“So, who was that, then?” my husband asked me as we strolled around the edges of the sports field last Saturday, Mr. Dog charging about, snuffling in the undergrowth, wallowing in the pond and generally being a dog, rather than a Noble Beast.
“Dunno,” I replied, “I just always speak to folk if they bother to speak to me.”
Which I do when out and about with Mr. Dog. After many embarrassments, I have learned to distinguish between someone actually speaking to me and someone muttering into the mobile welded to their lug. This is delivered in a strange monologue, usually however less rambling than that of a local nutter, out for a dauner. Oh yes, even rural idylls such as the Deep South West have their fair share of nutters, druggies and alkies. The only thing is, that out here, if said pathetic soul is related to you, every one else knows about it.
Mind you, I suppose I might also be included amongst the nutters who mutter. As other Guide Dog Owners will know, it is advisable to keep up a running commentary when working one's dog. Keeps them alert. Occasionally, if I've had to admonish him for something, for example trying to snaffle a discarded chip or apple core, I have instead received a heartfelt apology from some shambling pedestrian. Which leaves me fair intrigued as to what this person was actually doing when Mr. Dog and I suddenly breenged round a corner!
And of course, there always wheelie bins. A regular scourge and bane in my life. To me, a wheelie bin and person, especially on a busy, sunlit street, are blobs of a similar shape and size. I frequently tell Mr. Dog to, “Fine the way! Find the way round the bin!” only to have the bin retort, “Awfy sorry!” as it then leaps to one side. Or perhaps there has been a technological advancement in wheelie bins of which I am unaware?
And it's not just wheelie bins. On a damp, drizzly spring morning, I jumped visibly when a tree addressed me in a broad, Wigtownshire accent. No, it wasn't an ent, but a youth checking my dog and I could negotiate a steep walkway. Or at the queue for the bank puggy one bright and busy Friday. Ignoring Mr. Dog's advice to stop, I bumped into a very solid shadow which turned out to be a former pupil, now something over six foot in height. He used to be a Goth so I think he was rather chuffed at my mistake!
But back to voices. It is a popular belief that a visually impaired person's other senses immediately become more acute. A form of compensation. I doubt if this is true. There are many conditions where eye problems come as part of a package, for instance Diabetes or Usher's Syndrome, and so one or more of the other senses is also affected. No, I believe that a blind person tunes into the other senses out of necessity. You make do with what you have.
So, when I meet someone out of context, that is, somewhere I don't normally meet them, if that person doesn't introduce himself, I'm floundering. It is very stressful, having a conversation with someone and not know who it is. I have quickly realised just how many topics can be totally taboo! Can I ask after their spouse? Their weans? Their budgie? And all the time, I am trying to deduce from clues in the conversation just who the hell this is. I have asked the wrong woman questions about the wrong son at the wrong university. And reduced a poor wifie to tears by asking how the cat was. She wasn't who I thought she was and instead of the feline being fighting fit, hers had recently expired after a long and mysterious decline.
Total strangers can be even worse. There is an assumption amongst professionals that a person with a guide dog is deaf and daft. So when I attend the Blood Tranfusion Service or encounter a new member of staff at the bank or the leisure centre, I have much fun speaking to them equally L-O-U-D-L-Y A-N-D S-L-O-W-L-Y. Very naughty but one must find pleasures where one can. Actually, I think it is a fairly innocuous way of educating those who should know better. I do something similar with those who decide because I have a distinctive Scots accent, an accent, which being neither Teuchter nor Central Belt, they cannot place, that I must be one of the local yokels. And, having Mr. Dog in attendance reinforces this. With such folk, I try to include at least one quotation from Shakespeare or equivalent or the odd Latin tag. Yes, there are times when I really miss not being able to see a person's expression!