I mentioned that travelling through cities is quite a challenge with limited sight and therefore a bit knackering, but I think today was a bit ridiculous even for me…. I had organised to meet a journalist at the National Film Theatre on South Bank. He wanted to interview me about a photographic workshop I did a couple of months ago specifically designed for visually impaired people and I thought I would then use the day to doss around some art galleries and perhaps extricate an employed friend or two from their offices for lunch. Unfortunately it was green bin day today so the walk from my flat to the station involved manoeuvring around hundreds of bins on narrow pavements and then having to run for a train.
Here’s the thing…documentary film is so important because it can somehow weave archive material, emotion, personal journeys and personal ‘truths’, passion and great spontaneity too. And they are so often about stuff we need to know about but could never begin to find out….to see, to feel on our own.
Documentaries don’t always tell the truth. To begin with there is the camera and then the person behind the camera, the producers, researchers funders yadda yadda..so many filters..and eventually there is the extreme skill of the editor – but the real artistry of good documentary is that it can move us, make us quake in our boots, think, debate and potentially even get off the sofa and follow up on what we have just seen. All film needs to be sold to a broadcaster/audience so there is ALWAYS an angle. In a way a ‘truthful’ documentary is an oxymoron. That aside, I have just watched Spike Lee’s ‘When the Levees Broke’ a four-part ‘requiem’ about Katrina, New Orleans and the aftermath. There is no disembodied voice-over telling you what to think; just stories from every angle from the people who were there, wonderful composition, editing including archive that grips and carries you through.
Today is difficult. Grey light with murky vision makes me feel claustrophobic; everything looks like its under dirty water. I only just got out of my pajamas and its lunch time and there is a pile of work to do…none of which I can assure you will be done. My sight is too tricky to go into town. Without being able to drive or ride a bike anymore one’s world gets really quite ‘local’. The only choice is to walk come rain or …well, as this is England, ‘not rain’. I am always considering how many crowds and how many major roads there will be and today…nope. Its not completely laziness. there is an element of self preservation. I make mistakes when feeling soul weary and when you are pretty blind those mistakes can cost you a lot more then just your pride.
Anyway – I am hoping England win the rugby this evening as beating the French usually ensures the general English gloom lifts across the nation and the word ‘jolly’ can be used again at least until the finals…
Meanwhile a poem. (Don’t say you haven’t been warned…)
I was thinking of parkour today…you know the crazy wonderful sport of urban ‘running’ where you jump and run and do remarkable physical feats whist dashing from a to b in a city. The opening stunt sequence of the last James Bond had a parkour sequence – the stuntman was an original parkour ‘choreographer’. ( I must also recommend the fabulously daft but exciting French film ‘District 13’ which has mind-blowing parkour sequences….
Anyway and yadda yadda… I was thinking that I would have loved to have tried it when I had more sight..but actually then I realised that a lot of us VI (visually impaired) people would probably be damn good at it as we already have to plan and judge and think on our feet- fast and as far ahead as we can vaguely see each time we head out the house. I, and many with tunnel vision, learn to manoeuvre with huge blank spaces in the world. . One has to make a guess and a damn good one about those tricky blank spaces before one walks through them and that is more complicated the more people and ‘urban furniture’ (maaaan…how hip am I? Well not a lot obviously if I am still using hte word ‘hip’) one has to walk around , over or through. .. only aterwards you may feel the whoosh of the car you didn’t see, or knock into the edge of a stairwell you didn’t quite see…great for adreneline junkies! But that is why one gets a tad weary when trying to travel through London or figure out how not to get run down when crossing a 6 lane main street in New York. Yup, all us visually impaired people are doing parkour brilliantly everyday..just very very slowly…….Truly extreme sport …If you ever wanted a rush try taping your eyes half shot on your way into work next week…
I have Retinitis Pigmentosa. This may sound like the Latin for some exotic garden plant but unfortunately is actually a genetic disease that causes the cells in the retina in the back of the eye to give up the ghost in varying patterns with no fixed timetable and often several side effects..the most annoying one being eventual blindness. Right now I have a very limited tunnel of vision which blurs and distorts occasionally during the day depending on light and stress. My peripheral sight, what’s left of it is a white out. Additional blurring is due to a secondary condition called macular odema which is extremely annoying but at least comes and goes unlike the RP which kills the cells and then leaves them lying around like a load of old garbage blocking the remaining view.