I am forced to put in my passport.
Technically - the photo with my glasses will not only get me free bus travel in most parts of England - it is also the one which causes a lot less problems when it comes to wandering around unsupervised in public. (And that is before you start thinking about passport photos.)
Allow me to attempt to explain;
The first photo is an example of the one which appears on my Disabled Concessionary Bus Pass. It is also the version of me you are most likely to find roaming around in public.
The second photo is the one which I find the most problematic.
Put it this way - if your sight is as bad as mine and you need to renew your passport - getting the photos for it very quickly turns into a two person job. Photo booths are rendered absolutely useless for several reasons - so you have to find a human w.ith a camera.
When you have had your photo taken - you will have to get it signed to say it is a "true and accurate representation" of you (even if you actually spend your entire waking life with glasses on your nose).
However, that is not the most heartbreaking bit.
You will soon learn that a Biometric Passport can be used to keep you out of your own country if you are not careful. (I am being extremely serious - it nearly happened to me.)
A few years ago I made the mistake of flying from Schiphol Airport to Luton Airport with my Biometric Passport. I followed the signs for the Biometric Scanners and got stuck.
Put it this way - if I cannot see something how on Earth am I supposed to focus on it???
I read the instructions (with my glasses on) which told me to put my passport in the machine and look towards some gates a short distance in front of me. Now - the aforementioned gates were perfectly visible and locateable with my glasses on. Attempting to locate them without my glasses on was an entirely different story. They were - to all intents and purposes - non-existent. So I looked in the direction I remembered seeing them. Luckily I got through the gate.
So Frankie Boyle did have a point with his comment about needing new eyeballs - it is just that he thought they would be necessary in the event of a Biometric Passport being stolen - not as a result of an attempt to get a Bioetric Passport in the first place!!!
It is also the version of me