Out of Sight by Trevor Plumbly
On the Other Side
I must confess to having been fairly ambivalent about the plight of blind folk till I joined their ranks. Sure, they were around, but not really part of my world; like most, I was happy to give a few dollars of conscience money on appeal days just as I did with all the other causes that didn’t really affect me personally. My reaction to someone with a white cane was a sort of distant sympathy, along the lines of ‘Poor sod, but he/she seems to be getting about O.K.’ It wasn’t until I found that my sight was deteriorating at a somewhat speedy rate that I came to realise that sight loss is a lot more complicated than most (including me) really comprehend. Though not yet qualified for full membership, I am finding it a dark world, full of frustrations and obstacles. Politicians would, I suppose, describe it as ‘challenging’, but the word carries as little meaning in my world as I suspect it does in theirs.
The main goal for blindies is ‘independence’ in one form or another, but meeting individual aspirations must be pretty tortuous for those trying to help us through the coping stages. I have a sort of DIY approach to this based on the theory that the achievable level can be gained by repetitive trial and error. It works fine for the most part, but depends entirely on consistency and I usually end up back to square one if too many variables creep in. Currently I live in the middle ground, I have low vision rather than none at all; this does allow some amount of freedom but it also carries the risk of overconfidence, thus boundaries need to be set. I can potter around safely at home for instance, but negotiating a busy street alone isn’t a reality anymore – regardless of others who seem to manage that quite well, I, quite simply, just don’t have the confidence anymore.
Now for the Good News!
Fortunately, I was never much of an outdoor person, so being a bit housebound isn’t too hard to endure; in fact it’s rekindled interests I’ve been too busy to fully enjoy for some years and given me the time to revisit them. Courtesy of Spotify, I no longer have to fiddle around with CD cases or choose discs, plus, I find I’m sufficiently free of distractions now to listen and appreciate more serious music. But the biggest bonus by far has been reading, courtesy of the NZ Blind Foundation Library (thanks guys). Like a lot of folk, I’ve fallen into lazy reading habits over the years, but audio books seem to be reversing that. I’ve gone back to re-reading books I read years ago that have stuck in my memory and found that I’m enjoying and understanding them better, maybe it’s the lack of distracting alternatives, or even age, but its working, and it’s fun! I’ve just finished ‘The Surgeon of Crowthorne’ by Simon Winchester, a seriously underrated book that details the compilation of the first Oxford English Dictionary. It’s an easy read and an absolute must for anyone who enjoys words. I’m re-tackling ‘A City Possessed’ by Lynley Hood, a meticulously researched and compelling account of one of New Zealand’s most bizarre miscarriages of justice. Hard going for me but worth it!
Have fun! Trevor.