Disability

The blind man who was guided by a cat

Life as a disabled person can sometimes be quite different and difficult, but amid awkwardness is humour.

The following is an edited version of a sketch by Reece Finnegan, who is blind. He performed this true story for the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2019 where the theme was Lost and Found.

Reece crashes into the suit of armour Image copyright Sarah Dousse

Being lost is pretty integral to being a blind person. You name it, clubs, Tube stations - I've probably been lost there.

On this occasion, it was my new boss's house after a night out and I needed to find my way home.

I woke up hung-over, in an unfamiliar bedroom. I had none of my possessions on me, except for a dead and useless mobile phone.

All I could remember, from the night before, was going for drinks with my new colleagues.

After visiting a couple of bars, my boss's son, Jay, invited us back to his Dad's house in London's Kensington.

Fast forward nine hours, and I'm in said bedroom, alone, with no sign of the workmates I'd been out with.

To give a bit of context, waking up in a strange house when you can't see is scary and disorientating. You literally have no idea what's around the next corner.

I know what you're thinking - how hard can it be to get out of a house?

Well, this house was huge - four floors and tonnes of rooms. Trust me, finding your way out of a disabled toilet without feeling up the changing table is hard enough, let alone escaping a house spread across multiple levels with lots of walls in the way.

Added to that was the stress of getting to my nephew's first birthday party, but I couldn't leave without first finding my phone, charging it and then using it to order an Uber home.

Reece Finnegan performing live

When no similarly hungover colleagues materialised to provide me with help, I decided to take things into my own hands.

I got out of bed and found a door - an en suite bathroom. Ideal. I needed the toilet and where better to plan an escape strategy.

After sitting on the loo for a couple of minutes I heard an unfamiliar woman's voice.

"Reece, it's Jay's mum. Jay told me you were staying, I was just wondering if you need anything?"

As a blind person, you learn to accept help when it's offered, because you never know when it will next come your way.

Unfortunately, I was so shocked to hear a voice so close to me mid-toilet break that I hastily replied: "I'm fine thanks".

Once I'd pulled my trousers up, I felt around for a sink, and was surprised to find another door to the bathroom - but it was opposite to the one I'd come through.

It was a second door, a door which had been open the whole time.

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Storytelling Live: Lost and Found

Reece was one of seven people with a disability or mental health problem to perform a story on the theme of lost and found as part of BBC Ouch's storytelling event at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - hosted by Chris McCausland.

You can watch the programme on BBC Two at 23:35 BST on Friday 23 August.

It will be available on iPlayer afterwards.

Here is another story from the event that you might like:

The 2019 storytellers from BBC Ouch: Storytelling Live
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The bathroom was not a simple en suite, and Jay's mum had seen everything.

With dignity at an all time low and with nothing left to lose I decided to try and find my belongings.

Beyond the bathroom I found a hallway - basically, a labyrinth with loads of doors leading off and I started to feel my way along it.

Eventually I found a banister sloping downwards. I congratulated myself on this relatively smooth run as I reached the top of the stairs, then clang! I knocked into something huge and metal.

I expected some kind of Home Alone-style booby trap to unleash itself on me, but it turned out to be a terrifying suit of armour propped up against the wall.

I suddenly remembered I was in my boss's house and there was probably a lot of valuable stuff around. I'd only been at this job two weeks and rampaging through priceless ornaments probably wasn't going to do me any favours.

Reece performing live at Storytelling Live

A couple of wobbly vases later and I decided to retreat back to the original bedroom I'd woken up in - but I'd somehow gone too far.

In trying to retrace my steps, I'd found myself in a completely different part of the house with new corridors and new doors.

I ventured into one room and started touching up coats and bags and realised it was the cloakroom.

Then I heard a noise.

I started to panic - I didn't know who it was and I didn't have my white symbol cane which lets people know I'm blind and explains why I might be behaving a bit unexpectedly.

I crept out, trying not to look too dodgy, and discovered it wasn't a person, but a cat.

Now, I'm not a religious man, but I'm pretty sure this was a divine cat, sent by the Disability-Friendly Gods who saw my time of need.

The miracle creature brushed past my leg and led me down a new corridor. It had a cute bell on its collar so I was able to follow the sound it made.

Reece re-united with his possessions and celebrating with the cleaner and cat Image copyright Sarah Dousse

Somehow, someway, this wonderful animal led me straight into the kitchen.

There, a housekeeper greeted me - with only a little confusion - and pointed me to my stuff on the kitchen table - bag, charger, cane - I almost collapsed with relief.

I grabbed the charger, charged my phone, and got out of there as fast as I could. I even made it to my nephew's birthday on time.

And the best bit - my boss found another of my colleagues passed out on the sofa in just his pants, so compared to him, I didn't do too badly.

From Storytelling Live 2018, you may also like to read:

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