The last word in silence

To end my selection of blogs on the theme of quiet and silence, I’m going to review two books I recently read.
They’re not to do with silence itself (I’m afraid my life isn’t short enough to laboriously read long tomes on how to achieve your inner quiet) but I found two books by searching for the word “silent” in my library of over 50 thousand titles.
Firstly, The Silent Child by Sarah A Denzil.
This was narrated by Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey, Coronation Street and Liar fame.
It’s about a six year old boy, Aidan who goes missing after a flood – but mysteriously turns up outside a hospital 10 years later. I’m not going to divulge anything else – but it has a lot of twists and turns before the true reason for his disappearance is explained.
The way the author draws out the “silent” part of Aden’s character was really interesting – and it is up to you to discover if – and when he’ll ever talk about what he’s been through.
The other book is The Silent Sister by shalini Boland.
I have to admit I liked this one more – it was fast-paced and had more twists and periods of me shouting: “OOOOOO, I didn’t see that!”
I was totally wrong about the outcome – I’m quite good at predicting *or guessing* what will happen, but the final twist was something I would have never have guessed.
The main character, Lizzie starts receiving strange letters – as well as having other things happen to her which she can’t explain.
The suspense is kept through what we don’t know – as opposed to what we do, which is always the best way I find.
Lizzie starts to mistrust everyone around her – including her estranged sister Emma – but could this lead to her downfall?
I’d recommend this to anyone who loves a good thriller.
You can find heaps of titles in the RNIB library- from animal stories to books about zoology.
You can also become a volunteer – and could even end up reading books for people to enjoy.
Please also take the time – if you can to visit my justgiving page – I’m trying to raise money for the talking books strand of RNIB

the amusing side of being totally blind

Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln
I love that! It’s got nothing to do with my blog post – but I just thought I’d pop it in!
I’ve been blind since birth so I have a slight idea about what I’m talking about when I say sometimes blind people can experience silence.
It’s not sad at all – it’s the total opposite.
I remember one day going into my Mum’s room and regaling her with a hilarious incident which happened to me while I was walking home from college with my first guide dog.
I finished speaking, stood for a while then said:
My five minute monologue had been unheard.
We also experience silence when I ask someone on a bus which stop is the next stop – or when I’m waiting to cross a road and turn hopefully to ask a person if it’s safe to cross, only to discover on closer inspection that the person is in fact, a tree!
But there’s another side to experiencing silence as a blind or partially sighted person.
We can feel ignored and rejected when trying to access or find things other people take for granted.
Whether it’s finding a job, trying to make friends or, in some cases finding a partner – it can be difficult.
OK, OK, stop whining love – it’s hard for me too – I hear you cry!
It is, I know, but you have something a lot of people without sight don’t have, the ability to raise your eyebrows, glare, nod, shake your head ETC. – you have the language of silence.
I remember wiling away ten minutes of my life which I’ll never get back when I asked a friend to try and teach me how to glare. I just ended up looking like a dog with a mouthful of bees!
I’m too smiley to glare – but I sometimes wish I could.
Even accessing healthcare can lead people who are blind or partially sighted people into a world of silence.
The lack of provision to access goods and services is thwart with dramas. How do you read the letter you get through the door? How do you find the hospital department in a huge, badly lit and not sign-posted properly building.
I totally appreciate it must be heaps worse if you can’t hear – but that’s not what this blog is about.
As I said, silence to me is often part of the hilarity of my life – as it is, as it has always been, and how it will always be.
I choose to try and educate people on how to break the silence – and I hope others will join me.
The RNIB does a heap of good work to try and break down barriers for blind and partially sighted people, as well as those who are in danger of, or are losing their sight.
Please try and become part of this brilliant organisation.
You can find out heaps of volunteering opportunities by visiting:

How to find silence in a whirlpool of noise

When was the last time you experienced true silence?
It’s quite a rare commodity in this age of technology, social media and constant demands on our time.
However, Whirlpool, a washing machine company *Yes, really* have introduced a “quiet” washing machine.
They’ve also come up with the concept of “National quiet day” which is today.
So, to coincide with that – I’ve been asked by RNIB Cymru to write three posts on the theme of quiet.
So, this first post will focus on how to find more quiet places – and make the most of silence.
I must add, I’m writing this in a really noisy office. There are people on the phone – photocopiers and printers whirring and the low buzz of air-conditioning in the background.
So, how do you find quiet in a world of noise and bustle?
Here are five things to think about.
1: Find somewhere relatively quiet. It might be an empty conference room at work or a park, anywhere where you won’t be disturbed.
Sit/Stand/Lie back and just listen. What can you hear?
I’m not going to tell you to do any type of deep breathing 0- or find a “Place where you really loved going on holiday” (Or did I just say that) anyway, just listen to the silence.
2: Pop Classic FM on. It works for my guide dog Jimmey – that and radio four keep him company on the rare times I have to leave him behind.
It’s been proved by several studies that listening to classical music is good for your health – as it helps to reduce stress and lowers blood pressure.

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It really works. I listened to some classical music while studying for my theory exams during my post-graduate course and I did really well in the exam!
I doubt it’d have worked if I listened to Metallica!
3: Go for a walk in a forest/park/anywhere natural.
I’ve been an avid bird watcher since I was 3.
I say watcher, but there was more listening going on.
My Dad bought me two bird tapes and I learned all the songs and calls.
Bird song is calming and helps you feel less stressed.
4: Find a dog/cat and cuddle it.
During a period of severe stress – my guide dog Chelly (who is now retired) really helped me. She was the silent friend who sat by my side throughout and just helped me by just being herself – not making me talk, not trying to understand – but just being a quiet presence.

5: Read! I love reading – and it’s a way of escaping into other worlds – letting your mind wander and shutting the world out for a while.
In my next post I’ll write about another type of silence.
The silence some blind and partially sighted people can experience.

The RNIB has heaps of fantastic books – in Braille, large print and on CD and memory stick.
Why not visit them and find out how you can help – or how you could experience the joy of reading for yourself.
You can visit:

books and authors you simply must read – part 3

It’s the final 6 letters of my A to Z of authors and books you simply must read and some narrators.
U is for: unusual
I like reading books I wouldn’t normally be interested in. As I mentioned last time – I’ll read almost anything apart from horror.
So, because of the latest (and if I may say absolutely brilliant show) Bodyguard on the BBC – I thought I’d read something to do with spies and spying.
I’ve started reading At Risk by Stella Rimmington.
It’s part of a series she’s written about a lady who works for MI5 (Stella Rimmington was the first woman to be director-general of MI5!
I’m actually really enjoying it!
V is for: vet
If I’d have been born with eyes which work – I’m pretty sure I’d have been a doctor, lawyer, vet or a police officer.
However, I wasn’t – so I’m not.
But that hasn’t stopped me devouring any vet books I can find.
James Herriot is without doubt my favourite – but I’d also recommend books by Jo Hardy.
W is for: Will you help me?
OK, so this is a bit cheeky – but as the old saying goes: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
I’m trying to raise £1500 to get a talking book recorded for children.
Only 10 % of any book published in the UK is available in an alternative format like audio.
I know the cost is high – but it covers admin, recording and editing fees.
Anything you can donate is fantastic – and even better if you can persuade your family, friends, colleagues or anyone else you can cajole into helping me!
You can visit:
to donate
X is for: xciting
I adore thrillers – I never used to, but when I started training with my third guide dog I had long periods of sitting around waiting for the other lady on class to do her training.
I now read about 4 a month – as well as all the other books I read.
My favourite authors include:
Clare Mackintosh, CL Taylor, Paula Daley, Sam Carrington, BA Paris, Camilla Way, Alex Lake and KL Slater.
Y is for: Yipeeee! On the theme of thrillers – I get really carried away – and have been known to cheer incredibly loudly when hearing of the demise of a particularly nasty baddie!
I’ll also shout – in manner of someone watching a really rubbishy person on a TV quiz show.
Z is for: Zoo quest
I wasn’t around when David Attenborough presented his landmark series, Zoo Quest, but, but I’ve read the books (*which he narrates* and they’re brilliant.
It’s about his visits to countries like Uruguay, Guyana and Madagascar, the tribespeople he meets and the animals he encounters.

books and authors you simply must read – part 2

I’m going to continue with my A to Z of books you simply must read (which also includes authors and narrators)
K is for:
Kate Binchy
When I was younger, all the girls in my class were obsessed – and I mean obsessed with Catherine Cookson.
Personally I didn’t – and still don’t see what all the fuss was about.
One of my favourite authors is Maeve Binchy.
I read Light a Penny Candle about 10 years ago and have been reading her books on and off ever since.
The wonderful thing about the audio books of Maeve Binchy is that they’re read by her cousin Kate.
She brings every character to life and is a joy to listen to.
L is for:
I adore quizzes, and I’m a tiny bit good at them.
I absolutely adore learning random facts – and you never know when the information you’ve stored might be useful.
Earlier this year I read a book about a girl who wanted to play football, but wasn’t allowed to play on the boys team.
So she formed a girls team.
It mentioned a lady called Lily Parr, who was a Women’s FA footballer, most famous for playing for the Dick Kerr’s ladies team in Preston.
So, I was – to quote Jonathan Creek, “absolutely flabbergasted!” when a question about her came up in a quiz, three days after I’d read the book – and I got it right.
M is for:
One of the most popular books of the past year is the excellent, brilliant This is Going to Hurt – by former doctor, Adam Kay.
I downloaded it from Audible – and it’s read by Adam himself.
It made me laugh, cry and feel very uncomfortable at times.
There was also an interview with him at the end of the book, which gave a bit more of an insight into why he wrote it – and why he finally left the world of medicine.
I’d also like to recommend the books by Max Pemberton as well.
N is for:
Non fiction
I’ll read just about anything, apart from horror, sci-fi and War and Peace.
I’d like to recommend a few non fiction books I’ve read over the last year.
101 Questions Your Dog would ask its Vet – if your Dog could talk: Bruce Fogle
How not to Travel the World: Lauren Juliff
Spectacles: Sue Perkins
The real James Herriot: Jim White
Shapeshifters: Gavin Francis
O is for:
Old favourites
I very rarely re-read books, as there’s just so many fantastic books and not enough time.
However, I recently re-read 101 Dalmatians – and a Paddington Bear book.
I also like re-reading the What Katy Did books by Susan Coolidge.
P is for:
I hate maths. Partly because I used to be really bad at it – but partly because, let’s face it, it’s just boring!
So, I was intrigued when I discovered a book called:
“As easy as Pi” by Jamie Buchan.
It was full of random facts about numbers – from why we use phrases such as: “At six’s and seven’s” to the significance of numbers in ancient times – and other numerical oddities.
I still zoned out during the “mathsy” bit when he described equations – but I doubt anything could make me “enjoy” maths.
Q is for:
OK, I’ve mentioned it before, but quizzes are great fun, and reading is a great way of learning information.
I enjoy dipping out of the University Challenge quiz book – and recently had a very useful book by Dan Smith transcribed by the lovely people at RNIB Cymru’s transcription unit.
It’s called, So you Think you know it all by Dan Smith – and let me tell you now – you don’t!!
R is for:
Really fast
I have recently discovered that the main device I use to listen to books has a new feature. I can now listen to them at a really fast speed (Imagine a horseracing commentator speeded up three times)
It means I can read heaps more books – yay!
S is for:
Sophie Kinsella
For all my friends – it was Harry Potter.
For me – the publishing phenomenon of the past 18 years is the Shopaholic series..
I might read a Harry Potter book – one day.
I’ve read all the Shopaholic series, about the hapless Becky Bloomwood and her adventures.
She’s the sort of person I can relate too!
I know not everybody loves them – I took my best friend to see the film “secret dream world of a shopaholic” and she didn’t like it.
But Becky is such a lovable character.
She always triumphs over people who try and belittle her – she’s quick-witted, vulnerable at times and is the sort of friend any woman would like to have!
T is for: Travel
You have to read at least one Bill Bryson book!
I’ve written about him in another post – but he’s brilliant.
I love reading books about travel.
I’ll recommend some other authors I’ve read who write about travel.
Sue Williams, Peter Allison, Jon Faine, David Attenborough and Gerald Durrell.
Next time:
More books, narrators and authors.

the best piece of tech ever invented

When I was younger, people used to ask me what products would help me the most.
I’d always reply with the same two things.
“I’d like a self-driving car and something which reads newspapers and magazines to me!”
The proverbial genie has granted one of these wishes – and half of the other.
We’ve almost got self-driving cars (I say this because, as yet, they haven’t met my exact idea of a self-driving car, with speech ETC)
But, I can read newspapers and magazines now.
We’ve had a service called Talking Newspapers for a few years. Lovely volunteers would select various items from the daily papers and read them onto a tape, which would plop through your letter-box days after the events had occurred.
But now I can read the papers, any paper, every day – by myself.
I use a phone device called In Your Pocket which allows me to loll around on a Saturday morning and read the supplements.
I say read (and I’m not prepared to get into a row about this, listening is reading – end of discussion) but I can listen to every daily newspaper, several local ones plus some magazines, including my favourite – Readers Digest.
Mum used to read snippets from Readers digest to me when I was little.
It was during these times that I learned about Mummies (Egyptian ones) and a myriad of other interesting facts which have come in very useful (particularly in quizzes).
Now I can get up each morning, make a big mug of coffee and read my papers!
I love it!
The same device has over 100,000 podcasts, 100,000 books and will also tell you the time, weather (in any country or city in the world) and allows you to make phone calls)
It costs £20 a month to access it all – but if you think about how much the Readers Digest, and other magazines/papers cost each month – you’ve more than covered the subscription.
I also love the pure simplicity of operating it.
You don’t have to faf around with swiping, tapping or waving the phone around!
You just use a voice command for anything you want it to do – for example: “Find podcasts about dogs.” Or: “Read the Times/Guardian/any other paper of your choice.”
You can skip sections, search for articles about any subject and slow down/speed the speech up.
There are about 8 different voices – including Australian and something I think is meant to be a Welsh accent but – but definitely isn’t!

At last, I can do something millions of people take for granted – and that, in my opinion is fantastic!
You can find out more about In Your Pocket at