If you've got kids, you'll know that Christmas is all about them. As our children grew up, it was wonderful to see the looks on their little faces as they opened their presents. All the excitement and anticipation that quickly turned into sheer joy and elation. Since I lost my sight eight years ago, I haven't had that same thrill with my grandchildren. While I try not be bitter about life, I do feel a little bit like I've been robbed of that pleasure.
Speaking of presents, as you might imagine buying them is a bit of a challenge! I rely on my daughter, Helen, to take me shopping when I want to buy something for my wife, Elaine. Fortunately Helen's well practised now, and has developed a finely-tuned sense of what her mum likes. I get ideas in my head, and then Helen has to find them for me!
Christmas is definitely a time when you rely on your other senses a lot more than usual. Now I'm blind, I've noticed my hearing and my sense of smell have improved, but nothing like that film, Daredevil! Perhaps I'm more aware of them than ever before. I can smell a Christmas candle from 100 yards! Rather than admire our Christmas tree from across the room like I used to, I have to get close to it and touch the branches and the baubles. I'm aware of the tree's smell and how each of the decorations feel now, and I know which ones were made by our children just by touch.
I also love the smell of the food that comes wafting from the kitchen on Christmas Day. When it comes to cooking the dinner, I used to be a lot more hands on when I had sight. Now, I tend to keep out of the way. When it comes to eating, I just stab my fork at the plate and hope for the best!
I can scribble my name in Christmas cards when we're sending them, but when people give them to us, I need Elaine to tell me who they're from. I've discovered this brilliant pen that you can record messages on. It comes with stickers with barcodes on them, and you can record a different message on the pen for each sticker. Elaine sticks them to the cards we get, so I can run the pen over them and know who each one is from. It's great.
One thing I'm still able to enjoy is our annual theatre visit. We see all sorts of things, not just pantos. Thanks to audio-described performances, I still know exactly what's happening on stage. I wear a headset that's connected up to a theatre worker who describes what's going on. What's also great is that we get really good seats. We have to sit in the fourth row back, because that's where the headset picks up the best signal! It's nice not having to rely on Elaine to tell me what's happening.
As for my Christmas wish, it's that I'll be able to pop down to my local town centre with no-one but my guide dog next year to shop for my wife's gifts. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and a brilliant 2017.