It works for me

By Barry Hill


I was contemplating not getting another guide dog. I’ve been a few months without and I’m managing pretty damned well. Yes, there are the odd times when I have gone slightly astray, but not so much that I think I can’t leave the house without a guide dog. However,


I have two routes that I can walk to town – Left or right at the end of my road. At the bottom of the hill to the left, the Electricity Company had to dig up the pavement to make emergency repairs. The repairs were done tout suite. I know they were done promptly as our house was one of 130 who had their electricity turned off for 11 hours although, strangely, my neighbours either side didn’t have theirs turned off. I reckon 11 hours to find the fault, dig up the pavement and repair the fault is pretty quick, and you don’t want to be rushing about when you’re playing with electricity. Yup, 11 hours is prompt.


Now, at the other end of the scale of speed is the time it is taking to get someone to come back and fill in the substantially large hole, or my grave as I like to call it. Yeah, ok, they’ve put bright white reflective barriers up all around the hole so that you sighted folk have no trouble, but I have to find the things before I even start to figure out how to get around them. And that’s if they’re still standing. It’s been windy on and off since the hole was dug, which means that the barriers end up flattened or down the hole, which is where I’d end up if I were to try going that way.


If I turn right out of my street, there is some building work going on down the hill at the factory. They’ve put scaffolding up and blocked all the pavement except for a walkway under the scaffold. My usual method for walking down this hill is to follow the kerb as the wall side has gates and goes in and out like a Roman road built by a drunk, blind, one-handed, arthritic Roman. So, what I have to do is to follow the kerb for as far as I can guess the scaffold is, then aim for a three-foot gap under the scaffold.  It’s like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey when the donkey is the size of a 5p piece and you are blind folded in the bottom of the garden and told to find the donkey in the attic.


This morning I came across something parked on the pavement on the way to town. This was two minutes out from home and parked close to the wall. It wasn’t something straight forward either. It felt like some sort of children’s climbing frame with bits sticking out here and there, and even had a dolls head! It was parked right on the pavement close to the wall. With the bits sticking out here and there, I didn’t know whether to go into the road or risk the side near the wall. It was busy with speeding cars, so I covered my head with my arm and went for it on the other side. I’ve still no idea what the hell it was.


The problem with hitting an obsticle is that it knocks my confidence. From there on, I jumped at imagined obstacles and missed-judged turns and steps. By the time I got to town I was a nervous wreck. I was sorely tempted to have a brandy in the coffee I went for. Actually, I was tempted to have a brandy without the coffee.


When I do make it into town, the problem of pavement works continues. It seems that when one of them is completed and my way is clear once more, which I don’t discover for a few weeks after it’s all clear, then another one pops up somewhere else. I was Unlucky enough to find three of the new ones in one day last week.


I crossed a road at a designated crossing point. I know it’s a designated one as it has a drop kerb and blistered paving. Well, it’s either designated or it’s a teenage kerb – slouching and acne. Just before getting to the other side of the road, I hit something with my cane. It could have been my nose or knee, but it was my cane this time. To give you some perspective, imagine you’re innocently crossing a road and, just as you are about to step up onto the other side, you smack into a solid invisible barrier. WTF? At first, I thought it was a vehicle parked on the drop kerb. That sort of illegal parking happens often. But it wasn’t a car or van, it was metal panelling around some building works. It spanned the pavement and was actually into the road. I crossed in good faith then found myself trapped in the road wondering which way to go – left, right or back – and wondering how close that bus is going to pass the idiot stood in the road.


I was fortunate that a passer-by (or was it the shop keeper from Mr Ben?) came to my rescue and guided me to the pavement. Thing is, I was disorientated by going around the works but didn’t realise that I was lost until the good Samaritan had gone. I was heading vaguely in the right direction, but didn’t know if the road on the right of me was the one I’d just crossed or the one at 90 degrees that I needed to cross.


Eventually, I figured out where I was and went on my merry way only to come across another one on the way to my bank. Again, another good Samaritan had to help me out, although they weren’t that bloody good. It was more stupidity than malice, but he called out, “Go left, go left” and directed me right into the works. “Oh, that was my left.” He said,  “I meant right.”




Fast forward to the afternoon when I was looking to leave the perilous town and I got caught up in another set of works. Although there were Samaritans around, I think they were all expecting one of the others to help me. When I did extricate myself from the barriers, someone did ask me where I was going. I told them that I was going down the next road. “Turn left at the end” was the not-very helpful instruction. ~Still, he meant well.


The worst one I have had the pleasure of finding was again going down the hill behind the sweet factory. I’d been without a guide dog for several months, and walked this route nearly every other day, so I was pretty adept and could get quite a trot on. Finding the lorry parked on the pavement with my face because my cane went right under it was, to say the least, quite a shock when you’ve got a trot on, I’ll tell ya. I hit the wagon (with my hand not with my cane, which shows how my thoughts were scrambled), cursed for a while, and discovered that my nose was bleeding…. On the bridge of my nose – when an angel came to my aid. A teacher had seen me staggering around and figured what had happened. I was on the way to do some one-off training that would be of benefit to the community and I didn’t want to miss it, so I asked the man to give me a lift to the train station. To his credit, he insisted that we called in at the factory to report the insident, which is where the concussion started kicking in. They made all the right noises, and, to be fair, they did change their practice so that wagons would not park on the pavement again, but I didn’t even get a box of chocolates from them.


Now, if I had a guide dog, these barriers and works wouldn’t pose a problem at all and I wouldn’t have to rely on bad directions from strangers. The dog would simply guide me to safety and I would hardly notice. Roll on getting another dog.

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