The corner shop and beyond

I explained in last week’s blog how we were taught mobility when, as a young girl, I was a pupil at a boarding school for the visually impaired. We started with simple walks in the lanes around the school.

The next challenge involved walking further afield and included learning the route across the common to the parish church, where most of the school went to services on Sunday mornings. Being a Baptist, though, I got to go to Rickmansworth Baptist Church, and was privileged to get a lift.

Probably the most important route we had to learn, though, was the one that led to the corner shop. This included crossing a road by using a pedestrian crossing protected by traffic lights. You had to press a button to operate the lights, which emitted a loud beeping to let you know when it was safe to cross. It was the first time I had ever encountered one of these.   

The shop itself held a special place in our hearts. We could buy sweets, birthday cards and, for those of us who had pets at school, carrots for our rabbits. I wonder now if the staff were pleased to have our business or dreaded the onslaught of noisy teenagers descending on them most afternoons.

I remember one lovely guy who worked there who liked to joke with us. He was behind the counter the day I turned up and asked for, “Those little cheesy biscuits where you don’t get many in a packet.”

I was never allowed to forget this!

The next set of walks were invented to take us further afield but, as there wasn’t anywhere obvious for us to go to, our teachers had to dream up routes to some entirely arbitrary destinations just for the sake of the exercise. This meant that we got a walk, but we didn’t actually go anywhere very interesting.

And this is where the T-junction I mentioned last week finally comes in. One of our regular walks was to and from a T-junction in the middle of nowhere.

It was all very Samuel Beckett!

It was while I was on one of these walks to nowhere that I accidentally became a living cliché.

I had recently had an operation on my left eye which had improved my sight slightly. I also had new glasses and was keen to find out what I could see with them. I was walking with my friend when I spied a road sign.

This, I thought, was a golden opportunity.

I started to read the road sign to her. I took a step back and found that I could still read it. Brilliant!

I took yet another step back.

“I can even read it from here”! I cried – and promptly stepped backwards into a hole.

Pride definitely came before  a fall!