I’m a Rambler from Manchester Way

OK, I know it has to be dealt with. Everybody asks me the same question, and there’s no reason why you will be any different.

What, exactly, can I see? The answer to this question leads automatically to its subsidiary questions that are never actually spoken.

How sorry should I feel for you? And, how brave are you really?

So, let’s get it over with, bearing in mind, of course, the fact that things change. At the moment, for example, I have a cataract on the one eye that has any vision at all, but they don’t want to remove it because it’s the only eye I’ve got.

However, let’s try to get this sight thing nailed down.

The first thing you would notice, if you could suddenly look through my eyes, is that the world is vague and blurry, like an out-of-focus photograph.

You will still know where you are, in the sense that you can see the furniture; you will see it is there, but you won’t see the grain of the wood, even if you get close, because you would have to get so close that it would be out of focus anyway.

So, with a bit of practice, and by slowing down all your movements, you will be able to get around your house. Provided that things don’t move around too much!

Other people’s houses will be more difficult, but not impossible. Again, you’ll be able to see the furniture, but beware of cats that sleep on chairs, and cupboards with open doors, low ceilings, and small trip hazards.

The cupboard problem is interesting. I’m talking about wall cupboards, such as you get in kitchens, bathrooms and garden sheds owned by men.

You will see the blurry cupboard on the wall, and will correctly identify it. But your brain only remembers that all such cupboards have closed doors and are safe to ignore.

But, if someone’s left the door open – and this can apply to room doors, as well – you’re going to walk smack into it.

After a few times walking smack into things, usually head first, you develop this funny walk in places you don’t know. You start to instinctively protect your groin and your head, with the result that you adopt a peculiar ‘z’ shape, and a shifty look that is always on the lookout for sneaky projections, hat pegs, children’s toys, cats, and things made of glass.

You will quickly discover that you can’t read anything, unless it’s so big you have to spell it out, guessed letter by guessed letter.

In an eye test, you can’t even be sure of the big letter at the top, though E is usually a good guess.

Signing your name will be almost impossible, so refine it to a debonair scribble. No-one seems to care, anyway.

I can see people, but I can’t see faces. I can walk through a crowded shop without bumping into people, but I wouldn’t recognize my own mother if I did bump into her.

(Of course, I would recognize her, because she would say hello and start to introduce me to everyone in the shop. “Have you met my son? He’s blind, you know, and he’s got multiple sclerosis. I’m 95, you know.”)

If you see someone with a white stick, or someone you know can’t see very well, remember that they probably know you’re there, but not who you are. You will have to speak first, and say who you are. If you don’t, they’ll feel ignored and embarrassed.

Landscapes are different again. I can see light, and I know what the weather is doing. I can see the sky, and I can see the ground. Houses are blurry boxy things, and trees are green lollipop things. You won’t have any trouble with either of these. They stay still.

Walking around town is not the same experience that it was. Pavements are OK, but don’t get cocky about them, because councils dig holes in them, slabs can be uneven, cyclists cycle on them, and cars park on them.

Only cross busy roads at safe places. Oh yeah? This means you’ll never cross a road, and will be destined to go round and round the block, like a pedestrianized Flying Dutchman.

Pedestrian lights will not give you time to cross the road. All you can do is make yourself as visible as possible by holding up your white stick. You will hate all car drivers with a hatred that would melt rock, for they are serious threats to your life and think they can leave their car where you will fall over it. You will want to smash their thoughtless windscreens.

Unless, of course, they are taking you to the dentist or the shops, in which case, for just this short and limited period of time, they are the exception that proves the rule.

Nature is just one long laugh. Parks are pretty easy, so long as you can dodge balls, dogs, toddlers, child buggies and dog shit.

But the biggest challenge is real, countryside nature.

Before venturing into this kind of terrain, you must be properly equipped. If you go out without the right gear and training, when they have to call out mountain rescue to find you, the newspapers will have you for breakfast.

Learn how to fall over gracefully and safely. Crouch a lot – it keeps your centre of gravity low and puts you automatically into the ‘z’ position outlined earlier.

Look at the ground, not at the trees. Don’t think you can do two things at once. You can’t walk and look where you’re going at the same time. You will fall over.

If you want to do anything but check out the next step for hazards, you have to stop moving. If you don’t, you will fall over.

Only do a bit at first. Three inches is fine for the beginner. Then sit on the floor and wait for assistance.

Soon, you will be doing a hundred yards, but do not rush this stage. In fact, don’t rush any stage. If you rush, you will fall over.

Always carry a mobile phone to summon help, or just to leave a final message for your loved ones.

Use two sturdy walking sticks for balance and for examining the way ahead, count your steps so you can retrace them, and make sure you are well and truly hidden when you stop for a pee.

Take a tame dog with you, or people will think you’re just weird.

All in all, it’s a lovely and healthy way to relax. But learn how to do simple surgical procedures on yourself. If you don’t know how to amputate your own leg with a rusty tin can, I wouldn’t risk it!

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About stevehobsonauthor

I am blind, and I hate it. It stinks. But life is still sweet. I have multiple sclerosis, and that stinks too, but life is still sweet. These are my musings.
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