My Random Musings on Life|
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|Tuesday, May 18th, 2010|
From here on in, I won't be updating this journal. I have migrated its contents to Wordpress and will be updating there. I hope that the move proves to be successful. I believe the site is more readable, particularly by screen reader users.
See you there.http://melspooner.wordpress.com
|Monday, May 17th, 2010|
I know what this title will have conjured up in most people's heads: young people, loud music, motorbikes, doors slamming at all hours of the day and night, etc etc.
Not in my case. I live on a quiet residential cul de sac with very little traffic and mainly owner occupied houses. I regularly hear next door's television at such a pitch that I wouldn't have to switch mine on to listen to the Weakest Link, the One Show, Eastenders, Holby City, and so on.
Saturday morning I had no plans. I therefore decided that I'd have a lie in as I'd had a busy week. This wasn't to happen. Next door's radio came on at 6:45 am, followed by their washing machine. The final straw which drove me from my bed at 8:35 am was someone using a petrol mower in their front garden a few houses down.
So much for my sleep in, but the olds would never listen if I said something. They go to bed early and get up early, and consider themselves virtuous for doing so. They forget the need for a weekend lie in for those of us who work all week and can't sleep in or take an afternoon nap after lunch time trash TV.
Unlike the young who will grow out of their noisy behaviour, old people won't be told and would consider me lazy for wanting to sleep after half past eight on a Saturday.
|Saturday, May 15th, 2010|
|Friday, May 14th, 2010|
|One Week On
Its a week now since I started to voice my dissatisfaction about both the voting system for blind people, and our individual treatment at the polling station.
this afternoon, I went to see our MP, Vernon Coaker. I told him of our experience and he has agreed to write to the council to add weight to our complaint. I also asked him to consider access issues for blind and partially sighted people, particularly such things as the Talking buses Campaign if they are brought to his attention. As I pointed out to him, access issues are very different for blind and partially sighted people than they are for people with physical disabilities. finally, I asked him if, should I decide to take my campaigning further, would he be happy if I were to contact him in the future and ask him to add his name to my campaign. he said he would be. so a fairly productive meeting, particularly as I have made more influential people aware of the situation.
So, my article should appear in the Evening Post tomorrow and after that I have to decide where to take this next.
I have some ideas but haven't formed anything concrete yet.
|Wednesday, May 12th, 2010|
|Response from Local Council
Here is the response I received from our local council today about the spoilt ballot papers.
Thank you for your e-mail of 10 May. I am very sorry that you were unhappy with the arrangements in place to help you vote, although I am confident on the basis both of what you say in your correspondence and what I have been told by the Presiding Officer that your vote and that of your partner will in fact have been perfectly valid and will have been counted. It would not make any difference it they were marked in the middle of the ballot paper rather than in the boxes on the right hand side, so long as the votes were marked clearly on the line of the candidate you wanted to vote for as you describe.
I have, as you requested, looked into this matter and I have contacted the Presiding Officer at your polling station. He is a very experienced and conscientious member of staff who has been the Presiding Officer at this location for a number of elections now. I can confirm that, in common with all of our elections staff, he was fully trained in the use of the template and I am pleased that you were in fact able to use it to vote on this occasion. The Presiding Officer has confirmed to me that the braille flap was correctly placed against the appropriate part of the ballot paper and that you can therefore be reassured that your vote was marked for the candidate of your choice.
I don't know how he can know this for sure. we both know that our templates weren't aligned with the right hand side of the paper so they weren't lined up with the boxes, so how can we know if they were properly aligned vertically. However, it is our word against theirs and they won't believe us.
However, we can state categorically that the presiding officer did not know that the templates had a self adhesive back. We can also prove categorically that the template wasn't cut down to size to fit our ballot paper, both of which are stated on the instructions. this makes their stance a bit less credible.
My interview on In Touch wasn't aired last night unfortunately as David Cameron chose that time to return to Downing Street as newly sworn in prime Minister! However, it will be on the programme next week I believe. I'm still waiting for the article to appear in the Nottingham evening Post.
Finally, the next step will be for me to get hold of a template and reply to the council using the instructions given with the template as pointers.
|Monday, May 10th, 2010|
This will be a fairly brief update. since my last entry about the fiasco that was my experience at the polling station, I have:
Written to RNIB, Scope, Action for Blind People, the electoral Commission, Gedling Borough council, the BBC, the Guardian, and various celebrities on Twitter.
I have spoken to the Nottingham evening Post, who think they may well write an article about this, I have given an interview to In Touch and I have made an appointment to visit Vernon Coaker MP on Friday to discuss this.
I also spoke to the managing Director of PakFlatt who manufacture the tactile voting device, and expressed my concerns regarding its design. I was concerned to learn that there are instructions clearly printed on the back of each template and that that the template should be cut down to fit the size of form being used, which wasn't apparent when we went to vote last week. He had lots of ideas for better devices, but unfortunately, councils won't pay for them and have even on some occasions suggested that this cheap solution is too expensive and unnecessary.
now why doesn't that surprise me.
|Sunday, May 9th, 2010|
|the Derby Music Festival
I can't believe its a year since my first performance at the festival. I went in for two classes again this year.
The first was the Female Solo Vocalist. I was warned before I went in that this would be a difficult class and to expect some stiff competition. there were three of us. the other two chose classical pieces, and I sang Send in the clowns. I was pleased with my performance, and the theatre we sang in had far better acoustics than the other room they use at the festival, so I enjoyed it. the marking was very close, but I was blown away to realise that the adjudicator had awarded the other two singers joint second place with 85 marks, and me first place with 86. what pleased me the most was the fact that she said she could really see in my face that I was singing from the heart. I often worry about what my face is doing as I'm not a great actor, so that was very encouraging.
the second class was Songs from the shows, in which I sang the Colours of my Life from Barnum. This was a song which I'd only sung once with my singing group and thought might be a good idea. On reflection, it wasn't. I didn't feel happy with it and now that the festival is over, I don't think I'll be keeping that one in my repertoire! I got 84 marks for it and a fourth place, which I really didn't deserve, particularly as I had to be prompted at one point.
so, having given back the Novice cup which I won last year, I now have a piece of silver to replace it which I'm well pleased with. all thanks to my singing teacher and her confidence in me!
next landmark will be grade 5 in the autumn, and hopefully some concerts along the way.
|Thursday, May 6th, 2010|
|Disenfranchisement at its Worst
This evening I went to my local polling station, as did many other UK citizens, to cast my vote in the 2010 General Election. Unlike most others though, because I am blind I had to use a tactile template to lay over the ballot paper to enable me to cast my vote independently.
For those who have never seen one of these templates, I will do my best to describe it. It is a long, narrow plastic sheet with numbered flaps down the right hand side. Each flap has a tactile number and can be hinged back on itself. Each flap also comes to a point. The template has a sticky back which can be stuck to the form, in a similar way to a post-it note. the idea is that the template is placed with the flaps laying over the boxes on the form. the blind voter peals back the relevant flap and marks the form directly between the flap above and the flap below. Here is where the problem lies in my opinion: the template is only about a third of the width of the ballot paper and open to error.
On arrival at the polling station, it appeared that the member of staff who helped me, had no experience of the template and hadn't read the instructions that came with it. He wasn't even aware that the back was sticky, I had to peel off the paper that covered it. He first tried to take me to the end of the table where he had been sitting for me to cast my vote there, in full view of everyone else. I explained that this was not acceptable so he reluctantly took me to a booth. After trying to just lay the template over the form without sticking it, he eventually stuck it down and left. I marked my paper, put it in the box and left.
It was only whilst walking home with my partner that we compared notes. It appeared that my template had been placed fairly close to the left hand edge of the form, and my partner's had been nearer the middle of the form. We phoned a friend and asked where the boxes appear on the ballot paper and were told that they are down the right hand side.
It would therefore appear that both our ballot papers are spoilt and we haven't had a vote in this very important election.
If I never campaign for anything else in my life, I'm determined to get my voice heard on this one.
If you read this, I would urge you, please circulate it as widely as possible. I want as many people to realise how open to error the voting system is for blind people.
Our right to independence relies wholly on a sighted person to line the template up for us, and we have no way of checking that the vote has been cast properly.
I wonder how many other blind people's ballot papers have been unknowingly spoilt today?
|Wednesday, May 5th, 2010|
|Virgin Media - A Conclusion
After the problem with the card, I rang and complained and Virgin Media agreed to send someone out with a new card to install it for us. The guy arrived yesterday with no idea what he was having to do. Fortunately though he had a spare card on him and installed it, also switching Audio Description back on for us.
So the saga ends. I'm not entirely pleased with the level of customer service we received but the job has been done and all is now working correctly which is the main thing.
|Next Door's Extension
They've started work on it. Its one guy and a spade digging the foundations. Is this yet another example of County Council cut-backs? They'll be at it for weeks at this rate!
Sat on my patio the other morning enjoying the morning sun knowing that those days are almost at an end.
What I wonder is this. The lady next door has had a stair lift installed so why does she also need a downstairs toilet if upstairs has been made accessible?
|A Sad Realisation
The battles with Jasmine are on-going. At the moment she's developed a bit of a spending issue. She's reluctant to spend at home and not at all bothered about stopping dead in her tracks when working to spend. I need to teach her that spending in harness is totally unacceptable. I've been advised to tell her off big style when she does this, but if I tell Jasmine off too much when she's working she gets upset and the tension builds up.
So on the one hand I've got a dog that appears outwardly to be very strong and robust and highly determined. However, too much telling off and she goes to pieces.
Emotionally she's stil very complex and I wonder if this will ever change. I've had her five months now and wonder if she will in fact settle, or whether working with her is always going to be working through one issue after another.
I have this feeling that her and I won't make the full eight years but hope I'll read back after that time and prove myself wrong.
|Sunday, May 2nd, 2010|
|Friday, April 30th, 2010|
|Feeling good about Singing
This will be a short update, I have just
discovered Live Journal's mobile site so am updating from my phone.
I had an excellent singing lesson yesterday to prepare me for the festival next week, so feeling a lot more confident about that. My teacher also suggested i take grade 5 in the autumn which is great. I've always wanted to go further with singing and it seems that now is my chance.Post from mobile portal m.livejournal.com
|Sunday, April 25th, 2010|
|Virgin Media - A Saga emerging
Yesterday we received a smart card from Virgin media which we have to put into our box, replacing the one that is already there. Unfortunately, blindness and a bottle of wine meant that the card got put in the shredder by one of us, and it wasn't me!
So we set about ringing Virgin media. After sitting through the spiel about how we could get money if we recommended them to a friend, then being put through to Broadband, despite the fact that we'd asked about a TV card, we eventually spoke to a guy who clearly wasn't listening as he kept on about how he was re-activating our card and we could try again in 20 minutes. He's obviously never seen a card after its been through a shredder! He didn't even wait to hear the explanation again but put the phone down.
So tomorrow, when the department opens, we'll be following the options on the phone to get to the section where you ring if you are thinking of leving. its a much better section to speak to as it is a proper customer services department, rather than a call centre abroad.
Not happy with the fact that our audio description has already been de-activated. Thinking of recommending Virgin media? Definitely not right now!
|Thursday, April 15th, 2010|
|Random Thoughts on a Spinning Bike
Repetitive exercise coupled with extended tracks all with a monotonous hypnotic beat often lead me to drift off into my own thoughts and today's spinning classs was no exception. On occasions I've drifted so far into myself that I've lost track of the class and have had to be given a sharp reminder from my friend spinning alongside me who has the advantage that she can see the class leader which gives her a visual clue!
My reverie wandered along something like this:
Today there have been two items which have dominated the news. The making of TV history with the first debate in the UK between the three main party leaders with the approach of the general election on 6th may. The other big news item is the volcano which has erupted in Iceland, causing a large cloud of ash to drift slowly over our air space, closing it to all but emergency flights since mid day today.
this led me to think that, should there be a natural disaster of any real magnitude, there is nothing we as a species, as powerful as we think we are, can do about it. there have been several major earthquakes this year, could they be linked? could they also be linked to the volcanic eruption which took place today? If so, then what next? ...
But assuming we don't all perish in a natural disaster any time soon, what do I want from the next government? I don't think my needs and aspirations differ greatly from most ordinary folk. A good health service and education system, better law and order, a fair taxation system, jobs for those of us who can work and care when we get too old to work.
what I really want is a lot more basic than that, but again, the big three can probably do nothing about it. I want change in attitude. I don't even care if people don't know about blindness and how to meet my needs as a blind person. I want to be able to walk into a shop and not be spoken to like a five-year-old. I want people to communicate with me and treat me with the same level of respect that they would treat anyone else. I particularly don't want people to make assumptions as to my level of ability based on misguided misconceptions of their own. In short, I want to be equal.
... and then the class ended.
As an after thought, on my way home, my guide dog had a rather unfortunate accident which I had to bag up and take home with me. It occurred to me that if I was mugged, what a great self defense weapon I had swinging from my right hand!
|Monday, April 12th, 2010|
|Grave Concerns about a Ban on Dogs in Nottinghamshire Parks
A decision by Newark and Sherwood District Council to ban dogs in 70 of its parks has caused me real concern as a Guide Dog Owner in Nottinghamshire. The article can be read at:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/nottinghamshire/8615076.stm
My concerns are that as guide dog owners living in urban areas, this decision could mean that many of us would be unable to free run our dogs if other councils took up this decision. I endeavour to be responsible to minimise my dog fouling parks. I ensure that she has spent before I free run her, and I always carry bags should an accident occur in a park or other public place.
I am also concerned that already I face hostility and even verbal abuse from members of the public who do not like dogs. I have had people complain at me because my dog has fouled but then not be prepared to guide me to where it has occurred in order that I can clean it up. If this type of ban was put in place but guide dog owners exempt from it, I think we could potentially be in for a very hard time.
I have written to Guide Dogs, Newark and Sherwood Council, and my local Council, Gedling Borough Council, highlighting these issues and am awaiting comments.
|Sunday, April 11th, 2010|
|Home improvements Done!
finally, the fence has been replaced, the ivy cleared, and best of all, we now have new windows at the front of the house. Very impressed with the guys from Stormclad who installed the new windows. it was a very cold rainy day when the work was done, but they got through it quickly and professionally, not even stopping to drink the endless tea that I supplied! Would thoroughly recommend the company.
I find it a worry when looking for reliable trades people as a blind person, but this time I haven't been let down by anyone.
|Jasmine is maturing
have just had two weeks' holiday where jasmine has really been taken out of her normal routine. Far from upsetting her, I feel she has really excelled in that time.
the first week she had a chance to relax and put her paws up while I had three days with my parents. In that time she got to free run with jade which she really enjoyed, whilst maintaining a good standard of recall.
then the fun really began for her. We had five days down in Teignmouth this week with mainly blind people, so jasmine had to work. She learnt her new routes very quickly, even finding her way back from places she had only visited once. I also went to Birmingham new Street station again with her and she remembered the way to the customer relations office, having done it a few weeks ago. I even worked her onto a couple of boats! i hope no one from Guide dogs is reading! I'm really starting to trust her now.
Because we were staying in a hotel, she had lots of opportunities for good social behaviour in restaurants etc and she is getting better and better at this all the time.
So, the little dog might at last be maturing!!
|Monday, March 29th, 2010|
|How do you know if your Vet is a Good One?
Took jasmine for her check up and booster vaccination today. Was disappointed in the vet that I saw and really couldn't tell if jasmine has had a thorough check up.
I asked him what his opinions were on complete dog food and he said he didn't have one and that I should feed my dog what Guide dogs tell me to feed her, which put my back up a bit. I then asked about the scurf which people have noticed in Jasmine's coat and asked about her skin. he said "It looks OK to me", but he wasn't even looking at her. At some point during the consultation I asked the vet to clip jasmine's dew claws, but it was only on my way home, once I had been ushered out fairly promptly, that I realised it hadn't been done. I know I should have reminded him, but his off-hand attitude put me off my stride.
It may be that he is a good vet with appalling people skills, but how do I tell?
|a Refreshing Change
I went to hospital for an eye appointment on Saturday and for the first time in years I really felt I was being listened to. I can't count the number of times I've come away with the impression that because I have the guide dog, I'm a fully functioning blind person so the little bit of residual vision I have really isn't important if it goes.
Not on Saturday though. I've noticed a distinct drop in my residual vision to virtually nothing in the last year and it was explained to me that this is because my cornea is an irregular shape. I also asked about the fact that some people with a particular type of LCA which is the eye condition I have have had some successful treatment.
I now have a treatment plan. firstly to see a geneticist to see what type of LCA I have. Then to see an optometrist to determine whether my vision could be improved with a cornea transplant, then back to the original guy with all the information.
I'm very pleased about this.