Friday, 5 October 2018

My Narrow Boat - Graham

At last I took delivery of my narrow boat "LASS STRAW" and it's amazing. I had been waiting 12 months for delivery which should have taken 6 months so I insisted that I should be allowed to take it out for the August bank holiday. So for that weekend and the weekend after, I  accompanied by my brother and three friends took her out, the first time travelling from Shardlow to Willington and back on the Trent and Mersey canal and the following week to Loughborough and back via the river Soar, returning the boat back to the boatyard each time for to complete some outstanding jobs. On the 14th September I was officially handed the keys and we were off on our extended journey. This was me, my brother Malc and part of the time my friend Chris.

We have visited some interesting places en route, the first of which was Melbourne in Derbyshire which, after a walk away from the canal via a disused railway line, we discovered was a lovely quaint unspoiled village. This was followed by Burton on Trent, Branston, and several days in the lovely village of Alrewas.

During this period I went home to Sheffield to attend the funeral of a close friend and my brother stayed on the boat.

At the funeral I was introduced to a couple who also own a narrow boat. He lives on the boat full time and she joins him, wherever he has moved the boat to, at the weekends, returning to Sheffield to go to work on Monday. What was extraordinary about this meeting was that when I told them where I had left my boat, they were gobsmacked because they had left their boat there too. On my return I discovered that their boat was moored five boats away from mine.

Anyway as you may know from my previous blogs, my brother and I are both visually impaired, with my brother's eyesight being a bit worse than mine so I thought I would keep you posted as to how we are getting on from the point of view of a VIP.

To be fair, although for the most part, when we are on open canal my brother is fine but he does struggle a bit when we are approaching things. it takes him a bit longer to work out what is happening but at 4mph not much can go wrong and we are both thoroughly enjoying the whole experience.

The boat is 58 feet long which has meant two things:
  1. At that length it is difficult to see an awful lot further than the front of the boat and I keep hearing my brother saying "it's a bloody long boat this".
  2. We have largely overcome the problem by, while one of us is steering from he rear, the other, armed with a monocular, (which was issued to each of us by the low vision clinic at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital) sits on the front communicating forthcoming hazards to the steerer via a two way radio.  
This is also useful at locks for the person at the lock to communicate to the people on the boat what the situation is eg " the lock is empty, gates opening soon" or "boat going up in lock and one waiting to come in to come down" The crew then  know whether to hold the boat for a few minutes or tie up for a longer period.

The other thing that the radio is often used for is to exclaim "BOOZER" when a pub is spotted and along the canal this is quite often.

We are now moored at Stone in Staffordshire for a few days while my brother is back in Sheffield attending to some business. We will then be detouring from the Trent and Mersey canal on to the Caldon canal to visit leek and Frogall and places in between.
I can't wait

Friday, 31 August 2018

Archery at the Para European Championships - Phil

I have been asked by to forward a blog post on my experience of competing as a visually impaired Archery at Pilsen in the Para European Championships 11th to 19th August 2018.

I am visually impaired and learnt to shoot a bow at Sheffield Blind Archery group based at the Northern General Hospital. I need to use a tactile sight and foot locators to enable me to aim at the target, along with my spotter Marina, who assists me with the equipment and telling me where the arrows are in the target.

I was very excited when I found out that I was part of the team going to the games. We travelled to Pilsen with the Para Archery team on the Saturday 11th August. We stayed in a hotel that was in the City centre and not far from the venues used for the competition. Over the next few days the team practiced at the Archery field in readiness for the Qualifiers.
These are used to determine who goes through to the semi final/finals.

Four visually impaired archers from Britain made to the semi finals, one of whom is a Deaf Blind archer from Northern Ireland.

The medal matches were held in the central square of Pilsen, next to the cathedral. It was televised on youtube which made me a little nervous initially, but I hardly had time to think about it when the time came.

My match was for the Bronze medal, against another British Archer. It came down to a one arrow shoot out, highest score wins. Unfortunately I lost, but despite my disappointment, I still enjoyed my experience at the games. I met some very interesting people from various places and can’t wait to go to my next competition.

Visual impairment does not have to be a barrier to taking up a chosen sport or pastime.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Yoga at SRSB - Amy

This year I have been trying something else new. Last year I started trampolining and this year I am trying out yoga for the first time. I have never been interested in yoga at all, but since I have been trampolining I love exercise. I never thought I would say that because I absolutely hated PE at school. I only liked it when we did trampolining. Last year though I came to realise that if you choose the right thing for you, exercise can feel so good. For me it’s not about doing it to lose weight, or beating my personal best, it’s about improving my general health. You don’t realise how much your muscles tense up when you don’t exercise, even just having one week away from the trampoline and I can feel a difference. It’s not a good one. I love the feeling the day after when I am really achy, but at the same time, I feel like I could do it all again. 

At this moment in time, trampolining is a bit too risky with my health. Even though I have been managing well, I don’t want to push my luck. I am gutted about it, I can’t wait until I can go again, and I will definitely go back. But for now, I need something less risky. Something where I am less likely to injure myself. If I fell off a yoga mat I would go with a lot less of a splat than falling off a trampoline! Like I said I have never really had an interest in yoga at all, but when I saw the Inbetweeners Club were doing it at SRSB I thought I would give it a go.

At the start of every session we lay on our backs on the yoga mat for a few minutes, just thinking. The teacher Catherine tells us to focus on all of the areas that are achy, painful, or just need a little bit of attention. In the first session my back and hips where really aching and I just couldn’t wait to get up. I also had my hair up in a ponytail, so laying on it messed it all up. I know not to do that again, I put my bobble lower down now! I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but Catherine was really informative. She explained the poses very well, so we didn’t need to see her. She works for Yoga Quota who do yoga with people who have disabilities and health problems. They make it accessible so that everybody is able to do it. If I couldn’t do one pose, Catherine changes it so that I am still working the same muscles, but in a different way. I felt sorry for the few people who could do the poses correctly, they were in that position for ages while Catherine made adaptations for the rest of us. When we did poses that involved kneeling I could not do them at all, because my knees hurt too much, I kept trying, but I just couldn’t kneel for more than a few seconds. I do have problems with the muscles around my knees and hips though. When we sat on the floor I could feel every single bone and it was so uncomfortable, the floor was so hard and flat! I can’t believe I used to be a nursery nurse. Most of my day was spent on the floor and crawling around when I did that job. These days my body just can’t handle the floor.

At the end of the first session we laid back on the mats, like at the beginning. We were told to think again about the work we had done, the areas that were hurting at the start and how they feel now. My back was a lot less achy at the end than it was at the start. So even just that one session had made a difference.

The day after, my legs ached, my hips ached and my shoulders ached. I didn’t even think I had done much with my shoulders. That’s the thing, exercise doesn’t have to be painful, or uncomfortable. When I go trampolining I am completely pain free, until the day after. Even just doing stretches can loosen you up and improve your circulation. I am far from fit, so don’t mistake me for a super lean fitness queen, because I’m not at all. I do need to exercise a lot more than I do, but this is just a few things I have learnt over the past year or so.

I have been to three sessions of yoga so far and I am getting better at it. Yesterday Catherine told me that I am really getting the hang of it, I knew what move was coming next and I noticed that my leg had moved and wasn’t straight enough. I am finding the hard, flat floor a lot easier to sit on, and I am able to kneel for longer. Still not long, but maybe nearer a minute rather than a few seconds. I do feel that my knee muscles are stronger though, less achy and less likely to go painful like they do sometimes. I have bought my own super thick yoga mat and downloaded some apps. I am really enjoying it, a lot more than I thought I would. I will be gutted when the sessions come to an end in a few weeks. I really, really hope there will be more. *

Exercise is really hard when you are visually impaired. If you go running or walking, you may need a guide. Swimming is difficult because it’s hard to see where people are, especially without my glasses and if they are under water. Adaptations can be made for ball games, such as balls and equipment that are designed for blind people. Going to a gym or leisure centre, full of sighted people is really scary and daunting. In my experience Sheffield International Venues do offer extra support when it is needed. They have disabled friendly sessions at some of their pools and they have been really supportive with me getting back into trampolining. But it’s still scary. I think it would be really good to have more accessible sessions during the day. A lot of exercise classes involve looking at an instructor, to watch what they are doing. Also some sessions are only in the evening, such as trampolining. This is a really bad time when you are visually impaired, especially in the winter when it goes dark early. Also the busses don’t run as often and organising transport is more difficult in the evening. So I feel there should be more accessible day sessions for activities. It would be really good to make things like aerobics and yoga completely accessible in gyms and leisure centres. I have had lots of support when I have asked for it, but I do think that work needs to be done to make leisure centres less daunting and more friendly and welcoming for people with sight problems.

More VI friendly exercise sessions could benefit VI people in a variety of ways. It could improve their fitness and general health, it could also be a social activity, meeting up with friends and making new friends. This would then improve their mental health and their confidence.

*This story was written before SRSB established a regular class. There is now a Yoga Session every Thursday from 4:30 to 5:30pm.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Trip to Derby - Graham


Yesterday, I went to see what progress had been made in building my narrow boat.

Firstly, my brother and I went by bus to Sheffield Interchange and then walked across to Sheffield Station where I bought my rail ticket to Derby. What I think may be of interest to visually impaired people is that if you use a disabled person's railcard to get a third off the price of a day return to Derby it will cost £7.85. However if you show your mobility bus pass at the booking office at Sheffield Station you can purchase a Derbyshire Wayfarer ticket for half price (£6.50). It can be used on the following rail services:

  • Buxton - Chapel-en-le-Frith - New Mills (Newtown)
  • Sheffield - Hathersage - Hope - Edale - Chinley - New Mills (Central)
  • Sheffield - Chesterfield - Alfreton - Langley Mill - Ilkeston
  • Sheffield - Chesterfield - Derby
  • Derby - Belper - Ambergate - Cromford - Matlock
  • Derby - Long Eaton
  • Derby - Tutbury and Hatton - Uttoxeter
  • Derby - Willington - Burton-on-Trent
  • Shirebrook - Whitwell

It can also be used on lots of bus services within and in and out of Derbyshire county but I am not listing these as you can already use your mobility pass on any bus.

We boarded the 10.24 train to Southampton getting off at Derby 30 minutes later. We walked to the front of the station and after about 15 minutes boarded a Skylink bus which runs from Derby to Leicester via East Midlands Airport.

These buses are great. Each stop comes up on the destination board as you are arriving but more importantly you are notified audibly as you approach each stop with the name of the stop.

We alighted in Shardlow and after a short walk, arrived at The Wharf and J D Narrowboats.

We spent about an hour there and I was delighted with progress which, amongst lots of other things, included seeing that the engine had been installed. (a symbolic milestone).

Photographs of my boat can be viewed on my Facebook page.

Apparently the weather in Sheffield was shocking but when we came out of the boatyard we were in bright sunshine so we went for a walk. We walked by the Trent and Mersey canal (which in parts is the canal and in parts is the River Trent) to Trent Lock which is at the junction of the Trent and Mersey Canal, the River Soar and the Erewash Canal.

Trent Lock is a lovely picturesque spot with two pubs and a cafe. Having had a nice lunch at the Lockeeper Inn we continued our walk to Long Eaton from where we got a bus back to Derby.

For anyone thinking of doing this walk. From Trent Lock stay on the towpath, don't be tempted to leave the canal at any of the bridges because you will soon see that the towpath goes right behind the bus stop.

The number 12 goes direct to Derby bus station from where you can get any bus going to Alvaston or the Skyliner both of which drop at the Railway Station.

We were a bit unfortunate in that we arrived at the bus stop at 15:20 for the bus which runs every half hour apart from the 15:27 which only runs on school holidays so we had to wait until 15:57.

My advice would be to do this walk in summer and at the weekend when you are much more like to see boat movements on the canal and river.

All in all a nice day out, which if we had taken sandwiches and a flask would only have cost the £6.50 we spent on the Wayfarer ticket.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The benefits of blindness - Amy

When you tell people you are blind or visually impaired a common reaction is "Oh it must be awful for you." And it is. But what you don’t realise is we can do things that you can’t do, ha!

Some of us can get on the bus or tram for free, you have to pay lots and lots of money.

Sometimes people offer you their seat, as if you are royalty. We can’t be expected to stand up! Some people seem to think because we can’t see, we can’t stand without being propped up. Why??? It is useful on the bus though, it is hard trying to get to the back of the bus, usually to find there are no seats free there either.

Some of us get a Radar key. This means we can use our own private toilet. We don’t even have to go upstairs. Often this is really good, until you come across a disabled toilet that is being used as Christmas tree storage. I could not even see the toilet for all the trees and boxes of decorations!

Some of us get a disabled parking badge. You may think what is the point in that? Blind people can’t drive! But when we find somebody who can, it makes things easier for us and for them. Plus it saves money most of the time.

Some of us get a cheaper TV licence. Makes sense really, if you can’t get the full benefit of watching TV.

We get to go on Touch Tours at the theatre. This is where we get to see things closely or touch things before the show. You can sometimes go on stage, see props, see costumes and occasionally meet a few of the cast members. This can help a lot if we can’t see the show itself very well. It gives us a better understanding of what is happening on stage and what it looks like.

We can also easily avoid things we don’t to watch, such as gory bits in films. For some people this might be disappointing, for me I was quite glad to miss out on that bit.

Some of us have a better sense of touch and can read braille.

Some of us get a Life Plus card to use at leisure centres around Sheffield. This means I get to go swimming, and my Dad comes for free as my carer. He offers to pay for me, so I don’t pay anything!

When I was doing my exams at school I got to sit in a smaller, more relaxed room. I also got 25% extra time. None of my friends did. I have always been slower at reading and writing than my friends, so the extra time came in very useful.

Sometimes we get to move to the front of the queue. This is always a good thing. Nobody likes queuing.

For a long time my family and friends were trying to persuade me to register my sight. This is where an eye consultant gives you a certificate saying that you are sight impaired or severely sight impaired/blind. I didn’t want that label because I still had some sight and to me it didn’t seem on the verge of blindness. It just wasn’t good. Eventually, to keep everybody quiet I gave in and I got registered. It was very daunting at first, but it does make life so much easier. It makes things happen and you get the support you need to move on with your life and live a happy life.

I used to feel that I didn’t want any special treatment, I just wanted to be treated the same as everybody else. But in time I learned to accept it and embrace it. Because at the end of the day it makes my life a lot easier, more fun and it means that sight loss isn’t just a bad thing.

Because it means I get to do things that you don’t!

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Radio show with Sophia Endberg - Gail

In June 2017 I was asked to meet Sophia Endberg, a student from Sheffield University who wanted to go out with a blind person in the town centre around Sheffield. I was to speak into a microphone and speak all the noises I heard in the street around me.

Sophia is from Bonn, Germany and spoke excellent English and soon we were off on our travels.

As we left SRSB Sophia was quick to pick up the tactile marking which my cane was rolling over and she discovered that she had not noticed it when arriving and was fascinated to learn more about tactile markings as we went along.

I carry a Trekker Breeze (a sat nav designed for blind people) at all times. This gives me information about the street I am on and also junctions coming up.

As we went along the busy streets (it was Friday afternoon) and alive with people all going about their business, I was telling Sophia about the tram I could hear rattling along, suitcases being rolled on the pavements, also some noises from a nearby building site.

When we got to the town centre the Town Hall clock started chiming and there must have been five different lots of street musicians all at various points on Fargate.

I find the singing quite disorientating as I am relying on my cane to pick up noises.

I also told Sophia about the rotating cones underneath the control boxes at pelican crossings as she was fascinated by these and she has told me she is pointing them out to her friends.

Sophia has produced the radio work for her university and here is the link to listen. Sophia and myself were out two hours and she has had to cut it down but I feel you can still appreciate the work she has produced.

Friday, 9 March 2018

The Walking Group - Martin

MartinSheffield Visually Impaired Walking Group (SVIWG) organises volunteer-led walks for visually impaired people (VIPs) in and around Sheffield. This user-led group offers VIPs the opportunity to go walking regularly, assisted by trained volunteer guides. They are one of the sports and leisure groups that are supported by SRSB.

As a new VIP member to the walking group I was taken aback by how welcome I was made to feel with friendly guides and members from all walks of life. I am so glad I joined the group, it has given me a new sense of freedom and opened up a whole new world for me that I did't think would be possible being registered blind.

All the guides are excellent with brilliant walks around Sheffield and the outlying areas. You will never feel worried or stressed about obstacles as the guides are well trained and very descriptive. The guides are frequently rotated to give them a rest and to keep things fresh.

My first walk was around the outlying area through Chatsworth Park. It was a fantastic day out, I felt relaxed, safe and at the end of the walk I thought I'd had a mini holiday. My wellbeing felt topped up and revitalised with a new purpose to help others in the visually impaired community to come walking.

I would like to thank all the members but personally thank Gail for encouraging me to join the walking group. Thank you everyone for making me feel welcome, safe and making me feel so happy again.

If you are visually impaired and would like more information on joining this group, please visit the SVIWG website.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Valentine's Day - Amy

Valentine's Day has never really been a friend of mine. I love all the pink hearts and glitter but that's as good as it gets. I have always been the girl that is alright on her own, never needed to be in a relationship. It would be nice in some ways but I have got my friends and family and that’s all I need. It’s not like I don’t love people and it’s not like they don’t love me. I have just never been lucky when it comes to romance and all that kind of thing.

The other day I was thinking about what Valentine’s Day means to me, because I couldn’t ever remember having a good one. Not for the right reasons anyway. I said it was one of the most miserable days of the year, which it is. It separates all those in relationships from all those who are single. It makes some of those who are single feel like absolute rubbish and really lonely, when in reality they are not lonely at all. All of the couples are buying presents, going out on dates and all of the singles are just left feeling alone. I once saw something on Facebook that called it Singles Awareness Day. I quite like that way of thinking, instead of Happy Valentine's Day it was Happy Singles Awareness Day!

Over the years I have got a lot more confident in who I am. I think if there was ever a time I was going to find a nice guy, it would be now because I am more chatty and confident. I used to be so shy! However these days it is not my confidence holding me back it is my sight. Firstly I can’t see who the nice looking ones are from a distance which is SO annoying!!! I can’t walk around discreetly to get a closer look because I will probably end up walking into something. I need to concentrate on where I am walking to much to look at other things.

I have sometimes thought that online dating is a good place to start. I can look at pictures and read about somebody in my own time. It used to be my favourite way to try and find someone because I was a lot more confident online than I was in person. But these days I would rather just meet somebody in person and get an idea of what they are like as a person, not just their profile. If I ever do get talking to somebody online, I am always to nervous to meet them in person. With my sight as it is I need help sometimes and I need to trust that they are caring enough to do that. I do my best to be independent but in new places or busy places I do need help getting around. I just can’t bring myself to trust them enough. So I have given up on the online idea. I think I will just stick to the old fashioned way, just hope to come across somebody in person.

Yesterday I was reminded by one of my best friends how I did once have a good Valentine’s Day. One year me and my friends all went out to a Chinese buffet restaurant on Valentine’s evening. We were all single at the time and we just decided to go out and have some fun together, instead of stressing about being single. I remember now that Hannah found a little heart balloon on one of our seats, from the people before. She gave it to me and I kept it and took it home.

Last week I went to the Sheffield Love event at Virgin Money Lounge. This was to raise money for the Lord Mayor’s charities, SRSB is one of them. Even though the evening was a Valentine’s event, it wasn’t all about romance. We were spreading the love in a different way. The community of Sheffield coming together, supporting each other, having fun and raising money for five amazing charities. We played games, had a quiz and a raffle. There were also drinks and nibbles and there was also somebody doing glitter face painting. I had a silver glitter heart! And I expect to see more of you there next year if there is another one!

So I guess what we all need to remember is that just because somebody is single, it doesn’t mean they are alone or lonely. Don’t waste time on missing somebody you haven’t even met yet. Instead have fun on Valentine’s day with the people who are in your life that you love. It is only one day a year and it doesn’t prove anything.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Pancake Day - Gail

GailWhen I was growing up in the 60's Pancake Day was always a large pancake the size and thickness of a pizza now. It would be fried in a frying pan which was well used with ridges and the pancake always had these ridges printed on the pancake sometimes slightly burnt which made them taste nicer. I would have this with either jam, lemon or orange juice and sugar. After one of these there was no room for anything else.

Around Pancake Day we would always buy whip and tops. The whip was about 18 inches long with a leather thong threaded at the top with a knot. With this we chose a top which we would whip with the thong. We always used to take out the leather thong and swap it for a shoe lace which we frayed at the whipping end to give the top extra spin. We would have the choice of a carrot top or spinning top (mushroom shaped) with a long stem. Both these tops had a screw at the bottom to spin on.

I would always go for the spinning (mushroom) top as it went further when whipped.

We also decorated them with chalk and drawing pins to personalise them as when we played with them in the school playground it would differentiate between the dozens of tops.

I only remember playing with them around Pancake Day perhaps because the evenings had got lighter and we could play with them after school.

We do not see them now but great fun at the time.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

SRSB Writing Group - Graham

Just found out that it is National Storytelling Week from 27th January and it reminded me of when I used to be a regular contributor to SRSB's writing group 'Mappin Writers' that meets on Fridays at 11am in the Centre on Mappin Street.

I was actually at the very first meeting  and came every week for about three years. I had written a few short children's stories and was just starting to learn to play the guitar so I could write and sing a few of my own songs.

It was a great period and I made some good friends in the process. Mappin Writers is still going and although some people have come and gone,  it is still going strong.

If you have always fancied having a go at writing short stories or poetry I recommend you try the group.

Don't worry that you 'might not be good enough', you might surprise yourself! And don't forget, if you can write or type it but not be able to read or memorise it. Snap! Not a problem as someone will read your work out for you if needed.

Anyway, having said all this I suppose I should give you  an example of the sort of stuff I wrote...

THE LONE RANGER by Graham Marshall

Why was the Lone Ranger never alone?
That Tonto was with him day and night.
He should have been called 'The Accompanied Ranger',
Then again, that doesn't really sound right.

They met when he found Tonto,  his head pressed to the ground.
"Kimosabi, five minutes ago three wagons passed this way" he said.
That's amazing replied the Lone Ranger, how can you tell?
Easy "Kimosabi,"... they ran over my head.

For ten years they 'ranged' as if joined at the hip,
Till one day Tonto was found dead in his tent.
Shot by the Lone Ranger with a single silver bullet.
He'd finally found out what "Kimosabi" meant.

I also wrote some serious stuff, but my main thing was 'daft ditties!

Friday, 19 January 2018

One year of SRSB - Amy

A year ago this January I started volunteering for The Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind (SRSB). It has been the most crazy year ever! In good ways for a change.

I am a client of SRSB and I was regularly in touch with them about various things. One day I was asked if I would like to work on the SRSB Blindlife Blog. I had never done any work like that before, I wasn't completely sure what a blog was. I had a rough idea. I was told that the blog hadn't been used much for quite a while. This was good for me because it meant I couldn’t break it!

Any kind of work was going to be good work. This was also good because it was all down to me, it was my project. I had plenty of support when I needed it from Jane at SRSB and Anne, another volunteer who publishes the articles on the blog, but moving it forward was up to me.

To start with I didn't know many people at SRSB so I thought I would write a few things myself, just to get things started. Around this time I had been looking for a new phone, so I decided to write about this. My next one was about The Weather. I started to realise that I was just writing what was on my mind, but everybody seemed to like it. I didn’t have a clue why.

Quite quickly my confidence seemed to grow. I hadn't been in any kind of work environment for six years. I had never worked with computers, or in an office, or on a blog, or done any real writing. Not since school. I was a nursery nurse, this was completely out of my comfort zone. But because I like playing on social media I thought I might be able to do it.

My confidence was growing more and more, I started going to the creative writing group at SRSB. This was originally just to see if any of them would like to write for the blog. I sat in on a session and it wasn't what I expected. I was expecting to be writing in the session and that you would have to be quite talented. It is so much better than that. It is a group of lovely people sat reading out their stories that they have written during the week. There is no teacher checking your grammar and punctuation, and nobody judges your work. Bill and Andrea who run the group are so welcoming and friendly. I felt at home straight away and felt comfortable telling them about very personal things.

After a few weeks I started to write my own things for the group. Again, everybody seemed to really like them. I had never seen myself as a writer, but everybody was saying I was talented and asking if I had always been into writing.

One day, I heard it was Mental Health Awareness week and I knew I had to write something about this. Mental health and sight loss are not linked together anywhere near enough. Losing some of my sight affected me very badly and I had to make a stand and show people what it can do to you.

I told Jane and Anne my plans and we got my story published on the blog that week. It was a rush, but it needed doing. This post got so many views and I got so many heartfelt comments about it. It really seemed to touch people and make them appreciate what it is really like to lose your sight. It isn't just losing your sight, it really can affect your mind and your general wellbeing. It can completely destroy your life.

This blog post was used in a Living with Sight Loss course at SRSB. After it had been read out, the whole room went silent. That was the moment I realised that I wasn't alone, all of those people felt exactly the same as I used to. That was the moment I realised that I was doing a good job and that these issues have been left unspoken for way to long. These things need talking about, and I was going to do it. This post is still being used today in visual impairment awareness training. I am absolutely thrilled that it is being used for things like this.

Not long after this I was asked if I would like to go on the radio. I was extremely nervous but I said I would. I had wanted to work on the radio a few years ago and I thought this was an opportunity that I might never get again. The show went really well and I sounded a lot better than I thought I would. I sounded like I actually knew what I was talking about!

Shortly after this I was contacted on Twitter by a London-based radio station. They had been reading the blog and wanted to know if I would do a phone interview for their sight loss show. This wasn't just local any more, this was London!!! They told me the questions they were going to ask me so that I could prepare. The questions seemed quite daunting at first, about politics and the government, which I know nothing about but I managed quite well when I had figured out what I was saying.

A while later I completed a survey on using transport with a visual impairment. Again I was asked to go on a big Sheffield radio station to talk about this. My third time on the radio in a matter of months! I was still very nervous, but good nervous. Once again, I loved it! I felt famous. Everybody wanted to hear what I had to say! And I loved it, I loved all the attention I was getting. I still didn’t really understand why, It was only me, just saying what I thought about the world. Why was my opinion so valued. I wasn't complaining for a second though. It was amazing to have my voice heard and my views respected.

A few quiet months passed, not too much fame going on, but it was still good. Then I was asked if I would like to be interviewed to be on the list of SRSB Inspirational People. Wow!!! That really did mean the world to me and always will. For a long time I felt very unhappy with myself and how I was living my life, so this was a big symbol of how things had changed. I had been doing something right at last, not just right but good. I had been doing good things for charity and for other people. I was really proud of myself.

Towards the end of the year I got a phone call from SRSB asking if I would like to meet the Lord Mayor of Sheffield in two days' time. I would be having photos taken to be on this year's Lord Mayor Charity Christmas Card! YES of course I did! More fame!!! They said they know I liked doing PR work so they wanted to ask me. Even so, I felt really special. I was the one client chosen to represent SRSB. When we went Sue introduced me as the face of SRSB. Wow! Little old me, the face of SRSB! The Lord Mayor Anne Murphy was so friendly and welcoming. She also made me feel very special. It really was a wonderful, fun and sentimental day.

One day I heard the Lord Mayor was in SRSB, she was at one of the Christmas dinners. I decided to go and say hello. She had won a massive box of shortbread in the Christmas raffle, and she said she would like me to have it. Again I thought, why me? Yet again another day when I felt really special and appreciated. Some of you may think, it's only a bit of shortbread, but it isn't. To me it means a great deal and it was another symbol of how my life has changed for the better. When I went back into the office I just blurted out "I've got a Christmas present from the Lord Mayor". Somebody in the office said "Well, I can't beat that"!

And that brings us to the end of a very eventful, sentimental and exciting year. One of the most memorable years of my life so far. Who knows what 2018 will bring. But I do know I am going to keep playing the fame game for as long as I can and getting my voice heard. There is plenty to talk about, and I haven’t finished yet!

Happy New Year Everyone! :-)

Monday, 8 January 2018

My school days - Graham S

Graham S
I have a condition known as Albinism which means that I have white hair and poor eyesight. Because I have no pigment in my skin I have to be very careful in the sun as my skin can't tan. Instead it goes from white to bright red and burning (never brown).

It also means that because I don't have pigment in the skin at the back of my eyes, when I look into a bright light the blood vessels at the back of my eyes make my eyes appear to be red. I find it very difficult to see in bright sunlight and have to squint a lot.

Also people with Albinism don't have something connected at the back of the eyes which most people have (I don't know the correct medical term) and this means that my eyes are moving constantly so spectacles can't be used to improve my vision.

Having been asked to contribute to the SRSB Blog I began to think what difficulties I have encountered through being partially sighted.

Although I am registered as visually impaired, I consider myself to have good eyesight compared to most visually impaired people so I suppose that I have not really encountered too many problems other than the usual one of not being able to see which bus is coming and working out which platform I need to be on at a railway station.

Not being able to drive makes you an expert on bus routes and timetables but I frequently put my hand out for the wrong bus because maybe the bus company has put on a single decker instead of the usual double decker or something similar.

However I hated my school days. I am 65 now so it is difficult to remember all the detail of why I have chosen the word 'hated' but I know that whenever I look back to those days I don't have many fond memories.

From a learning point of view it was very difficult to read the blackboard and the embarrassment which I felt if attention was drawn to me because of it was horrible. Even to this day although I don't think that generally I have any confidence issues, I hate having to speak to an audience of more than four or five people. I would write notes based on what the teacher was saying, rather than copy text from the blackboard. Because of this and the fact that reading textbooks isn't the easiest thing for a visually impaired person I didn't do too well in exams.

The exception was woodwork and perhaps surprisingly technical drawing, both of which I excelled at and both of which didn't rely on the blackboard for instruction.

I look now at little Finlay, a young client of SRSB who must be now be around school age, and I am hopeful for him that these days extra help should be available for disabled people with special needs to provide them with equal opportunities.

The other side of school life is the social life and in particular the time spent in the playground. My memories are mostly of being called names because of my appearance. This would be called bullying these days and dealt with differently. I soon learned that a couple of decent boys were the ones to have as my friends but looking back the bad times seem to mask my memories of the good times.

After leaving school my life changed completely. My employers have all been very understanding as have my colleagues and I loved learning at college. I did OK in my chosen profession of transport management and since work I have, until recently, had a picture framing studio in Sheffield city centre. I have some great friends and I have traveled abroad extensively.

I would like to end with a message to Finlay and his parents. Finlay really has nothing to worry about in his future. If his life turns out half as good as the first half of mine has (you can do the maths) he will have a wonderful time and hopefully he will find his schooldays better than mine.

Going forward, I am currently having a canal boat built so maybe future blogs might be about my boating experiences.