8 books that I have read recently

I haven’t done a books post for a while. I started doing them monthly, but if I only managed one or two books in a month, that wasn’t very exciting. So here are my 8 most recent books. It’s an eclectic mix again – personal story, travel, drama, sci-fi and easy reads. Some are things that I’ve been wanting to read, others are audio books that I read with S, whilst others are books that people have recommended. As always, there are no pictures of the books because I read them electronically, and in any event I don’t bow down to the assertion that you need a bunch of images every time you want to write something.

1. Northanger Abbey audio drama

By: Jane Austin
I got this when it was the daily sale purchase from Audible. They have deals on every day, and if something you want to read comes up when you already have a subscription, it’s a good way to get extra books cheaply.

After visiting Jane Austen’s house, I decided I wanted to read more of her books. I love the way that the characters spoke to each other and have adopted “odious man” into my own vocabulary! I think it’s fascinating to see how life was so much different in those days, particularly in relation to the role of women and how finding a suitable match was seen to be so important. The social events may have changed, but humanity hasn’t changed that much. I saw huge parallels with social media nowadays and how people can be so busy constructing the image of themselves as they want others to see them.

I thought the dramatization was really well done and will look out for more.

2.
Twirling naked in the streets and noone noticed – growing up with undiagnosed autism

By: Jeannie Davide-Rivera
I got it as an audio book from iTunes
This is one of the few books that I have read twice. I first got it a couple of years ago when I was doing some research about autism in relation to an adult learner, but although I have never experienced the specific difficulties that the learner was having, I soon realised that I shared some of the traits described in the books and articles that I was reading.

This book follows the story of a child who becomes a teenager, then an adult, and it is only in adulthood that she discovers that she has autism. There’s plenty of information about boys and men on the spectrum, but not so much about women, which is why I particularly enjoyed this book.

I don’t relate to everything she says, but some things really made sense to me on a level that was deeper than just academic understanding, I got it! These ranged from sensory sensitivities (which in my case people thought for years were just a blindness thing), to the way she approaches some tasks, interacted with other children, and responds to people and/or specific situations. Some of the things in the book and on Jeannie’s blog sounded like something I might write, and that felt good to read because most of the time people don’t think that way. I like it because it isn’t a book “about” people by someone with no first-hand knowledge, but a book by someone giving an honest account of their own experiences.

3. The peacock Emporium

By: Jojo Moyes
This was another daily sale book and I picked it up because I’d read some other books by the author.

I struggled a bit with the narrative because I found it really hard to relate to the main character. She seemed so passive. People can’t help you to get what you want if you don’t try to work out for yourself what that is. But I think it also addressed some important issues such as what it’s like for newcomers in small communities, and how or when you should get involved when it’s clear that someone is being treated badly by their partner.

4. Steelheart

By: Brandon Sanderson
This was another of my monthly Audible books.

We got this because it was written by the same author as the Way of Kings series. The idea is that a handful of people have been given superpowers and become known as epics, but the epics want to rule, and in doing so, crush civilisations and fight with each other. One young boy, who saw his father killed, wants to join the good guys, ordinary people trying to bring down the worst band of epics. He has knowledge that they need, but will he be allowed to join them?

There was a twist or two in the plot that I didn’t anticipate. I got a bit bored during the lengthy weapons descriptions, but I liked the idea that with every superpower comes a weakness, which means that nobody is really invincible, and the clever tech was cool. Maybe just a bit less talk about guns?

5. Around the world in 80 days

By: Michael Palin

I seem to remember this was on offer too – in any event I was in the mood for some non-fiction, so I got the audio book from Audible.

The story of this adventure wasn’t new to me because I had seen the TV programme as a child with my grandparents. I didn’t actually know it was a book. But I wanted to revisit all the places again, so got the book when S was away and I wanted something to read – because I know I always go to bed really late if he isn’t around!

Each day is described in terms of the places the team visited, the people they met, and the things that happened as they travelled around the world, following the route that Phileas Fogg had taken around 100 years earlier.

6. Fated

By: Benedict Jacka
Another book that I got from Audible!

We got this because it was said to be similar to the Jim Butcher Harry Dresden urban fantasy series, but this one is set in London. Camden to be specific, and I used to work not far from there! It’s fun to have places like Camden Market and the British Museum popping up in the stories that you read.

It is similar to the Dresden files in that it explains life from the perspective of a magic user in a world where magic is all around you, but most people just don’t notice it. There is friendship, sometimes with unlikely creatures, questions of conscience, hunger for power, fear, and excitement. There isn’t much violence, but the book does touch on issues of slavery and torture. I’m not quite sure which reader demographic the author was going for – the writing style would have also made it suitable for a younger audience, but some of the material was not.

7. Fallen Angels

By: Richard Morgan
This is the second in the altered Carbon series. Another one from Audible.

This is the second book about Takeshi Covacs, set 50 years after the Altered Carbon book (and TV series). It’s a mix of sci-fi thriller and war novel that includes politics, philosophy and action.

I loved the idea of this – all the different characters having to work together whilst discovering technology from a civilisation that was so much more advanced than their own. But some of the scenes were a bit disturbing – I think that because bodies are dispensible as people can be downloaded into new ones, they are treated as mere sleves with quite horrifying results. It kind of shows that whatever changes, whatever advances are made in science and technology, things like greed, the need to be in charge and have the biggest and best stay pretty much the same.

It was still an exciting read though with several points at which you were convinced that everything was lost, only to find another plot twist.

8. The one plus one

By Jojo Moyes

I actually read this in German, but found an English link for you!

Another non-demanding, highly improbable book about a family and the struggles they faced. The sad scene with the dog did actually make me cry. But on the whole I found this too farfetched. Everything isn’t suddenly ok if an absent parent suddenly shows up again, and as someone who has had accessibility struggles, it’s not ok to pretend that your dog is a guide dog just so he’ll be let in somewhere.

I like the idea of bringing people together whose lives are so different – a mother struggling to make ends meet and a successful businessman who made a mistake, but I don’t think this is one of the author’s best books. I did however read on to the end, so it can’t have been that bad because I’m not someone who’ll finish a book just because they started it.

Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!

Your chance to get a free audio book from Audible

If you’re in the UK or Germany, you can get a free ebook if you sign up for an Audible subscription. Whether or not you continue with the monthly subscription, you get to keep your audio book, and you can choose from 200,000 titles on a wide range of subjects. You can then download the Audible app on your phone and take your book with you wherever you go! (Books have to be purchased on the website – you can’t do it on the app).

Link for the UK
Link for Germany

1. This offer is open to people in Germany and the UK. Remember to use the correct link for your country.
2. You are eligible if you haven’t had a free audio book from Audible in the last year.
3. If you don’t want to pay, you must remember to cancel your subscription within the first month. You will still be able to keep your free book.
4. If you like the service, you will continue to receive a credit each month, which can be used to buy a book. Buying books on subscription is often cheaper than buying them individually.

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Winner of the Summer giveaway

This is a quick post to announce the winner of the Unseen Beauty Summer giveaway – find out who won here:

If you didn’t win and you ticked the box for your entry to be transferred, it’ll go into the Autumn giveaway in September, giving you an additional chance to win then.

Our winner said that she would most like to try the face mask, which with around 25% of the votes was the most popular choice. So, for anyone who was interested in that, there’s going to be a similar one in the Autumn box.

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Body Shop products – roots of strength collection and new banana skin care range

I’ve got two lines from the Body Shop for you today. If skincare isn’t your thing, there are posts about books and horses coming up soon! Also today (15th July) is the last day to enter my Summer giveaway!

Banana treats

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll have heard me raving about the banana haircare range. This summer, The Body Shop® has added to the banana range. There are some sets, or you can buy the products individually. S bought me the three new products last weekend and I’ve been trying them out. All of them have the familiar juicy banana scent that we know from the haircare range. They’re made from Ecuador with bananas of all shapes and sizes that wouldn’t sell in the food industry. So it’s saving waste as well because the puree is fine for skincare.

Starting with something for the shower, the banana shower cream is a fruity treat that will leave your skin soft and smelling of bananas!

The banana body butter is one of the firmer butters and leaves your skin feeling softer and smoother. It’s not overpowering, but I could even smell the banana the next day. The body butter comes in two sizes – I got the smaller one and now wish I had gone for the big one!

The banana body yoghurt is a lighter formula and perfect for this hot weather, when you want something that will still moisturise, but also absorb quickly. As well as the banana puree, this body yoghurt also contains almond milk from Spain. (I talked about the almond milk body yoghurt in my June favourites post.) The body yoghurts can be applied to damp or dry skin, so ideal if you don’t have much time but still want to moisturise after the shower or bath.

I really like this collection. The only problem is that it’s limited edition, so if you want to try it, you need to be quick! At the time of writing, you can Save £10 when you spend £35 by using the online code: 19805 – also there’s free delivery over £25.

Roots of Strength collection

This is something that I’ve had for longer, because I like to give skincare products for the face a bit longer to try them out before I put them on the blog.

I first heard about the Roots of Strength® collection on Caroline Hirons’ blog, where she did an overview of it in February.

The key ingredients are ginger from Madagascar, ginseng root from China, and ruscus root from Europe. This is presumably why it’s called Roots of strength, because of the roots in the ingredients. The scent of the ginger is quite strong in all of the products, so if you don’t like ginger, this isn’t the range for you!

There are three products in the range. I bought all of them, but one of the things that I love about the Body Shop® skincare is that it plays nicely with other products and doesn’t tend to pill or ball up, so you could also introduce just one of the products into your routine to see how you like it. However, there are sometimes deals if you buy the complete range together.

The first step is the essence lotion which you apply after cleansing. It’s a lightweight lotion to make your skin feel more hydrated. To be honest, I don’t usually go for essences and go straight from a toner to a serum, but this can be a welcome addition to the skincare routine, particularly if your face is feeling dry.

The next step is the serum, which is a lightweight one that can easily be used under make-up. So it’s not oily like some of the evening serums. It’s said to hydrate and reduce the signs of aging, with skin feeling firmer and plumper.

You can then finish off with the day moisturiser, which feels thicker than some of the other day moisturisers, but it doesn’t leave your skin feeling greasy.

I think my favourite from this range is the serum, followed by the moisturiser. Skin does change and I know my skin is different now to what it was 10 years ago in my mid 20s, so I appreciate having these targeted ranges. I’m probably at the younger end of the target audience for this range, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to start early when it comes to thinking about replumping, firming and moisturising.

Have you tried any of the banana or the roots of strength® products? What did you think of them?

Summer giveaway

Don’t forget that my Summer giveaway is still open – so why not have a look and enter if you haven’t already. The giveaway is international and it’s open until 15thJuly 2018.

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This post contains affiliate links. All views are my own.

If you really want something – my Granddad learned how to use a computer so that he could teach me

I told you something about my grandparents in the joint blogger post about Grandparents that I put together last year, but today I’d like to tell you a bit more about my Granddad.

You see, when I think about someone deciding what they want and going for it, I often think of him.

This inspires me in an age of quick wins. Where people often give up when they hit the first obstacle. Where we are promised immediate gratification and people seem to feel hard-done-by if something isn’t easy or achievable on the first attempt.

Against the backdrop of all this, my Granddad reminds me that sometimes you just have to keep trying, against all odds, and if you are persistent, you’ll be rewarded.

So, in order for this to make sense, you need to know something about my Granddad.

He left school at the age of 15 and got a job. He had a bakery van and delivered bread. He ran a shop with my Nan. When I was growing up, he worked as a postman. He worked hard and made a living so that he could support his family.

When I was 5, I got my first computer. Who remembers the BBC Micro?

It had an entire 3-shelf trolley for all the things I needed for it. It was enormous. It had a huge keyboard that I typed my first words on, one of those floppy drives that took the 5¼-inch disks and made a satisfying clunk as you locked them in place, an external speech synthesiser with buttons and knobs on the front, and a “pocket user guide” that was two massive folders in Braille (the tactile writing system that blind people use to read).

You could connect a manual Braille input device to it, so whilst any programmes had to be operated using the keyboard, text could also be entered in Braille.

This was all great – and would set me up for life with IT literacy skills, which I would definitely need both throughout my education and my career.

There was just one problem – nobody knew how to use it!

My Granddad did not have a technical background at all. He’d never used a computer at work, and in those days, looking things up on forums wasn’t as easy as it is now. Basic courses or books from the library wouldn’t have given him all the information he needed. It wasn’t just the general information about how to use the computer, but also how the additional technology for blind people could be integrated, how to solve problems, where the access technology reached its limits, how to teach me to use it, and what to do about the error messages that popped up from time to time, or when the speech synthesiser went crazy and wouldn’t stop talking or making sounds (turning it off was usually a good fix for that!)

So he read the manuals. He didn’t have anyone to help him. He just got on with it, and learned. I was eager to learn too, so when I went to bed, he kept reading the books so that he could stay ahead of me and have new things to teach me, or answers to my questions, which never stopped coming!

At that time I had very supportive teachers and a classroom assistant at school, who also helped me to use the new equipment and encouraged me on the odd days when I didn’t feel like learning to touch-type when nobody else in my class had to! I’m so glad I did. But my progress would have been much slower if I hadn’t had someone at home who was interested in helping me to develop and learn.

Once he finished teaching me the basics, he learned how to write small programmes and created games for us grandchildren to teach us maths or word games. A lot of the games that were written for small children were very visual in nature and not accessible to blind children – but Granddad’s ones were!

When I wanted to know how they worked, he taught me as well. I didn’t write any of my own at that time, but I understood how to do it. There’s nothing that tests your knowledge of how to do something as much as someone else asking you to explain it to them!

Now technology is so much a part of my daily life that I don’t even think about it. Equipment got replaced as I grew older and learned how to use new devices. An electronic Braille embosser was added and along came the laptop. Granddad kept up, but I don’t think anything was as steep as that initial learning curve in my first years of primary school.

Now, if my cables are a mess, I still remember how he used to be on my case about them, saying that I should take better care of them!

What I admire is that he took the initiative and did something that he knew would be tough. Of course he could read, but he didn’t have qualifications or knowledge in this field. He was driven by the desire to help me, and so he just got on with it!

It was the same with smoking, or rather quitting smoking. He had been smoking for years, but after a fair bit of nagging from us, yes I was part of that and quite persistent I think, he decided to stop. The plan was that he would collect the money that would have gone on cigarettes, and buy himself something as a kind of motivational reward. He got his video player, and pretty much quit overnight.

I’m not going to get into a discussion here about how easy it is to stop smoking. I’ve never smoked and if someone told me to give up coffee, I would find it incredibly difficult. My point is that he made a decision and followed through, not giving up when it got tough.

I know that as I grew older and went into higher education, my grandparents didn’t understand many of the things I was learning. My love for languages was something they would never be able to relate to – which didn’t stop my Nan trying to read out handwritten letters so I could find out what my German pen-pals had to say!

But I know that if I hadn’t had that early help with my “talking computer” as it was affectionately known, I wouldn’t have had such a good start in life. And that, is largely down to the determination of my Granddad Stan.

Sometimes I think about that when I’m struggling with something that pushes me out of my comfort zone because it’s difficult or new. He didn’t give up, and neither should I!

Summer giveaway

Don’t forget that my Summer giveaway is still open – so why not have a look and enter if you haven’t already. The giveaway is international and it’s open until 15thJuly 2018.

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The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

14 empty products from June

Before I go into my June 2018 empties, I thought it would be interesting to look back at my June 2017 empties. Of the 18 products I mentioned, 4 of them are still things that I have bought again and am using a year later. The mascara, the foundation, the crazy hair tamer, and the micellar water from Madara are things that I still use. I love to try new things and find new favourites!

So, here are the 14 products that I got through in June this year. Let me know if you’ve tried out any of these products.

Bath and shower

Hot weather and a lot of bath and shower products got finished up – partly due to minis and partly because several things were open and all got finished up.
Lemon bonbon shower gel – this is good for anyone who likes a fresh and citrus scent. It’s lemon bon bon, so a bit sweeter than just lemon on its own, and I like it because there seems to be a trend at the moment to put neroli with lemon things – and I don’t like that! So yes, it’s a good shower gel – not sure why it’s called a crème – and it’s got a zingy lemon scent. I’d get it again.

Original Source mango shower gel – I picked this up purely because it had the word “mango” on it and I love all the mango things. This is a budget-friendly shower gel, slightly thinner and less creamy than the lemon one, but it did the job and smelled deliciously of mangos. I like to swap out my shower gels and rarely use the same one twice in a row, but I would go back to this one, or see what else there is in the range.

Sud the lot of you shower gel – this was a mini sample from Pink Parcel. I love the names that Anatomicals comes up with – they’re quirky and fun, and there are some cool ingredients. I would need to get a bigger one really to say what I thought of it, but it’s got mango and papaya, which are two of my favourite scents, and as a general rule I do like these shower gels. I went on about their coffee one for ages last year. To be honest, I still prefer the coffee one, but the mango and papaya one was good too. It depends what you like!

Amie face wash – I got this as part of a skincare duo in Latest in Beauty. It was nice enough, but I won’t be dashing out to get it again!

Korres bellflower, tangerine, and pink pepper shower gel – I love Korres products. These shower gels contain wheat proteins, which form a protective film on the skin to keep it hydrated. It doesn’t feel sticky or uncomfortable though – I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t read the information on the website. It contains bellflower, from Mount Olympus, tangerine, apparently offered as a new year gift and a symbol of prosperity, and sweet pepper. It does smell floral, but the tangerine is there too, so the floral scent is not overpowering if that’s not your thing!

Atlantic Kelp body wash – from my M&S summer beauty box, which is now sold out. This body wash contains Ren’s blend of oils to awaken and revive skin, along with Atlantic kelp extract and energising magnesium. Not what I would usually buy, but good to try out the sample.

Haircare

Maria Nila shampoo and conditioner – this was a set that we got in Glossybox and I was pleased to see decent sized samples. I have very long hair, and a lot of it, and sometimes the tiny samples you get in beauty boxes aren’t really enough even for one wash. Anyway, this was a travel size, so I could put it through its paces. It did leave my hair feeling soft after use, but I like haircare products with a bit more scent to them, so this isn’t something I’d buy again.

Novex hair mask – from the Glossybox French Riviera box. This brand is actually Brazilian, so I’m not sure about the French Riviera connection – maybe it’s that you need to look after your hair after you’ve been out in the sun for ages! Who knows! But this was a decent size of mask and I enjoyed using it because my hair felt soft and tangle-free afterwards. The mask contains baobab oil, which helps to hydrate the hair – so ideal if you’ve been out in the sun and want to give your hair a treat.

Skincare

Vitamin C glow-boosting moisturiser – I’ve talked about this Body Shop product before and I got through another tub of it. It helps to wake up grumpy skin and smells of fresh oranges. It contains vitamin C rich camu camu from the Amazonian rainforest and has a lovely lightweight formula – especially good for the summer when you want something that will absorb quickly. I have read somewhere that vitamin C products become less effective when exposed to the air, so if you open this, I’d use it up before starting any other moisturisers – and don’t leave the lid off! Shame it’s not in a tube or pump bottle really, but I do like the product.

Madara micellar water – this was actually in last June’s empties as well! It’s more expensive than some of the budget micellar waters, and I don’t use it all the time. But I do really like Madara products, and this micellar water also contains hyaluronic acid, which is good for keeping your skin supple and hydrated.

Wonder Hand moisturising hand cream – from the Zoella range. I’ve tried so many handcreams that something has to be pretty amazing to wow me. This will be an unpopular opinion with some, but I just don’t find the Zoella products that I’ve tried provide the level of moisture that I’d want them to. Maybe the younger demographic target audience doesn’t need it, but I do – so this isn’t something I’d get again.

mango hand cream from Garnier – This is half the price of the one above and I’d say twice as good. Apart from the fact that it contains mango oil and smells great, it’s moisturising and not greasy. It doesn’t smell as strongly of mangos as some that I’ve tried, but it’s got a clean and refreshing scent and it keeps your hands soft for ages. I kept it on my desk and could use a bit, rub it in, then be ready to start typing again. Out of the two that I finished up in June, this was definitely my favourite.

Pink grapefruit body puree – a treat from the Body Shop that I forgot I had! I love the pink grapefruit line anyway, but this is especially good because it’s a lightweight body lotion, which absorbs fast and still leaves your skin hydrated. I have found an issue with some of the fast-absorbing lotions for the Summer is that they do absorb and then do nothing for you, which isn’t the point. That’s not the case here though. It contains grapefruit seed oil and honey from Ethiopia. I’d definitely get it again!

Fragrance

Cherry perfume from L’Occitane – one of my Christmas favourites! The link takes you to the roller perfume – I didn’t actually have this, but they don’t stock the small one that I got in my gift bag. Still, it’s the same scent and it’s lovely – fruity and floral! Makes me think of springtime, but that’s perhaps because I wore it then!

Summer giveaway

Don’t forget that my Summer giveaway is still open – so why not have a look and enter if you haven’t already. The giveaway is international and it’s open until 15thJuly 2018.

More from Unseen Beauty

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This site features some affiliate links, but I only give my honest opinions.

Discounts

You can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30. So basically you can get £30 of products for £20. This is an affiliate link, so I also get a reward – in this case it’s £10 worth of products.

If you want to give Glossybox a go and get 20% off your first box, you can use my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

I’m tired – the disability reality that people don’t talk about

The day that my golden retriever Cindy died was a really tough day for me. I didn’t want to have to tell people about it and have the same conversation over and over again, so I posted it on Facebook. Just to get it done. However, as the day went on, I was really touched by all the kind people who left comments and kind words, or things that they remembered about her. I wasn’t particularly looking for interaction when I wrote the post – I just wanted to get the conversation out of the way. But I was glad that I did it.

My blog isn’t the kind where I really open up online.

Some people do, and I don’t want to judge them. If it helps to write all the emotions down and get it out there, and even better to get support from others, then why not? That’s cool. But if I’m having a bad day, generally the last thing I want to do is tell other people about it!

I think a lot of this has to do with me as a person, and nothing to do with having a disability. If anything, I don’t share because in the past I’ve been the person that other people go to when they’re not ok, and then I got myself the reputation as the one who gets things done, finds solutions, and sorts out problems. Somehow people expect me to be positive, coping, and to have my sh1t together all of the time. Like some kind of superwoman – which, by the way, I’m not!

Things have got better since I’ve been with my partner. I do open up more now, but not usually on my blog or social media. I think live and let live – if people want to reveal so much of themselves it’s their choice, but I can’t relate to what motivates people to do it. So I don’t.

There’s a problem though. Not sharing means other people don’t know when things aren’t ok, or why.

Sometimes it’s not as clear-cut as just one thing that’s gone wrong. Generally people can understand a specific thing. I had a bad day because something went wrong at work/I have a headache/my car broke down or whatever.

The thing is – sometimes I get really tired. Not the kind of tired after you’ve been reading a good book till 3AM and still have to get up for work, but weary of having to do twice as much work as other people just to get a job done.

It’s not all of the time. Many things that I do at work are just as easy for me as anyone else. Learning when I was 5 means that now, I can type faster than a lot of sighted people, which is great when you need to make detailed notes or get an accurate record of meetings. Thanks to my screenreader, I can read, write, work with spreadsheets, find information, and manage pretty much all areas of my business myself. Working in two languages isn’t more difficult for me than for anyone else. I’m organised, so my systems work well, and working for myself has eliminated a lot of inaccessible practices that I had to work through in other jobs.

Sometimes people seem amazed at some of the things that I get done as a blind woman, whereas for me, they’re just normal things that aren’t particularly difficult. They would be hard for someone who suddenly lost their sight, but I’ve got strategies to get them done, so it’s not a big deal and I can do them on autopilot.

But then there are the other things that leave me feeling exhausted. And it’s not just one thing. It’s the knowledge that often I have to work twice as hard to do something that would be really simple for someone else. That is frustrating at times.

When I lived in London, it wasn’t so much my job that drained every bit of energy from me, as the trek across London each day (3 hours in total). Yes, I enjoyed reading my book on the train and chatting to the friends I made on the commute, but it was the careless tourists, the terrible drivers, the people who nearly trampled on my dog, the roadworks that appeared in a different place every day, the lack of audio announcements on the trains, the people with pushchairs who thought that everyone else was a second-class citizen and should get out of the way – preferably into the road, the cyclists who thought the red lights didn’t apply to them, and the religious or drunk people who thought that the woman with a guide dog was a captive audience. They stole my energy. One on its own would have been fine, but it all adds up, like putting more and more in your shopping bag until it’s so heavy you think it might split and you are sooo glad to get home and lock the door behind you!

Does that make me a less capable or less independent blind traveller, or just a more honest one?

It was hard. Some days were fine and I didn’t experience any of this. Others weren’t. If you’ve already had a tough day at work, things like that can wear you out!

When I ask my partner for help on my laptop – sometimes it’s to draw on his vast IT knowledge, but more often than not, it’s to do the simplest task that I can’t do because some unhelpful person or organisation has designed their site in a way that I can’t use it independently. So it takes longer.

I’m not going to get into the discussion about whether it’s a result of blindness or society not being accessible – because I think on a day-to-day basis, it’s often a mixture of both.

The fact that I can’t find my keys because I wasn’t organised and didn’t put them in their place is my fault – not the society around me. And the fact that it takes me longer than someone who can easily see where they are is definitely related to the fact that I can’t see them.

The fact that if I want to go somewhere new on my own, I need to do more planning than someone who could just show up and follow a map is just something I need to factor in, as is the fact that we sometimes need to do a bit more work beforehand to make a group activity with friends accessible to me as well. It’s not a reason not to do these things, but doing it takes time and sometimes energy.

The fact that, in order to take part in a course, I have to write several emails, make phone calls and chase around till I get an answer about accessible materials is definitely a case of the organisation in question not making it easy for me. I can’t just sign up an go.

On another self-study course that I started recently, I got part-way through module one before hitting the roadblock of a question called “label this diagram”. The content was easy. The diagram made it impossible for me to complete the task. So the options were find an alternative course, have a lengthy discussion about accessibility, or give up! I am not a fan of giving up, but I have learned now to choose my battles wisely, and focus on the things that will really add value.

So, sometimes nobody is at fault. Also, finding someone to blame doesn’t make the extra work go away.

On some days, all this extra work builds up. If I’m tired anyway – because life happened that way, it can make me feel exhausted. Most of the time I just take it in my stride, but each of these things saps a little bit of energy, and when you add them all together, it accumulates.

I don’t want to whine about it. I don’t want others to feel sorry for me. I don’t necessarily need people to come up with solutions because chances are I already have one.

The other problem is that people are often not that good at listening. They’d rather tell you about how something similar happened to their neighbour’s best friend’s spaniel, or about the vaguely-related article they read, whilst I sit there trying not to get bored and disengage because I don’t see the relevance to the thing we’re actually discussing. People want to contribute something, or at least not to admit they have no idea what to say – I get that. But listening is such an undervalued skill nowadays!

So I often don’t share, because having to listen to lots of words with people trying to fix problems that I’ve already fixed is also kind of tiring. I just want people to understand that because I’m not openly losing it on Facebook or crying in a corner somewhere, it doesn’t mean everything is easy or fine.

I get on with things. I’m not an emotionally needy friend. I’m maybe a difficult friend to have because my first thought isn’t to share when things aren’t going well. But sometimes I’m not looking for comfort – just for someone not to try and get me to carry their shopping bags as well whilst I’m struggling to carry my own (I mean the shopping bag analogy from earlier in the article).

It doesn’t last long. A good night’s sleep, a good distraction – and the next day I’m ready to face the world again with new energy. But on a particularly tough day a couple of weeks ago, I did ask the question as to why we never talk about this.

Are people who live full and happy lives despite their physical disability not allowed to say “I’m so tired today because of all the extra energy and concentration that I have to put in?”

When I was younger, I would never have admitted it. “I can cope! I can do anything!” I still believe that I can cope and do anything I want to, but just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that there is no cost involved – whether that’s material cost or cost in terms of effort. Sometimes it’s the same amount of effort as anyone else would need. Often it’s more.

There is no better time to have a disability such as blindness. Technology makes so many things possible. There are aps on my phone to read things, tell the colour of things, and help me to shop online without ever having to navigate a shop on my own! My laptop gives me access to find information or communicate with friends and customers across the world. I have a supportive partner, family and friends.

But sometimes, just because I can make things look easy, it doesn’t mean that they are.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this – other than to say I think we should have the freedom to be real. I think people with disabilities often put ourselves under pressure because others believe that we can’t do things, or are amazed when we can do things that aren’t that hard. So we don’t want to admit any sign of weakness, because it somehow reinforces the stereotypes or a “can’t-do attitude”. Sometimes we get tired of people who always see the problems and never the solutions – and the worst thing would be to be seen as the same as them. And yes, I don’t have much patience with people who are unwilling to try because everything’s sooo hard!

But going back to the original point – admitting you find something hard and doing it anyway isn’t weakness. Doesn’t that mean you’re a stronger person than the person who pretends the hassles aren’t there?

I am still positive, determined, driven, and passionate about finding ways to get things done. But sometimes I get tired because of all the extra work that goes in behind the scenes – work that most people aren’t even aware that I’m doing – and today I decided admitting that this extra work wears me out sometimes is perfectly ok.

If you’re looking for other articles about blindness and life as an adult, you might enjoy these

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Why we backed the Critical Role kickstarter – blind fan to find out how the characters look

The most popular post on my blog this year was the one about making dungeons and dragons accessible to blind gamers I don’t write about this hobby a lot on my blog, but it’s something that S introduced me to and that we do regularly. I think the interest came because there’s not a lot of information about blind people getting involved in this hobby, but with a few modifications, it’s definitely possible.

S has bought things on Kickstarter before, but I never have. That changed this week when we backed the Critical Role kickstarter, which means that we will get a selection of models to represent the characters in the two seasons of the live action campaigns of Critical Role

I mentioned Critical Role before in my first D&D post. S watched it on YouTube, and I really got into it when they started posting the audio files as podcasts as well. (I prefer podcasts because the app allows you to play them at double speed, whereas the YouTube app does not). I’m used to listening to my phone and computer at high speed so that I can read information quickly – and therefore it’s harder for me to stay focussed at normal speed now. Also some of these files are about 4 hours long!

The adventures are set in Exandria, a world created by Matthew Mercer. The players are all voice actors, which really brings them to life when you’re listening to them. Hard to believe that Jester and Vex’ahlia are played by the same person because the voices are so different!

Critical Role is now into its second season and as well as enjoying the epic adventures, listening to others play helps me to understand more about the game, gives me ideas about my own characters and what you can do with them. The first character I ever played was a half-elf Druid like Keylith, and I enjoyed watching her develop. Grog the Barbarian was hilarious and his voice suited him perfectly. Scanlan’s songs and antics made me laugh. I enjoyed the chemistry between brother and sister Vex’ildan and Vex’ahlia.

If you haven’t listened to season 1, I’d recommend it – and there’s 373 hours of gameplay to listen to!

Season 2 saw a whole new group of characters – and even Frumpkin the cat gets featured on the model!

This information is taken from the Kickstarter page, which I have linked below:

“The first Critical Role campaign centered on the ragtag group of heroes in Tal’Dorei known as Vox Machina — Pike Trickfoot, the Gnome Cleric, Keyleth, the Half-Elf Druid, Percival “Percy” Fredrickstein Von Musel Klossowski de Rolo, the Human Gunslinger, Grog Strongjaw, the Goliath Barbarian, Scanlan Shorthalt the Gnome Bard, Taryon “Tary” Darrington, the Human Artificer, Vex’ahlia (and her animal companion, a bear named Trinket), the Half-Elf Ranger and Vax’ildan, the Half-Elf Rogue. The first campaign ended in November 2017 after 115 episodes and 373 hours of gameplay.
Critical Role is now in its second campaign, in which the Mighty Nein begin their adventures together in Wildemount. The Mighty Nein consists of Yasha, the Aasimar Barbarian, Beauregard, the Human Monk, Mollymauk Tealeaf, the Tiefling Blood Hunter, Fjord, the Half-Orc Warlock, Nott the Brave, the Goblin Rogue, Jester, the Tiefling Cleric, and Caleb Widogast, the Human Wizard. Shakäste, a human cleric, has proven himself to be a trusted ally of the Mighty Nein.”

Some gamers collect minis as a hobby. I don’t do that, but I do have one to represent each of the characters I’ve created, both to use during the games, and as a reminder of those characters. When playing online, you don’t use the minis, but if there is a map out on the table to show where everyone is, people use the miniature models to represent their characters. I usually get a description of what’s going on and then tell my sighted team-mates where I want my character to be on the map.

I also have a bunch of wolf minis – because wolves are cool! S had some and I wanted a set too!
I think that miniatures are really good for blind players because it gives us an idea what things look like – especially things that you’re not likely to come across in real life, such as dragons, goblins, and water elementals! S has quite an extensive collection, so when we encounter something or someone on our travels, as well as the other players seeing what it looks like, I can imagine it too by touching the model.

On podcasts, players often describe their characters. There’s also a lot of fan art for the popular ones, but someone with no sight is not able to appreciate them because they are drawings or paintings. You can get to know and love characters as you follow their adventures on Youtube or podcasts, but I don’t really know what they look like, as I would if I were reading a book about them.

So – when I heard that there were going to be minis of the Critical Role characters, I wanted to find out more!

Some minis have to be assembled – you get lots of pieces and have to stick them together. My wolves came like that and S assembled them for me, but I was happy to see that the Critical Role ones are pre-made PVC minis that can be used in your own games or kept as part of a collection. I need to find a way of getting Trinket the bear as an animal companion for one of my future characters!

I was going to post this later, when I could actually post a picture of them, but I thought it would be nicer to do it now so that I can share the link if anyone is interested. The Kickstarter is open for 5 more days as I write this. The minis are due to be shipped in March 2019 and it costs £45 for the set, which works out around £2 per model – a really good price when standard minis can cost anything from £1.50 to £5. Larger and rare ones can be much more expensive.

So if you want to find out more, you can go to the Critical Role Kickstarter page. This is not an affiliate link – just something I care about and would like to promote.

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