Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Visit To Wales - January 2018 (LBE & FD)

The dog in the photo above is Alexis-Hope (Lexi for short). Lexi is my Mam's Golden Retriever x Labrador puppy, who you may remember me mentioning a few months back. She'll be seven months old next week, but the photo was taken during my visit to Wales near the start of January, so she hadn't long turned six months when it was taken. Lexi is a very cuddly dog. She actually does this cute thing where she puts her front paws around you and gives you a hug, and we're never sure whether to be annoyed at her for jumping up, or pleased she's so loving. Anyway, I'm not sure how well you can tell, but it's me she's sitting on in the photo. Apparently I was in her spot. Haha! As I said, the photo was taken during my visit to Wales, which happened over the first weekend in January (I travelled there on January 5th 2018, and travelled home on January 8th 2018).

My Nan (Dad's Mother) was celebrating her 90th birthday (her birthday was on January 8th) and my Dad arranged for several of us to go out for dinner with her the Saturday before her birthday. For most of us, this meant a fair bit of travelling. The guests were my Nan's friends Caryl and Andrew, my Dad, my Mam, my brother Wayne, my brother Carl, Carl's girlfriend Tory, me, my cousin Shane, Shane's wife Donna, Shane and Donna's three youngest children, my Uncle Phillip (Dad's big brother) and my Auntie Bev (Uncle Phillip's wife). Oh, and Nan herself, of course. Kelly had been invited too, but stayed home with the furkids. The only ones who live near my Nan these days are Caryl and Andrew, my Mam, my Dad, and my brother Wayne. The rest of us had at least a few hours of travelling to do to get there.

For me this meant spending most of Friday January 5th on trains. Actually, if you want to be entirely accurate, I rode in two taxis, two trains, and my Mam's car. Then I did it all in reverse on Monday January 8th to come back home.

I love trains, but hated the journey. I tire easily, so it was a really long day for me anyhow, and I wasn't feeling well, so that didn't help. On top of that, I was doing it all by myself. I did book assistance, but the assistance isn't always reliable, and some of my experiences showed that.

On the way there, the first couple of people I dealt with had no idea I was coming, despite the fact they should have been notified, and seemed confused as to what they were meant to do with me. Well, the guards, anyhow. The ticket guy at the station near home was great, and did the job the guard should have done. Then the first guy who seemed to know I was coming - the fourth station worker I'd dealt with - sat in the driver's seat of those cart things they have, doing nothing while the taxi driver did his job for him, and only dealt with me when he had no choice. That trip ended in some confusion when they forgot where I was sat, and three guards were running around outside the train trying to decide where they'd find me, while passangers inside the train were helping me get off it (since we had no idea about the guard situation outside, and it appeared I'd been forgotten). At an end of the line stop, I could have waited for the guard to remember me. But the train never stops long at the smaller stations - of which the one nearest Mam is one - so not being remembered would have meant going further along the line, and then trying to organize being grabbed from the next station while on a train. Not surprisingly, that didn't appeal to me, so I was glad of the help from fellow passangers. Not that I'd have been entirely happy to have been left on the train either way.

Speaking of which... The journey home was worse. It started out great, with the guard expecting me and being helpful. But then I was left sat on the train for more than 15 minutes at my destination station. It's lucky it was the end of the line, because nobody offered to help at all - not even any of my fellow passangers. I was still sat there waiting when the guy came through the train to clean up, and he had to go find me a helper. Then my taxi driver had to do all the work again, except this time they not only didn't seem to know I was coming, but also didn't seem to be listening to what I wanted/needed of them. The taxi driver essentially ended up just leaving me in front of one of the station staff to make him do something, because he'd already been away from his cab longer than he should have been (officially they aren't meant to be out of sight of the car, but he broke the rule to help me get assistance; I tipped him well for it). The member of staff from the station didn't seem to know what to do with me, so sat me on a chair and fetched someone higher up, with the result that I only just got on my train in time before it left (there had been a bit of a delay with the first train in general, but my being left on that one, and the messing about to try and get help to get on the next, meant it was a really good thing I'd allowed much more time than should have been needed to get across London). The good thing is, I got an upgrade to 1st class out of it for that train. The bad thing is, it made the journey even more stressful than it already was, so I was beyond relieved when I was reunited with Kelly and Lilie at the station near where we live. I was also absolutely exhausted, but that's another story.

On top of all that, it was a good thing I make a habit of using my cane, so don't rely on others to actually watch where I'm walking for me, because most of the people "helping" me had no idea at all how to deal with a blind person. It seems like people in wheelchairs is something they can manage. Well, just about, anyhow, though they aren't as reliable as they should be with helping people in wheelchairs either. But give them a blind passanger and they haven't a clue. If anyone from any of the British Rail services is reading this, I suggest you get some training in for your workers... Just saying.

The worst part about all of this is how my experience wasn't actually all that bad. I mean, I did get the help from the station staff... Eventually. There have been times when people haven't even gotten that much. My brother, Carl, for example - also blind - has had times when he's had to somehow get himself off the train, and then stand there looking sad and lost until someone notices and helps him get where he needs to go. He's also had to take later trains, because they told him to sit somewhere and they'd fetch him when his train arrived, only to forget about him, and come for him more than an hour later... Long after his train has come and gone.

Anyway, add to that storms that threatened to have trains end up being cancelled right before I was leaving, icy conditions that had some trains being cancelled while I was there, plus the fatal accident and rail worker strikes that were causing many trains to be cancelled the day I came home, and you have a journey that I really didn't enjoy, even though trains were involved, and I did get some uninterupted reading time while on said trains.

At least the time spent with the family was more enjoyable than the journey.

I spent the weekend staying with Mam and Lexi at their place. We didn't do anything really exciting, just sort of hung out. We did consider checking out a cafe my Dad had found not too far from where Mam lives, which apparently has an excellent selection of vegetarian and vegan friendly items. But neither of us were feeling 100%, and we were both tired, so we didn't bother. I'm sure Lexi liked it that we only left for the things my Dad had arranged for us all to do together.

We all went out for the meal on the Saturday night. We'd pre-ordered our meals, because the place was closing for renovation the day after our meal, and they asked if we'd do that so they could make sure they had things we enjoyed available, especially since some of us had spacific dietary requirements (me being a vegetarian, and Auntie Bev needing a gluton-free diet, for example). Dad had secretly ordered what Nan usually gets for her, since the meal was supposed to be a total surprise for her, which it was (though us all being there was an even bigger surprise). I won't tell you what everyone had, because I can't remember it all, and there were too many of us to list it all. But my meal consisted of crispy vegetable bites with a spiced maple dip, followed by herb battered halloumi with chips (fries) and peas, ending with a dessert of cherry pie and custard. Halloumi is a type of Greek cheese, by the way... In case you don't know and are interested. I think I'm spelling it right. Anyhow, dinner was really good, and we had a great time. I think my Dad took some photos, but I don't have copies. I'll post them at a later date if I'm right about them existing.

The following day I finally met Maya. Maya is Wayne's Staffordshire Terrier x Wippet. She's going to be three years old in a few months, and this is the first time I've met her. She's certainly an energetic dog. Sorry, I don't have a photo of her... Didn't think about it until it was too late.

After that we went to Nan and Dad's house for a buffet and to do some photos. I know Dad took several, but I don't have his photos yet. I do have some that were taken with my Mam's phone though, so can share those with you. Photos were being taken with Dad's camera and Mam's phone at the same time, so some will be the same - or near enough - but I'll share any different ones with you at a later date. In the meantime, here are the photos I have:

The below photo is Carl, me, Wayne, and Shane, stood behind my Dad and my Uncle Phillip.

Here's Carl with his girlfriend, Tory:

Here's Mam and Wayne:

Me with my Dad:

And here's Nan:

Oh, and... Yes, the "Tori" and "Tory" thing did cause some confusion. It didn't help that there were three different ways people were telling us apart. One was the way Carl always uses, which is to call me Tors and her Tory, one was my Mam's way, which was to call me Victoria and her Tory, and the other was my Dad's way, which was to mention the letter we end our name with, since she ends hers with a "y" instead of the "i" that I use. Confused? Yeah... Don't feel bad... We often were too! Mostly we just answered if we thought they might mean us, and hoped for the best. Haha!

Anyway, that was my trip. It was nice... Other than the issues during the journeys... But I was glad to come home, especially since I still wasn't feeling too well. Plus, I'd missed Kelly and the furkids. I'm glad to have helped make Nan's 90th birthday such a special one for her though.


Jeanie said...

I'm glad the time ended up being a good one despite the two pretty unpleasant train journeys. Don't you hate it when things like that happen? I feel bad you had to go through that. But good to be with family -- that sounds fun -- and always good to be home. So glad you shared it with us. It must have felt good to vent! It would to me.

Danielle L Zecher said...

First of all, Lexi is adorable! And I love that she just sat on you. You probably hear this all of the time, but you look so much like your mom.

I'm so sorry your trip was bad, and that the people who were supposed to help you didn't. Have you considered writing to and/or calling whoever is in charge of that and telling them what went wrong? I know it won't fix your experience, but it might give you a better experience next time, and also help someone else. It sounds like it's an ongoing issue that really needs to be addressed, based on what you and your brother have dealt with.

Also, would you maybe consider writing a blog post or two explaining the proper way to help a blind person in a situation like that, or other situations? It sounds like some people wanted and tried to help you, but didn't go about it well. Honestly, I would be more than willing to help a blind person if they needed it, but really wouldn't know how to go about it without possibly being a total pain in the process. I wonder, too, if some people worry about being offensive.

Again, I'm sorry your travels were so unpleasant, but I'm glad the dinner was nice.

Victoria Zigler said...

Yeah, I hate when the journey spoils a trip. Absolutely: it was nice to see the family, and even nicer to come home.

Victoria Zigler said...

If you think I look a lot like my Mam, you should see how much Carl and I look alike when he shaves his beard off. Between that and how close in age we are, we've been mistaken for twins in the past. I think that's part of why he started growing the beard.

We've mentioned it to them in the past. Plus, I spacifically discussed the issues with one of the guards while Mam went to get the car and bring it closer.

I'd be happy to give tips on helping a blind person. I have written the odd post in the past where I've mentioned a few things about dealing with a blind person, such as the fact avoiding words like "look" and "see" bothers a blind person more than you using them, for example. Also, my "Toby's Tales" books discuss some things that can be done to help a blind person, especially one adjusting after sight loss, such as doing simple things like putting a plaster/bandaid on their toothbrush if there are several kept in the same place that are identical other than colour, for example. Are there any spacific topics you'd like me to cover?

Danielle L Zecher said...

I didn't see how much you and Carl look alike until you said that about the beard, but now I see it if I think about him without the beard. I guess you both look just like your mom.

I'm glad you talked to the guard about the issues, but I wonder if s/he is actually in a position to do anything to put better policies in place. I'm sure things are different over there, but here, at least, it seems like the people you have ready access to have nothing to do with how things are run. They may agree with you that there aren't enough people, things don't run smoothly, etc., but have no control over staffing or policies. It seems like those decisions are typically made by people in far away offices who have no clue what is actually going on out in the real world. That's why I prefer a letter or email. There's at least a chance of it getting to someone who can do something about it. That's just my two cents worth, and like I said, I'm sure things are probably different on your side of the Atlantic.

As far as specific topics, I'd love to see a post (if there's not already one that I'm just missing, which is highly possible) covering things like how to politely offer to help a blind person. Like in your situation, what could the people who tried to help you have done differently or better? I think most people are used to seeing people with mobility issues and holding or at least offering to hold doors and that kind of thing. With a blind person, how do you even approach offering to help without seeming like an overbearing jerk or violating someone's personal space? Is it rude to just ask outright if someone might need some help? Is it helpful if someone offers you their arm or hand? Or is it more helpful for someone to offer to carry your bags, leaving your hands free to use your cane?

It just makes me really sad to think that no one even offered to help you on one of the trains, and that some of the people who did try to help you weren't as helpful as they might have hoped they were. Public transit isn't a huge thing where I live, but I do fly sometimes, and I'd like to think that if I saw a blind person seeming to struggle in an airport that I'd offer to help them in some way. It would be nice if that "help" was actually helpful.

Please don't think I'm trying to be intrusive or anything like that. I just would really like to think that most people wouldn't have just left you sitting on a train worried about ending up at the wrong station if they knew how to keep that from happening.

Victoria Zigler said...

I once had my story put in the paper when a certain incident happened while I was in my teens. A bus driver told me I was at my stop, so I got off the bus, only to be somewhere completely unfamiliar. I had to call my Dad - luckily I had my own mobile phone by that point - and have him on the line while I knocked on someone's door to find out where I was. When we called the bus company, they denied all knowledge of it, and even insisted there hadn't been a driver matching the one I'd dealt with on the route I'd been on. So we went to the papers. The bus company gave me a bus pass for free travel to shut me up (which I later learned I would have been entitled to soon afterwards when they brought them in for disabled passangers anyhow) and nothing changed. That's how it works over here: you complain to the high ups, they do whatever makes you go away, and nothing changes. Talk to those lower down the ladder, and they'll talk to each other and something might change.

Anyway, I don't think you're being intrusive, and don't mind you asking at all. I have said in the past that I'm happy to answer questions on the subject of blindness where I can. I'm willing to offer advice to fellow authors who may wish to write about a blind character, as well as to people in general who want to understand. Actually, I'm pleased you want to know and understand. I would like to think you're right that more people would help if they knew how to, and am happy to help with that where I can. That's why I was so eager to know exactly what you want to learn: if I know what you want to learn about, I can do my best to help you understand.

Rita said...

The traveling to and fro sounded horrible for the most part. Stress like that is exhausting! I bet you were just so glad to be back home. :) But the birthday was one not to miss! 90!! And being with family was a great time--can tell by the photos. Makes it worth the trip. :)

Victoria Zigler said...

Right on both counts: it was exhausting, but the birthday was one not to miss. My Nan's delight in us being there to surprise her made it worth it, even if I was rather relieved to be back home afterwards.