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We All Need "Simple Solutions" In Our Lives (Or - The Day I Began To Feel Really Useful Again)
1/26/2016 12:37:35 AM
If you have followed this blog for any length of time (or even spent any time in my company) you will know that I usually manage to do something a little unusual or find some quirk in my life to explore.

My latest escapade would fit very nicely under both of the above headings.  It also has a couple of very nice added extras for me - which I will tell you about a bit later.

I suppose I should start from the beginning.

As you will know - I have been blogging since I was made redundant after 15 years as an Administration Officer at an Engineering company in South Leicestershire.

Some of you will know that I have been looking for ways to make money out of blogging (as I have no intention of going back into office work unless I absolutely have to).

Another thing which will not have escaped your notice is the fact I am passionate about disability issues as well as helping people who educate people about issues (the Real Junkfood Project - Leicester Brigade, and LCiL).

I digress.

I was on Twitter when I got in contact with a friendly Police Officer - yes - another one - who seemed to be slightly unusual.  Put it this way - he immediately made me feel comfortable tweeting him in the same way as I would tweet Julie Kirkpatrick or my other Twitter friends.  None of the initial defensiveness I usually feel with people who have the legal power to arrest me (or either order someone to shoot me or shoot me themselves).

Fast forward approximately a month.

By this time Roger Nield (the man concerned) had retired from the Police and was setting up his own company.

"Simple Solutions" sounded like an interesting concept.  When the website was up and running I learned that it was a company which would help people with running companies, etc.

What I liked most about it - and what encouraged me to put my madcap plan into action - was the fact the website made a big deal about experience (professional and otherwise) instead of showing a list of qualifications as long as my arm.

As you know - I dislike the idea of needing paper qualifications just to prove you can do something.  I much prefer the idea of being judged on my practical experience (or not) of the job concerned.

So I decided to see how serious the company was about helping people organise companies - more to the point - I decided to see if they would consider finding space for someone who has experience of the sort you don't usually find advertising itself (usually because the minute it appears on someone's CV the aforementioned CV ends up in the circular file marked "BIN".

Roger invited me to send him an email.  The email I sent him was the kind of Application letter I wish I could send to more companies without worrying about it being subjected to the treatment stated above.

In it - I told him about my background and the fact I am a blogger (as well as my sight problem).

You can probably imagine my surprise when he indicated that he was interested in having a discussion with me based on my email.

As a result of that discussion you are reading a blog post from a member of the Simple Solutions Team.  I am now doing some blogging for them.

Roger is a really friendly human who appears to share my philosophy on helping people help themselves.

After our telephone conversation - where we agreed I would join the team - I sent him an email with an attachment listing the things I wish people who are in charge of meetings and conferences would think about.  (Click to find out what those things are www.smpl.org.uk/making-meetings-accessible-for-folks-with-challenged-sight/#more-135.)

Let's face it - if that doesn't prove to anybody that I know what I am talking about when it comes to having a lifetime's experience of having a sight problem nothing will!!!

I am very much looking forward to working with Roger and his team.

There Is More To Equality Than Man Versus Woman And Black Versus White (Or - Why I Think Lenny Henry Could Learn From Idris Elba)
1/25/2016 11:28:12 PM
I have blogged before now saying that I thought Lenny Henry was concentrating on a small fraction of the "Equality" argument.  I have also blogged before now saying how upset I feel at the fact that I can switch on my televisin and watch programmes with a high proportion of people from ethnic minorities compared to the proportion of disabled people.

This issue was brought back into the front of my mind as a result of the furore about the lack of black people who have been nominated for Oscars (or Academy Awards).

Apparently, black people have taken offence - not only to this but also to comments made about the lack of nominations (Michael Caine made a very good point when he said that maybe the actors, directors, etc, were simply not as good as the white ones) and the "boycott" of the Oscars by black people - some actress who I had never previously heard of accussed the actors taking part in the boycott of "racism against white people".

I was beginning to despair of anybody recognising the major double standards highlighted by the arguments - until I read an article about what the British actor Idris Elba said in the House of Commons.

Equality in acting, etc, should not just be about black versus white, or even men versus women.  Equality should also include disabled people.

I belong to what must be the largest minority when it comes to being represented in any "mainstream" area of life - merely as a result of being the "invisibly" disabled (I use the word "invisibly" because the extent of my disability is not usually immediately apparent).

When you mix people like me in with those who the media have actually attempted to integrate into the Mainstream media (the blind, and the wheelchair users) as well as the deaf people who use sign language (who used to get a weekly programme called "See Hear" presented by people like them) we make up a rather large pool of untapped resources.

If you ask me - the people who are boycotting the Oscars because of the supposed "whitewash" of nominations should count themselves very lucky.  They appeat to have forgotten that there have been times when the Oscar nominations have had some very good black actors, directors, etc.

Apart from which - gone are the days of programmes like "The Black & White Minstrel Show" where white people "blacked up".

I really wish we could reach a point where parts calling for people with disabilities were played by actors with those disabilities.  The film that readily springs to mind is the biopic of Stephen Hawkins.

Although I have never seen "Rain Man" I have read about the impact it had on the public perception of Autism.

Just think what could happen if we had realistic storylines about physical disabilities in films and soaps.  It would be even better if the relevant parts could be played by people with those disabilities.

When Is A Block Of Colour Actually A Colour Block??? (Or - An Attempt At Explaining My Problems With Black And White)
1/25/2016 10:44:05 PM
I know I have written a bit about my problems with certain colours.  To be perfectly honest I was hoping never to feel I have to write this blog post but I seem to keep getting stuck in the same old arguments over and over again about what effect certain colours have on my vision.  The two colours I am going to concentrate on in this blog post are black and white - or what I call my "shapeshifting colours".

I honestly wish I could take photographs of exactly how those colours appear to me but - seeing as they have yet to invent a camera which can be inserted anywhere near an optic nerve - I hope my attempts at explaining are not too confusing.

I would like to start this blog post by asking you to do a little experiment on yourself.  Don't worry - this does not involve any nasty substances getting anywhere near your body.

All I would like you to do is close your eyes and concentrate on what you can see with your eyes closed for two minutes.  Take very good notice particularly of the colours as these are going to help you understand part of what I am going to tell you (at least I hope they are).

You are probably now looking at the screen and thinking I should submit myself for psychological assessment because I told you to pay close attention to the colours you can see with your eyes closed???

There is a very good reason for me to ask you to do that.

If you said "Don't be stupid - the only colour I could see was black", I have one thing to say to you - Congratulations - you have failed my test.  Your sight is nowhere near as bad as mine.  Not only that - this blog post is specifically aimed at you.

If - on the other hand - you said "I can see a variety of colours - none of which are black" welcome to the club.  (The exception being if you have nearly 20/20 vision - if this is the case I suggest a quick trip to Accident and Emergency should feature in your very near future as you may have a very serious problem with your eyes.)

People with my level of myopia (shortsightedness) can only see black in its artificial forms.  For people like me there is very little in the way of "true" black - except when we get what are called "floaters" - debris floating inside our eyeball which disrupt our vision.

Stand me in a space with no light whatsoever and I will tell you that I can see multicoloured spots in front of my eyes.

There are two rather annoying things which are connected with this phenomenon. (Apart from me being useless in a powercut that is.)

First - I will claim it is getting dark quicker than most people.  You might tellme that it is still daylight but - if my eyes start getting those multicoloured spots in front of them - the night is definitely drawing in for me.  On average I will head for the nearest lightswitch around 20 minutes before my Dad (who has got near "normal" vision) will.

The second annoying thing is the fact that black is one of my "shapeshifting colours" colours (the other one being white but for a slightly different reason - which we will get to a bit later).

When I say "shapeshifting colour" I mean exactly that.  Unless the black object I am looking at has definite edges - as in a TV, a Ford Focus estate, a fence, etc - the object in question will change shape.  The change will not necessarily be in ways someone with "normal" vision would expect either.

There are three examples I can give you off the top of my head.

If you really want to frighten me to death feel free to find a clip of the old "Milk Tray" adverts and play them to me.  (This may also explain why I find it difficult to immediately identify Police Officers, and Niqab-wearing women who are dressed head to foot in black, from street furniture.)

For those of you who do not remember the "Milk Tray" adverts - they featured a black-haired man who was dressed in a black polonecked top, black trousers, and black shoes, seemingly doing a brilliant impression of a burgular, but leaving a box of chocolates in a woman's flat.

Why does that advert frighten me so much???

Allow me to create a man for the purpose of this explanation - he is approximately 6 foot tall, of a chunky (solid) build.  Oh, and he has got dark hair topping a friendly-looking smiling face.  (I am going to call him Chris.)

When we first see Chris - he is wearing what has to be my favourite outfit on a man.  He is wearing a white tshirt with blue jeans and trainers.  (As long as he is not in bright sunshine I can look at him all day.  The fact his arms are naked makes the tshirt easy to focus on.)  He also looks very huggable.

Chris decides to get changed into another outfit (maybe he is going to work, or a wedding, etc).  This outfit involves a pair of black trousers, a tinted shirt, an eye-shatteringly bright tie, and black shoes.  No problem so far - I can still see him and focus on him.  Then he puts on a dark jacket (this only has to be in the range of black - as in a very dark colour) - and promptly gains approximately 5 inches in overall size (height and width).  Unless we put Chris on a diet - so his undressed dimensions are those of a very slim man indeed - his outfit now has the effect of making him look not unlike a solid wall.  I tend not to attempt to hug walls.  Chris may well still have a friendly smile on his face but I am not going anywhere near him unless I absolutely have to.

The next problem involves "concealment".  Forget any legal definition of that word - I am talking about black being the best colour to use if you want to hide something from me in plain sight - coins, coloured paper, pens, you name it.  If it is not completely concealed the object will usually shrink somewhat (unless it is white).

The third problem is where the background merges with what I am looking at - this is usually when the surrounding area is lighter than both the background and the object (or human) I am looking at.

This can cause me no end of problems - either when I am out and about r when I am watching TV.

Two examples now follow;

Have you ever seen a car with 10 wheels and two doors on one side of it???  Or a car that appears to be bending around a corner when it is stationary???

Try standing anywhere near two queues of traffic, one waiting to go straight one and the other one in a staggered line to turn right.  This only works with my eyesight.

Finally - we have the ever expanding Mr Clive Myrie from the BBC News Channel.  I am sure Mr Myrie is a very nice person - I just wish he would change his outfit when he is in the studio reading the news.  I much prefer his outfit when he is reporting from a distant land - at least I can see him properly then because he usually wears a light tinted top.

If you have never seen Mr Myrie he is a black man.  However, when he is presenting the news, all I can usually see of him is the white shirt on his chest, his mouth, and the whites of his eyes when he looks at another camera.

The rest of him merges with the very dark (to me anyway) background of the area behind him.  This is extremely disconcerting for someone like me.

Mr Myrie adequately represents another phenomenon concerning my sight and the colour black.

For the "normal" sighted among you black objects and people will shrink the further away from them you are.

As in - if we were walking along a street and we saw a black car parked with its wheels on the kerb, you would be able to judge the size of it and it would scale itself up as you approached it.

It is the exact opposite for me.  That car will appear to have the dimensions of a van when I first see it.  The wall, etc, it is nearest to can appear to be touching it (even if it turns out to be some distance away as I approach it).  To get a proper visual measurement of it (and the gap between it and any walls, etc) I need to be within arm's length of it.

I said that white was my other "shapeshifting colour" but in a different way, didn't I???

What I meant was - whereas the colour black has a habit of expanding and contracting itself in relation to the distance between me and the object or person I am looking at - white just stays big and shapeless (unless the angles are very defined) and it has a nasty habit of drowning everything else out if I am not careful.  This is especially true when it comes to backlit screens, sunlight, etc.

I hope this has given you something of a taster of my dificulties with black and white.

Feed Bellies Not Bins - And Have A Laugh While You Are At It (Or - The Real Junkfood Project Meets "Dave" Leicester Comedy Festival 2016)
1/17/2016 10:08:25 PM
As you may know by now I am proud to support two amazing Charities by donating my time and skills.  The Charities are LCiL (who I support by blogging, making my presence felt at their events, and telling people about them) and The Real Junkfood Project (who I support by doing some behind the scenes work and appearing every Thursday evening for my dinner, as well as blogging about them and telling people about the amazing work they do).

If you have some spare time on the evening of Thursday 11 February 2016, I would like to invite you to book a place at the "Feed Bellies Not Bins Comedy Club".

The event will start at 7.30pm and finish at 9.30pm.  It will be located at The West End Centre, on St Andrewes St in Leicester.  The venue is totally accessible for Disabled People (It should be - LCiL run their Social Media Cafe there on Fridays which is attended by Disabled People).

The event is a "Pay As You Feel" event with a meal included (and the guys at The Real Junkfood Project are amazing cooks).

So - you will get a brilliant meal, cooked and served by very friendly people, as well as excellent company as you dine.  Oh, and they are apparently throwing in three comedians as well.

For further details please see the link www.comedy-festival.co.uk/events /show.php - this includes contact details for The Real Junkfood Project in Leicester.

The Real Junkfood Project runs their "Pay As You Feel" Cafe every Thursday evening from 7.00pm until 8.30pm.  You can pay either with hard cold cash or by volunteering your services.  I have been asked to stress that it is not a free meal.

I hope to see you either at a normal Thursday night meal or at the comedy event - either way - you are guaranteed a great meal and good company.

Government! Leave Them Kids Alone! (Or - When Will They Realise The Most Important Things You Learn In School Do Not Appear On The Curriculum???)
1/17/2016 9:35:47 PM
Before I start rambling on in this blog post I would like you to watch this clip of Billy Connolly talking about Algebra and how much he hates it (Warning - it does contain some what the BBC would call "strong language").  I am not going to be talking about mathematics but the point is still valid. www.youtube.com/watch.

In case you didn't know this - my favourite subject at school was English.  From what I can remember the lessons seemed to take the same format - learn bits of grammar, write stories, read books, daydream, repeat process.  Luckily, when it ame to my GCSE's. I wasn't deemed clever enough to have Shakespeare pushed into my brain - or it might have been a different story.

However, I am starting to feel really sorry for the children who are going through school these days.

If we leave the arguments about the standard of teaching regarding grammar to the so-called "experts" - I am sorry but I grew up learning two languages from a very early age (English through school and Dutch through my parents) and I feel I got on better without having to worry about the rules of Dutch very much because the rules of Dutch are nowhere near as confusing as the rules of English - I will be a lot happier.

The one rule in English I have the most difficulty with is that horrible "i before e - except after c" one.  In Dutch the placement of the i and the e (when they appear consecutively changes the pronucuation of the word.  "VrIEnd" is pronounced to rhyme with the English "Been" whilst "EInd" is the first part of "Einstein" but with a 'd' where the "stein" bit goes.

However, what concerns me about the recent reports on the subject of how English is taught in schools relates to something which is very close to my heart - Pressurised Children..

Apparently the Government is worried about the fall in the amount of children who leave Primary school able to read and write to an acceptable level.  What they don't say - as I have been reliably informed by Nathan Constable (who is a parent of a child who sounds like she is a 10 year old whizz at reading - "will read anything you put in front of her" - I may be paraphrasing here) when he tweeted that his daughter has had at least a year knocked off her reading age - is the Reading Ages have been tweaked to the point of being useless.

(I have just seen another tweet from Mr Constable saying he has scored 5 out of ten on one of those "Mini SATS tests" - His response??? He is not to worried about that - "I am off to command Firearms Incidents".

What worries me the most are two things which are not being given nearly enough attention by the Government or the Mainstream Media.

As you may know I love reading.  I read for a variety of reasons - to educate myself, for pleasure, and for survival.  I don't mean I scrutinise every warning label I come across - I am not talking about that sort of survival.  I am talking about being able to escape into a book or a magazine (or even Twitter, Facebook, or the sidebar of Blab) when what I really want to do is stand in the middle of the fast lane of the M1.

Children being forced to read (particularly about subjects they are not interested in in language they find difficult to engage with) at school is a recipe for disaster when it comes to them reading for pleasure.

When I was at Primary School (back in the Jurassic Era - or so it seems) we started with the Rainbow reading books (colour codd in the colours of the rainbow), progressed to a series called "Jumping Jack", and - somewhere along the line - we had "Silver" and "Gold" reading books.  The infants got a tobacco tin of flash cards to help them learn to read.  We had to read to the teacher in every class as well (at least once a week).  We also got spelling tests.  The last class before we left Primary School had to write Book Reviews.  In fact, my only complaint was the fact we had to do Dictation.

What we did not have was tests coming out of our ears.

In fact, I can only remember three sets of exams in my entire time at school - and they were all in Secondary School.  The first one were at the end of the first year to find out which sets we would be in for certain subjects.  The second was the "Mocks" (Scottish humans would know these as "Prelims"), then GCSE's.  (Now I come to think of it - I have a vague memory of some kind of exams at the end of the Fourth Year of Secondary School.)

There is a twofold danger with the amount of testing the students seem to be subjected to nowadays - losing interest in the subjects they are studying - and bullying (especially when the child has difficulties - either with the way the subject is taught or because of a disability or Learning Difficulty).

There are certain subjects which I was forced to learn at school (one of them was a compulsory GCSE) which I could never see the point of - PE being one and RE (or RS) being another.

However, there is one subject I wish I could have taken a GCSE in - and I feel this subject should be a mandatory GCSE subject from the start of Secondary School.

We got a slight "dusting" with Personal And Social Education during the GCSE years but (to be totally honest) it was useless.

Writing a "Personal Statement" and a Curriculm Vitae (especially when you haven't got anything proper to put in it) is a complete waste of time and energy, as far as I am concerned.

The things I learned at school - which were definitely not on the curriculum but which were the best things I learned were as follows;

How to survive bullying.

Independence - as in "if you want something doing - do it yourself - otherwise it won't get done".

Cynicism - If someone says they are going to do something to make your life easier don't believe it until it happens (I still haven't forgiven Mr Kirkman for reneging on his promise of a computer to make my schoolwork easier).

How to deal with people who are different from you - different races and disabilities (without being as nasty to them as they are to you).

Self-containment - the ability to be happy in your own company and doing things your own way if required.

And - last but not least;-

Daydreaming can be a lifesaver in the right circumstances.

We need to allow the children of today to grow up being confident in their own abilities - no matter what they are.  They start life as individuals with their own hopes and dreams - we should encourage that individuality.  It might just save their lives at a later date.

Glasses - Or Spectacles - Through The Ages! (Or - Be Amazed At How Lenses Have Changed Even Through My Lifetime)
1/17/2016 8:01:16 PM
I was looking through some more stuff at my Dad's house today when I found a pair of my old glasses.  This gave me the idea of giving you a bit of a tour of how lenses (and frames) have changed - even during the 40 odd years I have been on this planet.

I hope you find this post interesting and informative - even if you have never worn glasses in your life.

Glasses - Half of the time it seems I cannot live with them but I certainly cannot function without them.

I could bore you to death by discussing the practical differences between a Lenticular lens, a Blended Lenticular lens, Fresnell lenses, and Contact Lenses.  But I thought I would attempt to show you instead.

First off I think I should tell you that - if you are hoping to find any photographic evidence of me wearing contact lenses in this blog post you will be extremely disappointed.  Luckily for me - the selection of photos I had to choose from did not include any of these offending photographs.  (To say I hated wearing Contact Lenses is an understatement - the only thing worse is having to look at photographs of myself during either of those periods in my life.)

I am going to start with two photographs which may shock you.

Trust me - it is me.

If you see the current version of this creature wandering around in public unsupervised - get help immediately - or take it to the nearest optician.  It will probably inform you that it has either lost or broken its glasses.  A photo showing what it looks like now will be at the end of this blog post. (This photo was taken in my favourite place on Planet Earth - Schiebroek in Rotterdam.)

The second photo is my favourite photo of me without glasses.

Did you notice something strange about the above photos???

You are correct - no glasses.  I will go one stage further and say - no form of corrective eyewear whatsoever (including contact lenses).

I can imagine what you are thinking now - "but you keep telling us you have been seriously shortsighted all your life.  Have you been lying to us all this time???".

Nope - I am not too sure about this but I get the general idea that I only started wearing glasses when it was obvious that I would be let loose in public without any member of my family being around.  As in - when I started at playschool.  I know I was definitely wearing them when I started at Primary School.

Until I started wearing glasses I was never allowed out of the sight and supervision of members of my family - life at that point was literally a blur.

I have seen the first pair of frames I ever wore - I just cannot find any photographic evidence of them.  They were gold metal with springs around the ears so they didn't fall off.  (Springs around the ears would have been very useful for the next several pairs of glasses I had, as would metal frames - I went through frames like they were going out of fashion when I was in my first few years at Primary School.)

The next two photos will give you some idea of what my first few frames looked like.

Side view of one of the first pairs of glasses I wore.  (The lady in the photo is mt Grandma Great - my English Grandma's Mum.)

If you want to know how bad the NHS frames I was made to wear when I was at Primary School looked just imagine the frame worn by the lady bottom left of the photo in pale pink or a strange blue colour.  (Four generations of my Dad's side of the family - Clockwise from top left; Granddad, Dad, English Grandma, Grandma Great, me, Grandma Phyllis - Granddad's Mum)

If you want to make me feel jealous just sit me in an Optician's and make me watch the Primary School age children choosing frames.  I know this is going to make me sound elderly but - when I was their age I had a choice of one frame and two colours - insipid pale pink and a horrible blue.

The lenses I was forced to wear didn't exactly do me any favours either.  Whether it came to people looking at me or me trying to look at people I was on to a loser both ways.

Here now follows a quick crash course in lenses for you;

A Lenticular lens is the worst lens ever invented - both from the point of view (excuse the pun) of those looking at it and those attempting to look through it.

Looking at it you will be reminded of glass Coca Cola bottles - the bottoms of them.  The eyes behind them will look not unlike currants - and the glass around the perimeter of the lens will look awful too.

What you will not realise - unless you have experience of trying to look through them - is they are not unlike blinkers for horses.  You can only see through the middle of them.  If you want to look left or right you have to physically move your head in that direction - what appears to be waste glass at the sides actually is waste glass because you cannot see a thing through it.

If your optician attempts to tell you they (or the next lens we will come to) are the cheapest option I would suggest you fire your Optician (preferably via a Cannon) and send them back to school to brush up on their Maths - with particular attention to proportions and averages.  They may be the cheapest lenses in theory but - trust me - they are the most expensive lenses for what you can actually see out of them.  Experience tells me Lenticular lenses are a waste of good glass.  They are also extremely heavy because they are hardly ever made of plastic.

Next we have an invention called Blended Lenticular lenses.  Whoever came up with this idea should be parked in front of a Firing Squad if you ask me.

The "Blended" bit of the name is a bit of a con.

It is still a Lenticular lens but - instead of the obvious "step" between the side walls of the lens and the useful bit (as in the Lenticular lens) - they blended the sidewalls into the middle.  This still leaves you with limited sideways vision compared to "widescreen" lenses like the ones we will come to next - just not quite as limited as the Lenticular lenses.

Now this is a view of a Blended Lenticular lens which you hardly ever see.  The outside edge around the frame.

A view you are possibly more used to seeing - as in the front view.

Between going from Plastic Frames to metal frames I was encouraged to try Contact Lens.  I was between 9 and 12 years old at this point.  As a result I can understand why the age limit has now been set at either 16 or 18 years old - I was way too young to try them.

I would not recommend Contact Lenses as a way of finding out you suffer from Photophobia - also known as your eyes being sensitive to bright lights.  Put it this way - Contact Lenses were brilliant at night but next to useless during the day.  My Mum kept telling me to open my eyes - what she didn't realise was my eyes were open just enough to see what I was looking at.  The other drawback to the first dose of Contact Lenses was that they were small and clear.

Let's just say that I was in school on more than one occassion with the left lens in the right eye and vice versa.  The first thing I knew about it was - instead of my vision being improved by the addition of contact lenses to my eyeballs - it was actually made worse (due to my left eye always being a lot weaker than my right eye).  Good job I was used to wandering around reasonably safely on flat surfaces without my glasses on.  That is before you consider the dangers of the lens wandering around the eyeball if they were either not put in correctly or decided to go walkabouts after you put them in.  Another pain - literally - was dust and sand.  Get either of those in your eye when you are wearing Contact Lenses and everybody in the surrounding area will know about it very quickly - it hurts.

Around the time I was 18 years of age the same optician talked me into getting another pair of Contact Lenses on the pretense that they would be cheaper than buying another pair of glasses.  To cut a very long story short I fell out with the optician as a direct result of that and took my business elsewhere.

This pair of Contact Lenses had two minor (and - to my mind - pointless) differences compared with the first lot.

The first difference was the size of them.  Instead of merely fitting over the pupil they fitted over the iris.  (If you ask me they should have been made so they could fit over the entire eyeball - that way I might have had a chance of seeing them when I dropped them on the floor.)

I could have lived with the second difference if it had been taken one stage further (so it could have been more useful to me when I was wearing them).  The bright spark decided that he was going to issue me with a blue contact lens for my left eye and a grey one for my right eye.  Now - had the tints been like sunglasses instead of purely "decoration" - I might not have given up on them so quickly (I might even still be wearing them now - but I doubt it somehow).

If there was one glasses wearer who I was always slightly jealous of it was my Mum.

Her sight was better than mine so she got to choose nicer frames (at least until my lenses started to get slightly thinner - I only got to choose really nice frames when I got my "widescreen" lenses).

See what I mean??? My Mum is wearing a nice pair of frames - which my lenses would never fit into at that point - whilst I am wearing horrible lenses and frames.  (Mum is on the left of the photo.)

What a difference a few changes of optician and a upgrade in lenses makes.

More to the point - what a few differences they make.

Up To Date photo with current glasses on my nose.

Fresnell Lenses have opened up a range of possiblities for me.

My glasses are lighter for a start.  The lenses are nowhere near as thick as either the Lenticular lenses or the Blended Lenticular lenses.

This means that I can wear them all day long without my nose (or my ears) complaining about excessive weight being parked on them.

I can also choose almost any frame in an Optician I so desire.  No more having to worry about the ratio between the size of the frame and the weight of the lenses.  (I was sick to death of having to opt for smaller and smaller frames to keep the weight down - it got to the stage where I felt like I was looking through a letterbox).  Trust me when I say Fresnell lenses are "widescreen" lenses - I can see nearly as far around as everybody else now just by moving my eyes left and right (OK so the end point of my lenses is still the end point of my clear vision but I have to look a lot further left and right before I hit that extreme.)

However - the best bit about Fresnell lenses as far as I am concerned is the fact my last few pairs of glasses have been Transitions (or "Reactolite").  Gone are the days when I saw really nice prescription sunglasses which I had zero chance of wearing because my prescription was too strong.

Oh - yes - I was going to show you an up to date equivalent of my favourite photograph wasn't I???

Different country but luckily for you I knew exactly where I was when I decided to take this photo today (otherwise I would not have dared to attempt such a stunt in public view).  I was on my way home when I took it.

Well - that concludes the lecture on "Spectacles Through The Ages".

If you have any more questions feel free to ask me.

Why Change A Traffic Light Sequence When You Can Clutter A Street??? (Or Using A Pair Of /bollards In A Dangerous Manner)
1/14/2016 6:25:02 PM
Last November I wrote to my local City Councillor about a minor problem I had.

I say "minor problem" but it was slightly more serious than that - to the point where I feel like I am taking my life into my hands as a result of merely walking along a stretch of pavement.  I have almost been run over by some impatient idiots mounting the pavement as they undertake a row of traffic to beat the lights.

Now - when I complained to my Councillor I had a very simple solution in mind - retime the signals and free the trafficjam.

I recieved an email last night which shocked me - as well as worrying me greatly.

Instead of simply retiming the signals the Highways Dept or Planning Dept have decided in their wisdom to install two bollards in the pavement.  This is apparently to stop the traffic mounting the pavement.

Luckily the Councillor agreed with me that visually impaired people may have a problem with this.  I fired off an email to the Councillor stating my exact objections to that idea (along with reasons).

I look forward to finding out which other crazy scheme they come up with.

Blessed Are The Misfits For They Have Lived Through The Fight (Or - The Day I Realised I Could Be Free)
1/14/2016 6:10:04 PM
"You are easy to help because you don't need help.  Correction - you don't ask for help."

I suppose the above quote would leave you confused.  After all, how can someone be easy to help if they don't ask for it???  Isn't that a bit of a contradiction???

Luckily I knew what John Coster meant when he said that to me.  I had told him I was trying to find ways of funding my blogging activities which didn't need something as complicated as a Business Plan.  As a result of that he offered to have a look for some places which might be useful.

Asking for help and showing I am having difficulties are two things which I hate doing.  I have written about my reasons for that elsewhere on my blog.

This has one very amusing (for me anyway) side-effect.  People are amazed when they learn that I am severely shortsighted.  I move among you reasonably unnoticed until such a tme as you do something to make my life difficult.

Of course - there are two ways of asking for help.

The first way is the one where you try to learn from someone how to do something for yourself.

The second one is the way I hate most of all.  This translates as "can you do it for me?".

I hate the second one because it has never been an option which was open to me.

I have friends who I could be seriously jealous of (I could name at least five straight off the top of my head) because they seem to have sailed through life without any problems at all.

When I start to feel like that I think of the flipside of it.

My struggles have made me who I am.  OK so I would have preferred to live without most of them but that cannot be helped.

Yes - I can be very stubborn when I want to do something (as one person in particular knows all too well).

No - I don't trust easily - but when you gain my trust and friendship I am told that I make a very good friend.

If you want to be judged please go and find someone else to judge you because I won't - unless I know the full story that is.  I cannot sit in judgement over another person because I never know how I would react in their situation.

Being forced to stand on my own two feet has been very hard at times - bullying can come in many forms (even well-meaning people can make you feel as though you are being bullied without them realising it - if you don;t believe me just try to take over something I am doing in the guise of "only trying to help" and see how I react - you might be in for a big shock) - all of them are about control in one form or another.

You may think I am a total nutcase but it has taken me some very hard work to reach the level of nutcase I am comfortable with being at.

I am open to the oppotunity of educating you about me and my life - feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

In my opinion we can do a lot worse than be willing to learn about each other and use that information to help us with our own struggles.

A Public House In The Truest Sense Of The Term (Or - Why I Ended Up Wanting To Live In The Orange Tree)
1/14/2016 5:27:23 PM
OK so some people may think I am a bit fussy about places I go in for the purpose of consuming food and drink but I think I have finally found somewhere to rival Taps (I reviewed that bar elsewhere in this blog).

Ironically, The Orange Tree Public House (and Restaurant) is situated almost opposite the worst place in Leicester for people with sight problems.  In fact, I was tempted to struggle into Bruxelles, on High Street in Leicester, and drag the staff to The Orange Tree so they could be shown exactly how to make people like me feel welcome in their premises.

I had learned bout The Orange Tree on Twitter.  A quick look at their website proved inviting.  The photo on the website showed that the place wasn't crowded with furniture, as well as being reasonably well lit.

When I walked in to the building I realised the website hadn't told me the full story.

I didn't have to peer at a menu or "Specials Board" with tiny writing which had been glued to some obscure wall behind the bar.

Even I had no trouble reading this Board

The staff were friendly.  There was one thing which I was half-expecting them to serve though.  There is a brand of alcoholic drink which I really think would have been a nice twist - "Oranjeboom" is "Orangetree" in Dutch.

I admit you may have a bit of difficulty getting a wheelchair in the building - unless they move one of the tables out of the accessible doorway - but it is only one reasonably shallow step.

My secod biggest bugbear - after having to peer at menus on walls - is not being able to navigate my way around a room comfortably.  This is either because the lighting leaves a lot to be desired or because the managers have decided to squeeze as many customers in as possible (and cluttered the place up with excessive furniture).

The Orange Tree is bright and roomy - to the point where I could imagine successfully crossing from the bar to my table with a tray in my hands without damaging myself or anything else.

View towards Entrance

A nice wide corridor between the bar and the seating areas.

The food appeared to be entirely cooked on the premises as well.

If you know me by now you will realise that I like places with a bit of a twist - and this one has got a very nice twist (I think it is nice anyway).  It is found behind the bar.

Well, my sense of humour thought an orange fridge freezer behind the bar was a nice touch anyway.

There was one final thing I was pleasantly surprised by.  I had entered the building during daylight hours and - to be totally honest - I was prepared to be blinded as I left the building due to it being dark.  Put it this way - I have enough experience of coming out of buldings which have cosy interiors only to be blinded by searchlight-strength illuminations to last me a lifetime.

The Orange Tree is as understated on the outside as it is on the inside.

External view of The Orange Tree, High Street, Leicester, at night.

I am pleased I decided to investigate this little gem.  It exceeded my expectations.

If you want somewhere cosy to eat reasonably priced homecooked food - head for The Orange Tree.

When Innovation Ends Up With A Solution Looking For A Problem (Or - Why Not All Innovation Is Good)
1/7/2016 12:35:38 AM
I would like to thank Gemma Pettman for partly inspiring this blog post through our Twitter discussion this week.

There has been a lot of fuss about such buzzwords as "do more with less", "think outside the box", and (my least favourite) "innovation", in the news over the past few years.

However, I am still waiting for someone to point out the obvious.

"Innovation" is only a good thing when the results provide a solution to the problem you had to start with.  In order for this to happen the innovators really need to agree on what they are trying to achieve before they start.

(Yes - I do realise that some really good innovations were the results of experiements which had failed - but they were few and far between.)

We really need to get the right people involved at the beginning.  These would be the people who have personal knowledge of the problem they are trying to solve.  More to the point - they need uptodate knowledge of the problem.

They also need something else - which I fear is lacking in the modern way of "Innovation" - an ability to listen to people who have gone before them and made mistakes without taking their ideas as the absolute "Gospel" truth.

In short, I really think that "conversation" should be seen as a cornerstone for "Innovation".  Learning from the past, as well as the present, could give us a tiny glimpse into the future.

I remember watching "Blue Peter" in the early 1980's - where they showed how they imagined the year 2000 to be like.  Put it this way - I am glad I am not dressed head to toe in aluminium foil.

"Back To The Future" was a slightly more successful glimpse into 2015 - even if they didn't predict a couple of major invention.

I know we cannot predict the future - and (if you ask me) nor should we want to - but surely we can learn from both our past and our present to build a better world for the generations after us???

So - I intend to ignore the buzzwords and just try to make life a bit easier for other people in my own way.

We can only be ourselves but we can also be a community of ideas.

Thought For The Year (Or - Something We Could All Do With Remembering)
1/7/2016 12:09:33 AM
If you follw me on Twitter or Facebook you may have seen I posted a photo of a plaque with Dutch writing on it.

Now - before I share the photo on here (and translate it for you) I feel I must explain something.

You will know by now that my Mum was Dutch.  What you probably won't know is that both she and my Oma (her Mum) were big fans of plaques - and tiles - with sayings on them.  These were usually in Dutch but my Mum did have a poster with a motto on it in German.

My favourite tile belonged to my Oma (and appears to have gone walkabouts after she died).  This one said "A good neighbour is better than a far friend" (Original Dutch - "Een Goede buur is beter als een verre vriend").

My second favourite tile is still in my Dad's kitchen - this one says "Hurry when you have time - then you will have time when you are in a hurry" (Original Dutch "Haast als je tijd hebt - dan heb je tijd als je haast hebt").

The plaque I want to use for my "Thought For The Year" is this one;

English Translation - Nobody gets a programme from the Concert of Life

I found this as I was tidying my bedroom at my Dad's and I thought it would make a good motto for the year ahead.

The Romance Of The History Of Money (Or - How I Know You Probably Own A Peice Of Dutch History!)
1/6/2016 11:53:00 PM
I can just about remember being able to buy a 10p mix (a bag of sweets costing 10 New Pence) with a 2 shilling coin.  I can also just about remember being present when my Mum fed a payphone with 1 shilling coins in order to ring somewhere (they seemed to be interchangeable with coins worth 5 New Pence).

My Grandparents used to tell me about the old pre-decimal money in England - in fact, there is a stash of it somewhere that I really need to sort out.

Being born in the latter part of 1973 I missed the conversion from "Librae, solidi, and, denari" (otherwise known as "Pounds, shillings and pence") to decimal currency by a couple of years.

Apparently the pre-decimal money had really interesting names for some of the coins.

That last sentence reminds me of something.

Remember that in the second part of the title to this blog post I said I know you probably own a peice of Dutch history???

What would you say if I told you it involved a "dubbeltje" - without which you would not be able to play music on a certain object (or use it to watch films, or even load certain programmes onto your computer)???

My favourite coins - (left to right - 2 and a half Guilders, 1 Guilder, 25 cents, 10 cents, 5 cents)

As you can see - the above coins are pre-Euro currency.  However, one of them has left a trace (literally) in an object which is still in use today.

Allow me to introduce you to their names;

2 and a half Guilders was known as a "Rijksdaalder".

1 Guilder was known as a "Gulden"

25 cents was known as a "Kwartje" (nearest equivalent in English would be the US Quarter coin).

10 cents was known as "Dubbeltje"

5 cents was known as "Stuiver".

So, you are looking for an object you could fit an original Dutch 10 cent coin into.

Apparently the inventor of the Compact Disc wanted something to trace round so he could get the hole in the middle of the disc and the first thing which cane into his head was an old Dutch 10 cent coin (or "Dubbeltje").

Below you will see evidence of the result.

Compact Disc with "Dubbeltje" in centre hole

Sometimes The Most Ordinary Looking Objects Have The Best Stories (Or - Why Stories About The Past Can Be The Most Valuable Things We Can Have)
1/6/2016 11:10:21 PM
In my office I have got an object which - in all honesty - actually belongs in the room next door (that room was my Grandparents' bedroom).

The object in question spent a number of years in my bedroom at my Dad's house (until I brought it back with me on Boxing Day).  Don't worry - I didn't steal it.  My Grandma gave it to me.

The caption at the bottom reads "The last in bed put out the light".

All three previous owners of this object have now died.  (All three have been namechecked on this blog a few times before now.)

My Grandma was the one who gave it to me as a momento of my Grandad.  My Grandad was partially responsible for the chip at the bottom of it.  I say "partially responsible" because of the story my Grandma told me about it.

Apparently, when my Grandad still lived in his parents' house he shared a bedroom with his older brother (my Great Uncle Harry - The Leicester Forest East Pianist).

The ornament in the photograph was used to find out who was going to turn the bedroom light off.  This was done through a game of "catch" with - you guessed it - the ornament.  I am not sure what the rules where.  I am just glad it wasn't smashed to bits.

I only have a vague memory of sitting on a piano stool with Uncle Harry - he died when I was three years old.

However, there is a bit of a story connected with him that I would like to share with you.

This took place at my Grandad's funeral - and it involves all three brothers in a way - Uncle Harry, Grandad, and Uncle Roy (they also had a sister called Sylvia).

Uncle Roy was the youngest brother by 13 years - he was also the only brother who was alive at this point.

Uncle Harry had a daughter called Pat who had a nice looking locket on a necklace.  Now - there is one thing you need to know about my Grandad and Uncle Roy - they looked alike.  As in - if you put Uncle Roy on a diet and stretched him so he was a few inches taller - he and my Grandad could pass for twins (one of Uncle Roy's sons could almost pass as a double for my Dad).

Remember I said I only had a vague memory of meeting Uncle Harry???

Well, Pat opened her locket and showed me the photo inside it.  It was a good job that she had said it was a photo of her Dad because the man in the photo and the man standing next to Pat (Uncle Roy) couldn't have looked any more alike if they had tried.  So much so that it took both Pat and Uncle Roy to confirm the man in the photo was neither my Grandad or Uncle Roy.

Funny how families can look so alike even when thete is 20 years difference between the oldest brother and the youngest brother, isn't it?

The ornament may not be valuable in terms of money but the story attached makes it priceless to me.

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