Being visually impaired, one of the things I’m naturally keen to do is get to know other people with sight loss in London now that I’ve moved here. And I’ve already met a few such people individually, and have plans to meet others, so I’ve made a good start. But in this past week I took another important step by meeting up with a local social group for people with sight loss for the first time.
East London Vision – ELVis for short – is an organisation covering seven boroughs of East London, providing information, support, services, activities, etc for visually impaired members of the community, to increase their quality of live and improve their independence. They come under the umbrella of the London Visual Impairment Forum and the Thomas Pocklington Trust, who support similar groups in other parts of London too. So I was looking forward to meeting the group, and finally got the chance on a couple of occasions last week.
The first was a trip to the Natural History Museum last Thursday, where we had an audio description and touch tour organised with the help of Jane Samuels, the museum’s Access & Equality Manager, and her colleagues Simon and Sarah who took us around. They were really friendly and helpful, and the tour was absolutely fascinating. It was the first time that they had done this tour, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d done it before, as they did a great job.
We spent most of our time in the Investigate gallery, which had been reserved just for us, and we were able to feel and handle all sorts of things – fossils, a tortoise, a turtle, fox fur, zebra fur, brain coral, a long snakeskin, and a meteorite fragment that was over 4 billion years old! It was wonderful being able to see and hold so many objects close up, while learning the stories and history associated with them.
And then we spent some time looking at the large objects in the Lasting Impressions gallery, including some large goat horns, fast growing bamboo and objects formed by the movement of molten lava, which was also very interesting. Simon and Sarah were very knowledgeable and explained things very well throughout the whole visit.
So it was a great day out and I enjoyed meeting other members of the ELVis group at the same time, they made me feel very welcome. I’ll definitely be going back to the museum on my own as well, as I’ve always loved the place since I was a kid, and want to spend time exploring each of the exhibitions, bit by bit. Same goes for the Science Museum as well, that’s another of my favourites that I haven’t been to for far too long. And there are all sorts of other museums and galleries as well which I want to check out at some point. There’s so much to see, enjoy and learn about in London, you can’t get bored!
Anyway, I got to go out with ELVis again just a few days later, when I met up with Bhavini, Nicola and Ray from the group, along with Carol from Metro Blind Sport, to watch the London Marathon on Sunday. We had got together to support Louise Fairhurst from the Thomas Pocklington Trust, who was very generously raising money for ELVis.
I’ve never been to see the Marathon in person before, and it was a great day out. The atmosphere is incredible, and we had a great spot by the railings on Tower Bridge to see everyone go by right next to us. So we were cheering and shouting for everybody on the way, calling out names where we could see them displayed on people’s shirts (I was able to see the names using my monocular, which you can see me wearing in my museum picture above). How I hadn’t lost my voice by the end of the day, I don’t know! It was definitely a little bit strained by the end of it, but not too badly.
We didn’t manage to see Louise run past us in the huge crowd of athletes – picking out one person in a sea of thousands is a needle in a haystack job for an event like this. But we were tracking her using the app on our phones, so when we knew for sure that she had gone past, we caught the Tube to Westminster and walked to the meeting area for finishers near Horse Guard’s Parade, and she met us there a little while later.
Louise finished the race in 4 hours 11 minutes, which is a fantastic time! And on her donation page, which is still open for donations at the time of writing, she’s raised over £2,400! So huge congratulations and thank you to Louise! 🙂
I like the design of the medals everyone gets as well – a downward pointing pentagon with an image of Tower Bridge in the middle of it. It looks really nice. Everyone who completed the race earned it without a doubt. And I’m glad the weather stayed nice for everyone involved too.
Would I ever do the Marathon myself? Possibly. It would be nice to do it, it would be quite an achievement. But I’d have to get fit and work up to it with proper training, obviously, with the right motivation and support. So maybe one day. It’s a bucket list item at least.
I’ll definitely want to go and watch the next one though, and it sounds like the ELVis team will be happy to go again, perhaps with proper banners and other stuff to stand out a little. So that’d be cool if it goes ahead. There is another marathon coming up in London later this year as well, as part of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in August. So that could be fun to watch too. I can’t see a marathon listed for the World Para Athletics Championships in July, but it’s great to see those championships being held in the city as well.
So I really enjoyed watching the London Marathon. It was great to meet a few new people and to be part of the crowds cheering everyone along, it brings everyone together in such a wonderful way. And I’ve got a few more events lined up over the next couple of months with my local branch of the ELVis group, which I’m looking forward to. They’re a lovely bunch of people.
You can also read more about the Marathon day on the ELVis blog, which is well worth keeping an eye on in general.
I’ll leave you with the half-hour compilation of video footage I recorded at the Marathon, which will give you a sense of what it was like to be there. But if you ever get the chance to go down there and watch it in person, you should do so, even if you don’t know anyone who’s running in it. It’s well worth it. And if you actually did run in it this year, or have done so before, then congratulations! Or if you’re training to do it next year, good luck! Either way, you have the admiration of myself and countless others! 🙂