Wednesday, 6 April 2011
The laundry basket I use
was a wedding present to my parents. They were married on the third of February 1947. The laundry basket has therefore to be more than sixty-four years old. It is cane. It was made by someone in the Royal Blind Society workshops, almost certainly a returned serviceman who lost his sight during the war. The cane is now dark grey with age and there are couple of pieces missing but it is still sturdy and will probably last a few years yet. Whether I should be using such an antique or whether it should have been offered to a museum is another question. The man who made it would never have been able to read. Working with cane ruined the sensitivity needed in the finger tips to read braille. When he made the basket other "books" for the blind came in the form of long playing records, played on a special machine. There was very little choice. Books were chosen by a committee of sighted people who decided what was "suitable". Many popular books were deemed unsuitable. Few blind people had such a machine. They lived life largely without books. As children we knew a blind man and also someone who transcribed books and music into braille. The blind man toured rural areas with a small concert troupe raising money for the blind. The other man was an organist who volunteered his time. Money is no longer raised like that, indeed could not be raised like that. The concerts were, on reflection, dreadful but they were the only live entertainment some people ever saw. They served a purpose. Braille is still used but the wonders of modern technology mean that you can type in text and a machine will produce the braille. That is so much faster than writing it one dot at a time into one of six little cells. It requires much less skill. The reading choice available to those who need audio books is immense compared with what it used to be. The visually impaired can now join an internet site on which there is an immense and excellent selection. (No, it is not available to the rest of us and neither it should be.) It is all quite different now. And, they no longer make laundry baskets in the workshops. Laundry baskets now tend to be cheap, brightly coloured plastic affairs. They do not last more than a few years. My sister tried to persuade me to give up the old basket, to get something a bit more cheerful, "cleaner" and "something that looks better than that old thing". But I like "that old thing". It does the job well. It also reminds me of things I would otherwise forget and need to remember.