Welcome to a wander round my world; the world I've inhabited since 1995, when my eyesight suddenly dipped. It's been a steep learning curve since then. Perhaps roller coaster or chicane would be better. Just when I think I've mastered life as a Nouveau Blinkie, another experience trips me up or bites me on the bahoochie. Going from contact lense wearer to Guide Dog Owner in two years certainly entailed a big change in lifestyle!

The reason for all this has been an extremely rare condition; Gyrate Atrophy. So rare, it hasn't even made it onto the scary section of RNIB's web site; you know, the section dealing with all those eye conditions. So rare, you're more likely to select a winning line on this week's lottery. Perhaps, however, someone in cyberspace will read this, then shout, “Hey! At last, another one!” For the rest of the planet, however, Gyrate Atrophy is part of the Retinitis Pigmentosa family of conditions. Affecting the retina over time, roundish sections of this degenerate, with corresponding breaks in vision. Gradually, fine detail is lost and colours become muted; often the effect is that of an over-exposed photograph. And when I say time, I mean a long time. I must have had the condition for years before it became noticeable enough to be a nuisance. The only inkling I'd had was poor night vision. At least, it's painless. The only discomfort is reaction to bright sunshine. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or retire to a shady room with a migraine! A delightful consequence is the early onset of cataracts, which in my case, have recently been treated. I've moved back to colour, away from shades of grey but HD digital quality detail is now unattainable. of course, my eyes now have built-in bling, whenever the implanted lenses catch the light. My husband says the effect's quite fetching.

And what exactly is the purpose of these Diatribes? Don't expect lots of cheeriness and useful tips. When my sight went, I'd reached my forties and I'd neither the right Highers for this career move nor had I read the relevant rule book. I'd no intention of taking up this particular disability as a hobby. I cope, mostly, but with much bruising, to both the anatomy and the ego.

For those of you with an urban lifestyle, who think rural is a walk in the local park, I certainly hope these pieces will be a revelation. Twenty odd miles from my local railway station. No connecting public transport. No other screen reader within shouting distance. Nearest theatre regularly running audio described plays a hundred miles to the north. And Mr. Dog Scotland's most southerly Guide Dog.

Finally, these Diatribes aren't the only things written by me. I've recently finished a novel, “A Guid New Year”, where Joanna Trollope meets Grange Hill. Unusual for contemporary Scottish fiction, this isn't set in some benighted part of the Central Belt but instead, is set in Galloway. A publisher looking for something a tad different, even down to its dialect, should be negotiating a contract. Right now! My next novel is currently at the planning stage. And I've ideas for at least another two.

© Charlotte Bennie 2007