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.

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