Okay, here we go again with another attempt to write a personal blog entry. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve tried to do over the last week, but by not completing any of them, they musn’t have been right to publish. Lets hope that this attempt actually does come to a satisfactory conclusion.

Its not new year and contrary to some things that I’ve been reading, its certainly not Christmas season at present too (although supermarkets and other shops would have you think differently). I’m currently sat on a sofa in the lounge of the hotel that I’m staying at in devon. Evans is flat out on his side fast asleep at my feet (nothing to do with the smell) after having a very good run around the local park. This week has definitely been a time of reflection of what has gone and indeed what may come in the future (although the former has been much easier to do than the latter). There have been events throughout the year that have simply redefined my approach and attitude to life. Losing my big brother Craig really did have a huge effect on how I manage and look at things. None of us know what is around the corner and hence it is so important to value every good thing that you have. I’ve had to make decisions in terms of jobs this year that have involved swapping a longer term situation for a shorter one, but this has been important because it has helped to preserve happiness and a sense of purpose. In changing jobs in april, along with some of my work colleagues, I met some really nice people, but the organisation that I moved to was not right and the overall ethos was regressive. When an opportunity came up for a shorter term contract with my new employers (or should I say older ones) I jumped at it because it enabled me to value those important things in life again. I’ve learned that a lot can happen in a year (let alone a day, a week or a month), so sometimes short term decisions really are the ones to take.

The same approach may have to be taken in other aspects of life, but to preserve happiness and a sense of purpose, I think it’s a great thing to do. Now when it comes to friends though, it is crucial and important that short termism is not a principle well practised. Friends need to be valued and it is so important to value those who play such an important part in your life. I could go on but lets look to the future and who knows what can happen next .

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There are times in my life when the word exasperation would be too mild a way of depicting how I felt about a particular action undertaken by a particular service provider, organisation or even individual. Yes, its many of the old chestnuts that get me; the ‘oh you’re blind so you cannot do thi’ or ‘why do you want to do that its far too dangerous’. Sometimes though you’ve really got to look at the light side of life and laugh at situations that seem too crazy.

I’ve mentioned this on facebook but they’re worth reflecting upon here. I received a text message from a taxi firm the other day that I’d used in Liverpool. It was a general marketing thing but I like to think it was more individually directed than that. It was advertising for new taxi drivers; full training being given and was I interested. Ah brilliant and I’d already told them I had a guide dog too. Was this taking equality and diversity to a new level? Had they finally found an insurance company that sold policies for the professional blind driver? Ah the temptation to follow this up was great; I could have even asked them if they could provide the application form in Braille.

Life can be too serious at times and yes there are situations that can annoy and be infuriating. However, I’m the first to laugh at myself when I make daft mistakes and I think the same should be done of certain situations. I generally adopt this approach when travelling and by ignoring most of the pushing, comments and jibes that can be thrown our way on a daily commute, life can be definitely a better place. Many people don’t like difference and cannot accept things out of their own perception of them, so let them have the long faces; its really too much of a waste of time.

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I am most definitely in a reflective mood today. Nothing to do with any seasonal adjustment disorder or anything along that line. Autumn, in fact, is a time of year that I’ve tended to like over the years; but this year it is definitely a time of reflection.

It is really difficult to put this into words, because the memory is very clear and very painful, but it is something that I havn’t really been able to do upto now. Emotions can be channelled in many different ways, but the need to recognise them and let them go is so important.

I am the youngest of four brothers; the next (2 and a half years) oldest to me being my brother craig. A year ago, on the 19th of this month, He lost a brave and hard fight against cancer; a disease that shows no mercy and makes no prejudice. The words ‘why’ keep screaming through my mind; the unfairness of what happened is so vivid; the cruelty is pain itself.

This is why the fight against it, through the wonderful work of many charities must go on; cancer research UK amongst many do such stirling work against an evil that does keep taking lives.

It is important though to remember, cherish and live the values that our loved ones stood for. I have so many memories of growing up with Craig. As brothers yes we argued and faught, but importantly we spent many days and weeks and months getting up to all sorts. Playing cricket in too small a garden; trying desperately not to break windows honestly. Listening to lots and lots of music; trying to emulate bands on top of the pops by jumping off our beds – playing stylish imaginary guitar riffs. Craigs love of music just grew and grew over the years; something that whenever we spoke we’d chat about and talk about bands and what was good and what was not; we didn’t always agree, but the conversation was good. He channelled his love for music into playing the guitar and being a member of the excellent elvis Fontenot and the sugar bees (apologies for any variation in spelling).

Craig was a loyal person; a strong believer in justice and the strength of others. We were not in regular touch, but when we did, when the three or four of us came together, it felt as we’d never been apart. I was his best man at his and lisa’s wedding; a honour that meant everything to me; a memory that has and will always live on. It was a fantastic day; even my guide dog (at the time) Lennie was dressed for the occasion with a stylish bow tie on his harness – class.

Catharine, my niece, was one of elaines brides maids at our wedding 4 years ago. She is a wonderful person; kind, helpful and a real tribute to her mum and dad. Craig gave a reading during the service and I remember sitting their thinking ‘slow down lad slow down’ but he gave it everything and was loving being involved. They helped make the day for us; it was wonderful.

There are so many memories that are now coming to mind. I always try to keep these blog posts short and to the point, but memories like this cannot be edited and should not be cut. I smile at the things we have done, but as the months have gone by, I ache at the thought that they’re only memories now. Family was everything to craig and that is a fair lesson to us all. Loyalty and believing in the goodness of others; giving a helping hand and encouraging people to fulfil potential.

Craig was a teacher; a very respected and loved one at that. Its been extremely touching to read some of the tributes that have been paid to him by colleagues and students from the schools that he has worked at. He has had such a powerful and everlasting affect in so many peoples lives. He has made a difference; a real difference for good. My pride in him just keeps rising and rising.

I could and do want to say a lot more. There may be the chance to do that, but I’ve just wanted to write in so many words about my brother – Craig. I’ve found it hard to express up to now, but the chance to write has given me the avenue to do that.

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Now writing a blog can be quite a therapeutic experience. It can help get rid of frustrations, assist in reasoning arguments/debates, Illustrate experiences and give vent to many things; both in a positive and maybe less so positive way. However, like many others, I prefer to be constructive; even when the need to rant is quite strong.

I always tend to place a considerable amount of expectation on myself in the things that I do; whether work related or not. As the years have gone by though, this has been correctly tempered by a growing sense of realism that has slapped the brakes on any unrealistic expectations. It is important to aim high, but its also crucial to realise that you have the ability and the resources to achieve things too.

Sometimes I find it difficult to comprehend the low level of expectations that some people have of me. Yes, this is invariably related to my total blindness and I guess can be explained in many cases by a complete lack of awareness, but still, it is interesting to hear the comments that come my way; both directly and indirectly. Lack of awareness is just that; informed by a distorted or inaccurate image of what it must be like for another person. Being blind does ingender that because the automatic default point is for people to close their eyes and then feel that what they experience must be what its like for someone like me. Loss of sight means darkness, loss of orientation, complete loss of confidence and a continual sense of feeling frightened. That is an extreme experience but one that people do apply to the whole concept of being blind.

Sight is such an immediate recepticle for information and taking in the world around us and therefore the loss of it puts up an immediate barrier to people in that no alternatives can be imagined. For many people losing their sight in later life, it is easier to imagine the difficulty, frustration and sheer terror that they can feel in losing something that they have relied on for so many years. As I have had little or no sight all of my life, I tend to put sight loss into the category of ‘second nature’ and ‘one of those things’ and immediately bring in whatever coping strategies are needed.

Problem solving is such an important factor in ensuring that life runs as smoothly as possible. Choosing to go to unfamiliar places usually means a lot of planning, assessing situations and making sure that routes and assistance points are in place. Sadly and quite often, visiting such locations can be near on impossible due to the lack of information and help. To be blind does require quite a lot of initiative, decision making and evaluation; now are these skills that everyone puts in place? When I commute, I don’t experience a great level of decision making when people choose to try and walk through me whilst messing about on their mobile phones. There never is a great level of sense shown when some drivers decide to park across pavements; hence forcing evans and myself onto the road (often busy with traffic) to get round the results of their lack of foresight, insight and inconsiderate stupidity.

When I have had people coming up to me talking in a voice you’d consider too childish for a 2 year old, I’ve often wondered if they’re actually aware of what they are doing? Whereas their expectations of my intellectual level are low, do they understand that they are actually demonstrating the intellect of a squashed newt and that really they are illustrating what they are actually like.

Low and mixed expectations do have other consequences and ones to explore in a later blog. In the meantime, I’d better go and practice some childish voices .

Night night.

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Is nothing really impossible? I love that phrase; it’s meant to be motivational and to exemplify a true driving spirit, but applying it literally can be interesting and fun.

Take driving for example. The practice itself isn’t impossible and with a navigator who has nerves of steel and has a great sense of adventure and fun then yes that’s not an impossible task. Put me in charge of a double Dekker bus or a heavily armed tank then the word impossible can be used; although the alternatives of impractical and suicidal might be better options.

It’s interesting how the English language can throw up terms that should mean one thing but actually imply another. The sky’s the limit being one that yes it may mean anything’s possible, but if you go so high up the air, you’ll stop breathing and various aspects of support will be needed to ensure that there really are no limits.

My motivation in life is to make the most out of each and every day. If I believed differently then I’m sure the motivation to get through crowds to get to and from work would be far less than it actually is (I sometimes question my sanity with this but there you go). At the age of 45, I do consider myself not to be anywhere near the knacker’s yard as yet and there are still things to experience and do. Yes, taking the spirit of the term nothings impossible is important because it can act as a good motivator, but taking it literally would be interesting to say the least. Well, all I can say is clear this space *smiles*.

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It is clear from my and others experiences that visual impairment is not overly understood by many members of the general public. There are many reasons for this, but ones that deserve a wider platform of debate and discussion. I am, however, happy to take these on, but for the purposes of this reflection, a mere acknowledgement will do.

Now, I’m sure we’ve come across many people on our travels who are grumpy, irritable and just simply ignorant. We’ve just experienced this as I was heading out with evans yesterday to the local shops to get some food for the weekend. We had crossed the road and turned right (at a considerably slower speed than normal) towards the main road when evans did an exceptionally quick emergency stop. Something had run out in front of him and sped off down the path. Naturally, I am going to shout out ‘watch it’ as that’s an instinctive reaction to such a situation.

We paused and then started off again; not having suffered any more anxt from this experience. As I turned onto the main road, this harsh and grumpy voice shouted at me ‘don’t let me catch me talking to my child like that again’. ‘Oh yes’ I thought? Hmm, now let me put logic into this situation. Something had just ran out in front of evans, but due to the fact that I couldn’t see them, then obviously I had to know it was a child. Oh bless these supposedly intelligent people, they must get so much brain ache from being so quick witted and responsible. Picture this, Child running down path next to main road could have equalled horrible accident if it had run out into the raod. He was ahead of his child and clearly exercising good paternal responsibility. Obviously in his temper.

My natural reaction at this point would have been to question the logic of said watchful father but restraint and an appraisal of the situation concluded that his grumpiness would only extend to his kids and wife if I gave him a home truth or two. Instead, I said sorry. Why? Was it my responsibility to keep an eye on his kids? Clearly so. However, on reflection, I decided that The best way to deal with such miserable individuals is to use something that they would never credit us in having – intelligence. Obviously something that he had left at home; in fact he may have simply lost it in the wash.

The upshot of it all was that we’ve had a really good weekend. The downshot for him is that he’s possibly not .

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I’m certainly getting the feeling that the world is becoming a less tolerant place. Whereas we should be cherishing and valuing difference, it’s clear from recent events that patience with things that don’t meet specific beliefs are unacceptable to some. This is such a dangerous trend because intolerance of difference is oppressive and socially damaging and morally repulsive. Okay, big words, but the scenes recently shown from Charlottesville USA only serve to demonstrate the effects of social intolerance; a trend that quickly needs to be halted and turned around.

On a smaller scale, I have written about my disliking of social cliques before. Those situations where people are only accepted into a group if they fit a specific expectation. I remember having this difficulty towards the latter end of my education where after completing my GCSE’s (at a very good school), I went off to another establishment and found it extremely difficult to fit in because I didn’t meet specific expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I met some good people there, but the cliques were certainly out in force there and thankfully I left after 8 months of trying to wade through them.

More recently, someone made a comment to me that was both quite interesting and worrying at the same time. This came from a person who prided themselves on being socially aware, believing in social justice and promoting diversity and acceptance. ‘Oh you’re okay now, you’re in our gang’. They were serious. Therefore, does this mean that if I wasn’t quite okay and possibly didn’t conform with any of their beliefs that I wouldn’t be ‘in their gang’.

Sadly, to be accepted, some will insist that you conform with their stereotypes; even though they will openly say that difference is important. Promoting or steering a social clique is only a form of intolerance of others and their beliefs and I just do not want to be part of it. I must state though, however, that this should be separated from the acceptance of extreme beliefs/practices, because for me these go way beyond the field of tolerance; extremism should not be tolerated and not accepted.

Just because someone has a different view or background to another, shouldn’t have to mean that they cannot value each other’s difference. I certainly like to hear opposite opinions to mine and value them.
At another level, We strive, from day to day, to crack and dismiss the stereotypes that society places upon us as visually impaired

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