It’s good to be back. Yes, even this blog goes quiet from time to time. I’ve been away on holiday or vacation or whatever term you’d like to give to it, but unlike Lord Lucan, I’ve returned and haven’t disappeared into the ether completely.
MY first week back to work has been eventful to say the least. Evans, my guide dog, has had to have some x-rays as he was having difficulty with his hips and was as a result dragging his back legs a little. Luckily, all seems fairly well and after a few days rest and recuperation, he’ll be up and running again. However, in order to carry out the x-rays, he had to have a general anaesthetic. He has taken a little time to recuperate from this so for one day, I had to return to using my long cane which resulted in probably the most difficult walk from work to the railway station that I have ever had to do.
I work in the city of Leeds and as part of my daily commute, I have to travel to and from the main train station to where I’m based at the other side of the city centre. The journey includes crossing three main roads, walking through one main and one smaller shopping area and also down a pedestrian walkway which sometimes is shared with traffic; no tactile demarcations of where is safe to walk I may add. Now with Evans, I need to ensure that we cross the roads safely and also I’m concentrating on where people are in general and that we are taking the right route. He, on the other hand, will guide me round obstacles, take me away from people where possible, find the right points to cross the road and generally take away a lot of the stress of going through a busy city centre. With my cane, I have to concentrate on where people are, whether I’m on the right route, constantly check on my position and that I’m not drifting into areas that I shouldn’t be, locate crossing points, keep safe and out of the way of the unpredictable public and ultimately ensure that I get to my destination safely. As I write, its tiring thinking about it.
When I did this journey last Thursday, I reflected on audio boo that it had been the most difficult walk that I had done from office to train station. For one, it’s the school summer holidays and children are everywhere. They provide a useful, if not at times noisy, sound clue but they are unpredictable on where they will go and therefore I’m constantly checking and being cautious about them suddenly crossing the path of my cane. Next, with the school holidays, comes the increase of parents, guardians and the like being in the city centre, either shopping, wandering or generally loitering; another barrier to get around. Now if you think that’s enough then I haven’t chucked in the two buskers who were doing their best to sound like they were cats on helium; another noise to ruin the soundscape. Taking into account that navigation with a cane so much depends on finding landmarks and utilising audible clues of where you are, the journey home was an absolute nightmare. Anybody following me must have thought I was trying to audition for strictly come dancing as I was stopping, starting, stopping, swaying, swerving and then I’m sure at one point pirouetting around obstacles to find my way. The public, on the other hand, just seemed oblivious.
I have always appreciated the work of my guide dogs over the years, but events like this just reinforce the fact that through environments like this they are a real godsend.
I love a challenge and hey chuck them at me if you like, but to tackle a route like that with all the distractions, barriers and sound pollutants, especially after a busy days work and also with the worry of how Evans was doing, I
Could have done with a transporter of star trek proportions to take me straight home.
This is, however, not an unfamiliar story to numerous long cane users. I would say many of you reading this could relate to parts or all of it and certainly could give good examples of what you do. Please feel free to send us your experiences so that they can be shared. Oh yes, one request, if thinking of busking in Leeds City Centre, please consider miming when it’s chucking out time at our office.