Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Blindest of Dates

I have never really considered what it would be like to be blind; I have considered what it would be like to be deaf as one of ex-boyfriends Pete was deaf. My mum dated someone very briefly who was blind, well I think she dated him I might be wrong they might have been ‘good friends’, and I remember dancing with him like a crazy thing at a Wedding disco, he also told me of his parachute jumps. I suppose with meeting such a positive role model I didn’t think being blind could be that difficult, I suppose I thought it would be dark obviously however now the idea of not being able to read a book or use the internet or see my little siblings smiling faces.

Two things have made me think about blindness recently one was the fact that my mother at the ripe young age of 42 has found out that she is getting early cataracts (which could be hereditary) and could in her old age go blind. There have been a lot of tears partly because my mum still believes she is nineteen, she had a girls only disco in the pub she is converting for her last birthday and is throwing a concert for my step dad for his 50th in their field. Rock on ha! The other tears I think were frustration and also the idea that reading would one day not happen. My Gran reminds us that you will never read all the books you want to in your life. I can imagine my favourite writer releasing a book and me popping my clocks a week before, bugger. I digress… my mothers current state has made me think about how I would feel in that situation.

The other thing that made me think was when I went out for dinner at ‘Dans Le Noir’ last Wednesday for a function. The premise behind ‘Dans Le Noir’ is eating in the very pitchest of pitch black. The staff who serve you are all blind and the idea is you not only have no idea what you are eating but that you also experience what it is like to be blind. It was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life, quite literally, and also taught me a lot about myself.

Now I admit when I am in a group of people I am someone who watches rather than jumps headlong into a conversation. I am not nervous about meeting new people, it wouldn’t be advisable in my job and actually oddly at work I come out of my own more to build a rapport with an interviewee. With my friends I am quite loud blunt and up for a laugh. However in the pitch black, I swear you can see nothing, I found myself not only checking my own personal space but also going even more insular. Ten minutes before at the bar with a few cocktails in me I had been nattering to everyone. Now sat at the table I was saying nothing and actually sat elbow on the table (no one could see my bad manners) chin resting on my wrist and hand in front of my mouth. I felt completely vulnerable.

Now when you are blinded your other senses magnify, the first few minutes after having followed the waitress loosing all sense of where I was and then having to work out how to sit on my chair and not fall off it I was astounded by how loud everything was. It was completely off putting. I just couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t hear who was next to me from someone on the other side of the restaurant because everyone talks louder to speak over everyone else. It almost makes your headache. I then spent a good ten minutes working out where everything was making sure I could feel where my glasses and cutlery where, I noticed I redid this every three minutes. It teaches you a lot about yourself and gives you a very rare insight that I will take away with me.

There was of course the food. Now while I enjoyed the idea of not knowing what I was eating the reality wasn’t so sweet, well apart from the desert. I did make the valid point that blind people do know what food they like and would choose something they wanted. However being up for anything I gave it a go. The starter started well… oh a lovely salad and then I bit into what I can only describe as warm crispy fat and not in a pleasant cracking kind of way, in a deep fried lard kind of way. I admit I might have heaved a little. The main course was better lamb, vegetables and some lovely chicken like mushrooms, kidney I can cope with liver I cannot, weirdly I could tell what all the flavours were, well so I thought. In fact bar a small incident of thinking a lime was a tomato it was fine. The pudding of Mango Sorbet and Chocolate Mousse was a doddle.

It wasn’t until the next day when I found the starter was foie gras and that the ‘chicken flavoured mushrooms’ were in fact snails that I suddenly felt slightly violated. It was certainly an experience though and bar a moment of panicking that ‘what if I go back in the light and I have gone blind’ I have never been so relieved to see the harsh glare of a light bulb. At least it prepared me for 12 hours locked in a tomb under London last Saturday night though... more on that soon.

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