Monday, 31 December 2007

Happy New Year Folks!

And here we perch, right on the edge of the year..about to leap off into 2008 and not sure if there will be rocks or sweet, deep water. Probably a bit of both. Annie is shrilly whining the song, ‘Tomorrow’ on my TV with a little dog on her lap and the fake snow in her hair. ‘The sun will come out tomorrow!’ I am a cynical old cow but it still makes me well up and get all jazz hands.

You know I have had such luck this year. I had enough money to see the Himalayas, to test my endurance and courage in a way we rarely do and to meet such fascinating and profoundly uncynical people in Nepal. I haven’t lost much sight this year (fingers and eyes crossed!) and yet in the face of the RP I found I was an intelligent and apt pupil of photography. I got to spend time with some brand new people, Maya and Sophie and see outrageous Halloween in New York with my cousin
Yes Teelo as killed and we are still reeling, especially family, his friends.. but Teelo’s death bought me closer to many people I might never have really got to know, people that I can’t imagine now doing without. My old cat died and yet her death means that I am free to go wherever the wind (or the work) takes me next year. Anything is possible!
This is beginning to look revoltingly sentimental but it just is that in the face of all the pain and craziness in the world I have so much and it is timely to rap myself on the side of the head and remind myself. Tomorrow I will have even more …a hangover and possibly a couple of bruises as I am bound to try and drunkenly reel the Scottish Reel when my buddy gets his bagpipes out at midnight ('tis the ONLY time I get excited about bagpipes!)

So here’s to 2008! May Pakistan find stability before someone remembers the nuclear stockpile, may Putin find his feminine side, may Mugabe finally explode during one of his four-hour rants, may Gordon Brown do the right thing and may Zambia win the Africa Nations Cup at last.
But mostly may you all have a really lovely couple of days and I’ll see you back on line on Wednesday.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Wild Christmas Rabbits

The sign outside the butcher’s on the way to Cranfield read ‘English wild rabbits on sale here…’ and underneath had been added in big red letters, ‘Really, REALLY wild rabbits!’
What does that mean? This sign has been intriguing me since I got picked up on Christmas Eve. I have pictures of half crazed rabbit gangs smoking crack and waving flick knives.

Well ‘tis done now for 2007. The presents have been torn open, the continuous food fandango gradually slowed to a gentle nibble and the rivers of wine stoppered. My Christmas was spent with my mother and her partner and my very sweet but tired younger brother. Mum had decorated the little house beautifully and in Harry Potteresque style (can you tell i am burrowed finally into 'The Deathly Hallows'), organised a magically never ending buffet of delicate snacks and followed it up with a triumphant lamb shank stew and mash with horseradish and cream so not a turkey in sight..(oh what about those really REALLY wild rabbits..??)

We spent a pint in a pub, had a gallivant into a neighbour’s do and did the traditional Boxing Day morning ramble as soon as the traditional Christmas downpour was over. Very nice and I hope you all had a lovely few days too.

Benizeer Bhutto was shot dead today and Kenyans go to the polls. It is strange how things rupture, change, adapt, morph and move on. This was my first Christmas without a message of drunken friendly love from Teelo. I bet he would have known about the rabbits!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Plastic Jesus

Last night after several pints of ‘Steaming Ale’ (I kid you not) I staggered into my kitchen ravenous and bleary eyed as one is after a glass of ale. A piece of toast and some camembert went down so well I, slightly less woozily, headed back for another round only to realise that the bread I was about to scoff was completely covered in purpley-blue stuff. .. I had just stuffed my face with mouldy mucor encrusted bread….I knew it was mucor having previously grown it ON PURPOSE whilst an o’level biology student.. I wated to see if I would develop ergotism (St Antony’s Fire..or don’t you remember the 1039 outbreak in France? Oh for goodness sake…!) Luckily the twitching and hallucinatuions were purely down to the Steaming Ale and shock of eating deeply mouldy bread. Now let this incident be a Xmas warning to all of you out there who like a nip of sherry over the holidays! Prepare food with the lights on and always double check the bread!

But as ‘tis the jolly season I cannot leave you thinking of mouldy toast and cheese. No no! Instead I should tell you that I went along to my choir’s Xmas do last week. My choir consists mostly of women over 50 with sensible shoes and 70’s jewellery so imagine my surprise when one of the Secet Santa presents given to a lovely lady of a certain age consisted of three different coloured ping pong balls and a set of instructions about pelvic floor exercises. Need I say more. Someone else got a plastic Jesus to go on the dashboard of a car. This prompted everyone to break into the well known Christmas number ‘Plastic Jesus’ which includes the lyrics

‘Plastic Jesus got to go
He’s messing with my stereo
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
Plastic Jesus gives me hope
He’s there for me to store my dope
Sitting on the dashboard of my car…’ etc.

There are several hundred verses and I sat there open mouthed and with renewed respect for the irreverence of this band of merry wives. It was rather a jolly evening altogether.

Thursday, 20 December 2007


I met a friend today from another life. I hadn’t seen her in over 15 years and there she was in the café with a new addition, her 4-year-old son, George. She looked exactly the same..well better actually then she had back then. Tall and willowy, she had the same humour and gentleness and it was quite wonderful to see her but with her she bought a slew of names and memories that quite overwhelmed me. All those people we were at university with…all the friends we knew together in the early 90’s…including my ex fiancée who is still a close friend to her and her husband. He is alive. He even learnt French. He got married…he got divorced. For some reason this all makes me feel a little anxious. I loved him very much and he hurt me very much and it was all a long, long time ago and buried …and now.. …he learnt French???? Holy shit…. Life is bananas.
On the way home musing happily over our four-hour lunch, I made a mistake with my cane.. It was very dark and I misjudged the pavement and stepped out into the road just as an idiot in a Mazda blasted around the corner. ( I am not sure if it WAS a Mazda, but it felt cornered like one). I shrieked and just managed to twist my body and feet away but the metal brushed my coat. It drove away with all my confidence and joyfulness. I was less then a minute from my front door and as I stumbled into the house the phone rang and it was my aunt.. We talked Christmas nonsense for a few minutes and then, just as she was saying goodbye, I realised my hands were still shaking. ‘I was nearly run over’ I said. There was a confused pause..we don’t talk this way to each other. ‘Yes well…’nearly’ doesn’t count does it?’ she said and hung up. I sat for a while letting the anger ebb away and grasping harder to my aloneness. Hanging onto it with both my fists so I won’t cry. No one needs to know, no one needs to know, no one wants to know….….After 20 minutes or so my hands have stopped shaking. In the quiet of my flat I think about my ex. ‘Nearly’ doesn’t count apparently.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007


Ahhh the schizophrenic email..the one that begins with sweet nothings and ends in death threats....yes, the chain letter.
‘Hello there! We are writing to you because we know that you have had a tough old time and we think you could do with a boost! We can promise you just such a lift! We are here to bring you such luck you will find the world lights up around you and love is found around every corner.
And all you need to do to get this fandango, this gorgeous overload of luck is send this letter to 100 people. Just 100 people and then we absolutely guarantee you all the luck, love and wealth in the world, (as proven by Mrs. K Bantel of 14 Worrisome Way who a week after sending this email to 1000 of her friends was released from the Fornley Mental Health Unit, won the lottery and met Jesus all in just 7 days.)

If, however, you only send this to 50 people you will never find true love and will end up old and odd and alone with a dead cat’s ashes in your bedroom and a tendency to grow a moustache …and you will forever smell of foot powder.

If you send it to a measly 10 people you may trip and break a leg tomorrow and if you try – yes, just you try it missy - to DELETE this, we will send a hit squad to kill your parents and any loved ones , and the loved ones of your loved ones. We will KILL THEM ALL!!!!!!’

I got another one of these today and felt annoyed with the friend who had buckled beneath this absurd blackmail and forwarded it to me. Even so, as I deleted the nasty thing, I made a mental note to double check on my loved ones over the next few days….

So Zuma got in today in the South African elections. I wonder how that will affect South Africa’s HIV/AIDS policy given this is the man who claimed he was immune from HIV because he washed after sex…. Hmmm. I should really listen to some news but today I have been up and down to the doctor with either a pulled muscle (my thought) or a grumbling appendix (doc’s) …( a ‘grumbling appendix’ seems rather a lackadaisical description for a potential time bomb in the belly…) Anyway I am still sure it’s a pulled muscle and as the pain has faded I think we can stop worrying. Soon find out one way or t’other.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Saturday night and Sunday morning

There was a woman in the pub toilet with a moustache. It was a huge black hairy one and behind it she was apparently Australian and called Audrey. At the same pub bar were women with legwarmers and spandex and a lot of men in long curly black wigs. They were supposed to resemble something from the glam rock scene but incongruously looked more like they were a debauched entity of the court of King Charles 1.
It was a ‘rock’ party and I too was bowed beneath the weight of a vast wig and heavy make up which seemed strangely to make me irresistible to men. This is a tad depressing as I thought I looked a little like a drag queen I once knew called Bonita. One bloke in particular I couldn’t shift. With limited vision the rules of flirting are rather skewed in the favour of the person who can see who (or what) they are winking and leering at. In low light I can see one part of one person at a time so if someone sits in front of me, chatting but then won’t leave or mingle I am pretty stuck. I can’t signal desperately with my eyes at others standing behind us and I can’t scan the room to see who else is around and potentially up for a …well a dance and a laugh. As usual this chap got quite heavy after the 3 rd or 4th drink. The music was loud and I couldn’t hear him anyway and therefore had to lean in to watch his mouth in the hope of gleaning something though lip reading….leaning in close to a man and looking at his mouth tends to send out the wrong signals so he thought he was on to a good thing and I was trapped and soon quite bored. I was there for a good time..not to bond for life with a bloke who was dressed as someone from Duran Duran. Friends would distract him and whisk me off to the bar or dance floor but after 10 minutes or so he would appear like a drunken wraith waving wildly and hopefully at me in his new disabled aware fashion.
Everyone had a good time though and they had to kick us out at 2am, wigs askance and make up slurred.
The sweetest thing today was getting on to the tube, me with cane and reflective belt, my beautiful friend, Sloe-eyed S, 6 months pregnant and showing and her husband the Botanist D. We had agreed that Botanist D would sit, glowering, in the disabled seat and refuse to move and Sloe-eyed S and I would stand over him looking wretched, heavy with child and weary with disability and see what the other passengers would do. As it was we were giggling so much it was obviously a set up and after a shocked minute most of the other people in the carriage fell into stifled laughter too. It was a Sunday morning London moment!

Friday, 14 December 2007

Late night po'tree

Its very late and I can’t sleep and I can’t bloody read. So instead I write..thank goodness for enlarged fonts!

In this particular little England life and this culture, I love my gym. For someone who works from home the time out is important. To someone who feels vulnerable being fast and fit brings confidence and to someone who is short and with a tendacy to be rather rotund, the gym is also imperative. Ah,
but I am still able to see the dark side, yes Luke, the hamster- wheel halls of cardio machines, the women who make themselves sick if they don't run 10 kms a day, the men who make every moment a competition... (and the fact that sometimes the mindless repitition is so boring my teeth ache.) Today I saw two women who made me feel so sad....both were attractive but too skinny, wiry like terriers and yet they were there when I arrived and there when i left ........The tension in one woman's shoulder as she worked out in the hellish cardio hall broke my heart. This may not make any sense..and it is 2 in the i wrote a poem. (It willl make less sense but it is a poem so all is well.)

Running Nowhere.

A bundle of bones
Lifts a feather weight
Those endless mirrors!
Eyes red rimmed with
Salt sweat.

Running on the rubber treadmill
Grinding down like pepper.

That other one,
Who works out late
So people don’t
Stare at the way
Her thighs will never come together.

In the bag she punches
She sees her own face;
A thousand crunches,
(She pukes water)
A hundred push ups,
(Her arms roped with veins
She hopes will squeeze her smaller)
And in those whispering wall of mirrors ....?…

Running nowhere
Gaze fixed
Running on the rubber treadmill
Grinding down like pepper.

Running, hurting, running.

Where are you going friend?
Each mile only brings you closer
To the next mile and further away
From the home in your belly,
That beautiful life giving belly…….

Little sister,
Take your blood soaked sneakers off
Dance in the dirt
(Dance in the dust
That is the skin you have been shedding
So long)
Tear the rubber matting with your teeth and
Lie back and let the sun
Tangle your hair again.
You are still breathless,
Not with running now
(Breathe and breathe and sigh)

At last

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Blue Sky and Squirrel

The sky is bright blue today and there is still frost on the grass. It is a lovely sparking winter’s day. Dennis the Squirrel just punched a wood pigeon off the bird table.

I am so glad it is sunny today as I was feeling bleak over the weekend. It is always demoralising not getting work and I can’t help but question my own competence. Isn’t it enough to be able to do a handstand into a pool? Surely it counts that I can lose gracefully at Monopoly? Maybe they thought I was ugly? Perhaps I need to be taller? Perhaps I am crap? To distract myself from such thoughts I settled down to read the papers.

How to read the papers with visual impairment:
1) Buy papers and lug home
2) Put them in obvious place
3) Trip over them when coming out of kitchen
4) Slump into soft chair with coffee and toast near elbow. Unfurl newspapers with comfy sigh.
5) Realise can only read headlines…text a blur…need more light.
6) Drag oneself from depths of comfy chair…knock over toast.
7) Clean up toast and wonder what lifts marmite out of cream carpets…
8) Find a lighter spot in uncomfortable straight chair …sit....stand.....go back and get papers....sit…twist papers under light..strain neck..not enough light..
9) Get up and spend 20 minutes looking for magnifyer.
10) Sit down and once again squint at papers…fighting down flapping pages and juggling magnifyer. Manage to read one article and a bit of a magazine,
11) Throw all on floor in disgust
12) Remember coffee
13) Coffee cold.

Yesterday was better though. After busy day I went to the gym for a jumping-up-and-down-and-punch things class ( I DO keep telling people not to stand to close to me as I have no peripheral vision but will they listen..? They don’t make that mistake more then once though!) and afterwards met up with a friend for a glass of wine ( apparently much better then isotonic drinks for rebalancing the body…ehem....) She’s a nurse and was telling me about her last 12 hour shift. I listened open mouthed to tales of understaffing, exhaustion and bad management and feeling much abashed, resolved to stop whining about my lot for while. Well until the next post anyway!

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Firstly I apologise for misspelling 'fairy' in the previous post. Dyslexics rule KO..
Secondly, I apologise for the week of silence. I was hiding out in south Mombassa and didn’t want to bang on about the sea being bright turquoise-blue and the water so warm you could hardly feel it when you slipped into the pool; about the sand being silky and white and how there were, each glorious, sunlit morning, enormous plates of fresh mangos, paw paws and pineapples to go with your bacon and eggs. I didn’t want to upset you with stories of fantastical, multi-coloured fish and corals, gentle whispering palms and huge skies that made the Bounty adverts look like Cillet Bang ads…..nope, I didn’t think it would be very nice of me to whitter on about the smell of almond oils from the spa rooms, the hibiscus flowers arranged on the pillows each evening or the far off sweet smell of rain on the wind. I just thought it wouldn’t be kind.

I was there with the famous S and another great woman pal, Little J, both of whom work far too hard in the charity sector and were actually deserving of some serious R and R. They are excellent to travel with as they have vast brains full of quite useful stuff and make friends with everyone easily and with genuine warmth, are adaptable and don’t screech with fear at the sight of snakes, large insects or monkeys..which is a good thing as we got mugged by a Columbus monkey who was after J’s tobacco.
We spent the first few days trying to fit in all the different kinds of lying down one can do; in the sea, in the pool, in the air-conditioned bedrooms. It was quite tough as we had to somehow squeeze this in between the food breaks but we worked harder each day and by the end of the week we had it down. Little J even managed to get the DJ to stop pandering to the German tourists with Europoptechnotastic and play some truly rooted Zairian rumba (at which point the previously empty dance floor immediately erupted and we danced ourselves further into the sweaty gin sozzled sun burnt mess with glee.)
I had thought snorkelling no longer possible. On first try I couldn’t make out colours under water at all and my peripheral it’s own entity..was making up huge shark like shadows on either side of my head so I wussed out. However we ended up doing a boat trip to a marine reserve and there, in crystal clear water I saw plenty of everything, blues, oranges, pinks and all. It was stunning.

What I really can’t see anymore are stars. In Africa, where one can safari along the Milky Way, this is especially hard to come to terms with but I was warned about it after my initial diagnosis and so have grown used to just listening to others give long sighs of awe and pretend they know what star they are pointing at. I am just relieved I had a chance to see them in their full glory when I was growing up.

Today, back in UK, where it seems sunlight filters through the gloom for only about 40 minutes a day and the wind is beginning to get icy, Little J and I staggered through the rain to check out the last day of the Photovoice Exhibition ‘Beyond Sight’. The photos looked great in the space and there, pride of place in the entrance, was one of my pieces blown up to a vast size and looking..well…. bloody professional. I am very proud and so pleased for everyone who took part! It’s all terribly posh and made up for the fact I didn’t get the job at Canary Wharf which I am a little sad about but happy I won’t have to get a hair cut or hem my one pinstripe suit or commute for a while longer.

It was a wonderful week and I wait to see how things are going to pan out in Kenya with the elections in a couple of weeks. Hakuna Matata!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Fiary Tales

I am watching a squirrel watching a very black cat watching a very oblivious blackbird in my garden. The squirrel, whom I shall call Dennis although it’s not his real name, is a bit of a yob. He nicks everything on my bird table and I am sure I have seen him trying to break into my back door when he thinks I can’t see him.

My interview for the 6-month placement was at Canary Wharf.
I had put three alarm clocks strategically around the bedroom, which would ensure I had to actually get out of bed to turn them off. As it was I didn’t really sleep so at 5:30 I got up and blearily got tarted up. There is nothing more disgusting then putting on foundation and eye makeup early in the morning. It is just wrong and always makes me feel greasy and clown like.
Taxi was early, train was on time…Kings Cross underground was shut. Overcrowding or terrorism..not quite sure, so when I finally got to Canary Wharf I was a bit worse for wear and in a hurry. The problem is Canary Wharf is a mother of a glass building. This is not good for VI people as it is hard to tell which door is door and which is not. For several minutes I bounced into glass like a very large and squidgy moth. And then… a voice,

Knight: Fair..ish maiden. I see thou art lost and wandering strangely. Couldst I be of service?

I: Why thou couldst gentle knight. Wouldst thou unpeel me from this glass and show me the way to this castle of glass in the sky.(shows him parchment upon wherein is written the quest.)

Knight: Alas, I see to get to yon castle thou must traverse a most worrisome and hellish route through….The Barclays Building.

I: My God. The Barclays Building?? Yet though I am much affrighted and fearful I must go on for I have made an oath.

Knight Why then fair..ish ermm maid I shall guide and protect you through these corridors of mirrors.

(And together they leapt over Xmas trees of fire and Star Bucks and the shop of the Futon and rounded the corner and saw the terrible rays glinting from the Barclays Building.)

Knight: I can go no further for I weaken terribly but from here you should be safe. Don’t look back and remember thou must never speak of me.

I: But gallant Knight I need know your name…your telephone number at leastest.

Knight. No it can never be….for I work ..(and here he disappeared into the mist.) work for HSBC.

This really happened I kid you not and would I lie?

Interview was a bit of a shambles but the adventure was worth it! Even got back in time to present my HIV documentary ‘On the Frontline’ at Cambridge City Council as part of their Disability and HIV International days. (They got two for one for cheap with me.)
Happy Disability Week and don’t forget World HIV Day on 1st December. Go on and give a few quid (Oxfam, Project San Francisco etc or local charity) and talk to someone about it all. It is important and whereas it may be no skin off your nose it might possibly save the skin of someone else! Awww go on go on go on!

Monday, 26 November 2007


I am feeling discombobulated. This is partly because I am trying to watch old CSI (forensic porn for pathologists), write a presentation for a job interview on Wednesday and ignore a creepy cold that has scratched the back of my throat and is now sitting on my chest deciding whether or not to go in for the kill. Also partly, I fear, my default setting actually is ‘discombobulation’.

The presentation for the job interview is on disability and culture in 2015…what do I think it will encompass and in what way will I have ..errr ...added to the mess…erm…put in my tuppence worth. You know what I mean. (My, how the words are flowing).

I wanted to make it into a bit of a performance, add a bit of drama to the tediousness of standard job interview procedure given this is about culture dontchaknow.….I thought I could start by blindfolding the panel and shouting ‘That levels the playing field a bit you bastards!!’ Then jumping straight in with my disabled joke of the week
‘I say, I say, I say…How do cripples make love?
They rub their crutches together.’
However after careful consideration and having a more intense squint at the Disability Agenda from the Disability Commission and the job description I think something a little more…I dunno… formal. Something that won’t get me arrested perhaps?

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Giving Thanks

A hangover of this weight and magnitude is not easy to find. It needs to be sought with courage, commitment, care and dedication…it involves a great deal of work and nurturing, an undertaking not to be taken lightly. This one was come upon in an entirely approiate manner involving a dozen loons, a turkey and an onslaught of pies. Yes you guessed it..a thanksgiving thrash and a half.
I had had a difficult day with quite a bit of pain,… is only occasionally thank goodness that I get eye pain and it is usually to do with lack of sleep or stress but it can be most annoying. It feels a little like my eyelashes are on the wrong way and made of wire. I presume the beginning of river blindness is a little similar. Bloody hell…note to self..give more money to Sightsavers… I had nipped to the gym for a swim which compounded the problem due to the chlorine and I was missing Teelo and so was in, by early evening, what in 1972 was called ‘a bit of a funk’. Therefore, when a glass of champagne was popped into my fist I didn’t baulk oh no, no…then gin and tonic just for a bit of pep..oh yep…and then about half a gallon of wine with the meal.

There was a thanksgiving quiz at some point I seem to remember and an absolutely appalling joke telling session and of course some idiot (I believe twas I) trying to outcool a very cool person hence:

Me: I’ve just discovered a really groovy new ..errrmmm…’

Very Cool Person ‘Really who?

Me: why you probably won’t have come across them (smug expression) they are called (pause for effect) The Fairy Projection…

Very Cool Person: Really? No I’ve not heard..

Me: Really great..errr..bub and…bass and bongos..

Very Cool Person: Hang on..You don’t mean The THIEVERY Coorporation do you?

Me: (thinking..oh bugger)..

Very Cool Person: (Trying to restrain laughter..not succeeding.) It sounds like The Thievery Co orporation…they are good, been around a while and I can see you could make that mistake..Fairy ..Projection.... hey everyone, you’ve got to hear this one….(etc and on and horrifically on)

I vaguely remember that even though I had cooked the thing, I didn’t get to try the whiskey pie, possibly because the hostess( the famous S from previous posts) very sensibly noted that even a whiff of bourbon would have me doing the can can on the table.. and then somehow it was three in the morning and time to go home

And the eye pain…. Everything else hurts so no idea.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Lost in Translation

I got a cab back from the station today because I was bit knackered and it was raining ..anyway I knew I was in for a long ride home when the driver sweetly asked me to join him in the front. I sighed as I clambered in knowing that this was going to be a man who liked to talk and indeed he did but not in English. No indeed, like many cabbies around the world he spoke that strange language ‘football’. I don’t speak football but I have picked up the basics and all I had to do was respond with the occasional ‘yeah…hopeless left foot’ and ‘Jose’s definitely a possibility’’, and the chap was happy. There was one sticky moment when, during a pause,I realised he had actually asked a question, but, and this is for any of you out there who don’t speak football, I remembered the one line that always gets a gentle sigh of appreciation. It is, and I have NO idea what it means, ‘well whatever they say, they don’t make ‘em like Arson anymore….’ . I like saying ‘Arson’ in public and it sends football speakers off into a dreamlike state and that lovely thing longed for in a taxi…silence.

I had come back from being interviewed at the BBC's Broadcasting House…oooooeeer…get her! It was in reference to the photographic exhibition and will be part of a programme being put out on Radio 4’s ‘In Touch’ (Tuesday evenings at 20:40.) The producer is also visually impaired and she showed me around some of her audio editing and enlargement software which was most groovy. Over a coffee we compared horror stories about various ophthalmologists and their inability to be either compassionate or clear when giving a life changing and traumatic diagnosis. I hear these stories over and over again which is depressing in the extreme. All ophthalmologists should be forced to spend 28 days in simulation specs…these are glasses which mimic a condition like retinitus pigmentosa or macular degeneration. They should not be allowed to take them off to eat, to pee, to read their emails or to do their research. Just 28 days. It might be the making of them.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Fire alarms and rain

I am sure you will be pleased to know that when the fire alarm went off at the gym this evening and the administrators were running up and down screaming at people to get out, I was standing starkers in the shower with my hair full of shampoo. Whereas one may have had vague fantasies (bought about by far too many bodice ripping novellas in ones youth) about being helped out of burning buildings by burly firemen, swooning and nubile (that would 'one' and not the firemen) actually being caught out in the shower at the gym with the smallest rather greying towel and no sense of humour is an entirely different thing.
Luckily the fire was a phoney and I, and all the people standing around the pool area, narrowly escaped being sent outside into the frosty rain in bare feet and no bloomers.

However I am, subsequently, late and tired and blue tonight. Something about the grey damp day and how pasty and irritable everyone has got suddenly. A few days ago I was walking over a footbridge behind about five or six young teenagers. They were shouting something to each other and I had a strange feeling that something was up as they began to link arms across the two footpaths of the bridge. I have seen this tactic before…riot police use it and demonstrators use it..and so do young muggers when they want to stop someone bigger then they are. I quickly slipped between them before they had got into place and had begun to speed up, to move ahead and to get out of their way but a young woman on a bike slowed down and was forced to a stop behind me, faced by five young dead blank faces. I was about two metres ahead so I stopped and turned around widening my stance so they could see another adult was there. The young woman was Polish. She had a smile in her voice which almost immediately was extinguished by the answer to her question ‘Hey? What’s going on? What can I do for you…I am in a terrible hurry..?
‘Give us a pound.’ Said one of the children. The woman was silent and in those strange few seconds the teenagers, possibly only 14 or so years old, just waited. I looked at their faces and there was absolutely nothing there but a kind of predatory, animal curiosity. How far could they take this..? Luckily other people could be heard coming down the path and I had moved slightly closer so within a few seconds they all realised their timing was off. They hesitated and then parted just enough to allow the woman to squeeze past and cycle furiously off and immediately I turned and walked away head down, cane safely tucked out of sight.
‘What were you fucking looking at’, they shouted and spat at my back. They would have blood that night. I wonder whose it was.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Emerald green

I am in the bad habit of rescuing chameleons.
In Zambia there is a creation myth about the time when God gave the gift of life to the chameleon and the gift of death to Kalulu the rabbit. They were sent with their gifts to the newly created young humans however the chameleon being indecisive and very vain became distracted and Kalulu sprinted past him ensuring humans were bought death first. The poor chameleon’s punishment were eyes that would forever look in two directions and he is now stuck looking into the past and future, never completing anything and never able to get home. How sad is that!

The upshot of this, and the fact they are very strange looking creatures which can hiss and change colour in a most perturbing manner, is that the chameleon is hated in Zambia and seen as a bringer of bad luck, imbued with negative spirit and used by witches in various unpleasant spells. They are stoned on sight and boys with the ubiquitous catapult use them for target practice

Whilst growing up and later working in Lusaka I would keep coming across chameleons squashed on the road where drivers had seen them and deliberately served to hit them. Therefore, if I saw one of these incredible creatures attempting to cross a road...and damn they are slow and very, very wobbly which means even I could have hit them with a car – I would pick ‘em up and put them into the bushes out of sight..although I always had to check noone was looking as it could cause a bit of a cultural impasse.

Once, on my way back from the market, I saw one very beautiful, bright, emerald-green and extremely large chameleon about to walk out into the middle of a busy road so I picked it up and popped it into my lidded reed basket on top of my shopping.

Walking home the blighter began to try to escape. The ‘what-counts-as-a-pavement-in-Lusaka’ was packed with people, taxi drivers, small stalls and lots of children and I knew I couldn’t let the chameleon out safely until we got home to the sanctuary of my garden so I began to walk faster. At that point, of course, I bumped into a neighbour’s mother. Literally. At first she smiled and laughed and greeted me with great affection and then to my horror I saw her glance down and see the small pointed snout of a hissing chameleon poke its way out of the lid of my basket. The woman’s face changed, her eyes widened and the whites glistened, her mouth dropped open and she looked as if she were about to scream. I backed around her apologising profusely and, whacking the now furious chameleon back into the basket, legged it home.

The chameleon managed to nip me for my trouble as I released it in the safety of my garden and I never saw either of them again, him or the neighbour’s mother…. Or the neighbour for that fact….in fact they may well have moved not much later….

Anyway the reason for the story is that yesterday I was with my pal T in Oxford and discovered Primark and have a gorgeous new coat in exactly the shade of emerald chameleon green. Isn’t that an amazing coincidence… (Well what would you rather…chameleon story or the one about the over whelming smell of vomit in the lingerie department?)

By the I think you should all know that there are a GREAT many people it turns out hording dead cats in their houses too. Following the last couple of posts several of you have shared your secret dead pet stories with me. Grateful as I am, I am feeling much better so…that’s quite enough now.
(And you with the dead horse, you know who you are, seek immediate medical treatment.)

Monday, 12 November 2007

Getting Caned

Ok Ok crazy cat lady is doing better. To you, and you know who you are, who sounded a little nervous about my state of mind, I can honestly say worry not. Matina came back neither in a plastic baggie nor a Tupperware pot but in a beautifully crafted small wooden box that looked like it was full of jewellery- so I promise only WE will know I have a dead cat in my bedroom… (unless of course I go to pull out some earrings in the dark …)

I have just come back from London where we were doing the voice overs for the photo exhibition in December. There will be MP3 players with descriptions and information about each of our photos as well as Braille and a few tactile photos. Bill, the completely blind photographer, was interesting as he says that tactile photos are not much use to either sighted or non-sighted without very clear description. Just too complicated even for very gifted fingers used to Braille.

Also interesting is noticing who uses a cane and who does not. Several of the other VI participants (the Londoner’s) don’t and there is nothing but a quiet caution in their demeanour to denote a visual impairment. I do use a cane, especially when travelling. Normally it doesn’t stop people crashing into me whereupon I always apologise like the dreadful wimp I am. Today however, I am rushing across the platform at Kings Cross and I collide with a woman who literally flies several feet through the air and lands (amazingly) on her feet. She rounds on me puffing up like a balloon, sees the white stick and makes a deflated hissing kind of a noise before apologising profusely. This is a marvellous turnaround. I deliberately bump into a man as I come to the top of the escalator. He turns to bark and I wave the cane. He whimpers with heartfelt abasement. Twice more, as I leap onto the train home and step on two pairs of very expensive boots and leap off the train to nearly demolish a small posse of students, I am given heart felt and overlong ‘so sorries’
Grinning with my new power I stride through the night, head held high and five minutes from home smash painfully into a black bin disguised as night air. Guess who apologised?

Friday, 9 November 2007

Stormy Weather

Well that is interesting…who’d have thought Benezeer ‘let them eat cake’ Bhutto would re-emerge from her silken web of exile as the ‘hero’ in all this…isn’t she still corrupt as all hell?
Ah well.. It’s a strange and stormy world today. Last night they were issuing flood warnings but desperate to ‘fox-it-up’ they inserted old footage, uncaptioned, of the 1953 floods in Netherlands which must have sent nervous children and the deaf rushing to the window to see if the waters were already rising up the back door with distressed men in clogs and the occasional shire horse bobbing past the windows… As it turned out nothing really got that wet. And anyway it would have flooded Lowerstoft…which is not exactly New Orleans. It is a car park, three post offices and a Morrisons.

I lay awake with the window open enough to hear the winds blasting through the garden and knocking tiles off the roofs in Sturton Street.

This morning I had an induction for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau volunteer advisor training scheme. It is pretty weighty stuff, debt counselling, divorce, dementia but I was still feeling dopey and my eyes were/are dreadful. Can’t even see this computer screen screen properly, which makes me a tad irritable. There was one woman that I wanted to leap over the table and head butt. She was sickly sweet and although obviously not dumb she kept asking the most inane and useless questions and then giggling like a child and lisping ‘ but I’m just soooo curious’. My stare could have curdled milk but had absolutely no effect on her whatsoever. It was head butt or nothing. Sadly therefore nothing.

I really need to go and pick up Martina’s ashes. I have been putting it off as I just can’t bear to think of her death again as then I think of Teelo and on and around and over again. It is a little stress syndrome have developed that I may to get help with if it doesn't stop. It is still keeping me awake. It will now be too cold for her in the garden so I shall have to stick her in the bedroom until spring. A dead cat in the bedroom. Sexy or forever single? Discuss.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


I feel better today,,,,cheery even… which is why I don’t mind that my eyes have smoked up like a car windscreen on a cold day when a whole bunch of you leap in with laughter and friendship and steammmmmm …
So…I don’t mind my eyes smoking up. After all its been grieving and loss and jet lag and then those beautiful things that friends and family do like the notes of support on the email and phone, the cleaning of my sluttish flat, …it all has the effect of leaping into the car after playing Frisbee on a chilly beach. Its ok. It will pass..It’s the macular oedema just messing with my retinas…at least I hope it is because the RP takes the sight away for good and right now that would REALLY piss me off…… although I am having to be a bit more careful and less intrepid as I am knocking over everything and, nearly, everyone.

However, aside from the general death theme of early November, the invitations for the Beyond Sight (multi sensory exhibition by blind and VI) photographic exhibition came through. Photovoice have used my photos on both the invite and their annual report which is a tad head swelling. A lot of the other exhibitors are doing a lot more exciting work then I, espeicially with courage and intuition, but I am used to using props and drama from all my theatre and film training- which is why I believe my stuff gets picked for the promotions. My stuff, therefore, isn't really the key to the exhibition... but I am proud of it. Go and have a look at the strange idea of using a visual media by feel and heart....Exhibition is on 3rd to 8th Dec at the Association of Photographers, 81 Leonard St, London EC2A 4QS (FREE admission mates!) Google Photovoice for more details or email I am still not sure how I feel about it all but I could do with the exposure and perhaps someone out there will commission some crazy blind person’s art work…err…yeah…quite….. Hey come on.. Some people judge the Turner prize….

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


I keep seeing my cat out of the corner of my eye and turn happily to greet her only to find emptiness. It is giving me stomach ache.
I have an urge to head off on another crazy adventure, to just get out of this grief sodden flat... but it is impractical and knuckling under and applying for work is the only way forward. Blast and buggeration. Someone said that applying for jobs, the endless 'why I am great for the job' and ' in my last job I yadda yadda' was like detention for grown ups. 'Tis true but whilst I am waiting to be discovered as the first visually impaired action film icon ( I have my tag line.. not 'I'll be back' but 'See you Never!!' as I blast off their heads with my AK47 before triple vaulting off the top of the burning building. Sick and yet contemporary ironic don'tchathink?) and, as I seem to be writing my best selling novel at one page every two months, finding some paid work is the only option. Christmas is coming after all and someone needs to buy my Dad some more fishing gear....
My Mum and her partner J swung around yesterday in their hired camper van. They plan to disappear off around Europe in one next year but after only four days in the Peak District with water and heating problems they were both looking like they needed some s p a c e. It looked rather fun though, like planning a long stay in a Wendy house.

I also extended my volunteer hours at Citizens Advice Bureau today just to keep away from the flat. I am fielding phone calls and almost everyone has problems a great deal worse then then mine... one woman had managed to stoke up over £80,000 worth of debt without telling her husband! Good grief! She seemed quite matter-of- fact about it though.... I guess when you are in at a certain depth there is no point in panicing anymore...either that or she really didn't like her husband. Either way I got a little more perspective on my own pathetic finances and consquently will buy myself something pretty to celebrate! Makes perfect sense....

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Bleach Bypass

We used a process called ‘bleach bypass’ during the making of one of my early short fiction films called ‘The End of Summer’. It entailed taking the 16-millimetre film through a convoluted system of washes in the lab that result in the picture having a strange, darkened, stormy texture to it. It almost appeared as if certain colors have been washed out and others had had their volume pumped up. Several films had done this before ours…indeed we nicked the idea from ‘Breaking the Waves’ by Lars Van Trier. We used the same lab baths of chemicals as ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrel’s by Guy Ritchie.

The reason I am banging on about this is that with RP, (my eye condition), my colour vision is changing in a strangely similar fashion. Evidently I will loose it all eventually but at the moment there is such an interesting subtle dimming. Elegant almost and not yet melancholy. I am losing definition between browns and dark greens and blues but oranges and definitely reds glow. I can walk down a street and be suddenly surprised and moved by a potted geranium glowing like it’s on fire from a window.

Right now, grieving for Teelo and the cat ('Teelo and the Cat ' is going to be the name of my next rock band..) life is also feeling a little bleached yet also with these remarkable flashes of colour and sweetness. On arrival at JFK airport I had the most efficient and unpatronising assistance ever. Two young women met me politely off the plane and fast tracked me through customs, found my bag without even having to ask and whisked me into a taxi before I could say ‘Have a nice day’. Disabled assistance at airports is one of my particular pet hates and I was so surprised by this turn of events I was still grinning when I stumbled out of the cab in front of my cousin’s house. She was with her three-year-old son, a handsome, curious and sweet boy, Ben, and the three-week-old girl Sophie whose little crumpled face emerged from under a hat that, though a size 0, still fell over her eyes. After being rugby tackled by the spaniel Orson and after Ben had been distracted by my cousin’s husband, she and I ended up at a cocktail bar, her still with the baby strapped to her bosom and me with cane and dark glasses, drinking the finest dry martini in the world. It started a delicious numbness rising from the feet up. By the time we got back to the apartment our tongues were not working. The evening became slightly surreal but somehow, as my cuz’s apartment was full to the very brim, I managed to get to yet another cousin’s apartment by yellow cab in time to politely fake sobriety well enough to be offered a room for the duration.

The next day Ben introduced me to a friend as ‘my cousin…her eyes are broken!’ He was both fascinated, confused and slightly scared of the situation. I showed him how I used my cane to ‘feel’ where things were on my peripheries by tapping around the apartment looking for him. He may need therapy later.
I fell in love with Sophie too. Each day I spent as much time as I could cooing and snoozing with her whilst my cuz got some desperately needed sleep or cooked for Ben or washed endless amounts of poo off various items of clothing. Sometimes my poor cuz would sit on the couch nursing Sophie, nearly weeping with exhaustion but often, when Ben was at school, we would walk and talk and laugh, her with Sophie strapped to her front and me gripping an elbow.
Holding Sophie in my arms was deeply moving. Babies change so fast and I swear in the short time I was there her green eyes began to focus on the world.
Halloween involved Ben in a chicken costume and Sophie oblivious, dressed as a pumpkin. I was ordered into a pair of bunny ears which went well, I thought, with the cane and glasses. Kind-of kinky blind bunny thing. It was hard, given it was New York, to tell who was actually dressing up for Halloween and my cuz and I nearly fell off the pavement with laughter when a tourist approached a tall blonde man in a bathrobe and white socks and asked the significance of his costume only to be told …he wasn’t in costume. The tourist blanched and rapidly backed away.
And then it was time to go and there I was back at JFK. This time when I asked for assistance it all went the usual way… I was asked if I wanted a wheelchair. I pointed out (yet again) that there was nothing the least wrong with my legs but to no avail. So I flailed my way through alone, managing to hold down my dinner through the dreadful hour of turbulence at 35,000 feet when we bumped the edges of hurricane Noel and here I am back in Cambridge.
Coda: I had dreaded coming back to the flat. The last thing I had done was smash up Martina’s bowls in a fit of guilty anguish and I couldn’t for the life of me remember taking out the garbage…but S my dear friend had snuck in whilst I was away and cleaned the whole place from top to bottom, washing and hiding away Martina’s things and leaving a couple of pot plants and a welcome note on my white board. See flashes of great sweetness come out of the blue even when things are all a little grey.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

And the Cat died....

First off my apologies for the long gap in posts but an hour after the last one the vet called to say my wonderful old one toothed, odd purring moggie, Martina, had liver cancer. Within a couple of hours I was holding her in my arms and watching as the vet pushed the plunger on the hyperdermic and her heart was stopped. She just dropped her nose into the crook of my elbow and her little heart stopped. I was beside myself with grief and guilt and even now as I write this, knowing it was only a matter of days for her, my own heart feels black with guilt. I have seen so much death but I have never been the one who signed a life away before.
I was collected from the vet by a friend and another friend later took me to a pub for whiskey but there was no time to gather myself as Teelo's wake was Saturday and I was flying to New York on Monday.
On Saturday morning I walked into the kitchen and smashed Martina's feeding bowl in fury at the week. I felt like a murderer.
All was a blur and then there was the bar and a few of Teelo's friends and a lot of Castle beer. The wake went as these things do, in stages of laughter and weeping and hugging but it was wonderful to be with others as confused and sad as me.
I was given a Sunday sanctuary by two dear friends who let me sleep and then took me to a comedy night in Guildford on Sunday night before dropping me at Gatwick. And then I was 35,000 ft above the Atlantic carrying a heart that weighed a ton and should really have been charged as overweight baggage.
My dreams since hearing about Teelo's death had become violent and disturbing and, apart from one reprise dream which involved George Clooney reading some of my poetry and demanding immediate and elaborate sex (Thanks George and anytime mate...), were causing me to lose sleep. I dreamt Teelo was dead drunk in a ditch with his dreads all caught up and we couldn't sober him up. I dreamt I was killed by a gang of eastern europeans with machetes (which was culturally interesting...) Anyway I was headng for New York and a few days of escapism with an exhausted cousin and new three week baby (plus toddler) and of course dirty martinis, Surely i would find sleep and some relief there!

Friday, 26 October 2007

Friday after the funeral

Teelo’s funeral was in Lusaka yesterday. They played reggae and handed out roses. In Zambian tradition it was an open coffin and everyone who saw said he looked peaceful. In fact Mrs. T, known for her acerbic and bitter take on life commented later to her daughter ‘There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with him to me, ‘ in an aggrieved tone that implied he might be faking. His great friend Mu did the eulogy and my father sent a text saying the church was packed to the gills.The wake took off right after the cremation and I imagine is still going on.
I lit candles and played Marley and danced and cried in the dark drinking too much gin. Later I spoke to C, his ex, on my mobile for hours. Vodaphone are going to love me.
Today I am hung over and resemble the weather which is grey and soggy. My old moggie is at the vet having her liver scanned. She has obviously also been at the gin. I refuse to even contemplate she may be too sick to come home so I will need to go and pick her up this afternoon and I still want to get to the gym to get rid of some of this podgy melancholy.
Tomorrow I go to London, to a Zambian restaurant on Southwark Bridge to drink more (good god!) in honour of Teelo with those of us who couldn’t make it back to Lusaka.
I am inarticulate and miserable so less said better.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Car crash takes my friend away

I was going to write about the golden light of autumn this weekend, about a friend’s new baby and about some quite funny stuff that happened last week…but a man was killed on Saturday night and his death changed everything.

This man was about 6 foot but taller with the huge matted dreadlocks that he had been growing since he was in his 20’s. They were showing a little grey but not so you’d notice. He was what he would call, with his explosive laugh, a ‘goffle’ a coloured man, mixed race with roots in Scotland and Zambia. He had been born in Ndola a mining town in Zambia but I am not sure what his Dad did there. I know he was a bright kid and a charmer even back then. I know he always dreamt of ‘the big time’ but wasn’t sure what that really meant for him. He was an excellent actor even as a youth and a self taught artist. He ran his own graphic design business but he still dreamt of something bigger. He could have been a film star- he had the charisma. In fact it was charisma, this huge bear like personality that made this man a central hub of my community. He was a self professed bullshit artist, he was a barfly, he was a womaniser and he was occasionally a bully but he was huge hearted and warm. Strangers and old friends flocked around him. He was the life and soul of every bar he commandeered.
He always told the story of meeting his first great love C. He says I introduced them..but I think he actually came over to our table to rescue us from being hassled by some ridiculously inarticulate Boers (I mean Boers, not bores..although they often do mean the same…) Their relationship, always stormy sometimes to the point of typhoon, resulted in the beautiful I, now 4 years old and smart, speaking a mixture of Danish, English and Nyanja.
In the last couple of years he had met another beautiful Scandinavian, P, and they had just had a little girl…I think she must be 3 or 4 months now.
He was my friend. He was my brother in arms. He drove me to distraction with his boozing and irresponsibility; he suffered from bouts of depression that made him withdrawn and cruel but always I knew, we all knew, that if we needed help, company when we were in our darkest times, we could just call him and he would drop everything and come over. I know he loved me. I know he loved all of us, his friends, his family unconditionally. It was his true gift this great, almost childlike love of us, of good times, of Zambia. His death, a car crash on Saturday night, leaves a hole that will never be filled. Everything changes.

My heart goes out to all of those in Zambia preparing his funeral for Thursday. I know that their hearts will hurt as much and more then mine. There is so much more to write about my friend, about his kindness to me, the times he got me through, the times we fought, the times we screamed with laughter but right now I just want to say how much I will miss you. You crazy Rasta. I hope that wherever you are they have Mosi on tap and sunshine, so much sunshine, my dearest old friend.
Teelo Ross

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Incidently the vets...

I have had a couple of notes of support about this blog and I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Baring one’s soul (and in my case, my teeth) is only possible with your help, feedback and criticism.

Yesterday a dear pal, D, popped by for lunch and was kind enough to help me out by driving the cat (with the off purr) and I to the vet. The vet’s waiting room is so much more exhilarating then the doc’s. People turn up with motley collections of creatures on leads and in cages and usually spend much of the time leaning over said creature speaking in baby talk. People ,and English people at that ,actually talk to each other at vets…the doggy people usually shriek at each other - mostly about anal glands and mange. Cat people are usually quieter and looking a little guilty. Cats will have that effect.
My pal and I having spent much of our early lives in Zambia where pets lives were usually quite short, tragic and bloody due to cars, snakes, rabies, parasites, starvation, infighting need I go, on are always slightly bemused by the cult of ‘pet’ in UK. We nearly fell off our seats having overheard the receptionist talking briefly to a vet about the impending testicular cancer operation ….on a hamster! The luck of birth eh?

Sunlight had found my corner and I had forgotten my baseball cap which blocks glare so I was a little blinded and just enjoying listening to D telling vastly inappropriate jokes, the most repeatable being:
'A cat and two dogs go to a bar in the Green room at the National Opera (I am embellishing here D..) and ask for a drink. The bartender apologises and says that the bar is reserved for composers and musicians… The animals look at each other with a sigh and then the first dog says
‘I Bark’
The second says
'I often Bark'
And the cat says
'And I’m de Pussy.'

And then there is a squeak and sitting next to D is a very handsome man (hmmm – suddenly she ain’t THAT blind) with a large black and white kitten on his lap. (The squeak was from the kitten not the man). Just as we are getting into a conversation about the kitten’s obsession with your man’s (he was Irish) Dyson vacuum cleaner, I was called back to pick up my poor, old, one-toothed feline who had been subjected to something people from LA pay large amounts of money for. I also paid large amounts of money for it…vets are costly! (I wondered on the costs of the hamster having his ball removed….)

The receptionist kept making funny noises at me whilst I was paying. I wondered if she had a speech impairment but it turns out she was trying to communicate with my cat. My cat, who won’t be able to sit down for several hours, just looked at her with outrage and disgust.
Sadly never got the phone number of man with kitten and Dyson. (Seemed like a good combination to me…)

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Nodding off in the loo

I mentioned that travelling through cities is quite a challenge with limited sight and therefore a bit knackering, but I think today was a bit ridiculous even for me…. I had organised to meet a journalist at the National Film Theatre on South Bank. He wanted to interview me about a photographic workshop I did a couple of months ago specifically designed for visually impaired people and I thought I would then use the day to doss around some art galleries and perhaps extricate an employed friend or two from their offices for lunch. Unfortunately it was green bin day today so the walk from my flat to the station involved manoeuvring around hundreds of bins on narrow pavements and then having to run for a train. London wasn’t too bad as it was raining so less crowded. In fact I had three…count them..THREE offers of help on the tube. A record for me – although possibly slightly influenced by the fact I was wearing rather low cut top and heeled boots - half way though the interview..and its only 11 30am I suddenly lose my thread completely. I forget what I’m trying to say and begin to garble. Journo is a lovely chap and asks all the right questions and nods and looks fascinated which is a very useful gift and wraps up the interview and heads off. (Article will be in Daily Telegraph some point in this space. If you want to see any of the photos from the workshop you can go to the Photovoice website and links are there). Anyway, I think I better head to the loo and splash some water on my face to wake myself up a bit. I turn on the warm water and just nod off with my hands under the tap!! Literally, I swear, I fell asleep for few seconds in the NFT toilets. That is not cool. That makes me look like a junkie.
I also fell asleep on the train home and then finally crawled into the house and went to bed with my boots on because they were too complicated to take off. This being out of work thing is very exhausting….
It was much the same yesterday so I presume I am fighting off a cold or something but even so it is most frustrating. I need energy to utilise my eyes otherwise it is just like with a torch with low batteries…they are rubbish.

Just back from choir practice though and a couple of lungfuls of ‘ Say a Little Prayer for You’ and ‘ Down to the River’ did the trick. Now am sat with warm buzzing cat (her purr is a tad off) and warm computer and crossing fingers that tomorrow I can get through the whole day without nodding off like a granny

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Spike Lee did good.

Here’s the thing…documentary film is so important because it can somehow weave archive material, emotion, personal journeys and personal ‘truths’, passion and great spontaneity too. And they are so often about stuff we need to know about but could never begin to find out….to see, to feel on our own.
Documentaries don’t always tell the truth. To begin with there is the camera and then the person behind the camera, the producers, researchers funders yadda many filters..and eventually there is the extreme skill of the editor - but the real artistry of good documentary is that it can move us, make us quake in our boots, think, debate and potentially even get off the sofa and follow up on what we have just seen. All film needs to be sold to a broadcaster/audience so there is ALWAYS an angle. In a way a ‘truthful’ documentary is an oxymoron. That aside, I have just watched Spike Lee’s ‘When the Levees Broke’ a four-part ‘requiem’ about Katrina, New Orleans and the aftermath. There is no disembodied voice-over telling you what to think; just stories from every angle from the people who were there, wonderful composition, editing including archive that grips and carries you through.
It is a great doc and inspirational for any filmmaker. In contrast I am now watching S.W.A.T with Samuel ‘one act’ L. Jackson. ….well…my brain is full. By the way, if you are wondering, although I can’t really get much from a full screen at a cinema now (I can only see parts of a screen at a time and usually it is all too dark for my eyes to pick up detail….plus I get lost trying to find my way back from the loo and then after ages of feeling peoples heads to find my buddies will only discover the sods have eaten my popcorn), I can still see films on DVDs on my TV. Screen is smaller and I can get as close as I like. So there.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Murky Saturday

Today is difficult. Grey light with murky vision makes me feel claustrophobic; everything looks like its under dirty water. I only just got out of my pajamas and its lunch time and there is a pile of work to do...none of which I can assure you will be done. My sight is too tricky to go into town. Without being able to drive or ride a bike anymore one's world gets really quite 'local'. The only choice is to walk come rain or ...well, as this is England, 'not rain'. I am always considering how many crowds and how many major roads there will be and today...nope. Its not completely laziness. there is an element of self preservation. I make mistakes when feeling soul weary and when you are pretty blind those mistakes can cost you a lot more then just your pride.
Anyway - I am hoping England win the rugby this evening as beating the French usually ensures the general English gloom lifts across the nation and the word 'jolly' can be used again at least until the finals...
Meanwhile a poem. (Don't say you haven't been warned...)

Dry Erase Marker. (on losing my sight in 2004)

My eyes are being sucked slowly by sickness,
Gobstoppers going from hue to blue
To black.

I want you to give them back.

My horizons are broken into jags of jigsaw,
My mountains have bite marks
My seas are squeezed;
And all the time,

While the trees strike my face and
Traffic is a game for card sharps,

I am desperate to breathe.
Colour is oxygen and light becomes
My bread and wine.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Parkour for the blind!

I was thinking of parkour today…you know the crazy wonderful sport of urban ‘running’ where you jump and run and do remarkable physical feats whist dashing from a to b in a city. The opening stunt sequence of the last James Bond had a parkour sequence – the stuntman was an original parkour ‘choreographer’. ( I must also recommend the fabulously daft but exciting French film 'District 13' which has mind-blowing parkour sequences….
Anyway and yadda yadda… I was thinking that I would have loved to have tried it when I had more sight..but actually then I realised that a lot of us VI (visually impaired) people would probably be damn good at it as we already have to plan and judge and think on our feet- fast and as far ahead as we can vaguely see each time we head out the house. I, and many with tunnel vision, learn to manoeuvre with huge blank spaces in the world. . One has to make a guess and a damn good one about those tricky blank spaces before one walks through them and that is more complicated the more people and 'urban furniture' ( hip am I? Well not a lot obviously if I am still using hte word 'hip') one has to walk around , over or through. .. only aterwards you may feel the whoosh of the car you didn’t see, or knock into the edge of a stairwell you didn’t quite see…great for adreneline junkies! But that is why one gets a tad weary when trying to travel through London or figure out how not to get run down when crossing a 6 lane main street in New York. Yup, all us visually impaired people are doing parkour brilliantly everyday..just very very slowly…….Truly extreme sport …If you ever wanted a rush try taping your eyes half shot on your way into work next week...

I am so happy that Doris Lessing got the nobel prize for literature! At last that cynical, sharp and searingly intelligent writer has been recognised. I met John Thaw the actor in Zambia once, on the film set of Michael Raeburn's version of Lessing's 'Grass is Singing'. I was very little but I remember I told him I wanted to be an actor and he wished me well. Turns out he hated every minute of the shoot in Zambia and swore never to go back again... I am sorry about that.

My Mum and her partner are on their way back from volunteering in Shanghai at the Special Olympics. We are all in dread of the thousands of digital phtos but looking forward to the stories! In the sailing the Brits won bronze, and gold!

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Introduction to my first blog!

I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. This may sound like the Latin for some exotic garden plant but unfortunately is actually a genetic disease that causes the cells in the retina in the back of the eye to give up the ghost in varying patterns with no fixed timetable and often several side effects..the most annoying one being eventual blindness. Right now I have a very limited tunnel of vision which blurs and distorts occasionally during the day depending on light and stress. My peripheral sight, what’s left of it is a white out. Additional blurring is due to a secondary condition called macular odema which is extremely annoying but at least comes and goes unlike the RP which kills the cells and then leaves them lying around like a load of old garbage blocking the remaining view.
For some RP comes swiftly. It can blind a man in under a year but for many lucky sods like myself it is slow allowing us to adjust with each little theft of vision over tens of years. It plateaus and stays still for months, years and then can suddenly change again. You never know how it will be when you wake up each morning so there is no schedule for complete sight loss just a dull plodding dulling of my favourite sense.
I am not a hero. My failing sight does not make me able to hear whispered conversations at 50 paces, kill 100 thugs with only my karate skills and a length of curtain rail nor does it make me pale and interesting. It pisses me off. I rage RAGE against the dying of the light (to entirely misquote Dylan Thomas). I covert others ability to still drive , to cycle, to jog, alone and independent in the golden evening light, to just wander to the city centre without anxiety and planning. I sometimes can’t bear to be with my friends who move with such sickening ease through my murky world. Compassion I scream in fury at myself. Be F***g Compassionate! But its hard and more and more I find I have been home alone for days and days. Time has passed and I have used every excuse not to face the world. Not to fall arse over tit in the world.

I hold my fear and fury close to my chest and stick it under my bed when I go to work or out with others but it is always there when I come home; a little yet monstrous ball of grief and terror with teeth. I refuse to be a ‘disabled woman’, a middle aged blind woman. To refuse to accept this growing part of me means I am constantly fractured, torn and confused but it also means I have freedom and resilience and can dream without the weight of potential blindness on my back.

So there it is...the beginning of my blog to which you are very welcome....just to note that with this blog comes the unfortunate potential for gobbets of self pity and winging to infiltrate the general claptrap for which I apologise in advance and will do my utmost to avoid. Also, this is not yet set up to be visual impairment accessible which is ironic but I am a complete luddite and anything technical will have to be done by someone else so apologies tto the VI readers. I will sort it out soon!