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When The Stage Lit Up Something DEFINITELY Took Hold Of Me (Or Another Dose Of Myles Magic)
7/27/2014 4:48:05 PM
Please don't ask me where I was between 2.30pm and 3.00pm this afternoon because I couldn't actually tell you.  Oh - I could tell you where my physical body was.  That was standing in front of the Stage at the De Monfort Hall in Leicester.  However, the rest of me was taken on a magical journey piloted by a world class singer - ably assisted by her band.

It really comes to something when I don't actually recognise the person on stage as a friend of mine.  She looked like my friend and sounded like my friend when she spoke.  When she sang it was a completely different story - the lady who was singing could have been almost any famous female singer who had just decided to drop in on a music festival in Leicester on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July.

From the minute she walked onto the stage and started to sing it almost seemed like the building could melt away and I could be transported to any place of her choosing.

She even moved around the stage confidently.  As in - it seemed like she had moved in for the duration (I could almost imagine some furniture - a settee and a few chairs - being put on the stage and the audience being invited up to take a seat whilst she sang to us.  She seemed that comfortable).

There was a rather unusual twist to "The Paris Match" this time.  Instead of the trumpet solo which features in the song her guitarist, Ben Williams, played the solo on his guitar.  To me this gave the song a slightly different feel - it almost took it back to Paul Weller's mournful original version.

However, I now have a new favourite song of hers (it shares top spot with "Someone").  It was the one she opened with and one of only two she didn't announce before she sang it.  "I'm Getting Rid Of This" is pure Kristyna.  To me it also showcases the range of emotions her voice can show on its own.

There was a song with a slight Country flavour as well.  "A Change Is Gonna Come" was an interesting song as it sounded so unlike anything I have heard her sing.  I could imagine an out-and-out Country singer (as in from the United States) singing it.

(I am just waiting for her to write and perform an Operatic-style Aria - I think opera is the only form of music which has yet to be subjected to the "Myles Treatment".)

She also sang "Just Three Little Words", with just bass guitar, electric guitar, and a bit of keyboard, as backing.  Stripped back almost to its orginial acoustic version.  (Put it this way - the first time I heard this song it was just her and a guitar.)

The closing song was the most apt song she could have chosen as far as the lyrics are concerned - "I'm Not Going Back".

After the gig I got talking to a man whose 6 year old daughter loves Kristyna's album so much that she has learned some of the songs by heart.  If proof was needed that Kristyna's music appeals to all ages that was it.

There are times when I can hardly believe that a lady with Kristyna's talents is so friendly and down to Earth.  She made time after the gig to speak to some of her fans personally.  Believe me - when she gives you her attention she makes you feel like you are the only important person in the room at that moment.

This is not going to be my usual request that you go and see Kristyna perform live before she starts selling out places which cost the Earth to get into.  (Although - I would really encourage you to do that.)

Next time you want to hear some good music or see a good performance go and find a singer or band you like who are not quite as well known as your Mariah Carey, your Adele, your Bon Jovi, or your Rod Stewart, and share in their journey to their dreams by watching them perform and buying their CDs, etc.  If you do that you will be doing all of us who like live music a favour.  You may even become one of their friends and share in their story that way.

We need more people like Kristyna Myles in the Music world.  Talented, yet friendly and down to Earth, with a big heart for her friends and fans, and who has made a big difference to the life of this fan.
A Police Force With A Vision Of Inclusivity (Or REAL Policing For The Public By The Public)
7/24/2014 10:25:12 PM
You could say that I was brought up with a certain level of respect for the Police.  One of my Mum's cousins recently retired from the Rotterdam Police and I heard a rumour that I had a relative on my Dad's side in the Leicestershire Police at one point.

So I was quite surprised when I was asked by Darren Goddard, the Hate Crime Officer of Leicestershire Police, to put in a proposal with some questions to ask the Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police.  Surprised because the conversation which led up to this started off on the subject of one of my main bugbears when it comes to the Police.

Anyway - I put the proposal in and I was absolutely convinced that the Communications Department would probably arrest me and allow the Chief Constable to interview me (under caution) instead of allowing me to interview him.  The three questions I put in my proposal weren't exactly the most friendly but they were points which I had wanted answers to for a long time.  In fact, one of the questions was the cause of an argument I had had on Twitter which resulted in at least six Police Officers (or Twittercops) all ganging up on me.

Yesterday was the day of my meeting with the Chief Constable.  The meeting was a rather eye opening one for me.  That was quite ironic as all my questions were related to the visibility of the Police in one way or another.

I am very lucky to live in an area which is served by Leicestershire Police.  The Chief Constable, a very friendly man called Simon Cole, doubles up as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Lead for Disabilities.  Just the person to ask about the visibility of the Police.

When I say the "visibility of the Police" I am not talking about the amount of Police Officers on the street, etc.  I am actually referring to the literal visibility of the Police (as in whether or not I can see them without straining my eyes when they are in my vicinity).

I will start with the issue which started the whole idea off - and has given me the biggest headache (sometimes literally).

If you see a Police car on an Emergency you will notice that it comes with a siren, blue flashing lights on the roof and alternating flashing headlights.  These alternating flashing headlights can cause people to feel unwell.  During the hours of darkness they have a very nasty habit of disorienting me.  Bright lights and Photophobia is not a good combination at the best of times.  Bright white alternating flashing headlights driving towards, or past me, at speed at night is lethal (and that is only with one car - a convoy of them just makes me want to lie down).

I had previously been advised by a Police Officer that the alternating flashing headlights had to be on whenever the blue flashing lights were on.

You can imagine my relief when Mr Cole informed me that the alternating flashing headlights are not supposed to be used during the hours of darkness.  The reasons Mr Cole gave me for that decision were not so different from the ones I stated above.

The next question was about the uniforms.  Particularly the change from white shirts to black shirts.  (I also threw in a question about the possibility of having the Officer's surname put on the shirts.)

Apparently the almost complete invisibility in certain conditions (as far as I am concerned at least) of the black shirts has a solution as another part of the uniform - fluorescent green body armour (unless of course you are in a section of the Police for whom it would not be a good idea to be immediately visible, ie, Armed Police, etc, or you are in circumstances where announcing exactly where you are is not useful).  This body armour should be worn when on duty and dealing with the public.

When Mr Cole showed me his body armour he also made a comment which kind of made me smile.  He pointed out that his name appeared on the body armour, as well as the shoulder number.  After he had said that he went on to say that some Police Forces have the Officer's name in Braille.  This could be rather interesting for two reasons.  The first being that I had been led to believe that touching a Police Officer when on duty was the quickest way of getting yourself arrested.  Secondly, using myself and Mr Cole as an example, it would help if the Officer was roughly the same height as the blind person they were dealing with.  I am 5ft 10" (or approx 1.79 m) tall.  Mr Cole towers over me (I think he is approximately 6ft 4").  Either that or the name may also have to be in Braille on something portable, ie, a Warrant Card.

The final question is the one which got me into the argument I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post - it concerns Tasers.  More to the point - it concerns the shouted instructions before a Taser is deployed.  Particularly if it is dark (or the officers are not visible for some reason).  The argument I had had with the Twittercops had left me more than a little scared (what didn't help was that my argument was shortly after a blind man got accidentally Tasered in a case of mistaken identity).  Apparently, according to one of the Twittercops, all I had to do was obey the instruction to "Stop" and I would be OK.  What they didn't realise is that if I cannot see the person who is giving me instructions the first thing I am going to do is try to find out where they are.  (Try explaining a sight problem and its associated headaches in burst of 140 characters including spaces.)

According to Mr Cole the Taser is only carried by certain Police Officers (who have been trained).  The officers also shout more instructions than just "Stop".  In fact, they shout one peice of information which would be very handy.  (Let's just say that it reduces the possible angles I would have to scan to find them.)

Remember I said I am lucky to live in an area served by the Leicestershire Police?

This is because I was informed that although most Police Forces have their own Independent Advisory Groups (or IAGs) Leicestershire is the only Police Force which has an IAG dedicated to issues faced by disabled people.  This means there is a panel of people who can make suggestions and advice the Police on the issues faced by disabled people.  Funnily enough, I think more Police Forces should have one.

After walking in to the meeting with some trepidation I came out feeling educated - more importantly I came out feeling like my questions were valid and treated like they were useful.

Robert Peel's principle was "Policing for the Public by the Public".  I think he forgot one vital element - as personfied by Mr Goddard and Mr Cole - answerable to the Public.  After all, without the Public there would be no Police.

A Final Farewell To Virgin (Or Feel Free To Check Your Records Before Sending Me Stupid Letters)
7/14/2014 6:05:30 PM
Recently I decided to save myself a lot of money and aggravation by switching my Mobile Phone and Mobile Broadband away from Virgin to a network which some of my friends were happy with.  This meant I had to buy myself out of the Mobile Phone Contract and I thought I had cancelled the Mobile Broadband Account at the same time.  I even received a text message telling me I had nothing to pay on the Mobile Broadband Account.  So I wnt ahead an cancelled both Direct Debits.

So you can imagine my surprise when I received two letters (one to my home address and one to my Dad's address) telling me that Virgin Mobile were suspending my accounts.  How can they suspend something which has already been cancelled???

The reason I decided to finally swap was a mix of seeing a better deal for the Mobile Broadband somewhere else and the hassle I had experienced with Virgin Media about both my Mobile Phone and my Mobile Broadband accounts over recent months.  (The funny thing is I wasn't even looking to change my Mobile Phone Contract when I changed the Mobile Bradband Contract - I was shown a brilliant phone which I couldn't resist along with a contract which was cheaper and had more minutes, etc.)

What really sold my current network (Three) to me was the fact that the Sales Assistant in the shop went out of her way to help me with my choice.  Even better - when I had a problem with my Mobile Broadband Dongle she actively attempted to resolve the situation for me.   No more phonecalls to strange numbers and queuing up for ages listening to dreadful music whilst getting more irate.  Just walk into shop and they will sort it out for you.

Call me strange if you want to but I prefer dealing with live humans face to face wherever and whenever possible.  Yes - I know we are supposed to have entered a great digital age and telecommunications are supposedly a wonderful thing but why on Earth should I spend forever on a phone being passed from person to person or online having to deal with uncooperative websites when I can sort the problem out more quickly face to face in person?

In fact, the only places where I do not like dealing with people face to face is when I am shopping.  Then I prefer scanning my own items in - that is much quicker than having to queue for the tills.

We need to bring back localised services.  I remember when I started as a Customer with Virgin Mobile (as it was then) I could walk into the shop and they would go out of their way to help me.  Not any more - I have lost count of the amount of times when I was told to "ring Customer Services".

Ironically, I am waiting for a telephone call from Virgin Media to get to the bottom of why I was sent the letters.
How To Light A Street With A Spoon (Or Why Looking And Seeing Are Completely Different)
7/2/2014 1:22:12 AM
I know I get wound up about my sight but even I have to admit there are times when I have fun with it.  These are usually the times when my eyes and my brain match up brilliantly and come up with the weirdest descriptions (and explanations) for things.

For example. a few weeks ago I was on a bus when I saw a lady who was dressed very smartly apart from one thing.  At first glance it appeared that she was wearing some kind of studded leather collar around her neck.  On taking a proper look it turned out that she was actully wearing a black scarf with metallic silver circles or discs printed on it.  The way part of it had folded over itself just made it appear like studs.

This afternoon I spent quite a large amount of time with an ex-army man - I would say it was one ot those "mutually educational" times.  It was also a very amusing time as we explained bits about ourselves to each other.

(Put it this way - you may remember that in my original blog I posted about one of my friends who I had felt like I had to use a metaphorical saw on so I could chop him into two separate and manageble pieces???  The ex-army man had apparently already put himself through that process which made me feel comfortable around him.  This was a good job because he was not exactly the most physically compact man I have ever met.)

We were discussing things like sight, etc.  He had even allowed me to put him through some "interactive demonstrations" without complaining at me.  This was fun for me.

Near the end of our time together I was feeling comfortable enough to let him have a peek into my world in a slightly different way.  I could see the perfect item to help me teach him about "sideways seeing".  It was a lamppost with a rather unusual shape to the top of it.

We had been disussing photography and sight (and how sight and photography are not equal) when I pointed towards the lamppost and asked him if he could see a teaspoon.

I had previously taken this photo from above the lamppost;

He hadn't got a clue what I was talking about (do not worry - this is not unsual).  Then I pointed out what I meant.  From the angle we were looking at it the top of it looked like a teaspoon.  He told me that he had walked past the lamppost several times but never noticed the shape of the top of it.

I then asked him what he saw when he looked at it.  His answer was along the lines of "you have made me think of it as a teaspoon".  Then I asked him to switch his "army brain" on and tell me what he saw.  After complaining about this he did as I asked and I got an eyeopening example of how different that single lamppost - which we were both looking at from ground level - could appear depending on how you looked at it to start with.  (I will never see that bit of Charles Street in Leicester in the same way again.)

Maybe we should all take time out of our day to see the unusual in everyday objects?  This may help us understand our surroundings a bit more - and expand our minds.

Nudity Versus Nakedness (Or How We Can See Ourselves Can Be Completely Different To How Other People Accept Us)
7/2/2014 1:18:00 AM
Public nudity (as in being seen in public without your clothes on) is only legally acceptable in certain places and certain situations.

Being physically naked in public is not exactly socially acceptable in more instances than public nudity - especially if you belong to a certain category of people.

Yes - I realise that I made public nudity and physical nakedness into two separate concepts.  I did it deliberately to illustrate a point.  There are instances when you can be fully clothed and still be physically naked.

In my case, I reach that state when I remove my glasses for some reason.  When I am not wearing my glasses I am in my natural state as a member of the Bat Brigade (Blind As A).  As I have had a lifetime's experience of not being able to see anything but fluffy cottonwool type blurs without my glasses I know what I can and cannot do without my glasses on my nose - I know how to get around familiar places, for example.  I also know that attempting to have any form of imnteraction with a staircase when I haven't got my glasses on isn't exactly recommended for medicinal purposes (as my Glaswegian friend says).  As for being let loose on a street??? Forget it!!!

Having been "Socially Trained" to find ways of hiding what other people see as my disabilty (and I see as their disability) - and not complaining as much as I would sometimes like when things get tough - I find it refreshing when I am able to give someone a glimpse into my world for a change.  It could be a simple case of letting you try my glasses on, or teaching you about steps or light and dark, etc.

Me being allowed to roam around in my natural - naked - state sometimes would actually relieve some of the pressure I actually feel when I am forced to conform to society's ideas about how I should deal with my sight.

You may not understand what I am about to say to you next but bear with me and I will attempt to explain it in plain English in a bit.

For me - the worst thing about my sight is the ideas that some bright sparks have about glasses.  According to the aforementioned bright sparks my glasses do not only help me see - my glasses have magical powers which result in me having the same level of sight as everybody else.

These bright sparks are the reason I have come to see wearing glasses as dangerous to my health - both physically and mentally.

Thanks to them I can be left feeling that I should be able to function as well as someone with 20/20 vision when I have got my glasses on.  What they don't understand is that - even with my glasses on - I haven't got 20/20 vision.  Apart from that, my glasses are on the outside of my face.  My brain (which is inside my head) still sometimes operates as though I am in my natural state even when I am wearing glasses.  This means I sometimes rely on things like touch and hearing when other people rely on their optical viewing hardware (and associated software which is certainly nowhere near as defective as my optical software is).  It also means I sometimes need extra time to complete a task - or I may even go about it in a way which you find totally crazy but works for me.

The end result is that I find wearing glasses to be both mentally and physically tiring at times.  So much so that I want to be allowed to be naked in public and sit quietly in someone's company without my glasses on my nose and just be me.

Before you think that I wish I had 20/20 vision may I just point out that is the last thing I have ever wished for.  If anything I have a wish that more people would want to come over to my side of the fence.  I don't mean that I wish more people would have my level of sight with its associated problems.  It is more a case that I wish more people were willing to learn about my end of the sight spectrum instead of me feeling forced to join the rest of the world no matte what it costs me.
Why Ignorance Is Sometimes The Best Thing (Or Why You Can Miss What You Never Had)
7/1/2014 11:39:14 PM
I would be the first to admit that I am not necessarily the best person when it comes to trying to put my ideas into plain English at times.

There is one cliche which I really get angry when I hear people use it - "You cannot miss what you never had" - mainly because I can disprove it in an instance if you let me.

My experience of the world as most people would know it (and the advertising companies and media insist on portraying it) is nothing like the world as I see it.  I mean that both literally and metaphorically.

You only have to spend a few minutes in my company to realise that my view of life can be summed up in one word - sideways.  (Please do not try to use words like "Lateral" and "Outside the Box" and "Leftfield".  They leave me feeling somewhat disturbed.)

So, how can I disprove the cliche?  Quite easily as it happens.

I have never had a Driving Licence (something to do with the DVLA not being too comfortable with the idea of the virtually blind being left in charge of a motorised tin can with serious explosive potential apparently), I have never been able to write with my left hand, I have never been able to really enjoy going to a normal cinema (put it this way - the mental Risk Assessment I have to do whenever I consider going to a normal cinema is nearly as painful as I imagine bouncng down a set of steps would be if I missed my footing).

My experience of the world tells me that there are people who can undertake all the above activities without causing other people to derrange themselves as a result.  It also tells me that all three of the above examples are relatively easy for those who can actually do them. (Even though I am righthanded my writing is not exactly the neatest using my right hand - trying to write with my left hand jst makes my brain ache.)

To be perfectly honest - I really wish I could do all the above.  Most of the time I usually manage to convince myself that I am better off as I am but there are occasions when I get really upset about it.  This is usually when I am forced to remember my limits.  Sorry - I mean the limits which society has placed on me due to my sight.

Let's face it - the only way I am ever legally going to be able to get my hands on the steering wheel of a moving vehicle (without supervision) is when they bring out a car like KITT from the original "Knightrider" series - ie, one whch can steer itself.  Yet, I am bombarded with people telling me both consciously and subconsciously that I am in some way defective because the only thing I could use a car for is stationary storage space.  The fact I love cars and other motorised vehicles is beside the point.

People seem to think that being able to drive (for example) is the best thing you can ever decide to do.  Cars are designed for the comfort of the driver with all mod cons built into the top of the range models. Forget the idea of economy for a minute and just bask in the advertisements for the latest ranges of cars.  Whilst you are at it you might as well also ignore the fact that my sight could potentially turn me into one of the safest drivers.  (See if you can work out my reasons for saying that.)

The only way I could actually not miss what I have never had is if I was totally ignorant of the existence of those exact objects, experiences, etc, in the first place - instead of having their existence thrust front and centre nearly every time I turn around.

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