50 tHinGs about Blindness - Advice, Anecdotes, and Ponderings

1. It does make you wonder if there’s some truth to the old admonition ‘Stop it or you’ll go blind’
2. It can be used as an excellent excuse for a dreadful Artwork
3. Unless you have a death wish, don’t pick your own mushrooms. It’s much safer to buy them.
4. Hang a pair of spectacles around your neck, as even if you do have a pair in every room it’s often hard to find them unless you have a pair handy to begin with
5. Reading labels is impossible because of the small print manufacturers use for ingredients and nutritional information, so when shopping always carry a small magnifying glass. I carry a folding jewellers loupe in my pocket.
6. Wrist watches are truly impossible. When having to go out I carry a small travel clock. It may look a little odd, but it works. ( Remove the batteries if travelling by air, as ticking luggage seems to upset airport security )
7. Choose simple PIN for ATM’s, one you can use by feel, or you’ll end up with the machine eating your card after too many wrong attempts.
8. Get used to offending people who wave at you from a passing car; it’s hard enough trying to see where you’re going anyway, so there’s little time or ability to notice passing traffic while negotiating a footpath
9. Of course, the above was meant for when out walking, as you can no longer drive. That’s one of the things I miss most, as without driving you lose independence, and have to rely on others. Where I live now in the bush it would cost me $150 to hire a taxicab to shop at my closest supermarket. Not being able to drive is probably the thing which most of all makes me disgruntled. Whinge! Whinge! Whinge!
10. Then again I love where I live. The greatest problem in walking here is that I’m liable to mistake a snake for a stick on the ground, which could be a slight inconvenience. Fortunately I make so much noise tripping and muttering that most snakes have plenty of warning that I’m coming, and slither away, as they’re really quite timid, and much maligned creatures
11. Walking in the bush has further hazards, as often you’re so busy watching the ground you don’t notice what’s overhead, and many’s the time I’ve had my hat knocked off or been poked in the eye by low branches. Always seems to be the eye; you’d think with the area of the head being so large a sharp branch could aim for a cheek, or a nose
12. When in the city there are different things to cope with. Not being able to see the numbers on buses is a big problem, and some bus drivers get most upset when they stop for you, and you ask them are they going to so and so. They often respond with ‘No, you need bus number 1234 or whatever, are you blind or something?’ I’ve never been able to think of a clever answer to that.
13. When finally on the right bus, you have to place your ticket in an automatic reader for verification, and with the bus jolting away and you trying to keep your balance, I invariably seem to put my ticket in the wrong way, sounding a warning. There’s a 50/50 chance you’ll get it right, but somewhere in my life I must have offended the God of public transport, and I get it wrong more often than right. Sometimes though a sympathetic passenger will lend a hand, making me wonder if there’s a secret society amongst commuters, and that not all people are bastards!
14. Now to the subject of mirrors: They can be extremely kind, and poor eyesight doesn’t let you see all the wrinkles and age spots
15. However, after saying that, if you’re going out it’s advisable to put on your specs and have a good look, especially for snot, as this can save some embarrassment. I learned this the hard way after one particular trip when I noticed people touching their noses when talking to me. I found this rather odd, until some kind soul whispered to me to check my nose. I was mortified, but very grateful, and after checking myself in a public toilet I fixed the problem, and any further conversations that day didn’t include nose touching to my great relief. I was beginning to think it was some secret sign of recognition like a Masonic handshake.
16. If you love women, as I do, you have to be careful when looking at them, as visually challenged persons like myself tend to turn their heads or even their whole torsos to get a better focus. At a wine tasting I attended I was rather taken by one of the waitresses, and my daughter gave me a painful kick in the shins and said ‘Dad! Do you want everyone to know you’re a perv!’ I didn’t know until then I was doing it, and am now trying to find ways to be much more discreet.
17. This same daughter also pointed out the error of my ways when we were sitting on a park bench having lunch, and I was keenly watching a rather beautiful person sitting some distance away. I told my daughter I rather fancied this divine creature, but she had to spoil my fantasy by pointing out I’d spent ten minutes ogling a young man.
18. I also had the habit of seeing someone I thought I knew walking in front of me, and attracting their attention by gently poking them in the back with my stick, and saying a rather jolly hello. After almost being charged with assault by a complete stranger I don’t do this anymore
19. Judging distance can be a problem. Working on a painting I decided it needed a splodge of light blue in an area to bring it to life. I charged my 2" brush, and extended my arm to apply it, only to discover I was not making contact with the canvas. To my consternation I discovered I was a full inch short. I now have to paint by ‘feel’, or become a complete minimalist. The first time this happened was several years ago. It was at this stage I had to stop living in denial and recognise that there was definitely something wrong with my sight.
20. When looking closely at a painting in progress it often happens that the tip of my nose touches the surface and I end up looking like Bozo the Clown!
21. If you are fond of having a beverage nearby when painting, put it in an easily recognised mug or well away from your work surface, as many’s the time I’ve rinsed my paintbrush in my drink, which not only makes it taste peculiar but could result in poisoning.
22. Reading a ruler or tape measure is now impossible. I used to enjoy cutting my own mats, but after making a pig’s ear of it too many times I now get it done professionally.
23. Using a camera is also now a pain. I can’t see the LCD, and have reverted back to the point and shoot method. Thank God for digital cameras, as otherwise I’d be spending a fortune on 35 mm film.
24. Also mat cutting requires a very sharp knife, as does cutting vegetables etc., and I’ve found it easier to live out of cans and buy re-heatable meals. Fairly boring, but safe, except for opening cans. Has anybody else noticed that the design of cans appears to have altered, and that the good old reliable tin openers no longer work on modern canned goods?
25. If your peripheral vision is affected like mine is and you can’t judge distance I’d advise unbreakable crockery, as often the bench or table you think you’re placing your cup on is actually somewhere else. Lots of breakages and burned feet, not to mention having to get the mop out once again.
26. Even pouring boiling water into your mug is fraught with danger. I’ve often missed the cup completely and ended up with boiling water all over the kitchen bench and floor, not to mention my feet!
27. I use a lot of tape and thick black textas, and put signs and big notes to myself where I’m sure to see them and be able to read them.
28. Telling time is difficult. I’ve bought a few clocks either with large black numbers and hands on a white background, or vice-versa, and existing clocks I’ve painted the hands and numbers so I can see them. I also make sure I have a system for food, and use-by dates: seems I worry a lot about poisoning myself.
29. The hardest part for me is actually accepting my condition, and stop being in denial. Once that is done you can get on with your life, by making changes to what you’re used to doing.
30. Taking drugs can help. At least you get to see something, and do feel a bit better, but you have to be really careful of overdose.
31. If you sometimes have to wear an eye-patch, try to accessorise by also wearing a broad brimmed hat or bandana, and stick a fake parrot to your shoulder. It also helps to mutter Arrr Arrr Arrr as often as possible
32. I began to practise for the possibly inevitable ( is that an oxymoron ? ) and tried walking about the house at night without turning on any lights. It resulted in a broken toe, and a puddle on the toilet floor.
33. It’s much better to forget your pride if you’re a man, and to be a big girlie by sitting on the toilet to pee, as it then doesn’t matter if your aim is a bit off.
34. I decided to learn to use my electric stove properly, and now have large pieces of masking tape near all the dials. My original method when in denial was to take a guess and feel the hotplates, but ended up with a badly burned hand.
35. All electric appliances can be a danger, as manufacturers love to use the tiniest writing possible. I ruined a good meal and almost my microwave when I mistook the 10 minute setting for the 10 second one. I only discovered what I’d done by the loud popping noises, the smell, and the fact I was hungry, and after about five minutes of waiting my tummy was letting me know something must be amiss. Microwave ovens are a bitch to clean. I’ve since tried to but an old fashioned Microwave with the dial you could simply turn, but all they have is these modern new-fangled fancy ones that supposedly do practically everything for you but eat the meal. How can a microwave know how long it takes to re-heat something to just the way you like it? I’ll keep searching.
36. You do learn to tell by feel which buttons do what on the remote controls for the TV, VCR, and DVD. When my sight’s really bad I just listen, anyway, and picture what’s happening on screen in my head: It’s like the old days of radio.
37. Mobile phones are useless to me, as they are now so tiny. Fortunately there’s no signal where I live now anyway, so I won’t bitch about them.
38. Normal telephones are a problem, and I was forever dialling wrong numbers, but after some searching I did find one with huge buttons. Thank You to that manufacturer for being so thoughtful. I’d give you a free plug but I can’t make out your name on the tiny sticker on the bottom of the phone.
39. ’Don’t play tennis with a potato’ has no relevance. It’s something I saw on a Japanese T-shirt, and really tickled my fancy. Seems the Japanese have even a stranger sense of humour than we Germans.
40. I do like to smoke things, but often make a hell of a mess by licking the wrong side of the rice paper when rolling up. I did buy a machine to do this, but you still have to lick the paper at some stage, and if you’ve licked the wrong side the contents fly across the room making an even bigger mess.
41. Because of the innacuracy of my vision, and the inability to judge distances correctly, I have set fire to my beard on numerous occasions when lighting up. I could of course shave off my beard, or better still not smoke things, but hey, some people say it helps.
42. Keep a fine toothed comb in your pocket ( if there’s room with all the other things you have to carry there ), and if you do have a beard give it a good comb before going out in public. It’s amazing and disgusting what a comb can find which a casual glance in a mirror just doesn’t reveal.
43. I have many times found saying “O Woe is Me” etc. These are the times when you have to tell yourself to pull your finger out and just get on with it!
44. If you’re a ‘hunt and peck’ typist like I am you get to love Spell Checkers, as wiyhoit then you cab priduce tje oddrst desvripyions and enails.
45. I get very annoyed with Webmasters who like to use red fonts on a black background, or other similar combinations, and usually in very small print. It may be clever, but I seriously doubt even people with 20/20 vision could read them. And I really appreciate people who email me who use a large font – gee it’s a real pleasure to be able to read my mail.
46. This also applies to magazines, who also add to the difficulty by using lots of underlining, which can make whole paragraphs appear as abstract blocks.
47. Praise the Lord for large print books!
48. Making love should be enhanced, as it’s so tactile. Unfortunately I haven’t had a partner since beginning to lose my sight, and I do remember what I look like so even if my fantasy life has increased any vision with me in it is not conducive to self gratification.
49. Cry if you can. It not only flushes your eyes but makes you feel a hell of a lot better!
50. Most important of all learn to live with it as even though it’s a great disadvantage at times it’s worth remembering that there are many souls in the world who are much worse off, and Life can still be beautiful!

50 tHinGs about Blindness - Advice, Anecdotes, and Ponderings

Peter Searle ( the Elder )

North Country South Australia, Australia

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Artist's Description

I had to really persevere with this. I wanted to write about losing my sight but not to sound as if I was looking for sympathy, so I’ve tried to make it as humorous as I could. Now that I’ve accepted the reality of it all, and stopped being in denial about my disability, I’m much more at ease. Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged me. What better place to put this than the wonderful Group


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