Growing up I was always keen on sports, whether that was running, football, rugby or pool. If it had a competitive edge I would give it a go. Always keen to compete I would happily get involved with whatever sport I could. I believe if you dedicate yourself to a particular sport then you can get better and better at it. The problem I faced was always which one to choose going forward.
For as long as I can remember I have loved sports, both watching and playing. After losing my sight playing sport became a little bit of an after thought, I mean I was blind, what sport could I possibly do. Having no idea that there is a whole world of sports adapted to suit disabled people. Now I use that term very lightly indeed. Disabled should not be a word used to described some of the incredible people. Talented beyond belief. Differently abled is more suitable. People with disabilities yes, but the ability to play sports at a higher level that I could even dream of when I was fully able bodied.
So, not that I had any aspiration to be anywhere near Paralympic level, I started trawling the internet on my tiny mobile phone which was pretty well useless. Tech at the time was no where near what it is now. My efforts to find some kind of sport I could play in resulted in me playing tiddlywinks at an old peoples home. Mrs Smith had the years on me and beat me every time. I am sure she was cheating some how. Don’t even get me started on Reg and Arthur. Those boys knew every tiddlywinks trick in the book.
I gave up looking for what I could join in the end and decided I had to take matters into my own hands. After a lot of hard work and getting the group which is now known as Outlook off the ground I, along with a few others founded the Gloucestershire Visually Impaired County Cricket Club. A sport I had never played before one late summers day some five years ago now. It seems like just yesterday.
Blind cricket you say? You must be mad!!! Well, the truth is, I probably am a bit mad but you have to be to start such a venture. Cricket after all is a game played with eleven players and at the time we had 6. Great squad numbers I know. At the time I was dubious, many conversations would take place between myself and the coach at the time about whether or not we could get it off the ground and make it work. It seemed unlikely to ever happen when we turn up a the ground for only 3 or 4 people to be there most without any knowledge of cricket at all. But hey, you have to start somewhere right?
Over the years we have grown and attracted players from far and wide. Even people from the mighty cricketing nation of Wales. It is advantageous to have Wales so close as they do not have a blind cricket team these day’s. We are close enough for people to jump on a train and come to join us so thank you Wales.
So the team now known as the Gloucestershire Growlers after one infamous afternoon in a wooden shack in Gloucester have developed into a good unit. We have our moments of brilliance where very few batsman can touch our bowling, we have our moments of epic fails where we can lose a game on the last ball as someone runs when it was wiser not too. But with all of the mishaps and all of the good cricket our motley crew produce, it is always fun. The bus journeys are full of laughter, the banter is always on point and you can always guarantee a good pint after the game (or before in some cases) not that we endorse it.
At the end of it all when I look back to all of the struggles and the hours spent to form the embers of what is now a club burning brighter and brighter every season, you have to say, it was all worth it. Friendships for life are formed, exercise is always good and my trophy shelf has some welcome additions which for a while I didn’t think would happen. After all there is no prize for winning tiddlywinks at an old persons home.
That’s it for now
Today I want to talk about the good the bad and the ugly sides of being partially sighted. I am going to look at some of the more interesting aspects of the journeys I have been through, be it emotional or physical.
Granted to many it would probably seem like there are very few upsides to being partially sighted but you would be wrong. For one thing I have a free bus pass. Well free to a point at least, before 9.30am and after 11pm the bus companies seem to think we have magically been given our sight back so the bus pass becomes obsolete, just sat in my wallet craving attention like the Nectar card that hasn’t seen the light of day since I first got tricked into having it. Don’t even get me started on the Matalan card. But hey, for every other journey it is totally free. Thank you HMRC.
A second up side is the tax allowance, an allowance of £2000 on top of the generous £10500 of our hard earned money that we are allowed to keep. Good work Nick Clegg. (if memory serves). Fair play the Lib Dems didn’t do much with the small amount of power they managed to blag somehow but I do believe raising the tax threshold was their idea. Thumbs up for that one.
Blind sports is another brilliant upside. I simply love team sports, I always did and I always will. Being able to play cricket with sight loss for me is incredible. I used to be quite good but then my sight got worse and now I see double all the time and I am never quite sure which ball I am meant to be hitting. This would be one for the bad sides. Double vision is a real pain in the arse. I have always said since its onset, I can live with sight loss but the constant double vision just gets on my nerves. It makes me feel dizzy. This brings me onto my second downside. Sight loss and a dodgy ear. Not sure if these go hand in hand, there is no reason to suggest it does but my left ear is useless. As such my balance is awful. I could be completely sober but look like I have been on a bender with a group of randy darts players. I do try and be as positive about as many things as I can be so I keep downsides to a minimum and to be fair randy darts players does sound like a fun weekend.
The left eye not being straight to me is ugly, I have seen it close up in a photo and I don’t like it. In fact I hate it, this brings me to the ugly, now I haven’t seen myself in a mirror for nearly 10 years, when I look into a mirror for all I know I am looking at a blank wall. In fact I am quite sure a lot of the time I am. But I do know one thing, the ugly side of sight loss is not from looking in the mirror at my once perfect reflection, it is from the narrow minded people that treat you like second rate citizens. Many times I have been out with friends or family members and people find it fun to hurl abuse my way for whatever reason. It used to really get me down until I realised that ugly is exactly what they are. There’s no decency to a person that can talk to a total stranger in such ways, just ugliness.
There are many more positive things I will talk about in the future but I can’t give all of my secrets away straight away now can I.
Until next time
All the best
Recently I was chatting over a few alcoholic beverages to a friend who’s comments bought me to tears. We were in the bar having the usual light hearted banter as is often the case on a Friday evening after a long week in the office. Maybe it was the beer talking, maybe it was genuine. At the time I wasn’t sure. However this is what happened.
So, the person in question has changed her life around dramatically over the last few weeks and she accredits having the will power to do it to the man that enjoys independent life living as a legally blind man. The man in question was me. For someone to say these words and mean them from the bottom of there heart for me was truly humbling.
I spend most of my life helping people with sight loss both professionally and voluntarily but to have such an unexpected impact on the life of a sighted friend makes me really think about life.
After losing my sight I never wanted to be a stay at home do nothing kind of person living off benefits and getting life paid for me by my once fellow tax payers. So I set about trying to find work. in 2008 just 2 years after losing my sight I started working for Insight Gloucestershire. I made it one of my main ambitions within my new role to set up a support group for younger visually impaired people so there was no body else that had to feel the social isolation that I once felt. Seven years down the line and that group is still going and from it we have spawned the Gloucestershire Growlers and the Insight Glos Goalball team.
These groups are great but I wouldn’t have the will to do it without having my escapes in life. My ways of relaxing. Before sight loss I used to play a lot of pool. I like to think I was pretty good at it. in fact not being able to play pool was for me more devastating than losing my sight in the first place. Not only is it a good challenge it is also really good for social interaction and I find it a great way to relax after work. So after a while I started trying to play again. I taught myself a new way of playing. Use the shadows, so I pick up my pool stick look at the white ball and assess the rest of the balls. You never lose the knowledge of how to pot a ball. Once I realised I could do it by using the sometimes generous lighting my whole world started to feel more and more like I was just another face. So practically day after day I would go into the bar, order a nice cold pint and play pool by myself trying to re-perfect my craft until I felt ready to play other people. Pool was a brilliant way to get to know people and a great confidence builder. Of course some people would think I was taking the p**s but hey. I didn’t care, I was able to play pool again and it didn’t matter what anyone else thought.
The way I see it is, my sight loss doesn’t stop me living a normal life, it just slows me down. If anyone finds my way of living inspirational then I find that quite amazing. To me, life is for living and I think I do a pretty good job at it. It’s incredible how simply playing pool again gave me the confidence to be the man that I am now.
That’s it for now, thanks for reading.
All the best
So I have been meaning to get round to this for quite some time now. A little blog to keep notes on my life and to give you all all an insight to the life and times of a visually impaired man from Cheltenham,
Hopefully there will be the occasional joke or two, you never know. What I can guarantee is some open and honest opinions on the world I see or rather don’t see around me. Probably the occasional bit of controversy, but hey who doesn’t like a bit of that.
So a bit about me, I my name is Marc, I am legally blind, I suffer with a condition called LHON. Basically it means that my central vision is rubbish although I can see shapes and outlines of things, detail perception is totally gone.
I am 29 years old and I live in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I love sport. I am a Manchester United fan and I also play cricket for Gloucestershire (well, the blind side anyway).
I work for Insight Gloucestershire which is a charity that helps visually impaired people in to remain Independent. My role is to run the low vision technology centre. More on the in the future. I am also the founder and chairman of the Gloucestershire Growlers. The best blind cricket team in Gloucestershire.
That’s it for now, keep your eyes peeled for the next blog soon.
All the very Best