I met up with my buddies last night in Richmond. I’m paralysed and P is blind with a guide dog. Until 7 years ago I wasn’t paralysed, and for the first 25 years P’s vision was fine. His diagnosis of a rare and progressive eye condition that would slowly but surely rob him of sight can’t have been anything other than profoundly shocking. He did however have years/ decades to adjust to the gradual loss, and actually didn’t tell anyone but his wife and son, who both kept it a secret. He held down a very senior role in a firm that’s a household name around the world, until he realised that he just couldn’t carry it off anymore. Pretending to be able to see normally is an impossible thing to do once you have deteriorated to a certain point.

He told me last night that I’d done him a real favour by explaining something to him last time. His wife had long accused him of having an annoying tendency to talk over people, not knowing when to stop. Looking at it from a vision perspective ( and that was my profession for a LONG time ) I put it to him that yes, he might well do that, but unintentionally. When you are in a group of people and you are having a conversation, well mannered people at least notice when other people are starting to speak, or are about to speak, because they give off visual signals that they are, usually with facial expressions or body language. Well if you can’t see people’s faces, or expressions, or body language, then you just speak when there’s a break in the audible conversation , and you miss all visual cues. P said that he’d slightly gleefully explained to his wife that I’d proven that he actually wasn’t just rude, it was merely in all likelihood just an effect of his vision loss.
When we talk to other people, most of us look at the others for visual affirmation that we are being heard, and that what we are saying is of interest to them. Affirmation can be from smiles, nods, and expressions by other people. When you can’t see any of those then how are you supposed to know someone’s reaction. Nodding and smiling, I pointed out to our mutual friend Chris, wasn’t going to be of any use to P, but audibly saying ‘ yes/ really/ no way/ wow etc ‘ would be very valuable. ‘ feedback’ for P when he was speaking. Obvs this makes perfect sense, but it hadn’t occurred to P either. When you lose your vision very gradually over many years, you don’t notice the gestures disappearing over time.

So there you go then. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone blind or partially sighted, you have to substitute your facial expressions with SOUND. In doing so you are helping the blind person a lot.

P and I talked about our respective losses a bit, and how you are ‘ dismissed’ by other people, in lots of ways. Sometimes it’s deliberate ( and that’s hurtful and very saddening ) but more often it’s not malicious. You get disempowered by people doing things for you that you CAN actually do yourself. I know it’s a minefield, the whole ‘ well should I help that poor bugger or not ‘ thing, but I’d say it’s best just to offer. Your offer may be declined but it may be VERY gratefully accepted. Please don’t not offer just in case the person says No thanks …

We had a real laugh, and Bolt the blind dog was again the most popular being in the bar. I can quite see that if you are a single fella, then having a cute dog or carrying a baby around is definitely a way to attract the chicks. Of the 2 options I think the dog is probably the least complicated.

I’ve got a sore throat. I never get sore throats. I have just been to 2 airports. You know what I’m saying, I’m sure. The thing is that the planet DOES need to shed several billion people in order to endure. It sounds a tad cold, but as a practical kinda fella, I’m ok with the concept of a species threatening plague breaking out. You have to look at the bigger picture and not be selfish, surely ….?

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