In my last couple of blogs, I’ve been explaining the mobility training I received years ago when I was a young pupil at a boarding school for the visually impaired. We started with simple routes near the school and then learned to travel to such exotic destinations as the local corner shop and a random T-junction in the middle of nowhere.
Our next and longer walks were to Chorleywood station and the village beyond. In order to reach these destinations you had to take a walk across the common. My arthritis prevented me from achieving this, however, so I was driven to the village by a member of staff and a friend then taught me the various routes around the streets.
There were a few shops in the village but I don’t recall using them very much. I do recall embarrassing my friend on one shopping trip by accidentally knocking a box of soap powder with my elbow and thereby precipitating a cascade of boxes off the shelf.
“Baboom, baboom, baboom!” they went.
It didn’t take much to make me laugh and I giggled childishly while my friend hissed at me and dragged me hastily out of the shop.
Incidentally, she also objected to me eating an ice lolly as we walked along the road. To be fair, that probably was bad manners.
The last mobility test we had to undergo was to get the train one stop down the line to Rickmansworth. There was a great incentive to passing this test, because there was a record shop in “Ricky”. That was more or less the only place we went to there, apart from a Chinese restaurant which my friends and I visited one Saturday night. For a bunch of boarding school girls in the 1970s, this felt incredibly exotic.
Once we could get safely to Ricky and back, we were allowed to venture further afield. We would sometimes take the bus to Watford and visit the American ice-cream parlour there. They had twenty flavours of ice-cream which, at the time, seemed absolutely amazing!
The last adventure I recall was a trip to London. One of our form had left at the end of the fifth year to train as a typist at the RNIB vocational training college, which at that time was in Notting Hill.
Four of us set off on the Underground to visit her.
I was using crutches by this point due to my arthritis, so was unable to carry a long cane. Neither my friends nor I let this stand in our way, however. One of our group had quite a lot of sight and we relied on her to read the station signs on the Underground. At one point she said we had reached the right one and I got off the train. Almost immediately she changed her mind and another of my friends literally scooped me up and returned me to the carriage just in the nick of time.
Learning to get around was often a challenge, but it was rarely if ever dull!