Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sunny days and getting around - James

JamesIt's been such a stop and start summer for me with regards to living with Retinitis Pigmentosa. I find it’s easier to cope with RP if I know what the weather's going to be like with a bit of certainty from one day to the next so that I can make minor adjustments to my travel plans, even if they're just around town. I struggle mostly on very sunny days when the contrast between shaded areas and the open sunlight is jarring. I need to stay in either state, as flitting between the two is disorientating and possibly hazardous. This is easier if I'm in familiar territory, like Sheffield in general, but I've been away to Bristol and Newcastle this year where I’ve had to use my guide cane (halfway between the symbol and the long cane) to make sure I don't twist my poor ankles on curbs and cobbled streets or plunge myself down a quaint little flight of steps from a cosy nook in an immaculately designed corner of a trendy high street wine bar.

No, that's a lie, I don't go to wine bars, I like real ale pubs with gruff old men (me being one of them) guffawing about crop rotation. You'll usually find me in Shakespeare's on Gibraltar Street which I find initially very dark as I go in, but the giant blackboard which lists all their guest ales is an absolutely indispensable tool for finding out what fermented vegetable drinks they have on offer as the pump clips are totally out of my visual range. The brightest and least intimidatingly lit pub for me is actually Gardeners Rest in Neapsend, but that's slightly harder for me to get to and I sometimes feel uneasy wandering through the uneven industrial landscape.

I've learnt over the years just to take things slowly, even though I'm a fast walker. I guess "slowly" to me means the measured charting of the routes I take and what dangers I'm looking for directly up ahead. I keep an eye on people who look like they might stray into my path at any moment, especially those who bury their heads in their mobile phones while they're walking and perhaps unfairly hope that everyone else dives out of the way for them. I scan the edges of pavements that aren't well defined so that I don’t step out cluelessly into oncoming traffic - the areas around Fargate and Barker's Pool are especially tricky for that reason. I always keep a steady watch for bollards and fence posts or anything else that I might painfully clip my arms or genitalia on. I'm working all the time with RP; I'm calculating and deducing everything and constantly monitoring my surroundings, which can be quite exhausting on a busy day.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

My Independent Journey - Betsy

BetsyFor the Ramblers Association Annual General Meeting, I have to get myself across town to Norfolk Park’s new Centre. I’ll show them what I can do when I don’t have a guide.

Now, let’s see what I need. I’ve got plenty of time but will these new boots cripple me? Never mind, the brilliant sunshine and crispy air beckon and I’ll wear my new fleece walking pants. No sense getting cold, and I’ll need some lunch. Come on, old girl, gather yourself up in a hurry and start trekking. Just put the handbag in the rucksack. Never mind extracting bus pass, etc. I’ll forget something so bung it all in.

Ring for the lift. Come on, come on, I want to be off and I’m not too sure just how long it will take me to walk from Stannington to Norfolk Park. Feel for the ground floor button. It’s one above Hold Door. Out of the flats and down across the car park. Make sure I don’t turn my ankle on the rough stone surface. No sense in bungling things before I get going. Oh damn, I forgot to bring down the talking book I wanted to post in the box which is just in front of me. Oh, well, tomorrow will have to do. Now to cross the street. Shall I chance it here or closer to where it turns off the main road? Be safe. Go to the junction so turning cars can see me and my white stick. Careful at the curbs.

I’ll open up and swing down Stannington Road at my natural pace as I know the curbs well. Keep my ears open towards the main road however, to assess the traffic. For the moment I want to stay in the sun but I will have to cross over to go down Hollins Lane to Rivelin Bottom. Oops. I almost bumped into that lady. Keep my mind on the job. Now’s the time to cross. Get the stick into full view and go for it. Nothing coming up and the one coming down is well up the hill. Where’s the path leading to the pavement? No sense in walking through dog muck on the grass.

No trouble dropping down to the bridge, but now the fun begins. Go to the crossing and tune in to the sounds. Get going. I see the movement of someone crossing right at the intersection so no traffic. If there is, he or she will get hit first. Stop at the island in the middle and look the other way bur don’t waste time getting over. Phew, time to take off a layer. It’s all up hill now until I hit Walkley. From then on it’s a doddle until I get to Granville Road. Hope my feet don’t hurt by then. Tuck my jacket safely inside the sack.

Uff, it’s a hot pull. Just keep going. Keep breathing evenly. No dust bins in the way today. Thank goodness it’s Sunday. Now I’m up the first long pull. Stride through the gap into the next road. It’s so much easier going by the footpath. Too steep for cars so they have to go all over the place to climb up. Keep going. Don’t stop. Shorten the steps but keep going. There don’t seem to be many birds around. None are singing from the TV aerial - that is such a favourite. No smells of cooking from the houses. Are they all at church, or not up yet? Here’s a car that has been out fetching the papers. It smells of hot oil. Get up this final patch of road and I’m on the level. Hurrah! But keep my guard up. Car doors are often open here and kids’ bikes sprawl across the pavement. Where’s the cat that comes out meowing?

This road coming down from Crookes is a tricky one, especially if I try to cross before the lights. No hope today, too much traffic at intervals so I can’t safely judge the gaps. Wait for the bleeper when the lights turn and cross over into South Road. Mind the old boy. He doesn’t look as if he can get out of the way of my long cane. Don’t mow people down. Netto is open. Press on, I don’t want anything today. At least the shops which put their goods out on the pavement are closed and I don’t have to wave through them. One of these days I’ll report some of them. What a job if you can’t see anything. Guide dogs love weaving about. It’s a change and a challenge. I will go down Fargate, the most challenging course in Sheffield.

Just keep going as I come this way often. Oh hell those branches overhanging Commonside. My face stings but nothing in the eyes. And why are these dust bins out? Some are overflowing. That one looks abandoned. Never mind, just keep going. Yippee,traffic is crossing at Crookesmoor Road. By the time I get there the lights will turn and I can cross. Watch for cars coming around the corner. Ouch, I’ve just turned my ankle on some hole in the middle of the pavement in Barber Road. Retrieve my white stick and move ahead slowly but steadily. It’s the same ankle I turned badly three weeks ago. Let it wear off but watch traffic turning around the corner of Crookesmoor Park. Shall I go through Western Park? It’s a lovely day. No, crossing by Children’s Hospital towards the Octagon is worse than crossing at the roundabout. Thank you. The young man has pushed the buttons and is waiting to cross until the lights change and I am safely over. Usually the students run for it. Seeing the 'wait' sign is particularly difficult here as someone put advertising stickers over the glass. No bleepers and twirling knobs here to assist me, so get a move on and give a friendly wave to the cars.

I’ll weave as usual past the entrance to Jessop’s around two corners, past the Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind on Mappin Street and into West Street. Good heavens, music is pouring out of the building and tambourines are rattling. Much livelier than during the week. Wonder who it is?

Hello there. Who is it? Eunice, what are you doing here? Parked your car at SRSB and going to to John Lewis shopping. Come on, then. See you at SRSB tomorrow. Let’s cross West Street here, the lights are with us. Come on the traffic is moving across. So what if a car is coming along West Street, he has to stop. I know you don’t trust motorists, but this is daft. Let’s get across before the lights change. You ought to get out of your car more often and walk like we do. Come on now, we can cross Rockingham Street. Just shut your eyes and come instead of standing there staring at all the cars. Here’s John Lewis so I’ll see you tomorrow when I come for those photocopies.

Careful coming down to Fargate. Sunday shopping has started and cars are streaming around the corner into Leopold Street. I can get across just before that bus gets up here. Now, careful through all these obstacles. Get over towards M&S but watch out for their signboards. Phew, that Body Shop or whatever it is smells strong. Keep on going straight down High Street. What is this couple going to do? If I push past I might hit something. Hell, they are slowing down. Get over. Right, make a break for it and hope they continue looking towards the shop. Perhaps it would be a good idea to stop at the Interchange for the toilet. Look out for the change in pavement level approaching Platform A. Where is the ramp down into the Interchange? Wrong again, it’s on the other side of these cycle bars. Ouch, my toes are hurting. Too much walking on paved surfaces. Now where to cross to Suffolk Street so I can get to Granville Road? I think it has to be along Platform D and then cross over to the Railway Station. Next turn right and follow Suffolk Road. Mind the traffic and tram lines. Is that bus going to stop? At last I am climbing Granville Road and my sore feet are forgotten. Here are the park gates. Notices everywhere but no opening. Don’t give up. Walk to the far side and sure enough, here is a small entrance. Now where to go? Excuse me, is this the way to the Centre? "Come over here luv and walk right up the middle. You can see the Centre up there on the right. Ah,well ah, anyway, just keep going and you’ll get there in ten minutes". Thanks pal, and I am off. Nice aristocratic drive. I wonder where it used to go? Lots of kids playing around the Centre and here is an entrance. Do you know where the Ramblers’ meeting is? Oh, hello Terry. Am I the first? Yes I’ve walked all the way from Stannington and I’m hungry. I’ll take a seat and eat my lunch. When the time comes I’ll tell them of my journey. I too have enjoyed a ramble.