It’s amazing really, how, if one of your senses starts to conk out another one seems to pick up the slack. Medically, of course, it’s a fallacy that if you start to lose your sight your hearing becomes more acute, you simply use and value the alternatives more in compensation. Blind people don't appreciate music more than anyone else, they simply listen without visual distractions. But don't let that get you down, as I've got good news as well. I am about to reveal a major medical breakthrough that I discovered just before breakfast this morning. ‘When you lose your eyesight your sense of humour becomes cynical.’ It’s probably difficult, if not impossible, to patent a medical condition. Anyway, there's no way I would want financial or academic kudos from this, but if medical journals such as The Lancet pick it up, it might be nice to refer to it as 'The Plumbly Syndrome'.
The signs are slow to emerge...with me, it was trees. Previously, trees and I had got on pretty well. I climbed them as a child, burned them as an adult and, like dogs and birds, accepted their function as useful rather than personally enriching. Then came the sight loss and trees became obstacles, deliberately put there to cause me injury. Joe Bloggs would bump into one and blame himself for not paying attention, with me it was all the trees’ fault and I found myself extolling the virtues of Dutch Elm Disease and Apple Blight to any lump of foliage I bumped into. I haven't fully researched this area yet, but it is possible that inanimate objects could be the first target indicators of 'The Plumbly Syndrome'.
That doesn't last, of course, and lots of other things can provoke black humour, including all sorts of people. One of my personal favourites is the 'there' contest. This involves asking for the whereabouts of a particular object and being told 'it’s over there'. You could point out that, for you, it’s a big, black world and there are lots of 'theres' in it, but I doubt it would help. ‘It’s over there’ is just a throwaway expression that should have been thrown away along with the people who use it! As I write this, I think my condition is becoming quite acute.
Bureaucracy is always a pretty fair target for cynics. Basically, this is because it owes its existence to constant shuffling. It does this purely out of survival instinct; by the time it can be accused of anything, it has changed into something else. They call it 'progression' or 'strategic planning' but I think it’s better described as verbal self-protection. As a rule, we sufferers of 'The Syndrome' don’t take kindly to people who shuffle things around. Take titles, for instance. Years ago, I was half-blind. Now I've got enough titles and acronyms to give me an insecurity complex. I can be sight-challenged, have sight problems, be a blind citizen, have a visual disability and so on, right down to the latest horror, VIP (visually impaired person). I hope the creator of that one is now on another PC train, without a return ticket. I've given a fair bit of thought to this and, whilst I don't mind being regarded as a half-blind, grumpy old git, I wouldn't like to be called that all the time.
We need a new image - something that lifts us away from the impaired and disabled doldrums, something with a bit of panache. As I said, I've given this a bit of thought and decided that I want to be described as a 'white caner'. It’s got a bit of a ring to it hasn't it? Whimsical with a hint of Fred Astaire perhaps. I can almost visualise those liberated by this new branding, twirling their canes joyously, indeed defiantly; finally freed from the ranks of the ‘disabled' and 'impaired'. 'White caners' all, and proud of it!
Born in the UK, our “white caner” columnist, Trevor Plumbly, a retired arts and antiques dealer and former owner of Plumbly’s Auction House in Dunedin, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa 15 years ago. In 2008, when sight loss put a stop to the antiques dealing, Trevor and his wife Pam relocated to Auckland to be closer to family.