Journal – October-November 2016 (London Visit)

Welcome back to my latest journal posts. There wasn’t anything worth writing about in September, but recent weeks have been pretty eventful.

Down in Devon I’ve been to a stand-up comedy show with some work colleagues, and there are updates on our house sale too. I’ve also paid another visit to our new place in London, where my Aunt gave me a little tour of the local area, I went to the Sight Village exhibition and an aniridia meetup, I oversaw the installation of a broadband line for homeworking, and I made contact with a fellow blogger I’ve been following for a while. So I hope you enjoy it all!

Saturday October 8, 2016

Well, it’s been over a month since I last updated my journal, but I have published some blog posts and videos during that time about getting a job, audio description on Youtube, Guide Dogs and the Rio Paralympics. Things have been a bit eventful in my life lately though.

Firstly, our sale to a family in August fell through, because the buyers they had for their place in Bristol had to drop out. So that left us waiting again for a few weeks. But then the first person we had tried to sell to came back, evidently seeing that the house was back on the market again and wanting to re-establish her sale. She kept her original offer of £154,000, and apparently the person she’s selling to is a cash buyer relocating from Brighton, so there’s not a long chain involved. Her buyer wants to move by December, as does she, and as do we, so that’s what we’re aiming for.

Bettesworths did also contact the family involved with the second sale that fell through, and they said they had arranged a new sale of their place, but had to take £5,000 less, so had to put their offer down from £155,000 to £152,000 for us. The estate agent got them back up to £153,000, but we refused that – because the first lady was sticking to her original offer, which was now more than theirs, and she had come back to the estate agent of her own accord without any prompting. So that family have missed out there, at least for the time being. If the first lady’s second attempt also falls through, then maybe we’d be willing to give them another chance, as we’ve made it clear that this woman won’t be getting a third go. We don’t want to risk being messed around too often by any particular buyer.

So we’re now on track again for the time being. Our solicitor hasn’t asked us to fill in any forms or pay him again, so presumably he’s using the information we gave him before. Indeed, things seem to be progressing, as someone is coming round on Thursday morning to do a mortgage valuation survey. I imagine the lady will pay for a more in-depth survey as well after that, which house buyers are usually advised to do. If either of those surveys picks up anything which could threaten the sale without the price going down, we’d be happy to take a cut to ensure it goes through. But we don’t know what’ll happen yet, we just have to keep our fingers crossed for third time lucky.

My organisation’s IT department are also keen to get the homeworking line in place at our new place, so they’re starting to raise an order for that. They and my manager understand that they may be paying rental on a line that’s idle until we move, and it isn’t a problem for them. So if they’re that keen to get it set up, I’m happy for them to do it.

And talking of work, that’s been busy lately, but we’ve also had some fun too, with two social outings in quick succession recently. A colleague retired a couple of weeks ago, so a group of us went out on a Thursday evening to the pub for a couple of drinks. As well as people from our department, there were also a couple of ladies from elsewhere in the organisation that I hadn’t met before. A few of us went on to another pub after that for one more drink, then my manager, another workmate and I went on to one more place to have a drink and something to eat. It was a place that apparently might be shutting down soon, but I decided to try the lager that the two of them were having – none of us expecting it to come in 2-pint glasses! It was nice though, as was the cheese-covered hotdog with chips that we had with it.

And then last night a group of us went to the Palace Theatre in Paignton, because they were having the first in a series of comedy nights. Our manager had spotted it being advertised and suggested it would be a good work social. And it was. There were 3 comedians there – Richard James was the host comedian, Glenn Moore was the first act (a Glenn who has also moved to London, strangely!) and in the second half Gareth Richards was the headline act. I’ve not heard of any of them – they’re not famous TV comedians, though they have appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe or on Russell Howard’s Good News, things like that. But they were all very good, it was a funny show. A few of the people they tried to talk to didn’t want to give their names for some reason – I’m not sure what harm giving their first name out would do, but there you go! I was tempted to call out when Glenn Moore said he’d never met another person with his name before, and I wish I had, there could have been a fun bit of banter there. Never mind though.

We’d had a couple of drinks there, but then we all went on to a pub afterwards for a couple more, and had a really good laugh there too. So it was a great night out, and we’re hoping we can do more socials in future. Not too regularly – we want them to be occasional so they feel more special rather than a habit – but it is something we all want to continue doing. I’ll be popping down from London every so often of course, so that’ll be a good excuse for starters.

My best mate and his wife are doing ok too, and have offered for me to go over and stay with them in Guernsey for New Year, if I’m in London at the time. I could then fly back with them from Gatwick, as they’re over with his wife’s family for Christmas. So we’ll see if that happens. I can’t arrange anything until I know when we’re moving though. It would be nice to have the time off to celebrate the move, if it’s happened by then of course, but we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves just yet. Fingers crossed though.

Monday October 31, 2016

Time for a new update, as this is going to be a busy week. Regarding the house sale, we had a surveyor come round on Thursday 13th October, who spent 2 hours looking around quite thoroughly, so the lady buying it must have paid for a more extensive look, which is good. We haven’t heard anything since, so we’re going on the ‘no news is good news’ principle – if there had been any major problems, hopefully we’d have been told by now. Our builder has also been round a couple of times to fix a few little bits and pieces like lightbulbs and door hinges, and he gave the boiler a maintenance check, so that was useful.

At work, meanwhile, they’ve arranged for the installation of my business phone line at our new house on Wednesday. So it’s a good opportunity to visit the place and take advantage of the timing to do a couple of other things.

So today I got the train up here – which was delayed for 20 minutes by a cow on the line, but we got there! Apparently rail staff had to chase it off the line into the fields, so I had visions of them running after it with the Benny Hill music going! Anyway, my Aunt came round when I arrived, and showed me a few bits and pieces. In particular, the back garden’s been completely cleared, which took my Uncle and a few other people 4 days! The fence to our neighbours on the right was also repaired by the neighbours, as they were doing work their side anyway. The front of the house has had a fresh coat of paint, and the back bedroom window upstairs has been repaired so it actually closes properly.

She also showed me the parking permits, for 6, 10 and 24 hours, that we need to have if anyone comes round, as all parking requires it now. You just order a new pack from the Council each time you need it – you need to pay for it, of course, but it’s worth it. My Aunt’s got all the bills and other documents that we might need in folders. She’s been looking after the TV licence too, which is now free because she’s turned 75. So she’s said we can continue using it in her name until Mum turns 75, then it’ll be free for her. But we’ll probably just put in our name and pay it until Mum reaches that age – Mum gets it half-price until then anyway, and Mum wants everything to be in our names so it really feels like our place and there’s no room for issues. My Aunt still feeds the cat that comes round the back, but Mum and I aren’t going to bother with that – aside from the fact that Mum can’t see when a cat is there or where it is if it comes in the house, and the cost of buying cat food, we just don’t want a cat anyway. It was fine when Nan was there, but we don’t need one.

My Aunt then came out with me and showed me where a few places were, including a nearby park, a ‘greasy spoon’ type of café that is used by people she knows (she hasn’t been in there herself, but apparently her friends find it reasonable),  the Town Hall, leisure centre, library, a Wetherspoons pub, the dentist, the doctor’s surgery,  and there are loads of barbers and hairdressers around. I won’t remember all this stuff of course, she knows that, but it gave me a good sense of how close everything is. It’s great to have everything within walking distance.

We then walked up the High Street, with my Aunt pointing out places I might want to know about, including Sainsbury’s, a fish and chip shop that’s different to the one we traditionally use, a butchers, a bakery, pound shops, banks and Argos.

But our destination was Iceland, which is quite a nice big one. My Aunt often goes in there, and they do good value stuff – a lot of ready meals are £1 for instance. So I got a few bits and pieces to keep me going – a loaf of bread, a couple of cartons of fruit drinks (pineapple in one, apple & raspberry in the other), a bottle of Tango, a lasagne, some cheese slices, a block of butter, a pack of mince pies, and some wine gums.

So I’ve got plenty to nibble on over the few days I’m here, and the lack of a working fridge or oven won’t be an issue. I can still use the grill to have cheese on toast for example, and the other things I’ve got should be nice. My Aunt had also brought round half a chicken – she had got 3 in a deal at Marks & Spencer, so gave me one of them. I don’t need to heat it up, as it’ll be perfectly nice on its own, and I can have sandwiches with it to use up the cheese. This evening though, after we’d done our shopping, we went to the fish and chip shop that we traditionally use, so I could take home a large cod and chips. When we’re up here properly, I’ll have to try other things they do in there.

I didn’t do much this evening after my Aunt went, as by the time I’d had my fish and chips, I was happy to just watch some TV. It’s been a nice day though, finding out about places nearby, and the weather’s supposed to stay nice all week too.

Tuesday November 1, 2016

One of the reasons I had booked to come up to London for a few days, apart from the engineer’s appointment tomorrow, was to see the Sight Village exhibition in Kensington, which started today. I got the Tube to High Street Kensington late in the morning, and spent the afternoon exploring some of the stands there – i.e. going up to whichever ones didn’t have people in the way. And it was very interesting, I came away with a lot of literature.

There were plenty of CCTVs there of course, and it’s clear that OCR (for converting printed text to speech) is improving in accuracy and speed. There were quite a few items of wearable technology too, including a wristband from Barclays that lets you do contactless payments (and they had easy-to-see debit cards too), a wearable headset by GiveVision called SightPlus that lets you look at the world around you more easily, and the OrCam that you can clip on to the arm of your glasses so that you can point at text and have it spoken to you.

I also spoke to guys at the stands for Metro Blind Sport and the RNIB, and a couple of people from charities that help people with very specific eye conditions. But the stand I spent longest at was the WESC Foundation, the school I used to go to, as it was being run by a member of staff I know well. I must have spent a good half an hour chatting away to him and the young lady who was helping him. It was good to catch up with them, asking about people we remember to see how they’re getting on, and it’s good to know that the school is still doing well.

Note: That’s just a summary – I’ve gone into a lot more detail in my extensive blog post about the event.

Sight Village ended at 4:30pm, but that wasn’t the end of my day. I’ve been in touch with James Buller, who works with the Aniridia Network, for a little while now, because he had contacted me earlier in the year after seeing the blog posts and Youtube videos I’d started making. So he knew I was moving, and had offered to meet up when I’d done so. But when I said I was coming up for Sight Village, he felt that was a good opportunity to arrange an Aniridia meet-up, with anybody in the network who wants to pop along. This was to be held in the Caffe Nero just down the road. They’ve had meetings after Sight Village before – not just in London, but in other places where it’s held too – so it’s nothing new for him. But as he knew there would be me and one or two other people interested, he was able to arrange it.

I met a couple of people outside the café first of all, and we were happy that we’d found other members of the group, so we went inside and sat down at a table. They each had a coffee, while I had a hot chocolate, and we had a nice chat while we waited to see who else would turn up. And a few more did – two more ladies, one of whom had a guide dog, then James arrived, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the Aniridia Network logo, so he was easy to spot! And then another guy turned up a little bit later – who it turns out had also been to the same school as me, though before my time there. We all had a good chat for what turned out to be a few hours in the end.

At the end of the evening, after most people had made their way off, I caught the Tube with James and another guy, who both got off at Oxford Circus to catch the Victoria Line. But I had a good chat with both of them before we had to part ways. James was asking me if I wanted to do a bit of volunteering work to help out the Aniridia Network after I’d settled in to the city, so I’ve said I’m open to considering it and seeing what’s involved.

James is also part of a group called Subterranean Britannica – or Sub Brit for short – which explores man-made underground places, and he’s given me a link to that in case I’m interested. And on top of all that, he has a day job doing lots of technical stuff as well. So he’s quite a busy guy! But we’ll meet up again at some point after I move, so that’ll be good. After all that, I got home shortly after 9pm, and just watched a bit of TV before going to bed.

Wednesday November 2, 2016

Today I had to be up early in case the engineer came, as they were due any time between 8am and 1pm. Thankfully I got a text message from BT shortly after 8am to say a guy called Pritesh had been assigned to me, and he rang a little while later to confirm this, along with another text message from BT to say he was on his way. He turned up, with a young lad helping him, shortly after 9am, and they spent about an hour putting a socket in the back bedroom upstairs, so there’s now a second line next to the existing one. The young lad also liked the dining table, which pulls out at each end, as he’s got the same one at home apparently, though ours is in better condition. So he asked if he could take a picture of it, which I was happy for him to do.

They were nice guys anyway, and worked very quickly – the phone cables enter in by the window in the front room, so they’ve tagged it to let another engineer know which house to focus on when they come round in the next couple of days or so to connect the new line to the street. Nobody needs to be present for that second engineer though, so that’s good.

Once they had gone, that meant I had the rest of the day free. I relaxed for a bit in the morning, but then went up to Central London for a walk in the afternoon. I got off at Embankment, and then just chose a direction and walked to see where I would end up. And despite the fact that I had no idea where I was headed, I managed to find Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, St James Park, Buckingham Palace, Green Park and finally Piccadilly Circus, over a stroll in the sunshine that took a couple of hours.

I then came home from Piccadilly Circus – the Citymapper app doing its job perfectly as usual, telling me the best route on the Tube – as it was past 3pm, and I wanted to be out of the way before the rush hour hit. If i’d been meeting someone later, I’d have stayed out, but as I’m still just a tourist right now, I had no reason to hang around. So I came home, where I just relaxed and watched TV for the rest of the night. My best mate rang me as well, forgetting that I wasn’t home yet, but we had a nice little chat over the phone instead of Skype anyway.

Thursday November 3, 2016

Today I came home very easily, no delays at any point. I picked the same fast train from Paddington that I’d used after staying with my best mate in London in July, which only stops at Reading, Exeter and Newton Abbot (before going on to stations to Penzance), so it’s really quick. So I left our house in London at about 10:15am, and got back to our home in Devon at around 3:15pm, so only 5 hours together. That’s not bad.

Altogether it was a very worthwhile trip, again making me wish I was up there permanently. I got to see a few new places, and make a few new friends, especially James, who I’ll hopefully be seeing again after we move. And he won’t be the only person, as I’ve also arranged a possible meeting with someone else online.

My main reason for doing some amateur blog posts and Youtube videos, and getting involved on Twitter, was to see if I could follow some useful London-related accounts and perhaps make one or two connections. And that seems to be paying off.

A young lady called Emily Davison lives nearby and runs a social media blog and Youtube channel called Fashioneyesta, where she talks about her visual impairment and disability issues, and also beauty and fashion. I had stumbled across her Youtube channel some time back, and have followed her since then, and she had even followed me back on Twitter and Youtube as well. She was the main inspiration for me having a go at the whole blogging thing really, though through her I found various other people as well. There seems to be a fair number of visually impaired and disabled bloggers and vloggers out there, which is cool, all raising awareness and educating people about their disabilities, and offering support to one another.

Anyway, earlier in the year Emily pointed out the Community Contributions feature for Youtube Captions, which allow you to write subtitles for people’s videos. That struck me as a nice easy way to give something back to show my appreciation for what Emily was doing. So I captioned a few videos for her earlier in the year, and she generously gave me a shoutout on Facebook and Twitter for each one, and even thanked me in one of her vlogs. I left it at three videos so it didn’t look like I was hogging the concept, as she was offering it to all her followers to do, and I was also focusing on things like the house sale.

But ultimately, nobody else did help her, though she has been able to caption quite a few videos herself. And then another captions campaign came up on Youtube called No More Craptions, launched by Rikki Poynter – telling people not to use subtitle tracks for jokes or anything unrelated to the content of the video, as it’s rude and confusing for people who need captions to follow along with the clip. This reminded me to check out Emily’s channel to see how her contributions were doing, which is what led me to discover that there were plenty outstanding.

So I’ve ended up captioning another 4 already, which she was also thrilled about (as was her mother, she’s been complimenting me as well). Not only did she give me more shoutouts this time, but it also led to her getting in touch via Direct Message to say thank you and have a chat. And when I mentioned that I would hopefully be moving soon at long last, she offered to meet me and show me around Greenwich! We had already briefly exchanged a few tweets about the place before – she had posted some pictures of Greenwich, and I replied to say that I’d be living near there soon and would love to visit it given how beautiful it looks. And she highly recommended it. But her offer to show me around caught me completely off guard. I figured she’d be a useful connection to have as an online friend, but I never imagined she’d want to meet up, as she doesn’t know me and she’s so busy with lots of different things. So that was quite flattering, it would be lovely to meet her if we can figure something out.

So I’m still looking forward to the move very much indeed. It would be nice if there was some news on it to put our minds at rest, and hopefully we’ll get some soon. We’re assuming no news is good news, but you never know for sure. If it falls through now, though, we won’t be there by Christmas unless we decide to just go anyway and give the keys to the estate agent. But we’ll see. All we can do for now is keep our fingers crossed!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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