Legally blind playing league pool?

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.

At the age of 10 I was playing football for my primary school, when I went to secondary school I started playing for my local team Cashes Green Rovers, scoring twice on my debut I was selected as captain for the next game and carried on from there. I was only 13 but was captaining the under 15’s.

I used to run cross countries for my secondary school until the age of 14 when sadly a knee injury stopped me from taking part in too much physical work on it. So sadly my running and football days were pretty well over and any kind of competitive level. Instead I could only really kick a ball with friends for much more limited time spans. Still a lot of fun and always good exercise.

The need to compete was always there and I guess it always will be. At the time my parents were running a pub and I used to go along every now and then and hang out with them which were usually rather boring. However, this was where I discovered the game of 8 ball pool. My dad had played for years, so it seemed right that I should follow in his footsteps. He also played all the sport he could when he was young just as I did. So, I observed, I learnt, then I picked up a cue and at the age of 13 or so I started playing. Not very well to begin with of course but never the less I learned by playing and watching the others in the pub who would turn out week in week out for a few games. At first I think they let me win and didn’t try very hard to beat me but soon after I picked up a few good shots and became a decent player. At the age of 14 I joined the pubs pool team. Playing all over Stroud visiting different pubs every Tuesday it was a really great experience, one that I just loved. My first season was not my finest but this only made me want to improve, so I joined the local pool club and would play hour after hour and eventually I started to win more than I lost and the people that used to let me win were now trying their hardest but often couldn’t compete. In my third year of playing I was made captain of the team and if memory serves it was my second season as captain when we won the league for the first time and so a thirst for success was born.

We went on to win several more trophies over the following few years and even ended up going to Wales to play against a Welsh international side which was a lot of fun. Playing pool had given me a new lease of life at such a young age, something I was good at and it was something where you can meet so many people. My social life improved and my confidence improved to go with. I felt unstoppable, until my dreaded sight loss.

It was just before my 20th birthday when my sight failed me and I could no longer see to play. This for me was a devastating blow, especially after my knee stopped me from playing football. I had now lost all of the sporting activities that made me tick. I literally felt like I had nothing, it wasn’t just the sight and all that went with that, sport for me was the lifeline that kept me feeling confident and social, it’s what kept me sane. I was devastated that I could no longer see to compete, I genuinely thought I would never find any other sport to play again.

Fast forward 5 years and after finding a bar that I could practice in and not feel uncomfortable I started playing pool on my own simply to try and rediscover the skills I had lost; I finally found a way to play the game again. I can’t see one end of the table to the other but if the white ball is close to my object ball then I can just about see it. I use the shadow created by the cue on the table to judge where my cue is and the rest is all done through memory. It was tough to begin with but like I always say, practice makes perfect. It has taken me around 5 or so years to get back to a level where I am pleased with how I am playing, I know I can still get better but I am proud to say that those years of miss-spent youth playing pool were not wasted after all. I just had to find a way around the problem and when you think about it in life, that’s all we can do. If there is an obstacle you simply have to find a way to overcome it.

In 2017 I played league pool for the first time in over 10 years and against some of the best players in Cheltenham, I may not be as good as I once was but I am proud to say I am taking part again which I never thought I would be able to do.

With the pool playing giving me back the competitive edge and the founding, running and playing for the Gloucestershire Growlers blind cricket team, I have never felt more alive.

Sight loss for me was at first devastating, not playing sport was even worse, but now I have found a way to still be able to compete and succeed, I have never felt better.


Pavement Dwellers and Broken Canes

We have all been travelling in cars or buses when they have suddenly and without warning juddered up and down due to a pot hole in the road. The horrible sink holes that develop due to wear and tear that the councils never seem to get round to fixing. I am sure you can all name a few roads that, when you drive down, feel like you are on a small rollercoaster but without the same level of excitement.
I can think of one that, when my friend Dave and I were training for a tandem bike ride, felt like I was being attacked with a large metal pole in a place you don’t want that feeling ever. The bumps were at times so harsh you wonder why on earth you are making this journey and why on earth the tarmac Gods haven’t come along to save you from this incredible discomfort caused by the decaying roads. But at least drivers have the comfort of suspension and decent seating. The bike on the other hand was quite the opposite.
But it isn’t just roads that have this issue. Pavements are very much the same. As a visually impaired man that walks everywhere due to the lack of driverless cars, I notice this increasingly prevalent problem more and more often as I am meandering through the streets of Cheltenham. It could be a tree root, it could be just the fact the pavements have been poorly maintained. Whatever the reason, there is more often than not an evil little blocker that is just waiting for my cane to feed into its obstructive and sometimes destructive brickwork torture.
The problem is: I am a quick walker; not quite speed walking, but if you are in front of me and I don’t spot you then I may well bruise your ankle. Not on purpose, but sometimes these things just can’t be helped. When you walk quickly you have less time to react and your Moses stick is sweeping the ground in front of you at such a pace that when the dodgy terrain decides it wants to attack you, that’s it, you’re stuck. Your roller ball hits the obstruction, the pain goes shooting up your arm, your wrist is jarred and somehow you are a pace or two ahead of your cane. Your shuddering arm waves backwards trying to correct the error but for some reason your legs decide not to stop. Then with one swift wave of your magic wand of mobility, you straighten back up and boom, there’s another crack and the same predicament falls on you again.
The state of the pavements has caused me to bend and break more canes than I care to remember, and lord only knows how many times my balls have broken clean off mid walk. I wouldn’t mind, but I already carry enough things around and carrying a spare roller ball in my pocket may well look a bit odd given the size of them.
Wouldn’t it be great if everything was tarmacked? That lovely smooth run you get every now and then. It’s a bonus when you do come across the lovely, non-interrupted bliss that is a tarmacked pavement. Only to find it was merely a few feet of heaven before you’re back on the cobbles. Like giant braille dots slowly tearing the muscles in your wrists to pieces and bending the aluminium rod that is guiding you, into an un-collapsible and eventually un-useable pointless piece of metal.
The morale of the story is: it isn’t just roads that are in a poor condition and need sorting. Many pavements are as well, and we non-driving pavement dwellers would appreciate a bit of a fix up too.
That’s it for now,
Until next time

Pavement Dwellers and Broken Canes

My Take On The Prodigi Connect 12

Let’s start with one of the big boys, the Prodigi Connect 12. A recent addition to the VI product market and a very welcome one. Straddling the immense power of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 12 Pro the Prodigi Connect 12 is a very powerful android tablet that is packed full of features to help anyone with sight loss. The main aim of this super advanced computer is to allow users to read documents in either crystal clear print or have it read to you in one of two synthetic voices. Using the Galaxy’s camera you are able to take a picture of any printed text and within seconds you will have it on your screen, ready and raring for you to make sense of. The Prodigi’s powerful text to speech engine gives you word for word accuracy beaten by no other text to speech reader around.

The text is grabbed into a separate screen from the usual live view and is then presented to you almost as if you were a newsreader reading out the latest news about something we probably aren’t too concerned about. This feature is great as you do not have to move anything, the machine does it all for you. All you do is sit back, or in my case as close to the screen as possible and relax whilst you read. Brilliant work from Humanware.

If, like me, you suffer with fatigue and can’t actually read for too long before your eyes start to itch uncontrollably after seconds of opening them, or if after a few minutes of reading your documents you wonder why you even bothered to get out of bed that day, why not have the information read to you. A couple of button presses and you are away. If you have ever seen the comedian ‘Lost Voice Guy’ you can even have his voice read things to you. If you haven’t seen him, then go to YouTube and check him out, he is hilarious. Of course these synthetic voices aren’t perfect but they are starting to convey emotions. It’s actually quite scary.

Another reason to go out and buy yourself one of these great devices is the fact that you can pull text from the internet, save it to the Prodigi software and get Graham to read it back to you whenever you wish. I realise this is the first mention of Graham, don’t worry, Prodigi Connect doesn’t come with some crazy stalker, Graham is the synthetic voice that comes along with Prodigi, nice chap.

As well as having the ability to get any printed material read to you, Prodigi Connect 12 is essentially a 12inch android tablet. The Samsung Galaxy Pro which in itself is an impressive piece of kit, I will not go into details but to have the ability to use all of the android apps as well as the extremely powerful text to speech software makes the Prodigi Connect 12 a must have if you are a visually impaired tech geek just like me.

That’s it for now, until next time – take care



The Zebra Saved My Life

Some of my sight impaired friends may not know this but on the back of a lot of service vehicles such as delivery vans and lorry’s have stickers on the back that say how am I driving? They follow this with a phone number so that you can ring cousin Jimmy’s boss to let him know that my word you have never seen a corner taken quite as well as what cousin Jimmy did this afternoon by the roundabout next to lidl. Come on, you all have to admit no one in that right mind has ever done this. But the sticker remains none the less. I often feel like ringing the company and having a moan about cousin Jimmy as his hands were not at the 10 and 2 position. But the how am I driving idea to me breads so much more thought than just van drivers delivering sandwiches to the local Co-Op. For me I am constantly berating drivers stood there in the middle of the street frantically waving my Moses Stick at there  car not having a clue if they are paying any attention. You can only  imagine they aren’t. If they were they wouldn’t have turned that corner that quick and nearly run me down in the prime of my life on a zebra crossing. By the way zebra crossings are evil and should be banned. Effectively it is a stand off between me and the car on the road that I can’t quite see well enough. You never know when a car will speed round the corner startling me just like the jack in the box scaring the living daylights out of me when I was a kid. The stand off comes to an end when the guy in the car waves his hand at you but you can’t tell he is doing so because like my Moses stick would suggest my eyes don’t really work too well. So then he flashes his light which blinds me even further. Thanks for that cousin Jimmy. Then after a good 7 seconds of sheer panic at the zebra which is there to protect you, you step out. What does cousin Jimmy do, he revs his engine as he is fed up with waiting. I can’t blame him, that’s seven seconds of his life I just wasted whilst trying to protect my own life from ending. But it’s to late, you have made the first step. This turns into either rage or panic, you either turn and start shouting what are you doing you idiot, this is a zebra crossing and its for me to cross AARRRGGGHHH. Or you end up doing a stylish ballerina move that you have never been taught probably looking like a complete fool and end up back where you started all over again. Oh dear, sorry cousin Jimmy, your going to have to wait ten seconds now until I am 100% sure I can go. Yes, this time I am going to make you wait longer just because you made me jump out of skin.

Zebra crossings are not meant to be a place where you fear for your life but I have had so many experience of idiot drivers on the roads I choose to be as careful as I can. One of the only times in my life I am that careful. Crossing roads with sight loss is not easy, I will happily wait for ages whilst other people are walking casually across the traffic lights because they can see well enough to know a car isn’t coming. The reason I wait is I value my life. Drivers don’t seem to value theres all the time. This doesn’t go for every driver of course. But as I said, I have had a lot of near hit experiences and do not wish to have any more.

I appreciate I am not a driver and have never actually held a driving licence but I have taken lessons in the past, I have taken and passed a theory test and I do know a good deal of the Highway Code. So I drives me mad when I am stood on the crossing waiting to cross the road, and a car pulls up clearly knowing his vehicle will not fit into the gap left by the driver in front who is now stuck in rush hour traffic. So why indeed does the new car decide to enter the crossing box and block us poor pedestrians in? It annoys the hell out of me. I don’t always see it and when I ‘accidentally’ hit the car with my Moses stick, I am the one in the wrong. Sorry cousin Jimmy, you shouldn’t have pulled up there. If you didn’t, we wouldn’t have had this problem.

Thats it for now.

All the best


The Zebra Saved My Life

To Read or Not To Read!

After working in the same job for eight years now without any hope of promotion, I decided I needed to do something about it. So I started to search for other jobs in another organisation that would match my ambitious targets. After applying for several different places it became apparent that due to my lack of qualifications I couldn’t get a foot in the door despite my wealth of work experience and knowledge that should be more important. The world has moved in peculiar ways over recent times. It seems that paperwork is more important than years of practical experience. With this in mind I decided to start looking for a course which would enable me to gain the qualification the employer’s desire.
I started university this year at the grand old age of 30, a mature student only in name and not in behaviour. For the most part this is true I do like to be the class clown and crack the occasional joke or two. There is no better feeling than a quick quip that has the whole classroom not sure whether they are allowed to laugh at my personal micky taking. However the first few weeks have taught me lots. I am doing a certificate in management studies with the aim of becoming a manager at a sight loss charity in the future. I am learning some key skills and also confirming some common sense facts that I already know. The main thing I am learning though is that libraries and many websites are not set up in a way that someone with severe sight loss is able to access with any ease at all. The staff at campus must be getting a bit tired of me complaining about the set up. It’s not their fault I know but they are the ones that take the full force of my displeasure at such limited IT systems. IT don’t seem to care about making the changes either, so long as they are sat in their boiling hot, windowless office setting up the next Apple Mac they are happy. New toys for the IT guys and lack of interest for the blind guy.
There are three different libraries on three separate campuses and only one computer on each site has accessible software on. Now if I were the only one that would be using this software throughout the entire university then that would be fine right? Well, I am sure with all of the thousands of students that study at the university I simply can’t be the only one. In fact my support worker has told me she supports someone else with sight loss so I know I am not alone.
So, what happens when more than one person wishes to use the accessible computer? The other is left outside in the cold. I suppose you could always walk 9miles to the other campus if you were that desperate. Trying to find it could be difficult however. Then of course if you make it to the other campus you have the find the mysterious accessible machine that probably doesn’t work or is totally out of date so it doesn’t do the correct job anyway.
Moving onto the online library, I have never been much of a reader, wasn’t interested in reading A Song of Ice and Fire or The Lord of the Rings, I would much sooner watch the screen adaptation with a good bit of Audio Description, so you could forgive me for not being up to date with the library vernacular. When it comes to searching for books and journals it simply can’t be that tough right? Wrong, never more wrong and simply wrong. I have more chance of finding a symbol cane in a junk yard than I would ever have of finding my way around the online library with any degree of continued success. Mainly this is due to the fact nothing is labelled correctly and therefore isn’t read aloud by my software , but also the poor colour contrast on screen which you can’t change. All in all this makes for a very unpleasant experience which leads you to be very frustrated and not want to bother. The amount of headaches I have endured trying to read about motivation theory you wouldn’t believe. Ironic really that I lose motivation struggling to find a journal on motivation theory.
I have to say however the librarians themselves have been nothing short of miraculous at times and have been kind enough to scan books in and copy them into text documents which are so much easier to read. This gives me the level playing field I was promised by the disability department from the start. After all that’s all I need to give myself a good chance of succeeding with my studies. A level playing field and the will power to get through no matter what.
Keeping a full time job as well as doing this course is without doubt going to be a challenge but one that will no doubt be worthwhile in the long term. I will keep you posted on my progression.
That’s it for now.
To Read or Not To Read!

Let’s Talk About Sight Baby

Just recently there have been a lot of online contributions about ‘What I See’. More people with sight loss are trying to explain what they can see. I find this notion very difficult indeed to describe to people. I mean it isn’t that I can’t say what I do see but how can I tell you what I don’t see? I would never know it wasn’t there. So when people ask the age old question ‘So what can you see’? After I shake off the utter distain for the 12 milliontth  time I have been asked this question I realise again it is near impossible for me to put into words the blurry nothingness that is my vision. But never the less, if I carry my moses stick I will always be asked the same question. So, I simply reply, ‘I see shapes of things and not much more’. This is about the size of it. I see shapes, some big some small. But they are all shapes. This doesn’t really answer the question properly but it seems to satisfy.

I am a very outgoing person, I enjoy a good drink and I enjoy meeting new people. I enjoy making people laugh and I enjoy a game of pool. I am not your ‘stereotypical blind person’. This whole idea that if you have a white stick you must be completely blind and not ever do anything to enjoy yourself and improve your life is utterly laughable. It still gets to me when you hear people say ‘look at him on his phone, he aint blind’. Or if you are walking down the high street there is always one or two that have the odd word to say as they are walking past. Granted these are few and far between but still.

I often feel like turning around and saying ‘look at you with your stupid face and crappy dress sense, you must be blind yourself. When it comes to it, just because someone has a white stick, it doesn’t mean they are totally blind and it certainly doesn’t mean they are anything less than anyone else. It is the shameful few that like to act like bullies because they never grew up before they started to reproduce themselves. It does make me rather concerned about the future at times.

The bottom line is, a lot of people with sight loss will use some kind of walking aid, could be a dog it could be a cane. But it is not anyone elses right to doubt that person and to fling abuse there way for no reason other than your own self pity from your own unfulfilled life.

I realise this page is entitled Real Life Humour and for the most part that is what I aim to write, but there are times when you just have to get something off your chest before you can start to find the funny side of things again.

That’s it for now, Next time I will try and be a bit more upbeat.







Let’s Talk About Sight Baby

Blind Dating and Awkward Romance

Dating and romance, here we go, buckle up everyone, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. If you can excuse the pun there I would like to talk about the miserable world of dating. I hate it, I am not good at it and it makes me feel awkward. God I am a catch with my sweaty forehead and clammy hands. Ok, so I will take you out for a meal and you can watch me bat some peas around my plate and observe as gravy drips off my beard onto my un-ironed shirt because I was too afraid to burn my fingers. Good times indeed. Do you want me to walk you home? Tough, I can’t find my way home without you. This is just the start of the crazy world of dating that I have found myself in. It’s all well and good to pull out a chair for your lady of choosing or even opening the door for her,  but you got to find the damn thing first. So as your trying to impress her with your normal personality and charm, the inevitable problems of sight loss which you are desperately trying not to show to often all come crashing around you. The nerves jangle, the wine bottle get’s knocked over, you look silly groping around doors, you walk into the wrong toilets and you most likely trip over a step banging into the Jones’s on table four with their kids laughing at you. Great date, we should do it again sometime.

That’s it, you failed, better get back onto POF or Tinder too get rejected by every other unemployed single mum in the northern hemisphere. Ok, here we go again. I managed to lure the last one with some cheeky one liners, after a whole load of pointless pandering to each other we realise that yes, you are the one for me. So we do it all over again. Repeat stage one and fail all over again. This dating lark is tough.

If I can offer a word of advice, don’t ever do speed dating with out research first. The bars can be dark, and there is a lot of movement. Not the good kind of movement either. Check to see if there are mirrors on the wall, as good looking as you may be, you aren’t going to get anywhere by chatting up yourself in the mirror. lastly, try to be sure that the person you are talking to is indeed a of the right sexuality that you desire. It’s awful when you are chatting up someone thinking it’s a girl and then your mates come over to inform you that in fact it’s a dude with long hair and skinny jeans. These blokes should be banned. If you ask me. Its just too confusing.

So yes, I am still single. I don’t expect this post is going to help my chances of finding anyone anytime soon but hey, somethings you just have to get off your chest right? At the end of it all, I just find that online dating is very judgemental. It has turned me into a left swiper sometimes just because the girl is on there with a picture of a bloke, could be her dad for all I know. But for some reason my brain is going into overload and my finger just can’t stop but swipe left and say know. That’s another potential love match gone. Ah well, there’s only another three billion or so women left on the planet to get rejected by. But there is someone for everyone so she has to be out there somewhere right? If you see her can you let her know I am waiting. Chances are I will end up living with 52 cats in a bungalow crying into a pillow.

That’s it for now

 Just to clarify this is not a rant at anyone in particular, it is merely Real Life Humour.


Blind Dating and Awkward Romance