In terms of my VI, 2015 was a steady year of learning new things and adapting to my situation. I have covered most of these in previous blog posts and thought I would like to summarise them here at the start of 2016
- I attended various accessibility sessions at Action for Blind People and FOCUS where I learned how to use my simple Samsung mobile phone (gave up on the iPhone as too complicated for me), learned about useful apps (e.g. giving bus times using VoiceOver) and learned how to use Siri on my iPad (although I have the distinct feeling Siri dislikes my RP accent so it sometimes has strange results). I investigated the availability of TVs with voice-activated controls and looked at colour indicating audio labellers, video magnifiers and much else.
- I attended the Macular Society Volunteers Conference. Excellent for networking and learning about the wonderful work of the society. Strongly recommend contacting their Helpline for almost anything you want to know on 0300 3030 111.
- I continued to act as a volunteer telephone befriender.
- I had my old bathroom taken out and replaced by a more accessible shower room with easy controls, underfloor heating and bright lighting. Utter luxury.
- I continued to travel by train with the first-rate assistance of Travel Assistance, which is available at most railway stations.
- I used my Low Vision card to allow friends to accompany me free of charge to concerts, theatre, art galleries and cinemas.
- I attended some interesting talks for people with VI under the auspices of the University of Birmingham’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts Insight programme.
- I decluttered files and transferred as much paperwork as possible to online administration.
- With much help, and some sadness, I weeded out three large bookcases of books, which are now packed away in boxes ready for a bit of a giveaway party. In compensation, I have read 5 books on Kindle and listened to 35 on audio. I struggle with Kindle but really love audio.
- I finally had a cataract operation on my right eye.
“The Cleaner of Chartres” by Salley Vickers. Everything from foundling infant, kind old woodsman, nuns, city of Chartres and the wonderful Chartres Cathedral. Well researched and full of interest.
“A Pattern of Islands” by Arthur Gromble. This was a re-read of one of my favourite memoirs. In 1914, Arthut Grimble and his wife arrived at the remote Ellis Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He was a raw recruit, fresh out of University, for the British Colonial Office. Wonderfully humane, unpatronising, erudite and funny.
“The Story of the Lost Child” by Elena Ferrante narrated by Hilary Huber (18 hours). This is the last in the Naples quartet. More superb writing, but I think I would have preferred to read it, as I did the other three, than listen. This is because I had already built up such a picture of the characters that the narration was somewhat jarring.
“The Last Hundred Years” (trilogy) by Jane Smiley narrated by Lorelei King (approximately 48 hours). This is a great American Novel covering the lives of the Langdon family from Iowa starting in 1920 and finishing in an imaginary 2020. There is a family tree, which a friend kindly talked me through, but this listening project was a real test of my memory. Worth doing though, especially as I had heard Jane Smiley talk about her work at the Cheltenham Festival. She really loves horses!
“Spectre” James Bond – Daniel Craig – fun and easy to watch.
“Brooklyn” – beautiful but a bit too ‘plastic’ Irish for me.