Time for another little update on what I’ve been doing recently, as I was pretty busy at the beginning of this week, watching a fireworks display, attending another theatre show, going to a disability exhibition, and meeting other people with aniridia.
On Saturday night I was very kindly invited by Emily from Fashioneyesta to join her and her family at the Blackheath Fireworks. This is one of the only displays in London that’s still free to attend – although they were keen to ask for donations on the website and over the tannoy on the day, so I don’t know how long that aspect will last. It wouldn’t surprise me if they start charging for it at some point. In a way it is only fair really, given the severe constraints local authorities have on their finances these days. So it’s great that they are still prepared to put it on for nothing.
And because it was free, the area was packed with people. Not so much that you couldn’t walk around, but still extremely busy. I held on to Emily’s mum Emma just to be sure I didn’t lose them in the crowds in the dark, though Emily’s cute white wooly hat was a good target to focus on too.
We found ourselves a good spot to watch the fireworks pretty easily, and it was a lovely 10 minute display, which I’ve posted a video of. Emily’s guide dog Unity was safely at home, but she wouldn’t have been bothered by any firework noises going on nearby, she’s very calm around that kind of thing.
We did have a look at the funfair to see if we could go on one of the rides for a bit of fun, but it’s not a good place to be when you’re disabled. The number of people made it very difficult to get around for a start. And because we were inevitably taking a few seconds longer to pay at the one ride we did approach, we were being pressured by a drunk guy behind us and the staff at the booth in front of us to hurry up, which slowed us down further. So we left. It wasn’t worth fighting, as the ride clearly wasn’t going to be worth the £5 cost (yes, really!). A shame, but not unexpected. It had been wishful thinking by us really – accessibility is rarely a concern of travelling funfairs like this to be honest, at least in our experience over the years. It’s all about the money. Never mind, we tried.
So we drove to The Station pub in Hither Green, as it was less busy there compared to the overflowing venues in Blackheath. And that was a very wise move, as we were able to get a table together, and we all had a lovely chat there for a while. I then got a train home from Hither Green station across the road. It was easy to go one stop to London Bridge and then change to the Jubilee Line from there. So I got home safely. All in all, ignoring the funfair blip, it was a really lovely evening. The fireworks display was great, and it was wonderful to meet Emily’s parents.
On Monday night I went to my latest theatre show – Young Frankenstein – which I had been very keen to see for a number of reasons. Firstly, it sounded like great fun. Secondly, it stars Ross Noble, one of my very favourite stand-up comeidans (he’s stopped releasing DVDs now by the way, of which I have them all to date, as he feels the market isn’t what it was, so this year you can download his shows from his website instead). And thirdly, the show was recommended to me by Emily Davison after she watched it with her mother, and anything that Emily recommends is guaranteed to be good.
So I eagerly booked up to see Mel Brooks’ musical comedy at the Garrick Theatre, This is the first play I’ve been to without audio description this year, but that’s fine. As long as I have a good seat for a show, I don’t mind if audio description isn’t available. It is possible that an organisation like VocalEyes may offer audio description for this show one day, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did. But I was keen to see it, and Ross Noble is only in it for a limited period I believe, so I didn’t want to miss him. I managed to get a good seat in row C for this performance too, so I was able to look at things closely with my monocular at various moments during the performance, and that worked out nicely.
And it was amazing. I can’t give anything away, naturally. But I didn’t stop smiling from start to finish, because I was laughing a great deal. It’s a delightful, feel-good, hilarious comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you can tell that the cast are enjoying themselves. Ross Noble is an inspired choice for his role as Igor, he nails it. Even when he’s not saying anything, his facial expressions and body language always make you laugh. The other familiar name to me was Lesley Joseph (Dorien from Birds Of A Feather), and she’s also wonderful here. As are the entire cast, they’re a superb ensemble. The music and choreography are brilliant too, I had a few of the songs running around my head aftewards. So I highly recommend going to see it, it’s well worth it.
After my first visit last year, I went to Sight Village in Kensington again this week. It’s an event that showcases technology and services available to visually impaired people, so is attended by visually impaired people, their partners and carers, and professionals who work with people with sight loss. So it’s a great place to find information and chat to people. The main Sight Village event is in Birmingham every July, but they do roadshow events like this around the UK during the year as well, so it’s well worth looking out for events near you.
On this particular visit, I ended up talking to people at various stalls, namely:
- Traveleyes and Seable Holidays – These companies organise accessible holidays for visually impaired people, providing sighted guides as companions, and organising accessible activities for you to enjoy, while also giving you plenty of opportunity to explore. So if you don’t have anybody to go on holiday with, they’re worth checking out. They work in different ways though, as I understand it. Traveleyes organise group holidays on particular dates, and you have a different guide each day, and being a group event it gets very social. Seable Holidays, on the other hand, allow you to create your own personalised, accessible holiday in one of the 4 destinations they work with, at any time you like, going on your own or with your partner or friends or family, and you have the same guide throughout your stay. These two companies intrigued me the most at this event, as they are very tempting. Now I’m accustomed to exploring London, this could be a good way of exploring further afield. Have you had any experience with these companies? How have you got on?
- Vocaleyes – They organise audio description and touch tours at museums, theatres, etc, and I’ve written about them a lot. I highly recommend seeing what they offer.
- WESC Foundation – This is the school I used to go to, so it was great to catch up with them. We were chatting for nearly an hour I think! It’s very different to when I was there, as many of the children they work with have more complex disabilities, as well as all of them having sight loss. If you’re a parent of a visually impaired child, I can recommend getting in touch with them – I appreciate I’m biased there, but they genuinely do a lot of great work.
- OrCam – I saw this device last year. It’s a camera that attaches to the arm of your glasses, which will then speak text to you, and will recognise faces you’ve programmed into it. It’s now smaller and has some improved functionality, including the ability to scan and read a full page of text held in front of you (but you can still point at specific areas too if you wish). They’re also working on getting it to read barcodes as well.
- RP Fighting Blindness – An information and support service for people with Retinitis Pigmentosa. That doesn’t include me, but it was a pleasure to chat to the lady at the desk nonetheless, so I’m more than happy to give them a shoutout.
- Sight And Sound and Pamtrad – A couple of the various companies at the event, showing things like CCTVs, portable magnifiers, software, braille embossers, etc. To be fair, CCTVs and magnifiers don’t change that much year on year – the cameras improve in quality, as does the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in terms of accuracy, but otherwise the devices do much the same as they always have. That said, some companies are making more use of things like tablet computers now as well, given that they have decent cameras already built in. So that’s becoming more prevalent. If the technology exists, it makes sense to use it.
- Barclays – As well as having contactless payment wristbands, which I saw last year, they were also demonstrating a 3D printer, and showing how it’s been used to make prosthetic hands for children. It’s all part of the Eagle Labs scheme they run. The limbs aren’t designed to be long-lasting, because children grow up fast – but it’s a very cost-effective and easy way of giving a child independence while waiting to get a more permanent prosthetic, which can take time and money. It’s a great idea.
- Metro Blind Sport and Goalball UK – I really ought to try one or two sports at some point, so it’s always good to be aware of groups like this. I know groups like East London Vision (ELVis) and South East London Vision (SELVis) have taster days for sports sometimes, so next year I should try and get on to one or two of those for a bit of fun. By sheer coincidence I bumped into Jess from SELVis at the event, which was nice. I’ve booked on to my Christmas lunch with them, and one with VIPON (part of ELVis) – so with those, and my work’s Christmas lunch, and my one at home of course, that’s 4 Christmas lunches I’ll be enjoying this year. Mmmm!
- RNIB – They need no explanation really. I’ve had various interactions with them recently though, as they’ve been sharing some of my content on their social media platforms, and I’ve had a bit of private contact with them too lately, so it was only fair to go over and say hello to them.
And that’s just a selection of the many stands that were there. I spent a nice few hours there. It’s always well worth looking around that event, especially as it’s free.
Afterwards, I went to the Aniridia Meetup at Caffe Nero across the road, which I helped James from the Aniridia Network to promote on social media. We had a very good turnout as well, with 10 people turning up, some of whom I’d met at last year’s meetup, and some of whom were new. Everyone was very sociable and chatty, so we had a very pleasant evening getting to know each other.
This was just a small get-together of course – the main event for UK people connected with aniridia will be the 2018 Aniridia Network Conference, which is being held in London. You can register your interest via the link on the conference page if you’d like to attend. I’ll be going, which will be the first aniridia conference I’ve ever been to, so I’m looking forward to it.
And that’s it, another enjoyable few days over and done with. Beyond that, I haven’t got anything major planned for a week or so, beyond a meeting that won’t be worth writing about here. But that’s by intent really. I’ve got various things to catch-up with, including for this blog. I’ve had a lot of inspiration for content lately, as a result of people’s comments (thank you – all suggestions are always welcome!), or conversations I’ve been having with friends, or other things that have just come to mind.
So I’ve got a pile of draft posts written on various things, some of which are pretty much ready to go. I just want to produce accompanying videos in some cases before I publish them. One of those is done already, so that’ll be going live this weekend, along with the 2 posts that go with it (it’s a big topic!). Then I’ll aim to get the others out at regular intervals. So keep an eye on my blog and my Youtube channel over the coming days and weeks, there’s quite a bit in the pipeline right now. 🙂