The time has come for another favourites post and video, looking back at February. It’s the shortest month of the year, and this is going to be one of my shorter favourites posts, because there’s been a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on, in a good way.
In particular, I’ve been spending quality time with my girlfriend Claire, and of course we celebrated Valentine’s Day together, as well as meeting up regularly in general. So naturally I’m not going to write about anything personal here.
But also, a sudden influx of wonderful opportunities have come my way over the past few weeks that have filled up my calendar for March. I can’t say too much yet, but keep an eye out for some guest posts on Disabled Access Day on March 16th, a review of the Transport For London Access Day that I’m going to on March 19th, and later on some special cultural reviews. My blogging efforts have really been paying off lately it seems!
Also don’t forget to claim your free tickets for Naidex, Europe’s largest show dedicated to disability and independent living, on 26th & 27th March in Birmingham. You’ll see me posting a lot about it on social media as it approaches, because I’m an ambassador for them. This just means we exchange posts promoting each other, I’m not paid or gifted to mention them. I just really enjoyed the show last year, so I’m looking forward to going again.
Back to February though, and there are still some things I am able to write about, mainly focusing on museums and entertainment. As always, there’s a video to go with this post, and I’m not affiliated with or sponsored by anybody I mention here. So I hope you enjoy my latest roundup!
I’ve been to a big selection of museums this month, as they’ve continued to be a good way to escape the weather and discover new things. And my favourite was the National Gallery, which Claire and I visited for one of their Art Through Words sessions. These meetings for visually impaired people are held on the last Saturday of every month, but this is the first one we had been to. It’s free and clearly very popular, as there were a lot of people there, so you do need to book in advance.
Basically, the gallery selects an artwork to focus on for each month’s session. Everyone is given a blown up photocopy of it (generated from the very high definition scans they have in their archives), including close-up photos of important details, so you can study it in depth. You’re also given a simplified tactile drawing so you can feel its general shape and locate key aspects. The artwork is then described in detail as you look at it, plus you get to hear the context behind it and details about the artist. And then finally you’re taken to the actual artwork in the gallery, so you can look at it directly.
On this occasion, we were looking at Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket by Juan de Zurbarán – or, to give the painting its full title, “Still Life of Lemons, Day Lilies, Carnations, Roses and a Lemon Blossom in a Wicker Basket, together with a Goldfinch perched on a Porcelain Bowl of Water, on top of a Silver Tray, all arranged upon a Stone Ledge”. Yes, that really is its name, but it describes it nicely.
It’s a beautiful painting, and the detailed description of it was really good. It enabled us to spot many of the finer details that are easy to miss or overlook, like the dewdrop on the tulip near the top, the finer details of the goldfinch by the bowl, the reflection of a flower in the metal saucer beneath the bowl, the details of the weaving on the wicker basket, the pits in the lemons, the leaves on the flowers, and so on. It was also enlightening to hear about the symbolism of the different elements within it, putting it all into context.
So we really enjoyed it, as it gave us a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the painting than we could ever have got on our own. We’ll hopefully go to some more of those sessions in the future, and I can highly recommend it if you want to understand and appreciate art a bit more. You don’t need to know anything about art – I’m a complete novice myself! – so it really is for anybody. Check out their Art Through Words page for their upcoming sessions and how to book, and my Instagram post for more photos.
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This morning my girlfriend and I went to the @nationalgallery to try one of their #Art Through Words sessions for the first time. Each of these sessions for #VisuallyImpaired people focuses on 1 #painting. And today's was Still Life with Lemons in a Wicker Basket by Juan de Zurbarán. ⠀ Or to give its full title – "Still Life of Lemons, Day Lilies, Carnations, Roses and a Lemon Blossom in a Wicker Basket, together with a Goldfinch perched on a Porcelain Bowl of Water, on top of a Silver Tray, all arranged upon a Stone Ledge"! ⠀ We were all given an enlarged high-resolution copy of the painting, plus additional photocopies zooming on areas of particular interest, and a simplified tactile drawing to feel the general composition. So we were able to look at those while being given an audio description of the painting, along with information about the artist and details of the symbolism of the different elements within the piece. We were then taken through the gallery to look at the actual painting on the wall at our leisure. ⠀ It was really interesting, giving a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the painting than I could ever have had without it. There's so much detail in it, including some that is easy to miss even if you're looking fairly closely, it's very impressive. Smartphone photos don't do it justice, there's only so much detail they can pick up on it. ⠀ So if you're visually impaired. have an interest in art and can get to the gallery, I recommend checking out their Art Through Words sessions, which are held on the last Saturday of every month. They really do help to enjoy and understand artworks as fully as possible, if this session is anything to go by. They've been doing them for some time now, and there was a big turnout today, so they're clearly popular. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/whats-on/art-through-words ⠀ #NationalGallery #London #Gallery #Galleries #Paintings #JuanDeZurbaran #Artist #Artistry #Artistic #StillLife #Fruit #Flowers #Culture #VisualImpairment #SightLoss #VisionLoss #VisionImpaired #Blind #Blindness #Disability #Disabled #DisabledPeople #Access #Accessibility #AudioDescribed #AudioDescripton #Inclusion
I also went on a descriptive tour of the Fan Museum in Greenwich with London Vision South East, which is more interesting that it might sound. We had a lovely guide who told us about the history of fan-making and the various materials that could be used to be make them, and you can tell they’re enthusiastic about the subject. And the artworks on many of the fans were incredible. So it’s a beautiful place to explore, and we had a nice afternoon tea in their cafe as well. Check out my Instagram post for more photos.
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I had a lovely time at @thefanmuseum with @londonvisionuk South East today, where we had a guided tour followed by a tasty afternoon tea. There were lots of very #decorative and highly detailed #fans on display, which were beautiful to look at. ⠀ #Museum #Museums #Exhibition #Exhibitions #Gallery #Galleries #History #Education #Learning #Art #Culture #London #FanMuseum #TheFanMuseum #Greenwich #LondonVision
V&A Museum Of Childhood
Away from guided tours, Claire and I also visited the Victoria & Albert Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green for the first time. They have loads of toys and other items on display, some of which are nostalgic things from my own childhood, along with lots of other toys I never played with. So there’s quite a bit of interesting history there.
Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to read about a lot of it, as the labels have small text and are in the glass cases with the objects, so even with my monocular I couldn’t easily read them. Large print guides could be useful there. Similarly their temporary exhibition A Pirate’s Life For Me is quite dark in parts, so it’s tricky to see and read things there too. But it was still nice to have a look around and appreciate what we could see, and it is worth a visit to see what you think. Again you can see more photos on my Instagram.
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This afternoon I escaped from the cold by having a nice look around @museumchildhood for the first time. There's a lot of stuff in there, some of which brings back #nostalgic #memories of my own #childhood, and others that are interesting pieces of #history. In terms of #accessibility, the text on the descriptive labels was quite small, so wasn't easy to read even with my monocular (my little telescope). Especially in the large glass cases where you couldn't get close to them, and which were somewhat dimly lit inside. So that could be better. But the many varied #toys and other items are lovely to look at, and what I did manage to read was interesting. ⠀ In these images you can see various teddy bears including a large Paddington Bear, plus a large collection of dolls houses together as if forming a big city, a large Batman figure, and models of Big Ben and a pirate ship. ⠀ #Museum #Museums #MuseumOfChildhood #VictoriaAndAlbertMuseum #Exhibits #Exhibition #Exhibitions #Children #Nostalgia #Play #Playtime #CuddlyToy #CuddlyToys #Teddies #TeddyBear #TeddyBears #Paddington #PaddingtonBear #Batman #Dolls #DollsHouse #DollsHouses #BigKid #BigKidInAllOfUs
Victoria & Albert Museum
And finally on the museum front, I went back to the main Victoria & Albert Museum on my own to look around more of the Europe 1600-1815 Exhibition. It’s the third time I’ve been to this gallery, because it’s massive and really interesting, with so many different objects and artworks. The large print books are really helpful, and their online audio guide gives you additional detail on a few selected objects, which is nice. So I did room 7 in December 2017 as part of an accessibility study, and rooms 5 & 6 in January 2018, so this time I finally got around to rooms 3 & 4, as you can see on my Instagram. So I’ve nearly finished going through it all, I just need another visit or two to finish it off at some point.
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I escaped from the blustery weather this afternoon by going to the @vamuseum. It's been over a year since I last visited the #Europe #exhibition, and back then I had only looked at rooms 5 to 7. So this time I explored rooms 3 & 4, which again have lots of beautiful #sculptures, #furniture, #paintings, #ornaments, etc. I was also able to use their large print guide to read things, and the audio guide on their website to hear more details about some of the #exhibits, which was good. ⠀ #victoriaandalbert #victoriaandalbertmuseum #art #artworks #artists #artgallery #artgalleries #gallery #galleries #museum #museums #exhibitions #collection #collections #history #historical #european #france #french #luxury
Back at home, meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying various forms of entertainment. I’ve now finished my box sets of The White Album by The Beatles and Red Dwarf Series 1-8, which you can now read detailed reviews of by clicking those links, which include unboxing videos. Suffice to say, I’ve very much enjoyed both of them, I’m very glad I bought them.
I’ve also continued to enjoy the usual TV including The Last Leg, 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Young Sheldon, and thankfully The Big Bang Theory has now also resumed its final season. But I’ve continued to especially enjoy the repeats of 2Point4 Children on Gold, as I wrote about last month. I don’t remember a lot of the episodes in detail, having not seen them for years, so it’s been a real treat to see them. Unfortunately they had to skip one episode in season 7 due to a rights issue (which doesn’t bode well for the DVD releases us fans really want), and there might be other little cuts they’ve made to other episodes, but any repeats are better than none. Gold will be broadcasting the festive specials at Christmas, so I’ll be very much looking forward to those.
I’ve also been introduced to a mobile game by Claire this month called Super Tile Smash from Woodside Apps. It’s very simple to get into and quite addictive. You basically have to eliminate items on the screen, by tapping where you have multiple copies of the same thing next to each other, and you have to get rid of more and more with each level.
There are special power-ups that can help you clear things away too. There are also various modes in which you can play the game, and you can change the set of icons and the size of the grid, so it’s very customisable. It’s also fully compatible with Voiceover. The menu system isn’t perfectly responsive to the dynamic large text feature, as some things get truncated, but I know the developer’s aware of that and hopes to fix it.
You can find out more about Woodside Apps by listening to the interview with creator John Sturt on AppleVis. If you like accessible mobile games, they’re worth a go.
Finally, there are a few miscellaneous things relating to social media that are worth noting this month.
Captivating! Magazine is a very new publication covering a variety of topics relating to disability and accessibility. As part of their #WeRCaptivating campaign, they very kindly added a frame to a photo of me using my phone, which I was then able to share in an Instagram post. It was another nice opportunity to spread a positive message about living with my disability. I also got a kind mention on staff writer Rebecca’s blog (which is well worth looking through) in her interview with Amanda Gene.
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Having a #disability does not mean I lack #ability, it just means I have to do things a bit differently. I have learned to adapt and adjust, gaining independence and confidence through a supportive family, a loving relationship, an exciting social life, good qualifications, a lasting career, a love of music and comedy, a keen appreciation of art and culture, the use of assistive technology, and much more. Embracing all of that has generated many wonderful opportunities. ⠀ My disability will always be a key part of my identity. But I am proud to have shown myself, as well as the wider world, that there is far more to me than just a pair of dodgy eyes. Just because a book has a slightly torn cover, it doesn't mean it won't make interesting and engaging reading. Indeed, I'm now fortunate to be in a position where others have been encouraged and reassured by reading my story, particularly parents of disabled children as well as some disabled people themselves. That alone has made sharing my experiences worthwhile. ⠀ There have been hurdles to overcome on my journey, of course, and no doubt there will be in the future too. Nobody claims it's an easy ride. But never give up, perseverance does pay off. Pursue your passions and your dreams, and be sure to find and fight for the support you need, because you deserve it as much as anyone else. ⠀ We're all human, we're all important, we're all valuable, and #WeRCaptivating! 😎 ⠀ (With thanks to @captivatingmagazine for the image. Do give them a follow and support their campaign!) ⠀ #Disabled #DisabledPeople #DisabilityAwareness #DisabilityAdvocate #SightLoss #SightLossAwareness #VisionLoss #LowVision #VisuallyImpaired #VisualImpairment #Aniridia #Nystagmus #Blogger #Bloggers #DisabledBlogger #DisabledBloggers #Motivation #FridayMotivation #Confidence #Confident #SelfConfidence #Independence #Inclusion #InclusionMatters #Accessibility #a11y #BlindPeopleUsePhones
Moving on to my specific conditions, and Can I tell you about Nystagmus? is a new book by Nadine Neckles, described as “a guide for friends, family and professionals”. I haven’t read it myself, but as I have nystagmus too and it’s being promoted by the Nystagmus Network, I’m happy to give it a mention, as it sounds like it’s useful for people. Nadine’s also written an article for the Nystagmus Network and she’ll be at their Open Day in September.
Of course, my main eye condition is aniridia, so I was able to raise a little bit more awareness for it on Rare Disease Day this year. I didn’t do anything huge this time around though, other than posting my rare star to their online ‘universe’ and sharing my old posts about my conditions. But this is also a good opportunity to remind you about my contribution to their 2018 Photo Challenge, for which I was the winner! It was a nice way to summarise my conditions.
I’ve also been introduced to a few podcasts recently by Claire that I hadn’t been aware of before, including technology podcasts by AppleVis, Blind Bargains & Life After Blindness, and chatty podcasts by Blind Abilities, Eyes On Success & Talking Vision. So feel free to check those out if you want something new to listen to. You can find lots of other podcasts, blog and Youtube channels on my sight loss blogs page. I also have a separate disability blogs list as well for anything that isn’t visual impairment related.
And finally, thank you to those who have helped me reach over 600 Twitter followers in February! It’s very humbling that my subscriber counts across my social media pages are continuing to tick upwards bit by bit.
So that’s it. A shorter post this month, although it’s still not particularly short in itself! As I said earlier, March is a very busy month for me, so I’m going to have quite a bit to tell you about soon. And I hope you all have a lovely month as well!