Caning It - Barry Hill

Caning it


Following a little accident that Lex and I had recently, the poor lad has had to go to doggy hospital for a while, so I’ve had to blow the dust off my long cane and brush up on the use of it.  Like riding a bike, I soon got back into the swing of it,but even the best can come unstuck now and then.


The route into town for me is not long and I only have to cross two roads really.  Well, two roads, three entrances into a factory, one drop kerb for council lawn mowers to get onto some common land, and a large carpark entrance.  Sounds easy enough.  Yeah, on paper it is but in practice…. 


Getting to the end of my street is easy enough as there is a wall all the way.  It’s easy enough unless it’s bin day.  Do you think that the people who first came up with the concept of wheelie-bins and recycle bins being left out for collection only thought that it would be a minor inconvenience for the butler to put them outside the gate-house?  Either that, or they just didn’t give a damn (I would have used a better swear word here, but I thought I’d keep this blog more PG) about the obstacle course that visual impaired people and wheelchair users have to go through every fortnight.  I suspect that they might rethink if the bins were left in the road, not that I’m suggesting that we push them in the road.  Oh, no.  That would be thoughtless and possibly even dangerous.


Getting across the first road is easy enough unless there is a ninja electric car coming.  Imagine the insurance phone call on that?  

Driver: I’d like to make a claim for damage to my car when I hit a blind man.

Insurance: Laughter.  Click.

Driver: Hello, is there anyone there?



Setting off down the hill is ok too.  I know to watch out for the dog shit on the left (it clogs up the roller on my cane don’t ya know) so I keep to the kerb side, tapping the kerb on each sweep so that I know that I’m pretty much on course.  I usually forget to duck under the over-hanging tree, but I can’t judge where it is anyway, so I just keep my eyes shut and the face wash when it’s been raining is refreshing really.


For a while, I’m motoring down the hill following the kerb.  I can get up quite a speed when I’m comfortable about where I am.   Not so much when the kerb disappears at the first entrance into the factory.  Damned either way, I can’t even follow the wall as this turns into an open gate.  What I tend to do here is to slow the hell right down and try to walk in a straight line.  Thing is, it’s been proven that we don’t walk in a straight line without some sort of aid.  Go on, if you can see, try it.  Go to a safe place like a carpark or field, focus on a distant object, shut your eyes, and walk for at least 30 seconds.  Bet you a fiver you’ve veered off.  For sighted people to walk straight they rely on eyes. For me it’s walls or kerbs.  No walls or kerbs no walkie straight.


So, what I tend to do is go for the self-preservation option which is away from the road.  Yeah 99.99% of motorists would notice an idiot walking in the road swinging a samuraisword (Nod to Bolton police) but I really don’t want to gamble that on not coming across the bonnet of that 0.01% thank you very much.


Once I get carefully past that entrance I can find the kerb again, hoping that I have actually got past that entrance and am not about to wander into traffic before the kerb starts again.  Kerb found I get a trot on …. Until the next entrance and the process starts again.  There’s three of these entrances to make my walk that little bit more adventurous.  Well, if life was easy it wouldn’t be as much fun.  Actually, keep the fun I’ll take easy please.


As you can imagine, it takes some effort, concentration and a little bit of luck to negotiate these entrances.  Most of the time I do it ok.  Once or twice I’ve gone into the factory yard and had to negotiate my way back out again.  No problem really.  Yup feel slightly stupid but no harm done.  However last week I went past one of these entrances and was trying to find the kerb again.  I remember thinking that the path was particularly smooth then a car came up slowly behind me.  Right behind me and not to my right.  Bums!  Glad he/she wasn’t a 0.01% dick-head driver.


The next obstacle is a road crossing into the factory main gate.  This is always wider than I remember.  Put it this way if it was any wider I’d get a taxi across.  The problem with it being wide is that it gives me more scope for wandering at an angle.  Reference that shutting your eyes thing.  Of course, I err away from the main road and consequently end up halfwaydown the path to the river towpath where undesirables used to hang out.  They may still hang out down there I don’t know.  I am not inclined to give my wallet and iPhone to some druggy-scumbag.


Once across the super-wide road it’s pretty plain sailing for a while right up to the drop kerb where the Council lawn mowers have to get onto the common land.  I’ve alwayswanted to have a go on one of those.  That and to operate a digger.  That’s two more on my bucket list.  Anyway, as the drop kerb for the lawn mower is quite steep I can find it ok if I am careful.  Good job really as it’s right next to nutter roundabout.  There are only three roads that come together at this roundabout but there’s also an entrance to Matalan.  I don’t know what happens to people in there, but they seem to come out with this superiority ‘I’ve got the God-given right to come out of this entrance without giving a shit about anyone else on the road’ complex.  Add a blind man wandering into the melee and there would be a newspaper headline.


Around the corner there’s another wide entrance this time into a car park.  This one has a long sweeping round kerb, but it also has dropped kerbs and an island in the middle of the entrance also with dropped kerbs.  This is a very usefulindicator of where I am.  What I do is to follow the rounded corner to the dropped kerb cross to the island then cross to the other side.  No worries.  Well this is what I try to do.  What I did today was to misjudge the angle of the bend, come off the dropped kerb at an angle and wander off into the carpark.  After a little bit of two and fro-ing (probably looking like a North Korean mine detector) I thought I’d found the island with the drop kerbs.  With a sigh of relief, I set off to find the opposite side only to find another island with dropped kerbs.  There’s only a carpark full of the bastard things!  


Right Barry, stop and listen for traffic on the main road and head for that. Great plan if the traffic hadn’t just decided that it didn’t want to be traffic anymore.  Seriously, this road is always busy but not when I need it.  It was like Candid Camera were around the corner tittering while they stopped traffic.  


The next bit I get a weird kick out of if the traffic is on go.  It’s a pelican crossing with the secret thimble underneath the box with the button.  I stand there holding onto the box as if for support but always have my eyes shut.  Then when the cone starts to rotate, I set off.  I imagine that anyone watching is amazed that I can sense that the green man has lit up.  Little things.


The rest of the walk into town is pretty easy in comparison despite bins, A-boards, poles, pedestrians, cafes and shops spilling out onto the pavement, and buskers.  At least I can handle those the same every time.


Why do I put myself through all this?  Well it’s cheaper than white water rafting.


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