This month is #NationalShareAStory month so we thought we would write a blog about 2 of the most recent books we have read and listened to in which the authors share their own stories. One is by Red Szell entitled ‘The Blind Man of Hoy – A True Story’ (we previously read and reviewed the novel Blind Trust by him). Red has RP (Retinitis Pigmantosa) and this book is about his preparation for and actual climb of the Old Man of Hoy. The other book is ‘The Windhorse’ by Elaine Brook and Julie Donnelly. Julie has been blind since the age of 8 as a result of glaucoma, Elaine is sighted. This book is about their adventure to both trek to the 18,000 foot summit of Kala Patthar, 500 feet above Everest Base Camp. Both adventures raised funds for charities (RP Fighting Blindness and Guide Dogs) but the main drive for both of them was the experience itself.
If you are interested in either travel/endurance activities or vision impairments then these could be the books for you. If you, like us, are interested in both then they definitely are 😊. As well as offering fascinating accounts of their explorations and the determination required to succeed, they also provide some insight into undertaking such adventures with a vision impairment.
We’ll just give you a few quotes here that we think give you a feel for each of the books…
Red Szell talks about the challenges he faces, struggling to balance requiring/expecting people to assist him but not defining him by his disability. He talks about how the Paralympics changed his view:
“Medal winners were encouraged to tell their story, and again and again I heard a blend of pride and humility as they expressed thanks to coaches, trainers and support staff. It began to dawn on me that mountains don’t get conquered single-handedly but by teams….I took some positive action, accepted the help on offer and worked with Matthew and Andres to develop a system what would minimise the impact of my blindness on my sport.”
Julie also touches on this in the Windhorse:
Julie: “I would give anything right now to be back in my own house where I can run around all the rooms easily, without any help and I know where everything is kept. …I never stopped to think what it would be like to be in unfamiliar ground for so long without a break, dependent on someone every time I want to go anywhere further than the loo tent.”
And from Elaine’s point of view in the Windhorse:
“As she spoke of textures, sounds, smells, I began to enter a world of non-visual perception – a fluid and sometimes elusive world where a person’s expression is judged by their rate of breathing and the day’s weather by the smell of the wind. I was hooked. Here was a world as fascinating and mysterious as my beloved Himalayas. Aligning my perceptions with Julie’s had become as much of a challenge as understanding my extrovert and enigmatic Sherpa friends.”
The journey itself:
Red - “Our speed had picked up after about 20 minutes when Alex had started knocking on the top of large boulders with the end of his trekking pole to warn me of their position. It was genius, utterly unbidden by me and highly effective as it told me height and position in one as well as giving me a sense of size by dint of the tone the strike made”.
Julie - “It has got harder and steeper, but I’ve become more able to cope with it. Watching myself adapt has been one to of the most exciting parts of the whole thing.”
Elaine - “Strange isn’t it…So many people said to me, ‘What’s the point of Julie going if she can’t see any mountains?’ and it was hard to explain to them how much more there is to being up here than just being able to look at the view. Otherwise everyone would just take a mountain flight and stare out of the pressurised windows for an hour or two.”
And their experiences along the way:
“The contrast between light and shade; matt red and glittering blue; between shelter and exposure was so elemental and beautiful that I had to stop and catch my feelings.
A final tussle with a troublesome cam and I joined Martin on the ledge just below the summit”
“After Martin had gone, Nick and I shared the ledge with a little puffin…Nick directed my gaze and after a couple of minutes hard staring I finally made out it’s sleek black shape perched just a few feet from me. It’s noisy munching made the ledge…less haunting”
Talking about a cam stuck in the rocks:
“It was well and truly embedded and I would dearly have loved to see it to work out the angle it had been slipped in at, but I’m used to seeing with my fingers so, with the seconds ticking past and the shakes trembling in my left leg and threatening to dislodge my only solid point of contact, I ran my fingertips along the line of the groove trying to build a mental picture”
Julie - “I’m getting used to the different household sounds: the crackling of the fire with the juniper twigs on it. And I don’t need to be told its juniper, because of the lovely aromatic smell. Lhakpa’s aunt is making mashed potato to feed her family, rolling the boiled potatoes on a ridged stone – it sounds like an old fashioned washboard, and the vibrations are transmitted right across the floorboards.”
Elaine - “The conversation had bought us to a tea shop outside which a group of Tibetans had spread their wares on blankets laid on the ground…I began passing things over for Julie to feel.
‘She can’t see? Tch,tch. Nyingie’.
Soon the women were hovering around us, watching fascinated as Julie’s fingers ‘read’ the filigree patterns and carved woodblocks. Salesmanship took second place as they picked out things she would find interesting, no longer caring if it came from a competitor’s stall.”
We hope this has given you a flavour of these books. If you like stories about adventure, then we’d recommend both these books as a good read as well as Touching the World by Cathy Birchill and Bernard Smith which we previously reviewed in February - http://vidatraining.weebly.com/blog/february-28th-2018.
If you have any books that you’d like to recommend or think we would be interested in, then please comment here to let us know.
We’re also always interested to know about other people’s experiences and thoughts. Please share these too by commenting…
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