On Getting Lost

One of the scariest things about being blind, is getting lost. All it can take is the smallest of mistakes while navigating a route and if you can’t see what you’ve done wrong, or work out how to correct your mistake, before you know it you’re lost.

I’ve been lost more times in my life than I can count, both just metres from my front door and miles from home. And it’s not just myself I can rely on to screw things up, but the weather, road noise and people changing their front gates even, all contribute to the ability to navigate when you don’t have the luxury of sight. Here are just a few examples of the times I have gotten lost, including today.

1. Wrong House

I was living in the middle of a row of town houses, all with identical frontages, all with identical gate. So that I could identify which gate was mine, I fastened a (insert name) to the top of the gate so that I can run my hand along the line of gates and find my house. One day, it was snowing heavily and I was walking home from lectures ready to meet my dad who was visiting. But when I got to my row of houses and started running my hand along the gates, there was so much snow and ice that I couldn’t feel which one was mine. Back and forth, back and forth I went for ages, freezing cold and becoming more and more frustrated.

In the end I just stopped and stood there, helpless to think of what to do. I could have knocked on the door of one of the houses and asked what number they were so that I could orientate myself. I could have asked a passer-by for help. But I didn’t. Why? Embarrassment. That deadly, destructive, helplessness-creating human emotion paralysed me. The thought of saying to someone, “excuse me, I know I live in one of these houses but I can’t find it, can you help me?” was just too humiliating and so I waited until my dad arrived, which luckily wasn’t long.

“Why are you standing outside?” he said when he got there. “Don’t ask”, I said.

2. Wrong Street

A couple of years later, I was living in Sheffield with my girlfriend at the time, going through university. We lived in a lovely flat which was in a small block of new-builds, at the far end of a street of terraced houses, overlooking a large park. All the surrounding streets, including ours, lead on to a main road which was the main artery of the suburb in which we lived and on that road were things you expect to find – bus stops, grocery stores, pubs and so on. The only way which I could identify my street was to get off the bus at a particular stop and count the side roads – mine being the sixth one down (how I can still remember that I don’t know.”

One day, the driver of the bus I was on forgot to tell me when it was my stop (this was in the days before audio announcements on busses) and so I realised when the bus made a turn that I’d been on it for too long. “How we gone past the Co-up?” I asked the driver. “Oh yes sorry love,” he said, “I completely forgot. I’ll let you off at the next stop and you just need to go back to the corner and turn right.” At this point, dread filled my gut. Just going back to the corner and turning right might sound simple, but when you don’t know how far away that corner is, whether there are any side roads to cross before you get there, and the location of the stop and the bus stop I was supposed to get off at once around said corner, oh the anxiety!

So I got off the bus and tried to find the way home. I managed to get myself back on to the main road, but then it all went wrong. Countless times I was convinced I had found the turning on to my street, but when I’d walked a little way down each road, I realised due to the landmarks and distances between side roads that this wasn’t my road. I eventually made it home a couple of hours later, exhausted.

3. This is Willesden

Another bus adventure – oh how I hated buses before they started talking. One night after work, I took the tube from central London to Hammersmith and instead of changing tubes to go to Acton which is where I lived, I walked out of the station and headed to the nearby gym of which I was a member, to do a spinning class. The session went well and after I’d showered and dressed, I went back to the station, but instead of taking the tube (and then a bus), I decided to take the 266 which would take me straight to the end of my road.

By this time it had started to rain and I got on the bus, looking forward to being home and dry. But the bus was busy and for some reason the audio announcements were turned right down, so you literally could hardly hear them. Straining my ears, I listened out for my stop, but announcement after announcement case and I didn’t catch anything which sounded like the right one. Eventually, I decided I’d definitely been on the bus for too long and that I needed to get off.

By this time the rain was splashing down in huge droplets and it was dark. I took out my IPhone and tried to bring up a map, but it was raining so hard that my fingers just slide across the screen, not producing any results. In my mind I wasn’t too far from home, so I turned around a started walking in the direct from which the us had come. But after a while it was clear that I didn’t know where I was and the wind and rain were hampering my navigation skills considerably. So I ducked in to the nearest doorway which was open and asked for help.

“Sorry, “ I said, “but I’m lost – can you tell me where I am?”
“You’re in Willesden,” said the man behind the counter (it was a kebab shop – what luck!)
“I need to get to Acton” I said, water cascading off my hair and down my face. “Could you call me a cab?”
Thankfully he did and while I waited, I had something to eat. When I got back to my house share I ran straight upstairs desperate to get in to the shower and warm up. “If you’re thinking of having a shower, the boiler’s broken”, called one of my housemates. At that point, I stripped off, got in to bed and had a little cry. Just a little one.

4. And finally… the Wrong Side of the Road

If you’ve managed to read this far, well done! I didn’t intend on writing quite so much, but once I’d thought of one, all the memories came back to me. I’m sitting on a train on my way in to London. I have a meeting with my new boss as I’m starting a new role tomorrow. This morning I worked from home, thinking I would catch a quieter train in to town at around mid day and spend the afternoon in the office. It wakes about 15 minutes to walk from my house to the nearest train station and it’s quite a pleasant walk when the weather is nice. But I wanted to give myself plenty of time so that I wasn’t typically rushing around and racing to meet the train and so I left about 25 minutes before my train was due. It’s a good job I did.

As I locked my front door the sun was beating down and for some reason, instead of crossing the road and turning right to walk down to the main road, I thought I’d stay on my side of the street and walk down a bit before I crossed over. This was fine, except that once I crossed over, it felt like it was taking too long to get to the main road and I started to wonder if the dog had crossed at a funny angle and we’d taken a turning without me realising. So the next road we got to I thought must be the main road. It was quiet being the middle of the day, so it was hard to tell from the traffic, but I turned left anyway and kept going. Please let this be right, please let this be right, I think to myself as we motored along, and then I hit some tactile paving that signified a designating crossing. A crossing which, if I was on the right road, shouldn’t be there. Balls, balls, balls!!!

But never fear, Google Maps is here – thank goodness. Stopping, I dug in my bag for my IPhone and loaded up Google Maps. “Get directions to the nearest train station” I told it sternly and low and behold, my local station appeared as being an 8 minute walk away. Feeling relieved, I set off.

“Head South on No Name Road and turn right” said the friendly voice which was now my only hope of getting to the station on time. “Head south on No Name Road, then turn right”, it said again. “Head south on…” at this point I figured I must be walking north rather than south and so I turned around.

Two questions. Why does Google Maps tell you to head “north, south, east or west” when if you’re anything like me, you don’t have a clue which way is which? Why can’t they make it more intelligent so that it figures out which way your phone is pointing and tells you to turn around?

Anyway, my little human brain worked it out that I was heading the wrong way and on turning around I was relieved to hear it counting down the distance to my next right turn, which I took successfully. “Continue to Old Shoreham Road, then turn right” my guide helpfully advised. Yes! At this point my heart leapt because from there, I could figure out where I was.

Problem solved, you might think. Accept as I was getting close to the end of the road and getting ready to turn right, we seemed to hit a dead end with bushes and shrubbery directly in front. “Foxy,” find the way, “I said” and she dutifully turned around and started heading back the way we’d come. “No Foxy,” I said, “Find right.” Foxy obediently turned around again, but this time she tried to turn right just before the bushes and by doing so scraped the whole of my left arm and the left side of my head along a row of thorns. “Ouch, ouch, ouch!” I roared, bringing her to a stop and feeling the blood start to drip down my arm. Shit, shit, shit!

“Come on girl,” I said, taking a deep breath, “Let’s try again.” I could hear the main road in front of me and this time I guided Foxy left around the bushes and thankfully, on to the main road.

We reached the station with 1 minute to spare and believe me when I say that this is the only time I’ve been thankfully for Southern Rail’s crap service, the train was delayed by 3 minutes.

Standing on the platform, blood and sweat running down my face and my arm, I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself. I took out some wet wipes from my bag and cleaned myself up, hoping the blood wasn’t on my clothes or the jacket I was carrying. When I tell my wife this story later, she’ll immediately rebuke herself for not being able to drive me to the station today and then rebuke me for not walking the route as often as I used to and therefore not being as confident as I could have been. But it’s not her fault, nor is it mine. It’s just one of the things about not being able to see that you have to live with.

The other day I met up with a lady who I met about 5 years ago. She’s a fellow civil servant and at that time had just lost her sight. We met as we were going through the ticket barriers at the tube station closest to our offices and some ignorant person had tried to push their way through at the same time as her and they knocked her over. I was right behind her and immediately want over and helped her up. She was shaking and almost crying and told me that she had lost her sight recently and was waiting for a guide dog and that she kept being pushed over because she was still trying to find her natural balance without being able to see. My heart went out to her and I walked with her out on to the street, trying to calm her and telling her that things would get better. When we met up the other day, she was the picture of confidence. She has a guide dog now and she told me all about their travels together, to New York and Canada and other places. All of which she does by herself. We talked about resilience because it’s a word that gets bandied about a lot at work and there are workshops and courses on “how to be resilient.” But all they tend to teach you in the workplace form of resilience, which is to take on more and more stress without complaining or crumbling. But that’s not the true definition of resilience in my mind. Resilience is being pushed over in the middle of a tube station and getting back up and continuing on your journey. Resilience is getting completely lost and feeling scared and confused and alone and sometimes getting physically injured, but finding the strength to get yourself out of the situation and the courage to go out of the house again on your own, knowing it may well happen again. Resilience is being taken for an ideott because you have a disability and not becoming bitter or resentful, but to continue being polite and gracious and not letting that experience colour your future experiences. That’s resilience in its truest sense.

On a lighter topic, we’re off to go camping in Devon this weekend – enjoy the sunshine!

No Guide to Parenting

A couple of days ago, a blind friend of mine wrote this on her facebook: “Why do sighted people always feel the need to ask if my son can see? It’s as though people can’t believe that 2 blind people can make a sighted child.”

 

This friend happens to be one of my oldest and dearest friends – in fact, we’re more like sisters. We met in a performance class at college when I was 16 and she was 17. We spent the next couple of years living together and hanging out all the time and we’ve been firm friends ever since. She also met her husband at around that time through friends and they now have 2 children together. He, is also blind.

 

Now here’s another strange question that people tend to ask. “Do blind people always end up with other blind people?”

Hmmm. Let me think about this………….. no!

People end up with people, regardless of race, gender, disability and age. I thought that was pretty apparent in today’s society. But it seems not.

 

My friends just so happen to both be blind. But they didn’t meet each other through some weird dating sight for blind people (actually that’s given me a business idea – I could call it BlindDates.com).

 

One of the first things that people ask me when I mention I’m married if they don’t know my wife, is: “is your wife blind too, or can she see?”

Have you any idea how annoying that is? Imagine asking a black person, “is your husband black too? Do you have black babies, or are they mixed race?”

 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the same logic which applies to polite conversation around other protected characteristics, doesn’t seem to apply to disability. People seem to think they have a free pass to ask what they want, no matter how offensive it might be. I wonder if this is because people without disabilities think subconsciously that they’re of a higher status in society and therefore have the right to act like insensitive arses sometimes.

 

And the worst thing? We know, as disabled people, that at some point we’re likely to need some form of help from strangers and so we’re usually instinctively polite, even when we’re offended.

 

This is a phenomenon myself and the same 2 friends often discuss. One of the things we enjoy doing when we get together is telling stories about the things that have happened to us in the course of our daily lives, usually when encountering members of the public. It’s a way of getting it out there in the same way that writing this blog is a way of acting as an outlet and it can be a great way of releasing pent up anger, sadness or frustration.

 

Like the story about the weird Yorkshireman who seemed to follow me on my train journey home for a few months, talking to me all the way and then approaching me and my then girlfriend in a pub one day to tell her what a “lovely girl” I was. Weirdo!

 

Or the row that some passengers got into once when a rather buxom lady wouldn’t give up her seat for my then pregnant blind friend, which culminated in some of the other passengers telling her that if she wasn’t such a fat cow, she may not actually need to sit down. Terrible I know (and I’m no slim chicken myself), but it was very funny at the time.

 

Or the man in the cue at Costa Coffee who turned to me and sincerely said, “I don’t know if anyone has ever told you this before, but youa re beautiful.” *cringe*

 

But some things just can’t be laughed at.

 

Like the woman in my friend’s local bakery, who – without any preamble or cause – told my friend one day when she was out with her first born that she should be ashamed of herself bringing a child in to this world when she wasn’t fit to look after it and what a drain on the tax payer she was, because she obviously wouldn’t have a job. She does, by the way and so does her husband – they don’t rely on the state at all.

 

Or another individual who told my friend that she was selfish for having a child who would obviously need to be a carer when he got older.

 

Or the woman who spent 20 minutes verbally abusing me on a bus one time because apparently my guide dog was taking up too much room. Blind people shouldn’t be allowed on public transport, didn’t you know?

 

Those are some of the worst examples of things people have said to me and my 2 wonderful, intelligent, hard-working and highly competent blind friends. But in between, there are some who are just simply ignorant and who can’t comprehend at all how a blind couple could raise children in a safe and healthy environment.

 

When I talk about my blind friends to my sighted friends, they ask questions like, “but how can the children be safe?” and, “what if the baby puts something in its mouth and the parents can’t see it?” and, “but how do they take the children out anywhere?” Even my own wife who is used to living with someone without sight took a long time to get her head around the whole thing.

 

But if you think long enough and hard enough, the answers to these questions will be broadly similar to the same questions you might ask of sighted parents.

 

You make the environment safe for the children by baby-proofing the house! In fact I’d say that my friends’ kids are probably safer at home than most other kids because they’ve gone to such advanced lengths to baby-proof in order to compensate for their lack of sight.

 

If a child does put something in its mouth and accidently swallows it, well this could easily happen to sighted parents who turn their back for a minute or who are distracted. You can’t have eyes on children 24 hours a day. I wonder how many parents without disabilities rock up to A&E because their child has accidentally swallowed a marble, or stuck a bead up their nose, or put something in their ear? I bet it’s more than you might think.

 

When my friends want to go out with the kids, they take their guide dogs and either put the kids in the push chair which they can pull behind them, or they put the older one on Rayne’s so that he can walk alongside them and not run off. Is this commonplace? Yes it is.

 

So the next time you spot a blind person with a baby, please don’t assume that they are incompetent parents and that the tax payer is funding their lifestyle. Think twice. Because all they are doing is what you or I or anyone would do. They’re making the best of life and raising a family with kids who will grow up to view differences as normal and whose mind-set will be so much more advanced than other kids because they’ve seen the adaptability and versatility of the human psyche.

 

My friend’s oldest (JR) is 3 years old and his vocabulary is outstanding. Because unlike other kids who just point to things they want, he has learned that if he wants something from mummy or daddy then he has to articulate what that is. So instead of standing in front of his dad with his arms up waiting to be picked up, he goes up to his dad and says, “I want a cuddle.” And instead of just crying when his mum dresses him in clothes he doesn’t want to wear, he says “not trousers, shorts today.” He knows colours and shapes and different food and modes of transport and names of places like shop, beach, hospital, forest and nursery. He is the most adaptable 3 year old I’ve ever met and I think that’s largely down to being raised by 2 people who don’t set limits for what people are capable of achieving.

 

One day, JR said to me, “your eyes are like mummy and daddy’s, they don’t work do they?” I replied, “that’s right little man”. “Granma and Granddad’s eyes work though” he said, “they can see things”. “Yes, that’s right too,” I said. “I can see things,” he told me in earnest. “I know you can Angel” I said and we went on playing shop together while he carried on figuring out the world around him.

 

So here’s to blind parents, and blind aunties for that matter too.

Eyes Wide Shut

One of the things I love about kids, is that up to a certain age they don’t have a social filter. By social filter, I mean that they haven’t heard the social norms of the culture they’re going up in and specifically, what isn’t socially acceptable to either say or do.

While undertaking my very brief tube ride the other day from my office to the mainline station I use to get my train home, I ended up standing next to a little boy who was immediately fascinated by my guide dog.
“Look mummy, a dog!” he exclaimed. At this point I smiled, as this reaction was the one I prefer out of the two that kids usually have when they see the dog. The other, if you’re wondering, is screaming hysterically because they’re frightened of dogs (and yes, adults do that too sometimes).
“What’s the doggy’s name?” asked the little boy.
“She’s called Foxy”, I replied.
“Are dog’s allowed on trains?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said, “and this one’s a special dog. She’s a guide dog.”
“What’s a guide dog?” he asked, curious.
“A guide dog is a highly trained dog that has the job of leading people around who can’t see where they’re going.”
“So, can you not see?”
“No, I can’t see anything.”
*Contemplative pause*
“So… if you can’t see anything, why are your eyes wide open?”

At this point, the adult family members who were with the kid exclaimed his name in horrified unison.
“It’s ok,” I said, because it honestly was. I love it when kids are curious and when they’re still young enough not to instinctively curb that curiosity for fear of upsetting someone.
“I honestly have no idea,” I replied, “it’s one of life’s great mysteries.”

A few facts about my eye condition

I was born with a condition called Leber’s Congenital Amaurrosis, which is an eye disorder which primarily affects the retina – the specialised tissue at the back of the eye that detects light and colour. People with this disorder typically have severe visual impairment, which is mostly stable but which can deteriorate over time.

LCA is also associated with other vision problems, including photophobia, nystagmus (involuntary eye movement) and hyperopia (extreme far-sightedness). The pupils, which usually expand and contract in response to the amount of light entering the eye don’t react normally to light. Instead, they expand and contract more slowly, or not at all and the cornea (the clear front-covering of the eye) may be cone shaped and abnormally thin.

A specific behavior called Franceschetti’s oculo-digital sign is characteristic of LCA. This sign consists of poking, pressing, and rubbing the eyes with a knuckle or finger. Researchers suspect that this behavior may contribute to deep-set eyes and keratoconus in affected children.

LCA occurs in 2 to 3 per 100,000 newborns. It is one of the most common causes of blindness in children and there are multiple variations depending on the severity and pattern of vision loss.

So how does this condition affect me personally?

I have no useful vision. The light receptors in my eyes work to some extent because I can detect significant changes in light. I say significant, because there has to be a real contrast between one light situation and another for me to be able to spot it. So for example, I can’t detect when the sun is going down, just that it was shining and then at some point later, it’s dark. I also wouldn’t be able to detect if I’m sitting by a window in a room where the lights are on and it’s light outside, or similarly where the lights are off and it’s dark outside. I can’t see lamp light or candle light unless the room is completely dark and I can’t see stars or street lights. Anything else like shadows or colours or shapes, I can’t see at all.

My parents and the doctors didn’t realise I was blind when I was first born. Babies can’t open their eyes very much at first and it takes them a while to learn how to focus on particular faces or objects. So it was only at this point that people started to realise something was wrong.

As a child I poked my eyes a lot (the Franceschetti’s oculo-digital sign behaviour I mentioned earlier). According to online resources which give a pretty accurate description, “the affected child constantly or occasionally sticks the fingers of one or both hands into the eye socket, manipulates eyelid, and thus exerts a heavy pressure bulbus.” I constantly did this when I was young and a phrase which rang out constantly throughout my childhood by my parents and teachers was “Hayley! Take your fingers out of your eyes”, or when they got tired of saying it, just: “Hayley! Fingers!”
Fingers!”

As a result of this my eyes are fairly deep set. Not freakishly so, but I do get large dark rings under my eyes when I’m tired which I think are more prominent because my eyes are quite far back in their sockets. No one can really explain why people with my eye condition do this, but the theory is that it’s to try to get the pupils to respond and to encourage perceptible light changes in the eyes. I do still sometimes do this when I’m tired or stressed, but I’ve learned that it’s not socially acceptable to do it in public.

So when that child on the tube asked me how much I can see and why my eyes are wide open, I guess I lied a bit. I’m not completely blind – my world isn’t filled with darkness and I love seeing the sun shine. But telling people anything other than this is just far too complicated – at least for a very brief conversation. Usually when I try to explain to people that I can see a degree of light, they automatically assume that I must be able to see colours and shadows because it’s pretty hard to comprehend a world where you can see light, but you can’t see anything else. The only way I can describe it to people is that it’s like having a torch shone in your eyes when you’re in a dark room but without the pain. All you can see is that light and because it’s directly in your eyes you can’t see anything else. So my eyes, even though they’re open, are effectively closed to 99 per cent of the world.

Reconnecting

One of the things about not having any sight is the different ways your brain allows you to remember people who made an impression on you when you met them. Whether it was the perfume they wore, or the way they shook your hand, their laugh or their accent. If they made an impression on you, something will stick in your memory. Just like a face if you can actually see.

People often ask me how I remember so much information, or how I know I’m attracted to someone when I meet them if I can’t see them. This question in particular seems odd to me and reaffirms my belief that people rely on sight so much that they forget that all their other senses are working away in the background. This makes people really believe that if you can’t see someone, how on earth can you judge whether you’re attracted to them or not?

I’ll say this. I’m more likely to forget you if I meet you when I’m drunk than at any other time and that is nothing to do with sight.

Today, an email came around at work from the Women’s network, inviting people to buddy up and have a coffee with someone you don’t know, in order to make a new connection. I’m a sucker for things like this and so I opened up the spreadsheet containing all the names of people who had signed up to be coffee-partners. As I read down the list I found people I already knew, lots of people I didn’t, and one in particular who I had known years back when I first joined my department but who I hadn’t seen for years. This woman had been bubbly, funny, intelligent and I had gotten on with her really well and so I emailed her straight away, asking if she remembered who I was and if she wanted to meet for coffee. I got this response:

“AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! You remember me!!! What a great memory you have!!!! I’ve seen you around and been too afraid to approach you in case you said, “who the hell are you?” lol!!!”

This response made me both happy and a little bit sad. I returned to the same building where I’d met this woman last March and I’ve been working there ever since. What made me happy was that she very clearly remembered me, including that I was about to get married the last time we spoke. But what made me sad, was that she had obviously seen me around the building, but had herself been too afraid to approach me, in case I had no memory of who she was.

Now this might just be a generic human thing. But I bet it’s to do with the fact that I can’t see, and she was thinking that if I couldn’t remember her face then how else, or why else, would I remember anything about her?

When I haven’t seen someone in a long time, I find that most people who approach me fall in to one of two camps:

Camp 1
“Hello, so good to see you! How are you? What have you been up too? Are you still working in the same place/with the same partner?” etc etc etc. But at no point do they think of telling me who they actually are. This has resulted in many an awkward conversation which in some cases has lasted for at least half an hour, with me not having a clue who I’m talking too and being too embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember this person. Some of the time I’ll remember the person’s voice and can recall straight away who they are. But if it’s someone who didn’t particularly leave a lasting impression? Forget it. Hence the awkward conversation which then follows with me trying to ask very generic questions about their life.

Camp 2
“Hello! You don’t know who I am do you? Come on, who am I? Do you remember my voice? I can’t believe you don’t remember my voice!”
When this happens, I want to punch that person in the face. Why would you go up to someone and taunt them on the basis of their biggest weakness. Would you go up to a person in a wheelchair and then dance away from them backwards going, “you can’t catch me can you? Come on, see if you can catch me. I can’t believe you can’t catch me!” That’s exactly the same and unless you’re a sadistic fucker, you wouldn’t do it. So why do people think it’s acceptable to go, “you don’t know who I am do you? Come on! I’ll give you a clue…”
My response? “FUCK YOU!”

Fact number 1 of the day. People’s memories fade over time. So in the way that you forget faces if you can see, you also forget voices if you can’t.

Fact number 2 of the day. It’s much easier to remember names if you can’t see, than to remember other details like voices. So 9 times out of 10, if you approach a blind person and say “Hi, it’s Jo Blogs from the Department for Courteous Humans”, that person will have a much better chance of immediately recalling who you are and how they know you.

Isn’t it strange how awkward and paradoxical we are as a society. On night’s out, some people don’t think twice about asking a complete stranger if they can buy them a drink, or going home to have sex with the same stranger a few hours later. But there’s something socially unacceptable about saying that you don’t remember someone and there’s something deep within us that similarly doesn’t like the thought that we may not be remembered, because ultimately this is a form of rejection. A rejection of the memory of you, because you weren’t significant enough to remember.

So I’m now going for coffee with this woman, because we do remember each other. But if I hadn’t emailed her and reached out in that way, she would probably have stayed over the other side of the office, wondering whether she was significant enough to be remembered.

Judgement Call

Through the Looking Glass

Sometimes you have to laugh to stay sane

Yesterday while I was taking a lovely afternoon off work to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen for ages, I received a phone call from a broker who I’ve been using in order to secure some additional borrowing so that we can do some major improvements to our house. The call went something along the lines of the following:
Agent: “So, thank you for completing all the paper-work we needed. There’s just one issue. The lender… well… they’ve said that you need to go to a solicitor to sign the documents again and have it witnessed in case you’re being pressured or coerced by your partner.”

Now reader, if I should reveal to you at this point that I have a disability, based on that phone call, what would you hazard a guess at it being?
A) Learning difficulties;
b) Dementia
c) A serious mental health condition which limits my capacity to make decisions; or
d) None of the above.

I’d really like it if you left a comment to let me know what your guess was.

The answer? D – None of the above.

For the purposes of our interactions through this blog, you can call me H. I’m a 30 year old woman, I live in Brighton and work in London for the government in a well-paid, highly skilled job. I’m gay, married to a woman who I will refer to as D and I’m blind. We have a dog (who is my guide dog) and an adopted cat who I’m pretty sure is also gay because he’s a complete queen (he just miao’d when I wrote that – I swear!).

So… I asked myself while listening to this bizarre phone call, why in the world would anyone in their right mind think it necessary for me to have to go to a solicitor to have a document I’m signing witnessed by someone who isn’t my wife? Does this lender think that blindness causes a lack of mental capacity to make good judgements about the people you trust in your life and to make rational decisions? I’ve signed many documents in my life both privately and professionally and only once was this in front of a witness – when I got married!

Welcome to my blog. So that I don’t end up going mad and shoving someone’s face in to a pile of my dog’s poo, I thought I’d start writing about my daily (and yes I do mean daily) experiences of dealing with people who, quite honestly, have no idea how to deal with me. Not in a ranty way, or a feeling sorry for myself way, but purely as a way to take the absolute piss out of the world around me, as I see it. Because what’s the best way to overcome adversity, prejudice and ignorance/ Laugh, laugh, laugh!

PS: I didn’t just laugh at that broker on the phone, I wrote a very strongly worded email telling them to have a word with the lender about their discriminatory practices and to tell them that if they don’t stop their nonsense I’ll take my business elsewhere!