EBU (Senior Group) Fine Work
“The Sore Dot” by Peter Nielsen
Male, 79 years of age, Denmark
The Sore Dot.
"You have to learn the alphabet for the blind!"
The teacher said.
They sat in the classroom for visual instruction with the stuffed lion on guard just inside the door and cupboards with the many models of the world, outside, which blind-born children had to feel to understand.
He himself could go on watching films about the world out there for hours on end in his inner cinema, but naturally, it was his imagination, not reality.
During one year, he had been sent to several ophthalmological departments, but when the medicine which had periodically given him his sight back had run short the doctors had been unable to help him.
No more ophthalmological departments - only a reference to the Institute for blind children
The buildings of the school had been thoroughly renovated after the Germans had used them as barracks, not so many years ago.
Gradually, he had learnt to find his way round on the premises of the school.
From the dormitory with the six creaking beds to the living rooms and the dining room in the basement.
Several months in a hospital bed had taxed his strength, but the school's gym and swimming pool would soon make his body function optimally.
However, his old skills of orientation in the woods, at the tiller and his sharpshooting, which were his pride, had been lost and had disappeared in the land of the unattainable.
Were there skills that might be compared to that kind of achievements?
He was not sure about that - not sure at all.
"The alphabet for the blind!"
It did not sound nice.
Learning the alphabet for the blind signaled that one was really blind.
At home he was often asked if he could see anything - anything at all?
Usually, he would answer with a yes.
It would comfort the sighted, but in fact there were only coloured shadows in the dome that had become his horizon.
"Alphabet for the blind" was a signal that
Would reveal his little lie.
Words that contained blind were no use to him.
It caused an uncomfortable tightening in his throat and unrest in his body.
When others hinted pity, sympathy and revealed it through their voices, they passed their feelings to him.
It triggered his own secret despair which nobody was to know about.
"The alphabet for the blind, a system of dots or braille after the inventor - consists of six dots"
the teacher began – and threw a pile of blocks with Braille symbols out on the table in front of him.
The dots (see note below), might be acceptable, but he would prefer the strange word: Braille, which no one knew what meant.
The others in class simply talked about the dots all the time.
Even though he preferred Braille, he, like the others, probably had to get used to applying the word dots.
But alphabet for the blind - no! That was the sore dot that would reveal him.
It was a word that triggered something unpleasant in him
The matchbox-sized blocks with the six dots
Could be combined, so that they formed an alphabet.
"It is not so easy"
She said with the sympathetic voice which gave him the throat feeling.
As a boy scout he had learnt the Morse alphabet without greater difficulty, so here there were only dots, which even formed patterns.
One day, the teacher placed a metal frame on the table in front of him which could close around a sheet of stiff paper.
With a sharp stylus, it was possible to make dots on the back of the sheet.
"It is a bit difficult"
"In this way, you have to reverse the letters laterally, and that is not so easy - If left and right are difficult for you".
At 12 he had already been sailing by compass, so it was natural for him to turn the point of the triangle towards: Northeast and northwest, which gave d and f, and southeast and southwest, which gave j and h.
Besides, he discovered that the first ten letters used the four dots at the top. The following ten letters merely added a dot.
U v x y added yet another dot
If one placed a specific symbol before the first ten letters, one had the first numbers.
This insight gave him a sense of ownership to the system.
He began writing the alphabet on the slate.
Made a few wrong dots, but supposed he could use a nail as a rubber.
He removed the paper from the slate and gave it to the teacher.
She did not put the paper on the table in order to read what he had written with her finger, but used her eyes.
"Well, you have turned it the right way", she said with a bit of disappointment, "but you have written some dots which should not be there."
The last part came with a bit of triumph in her voice.
He knew the kind of teachers who always noticed petty errors and loved their red pencil of trifles without assessing the actual product.
In his secret heart, he dismissed her as his teacher and took upon himself the task of mastering Braille, or perhaps the dots, with whatever work might follow.
There were plenty of possibilities for this in the years to come.
The A-level exams and further education brought foreign languages with their unique contractions.
Stenography and musical notation likewise had their own contractions, but which also opened up for diverse and rich possibilities.
The slate was supplemented by a Perkins Brailler, which could copy out page after page faster and with greater ease, which could then be filed in a folder.
Tape recordings and notes were handled by means of a Braille card index.
The dream that all text should be transferred into the dots was apparently unrealistic.
But the age of computers brought with it a speech synthesizer and by and by also a braille display, so that many texts could now be read using the fingers.
Braille PCs with net connection, which did not take up more space than the coat pocket, eased the acquisition of literature and contact to other people.
The connection to homepages might cause difficulties, but also offered much relevant information.
However, the little pocket slate in a neat leather cover which formed the first possibilities to write and read the dots would still be at hand.
Ideas or contemplations, occurring on the bus or in the pub, could be noted down and kept for later afterthought and rewriting.
They say that one only knows one's thoughts once they have been spoken.
Reflections in the twilight of the inner consciousness appear different in daylight.
Things spoken, however, are birds that easily fly away and are not so easily captured.
By contrast, if one puts them in writing, the thought, the contemplation, the consideration may be turned over in one's mind and rewritten.
I write, therefore I can reflect.
The concept of an alphabet for the blind is now no longer frightening.
It is a tool which has brought orientation in literature and
Given management to the events of the everyday life and appointments.
Finally, happiness at precisely altering and phrasing one's considerations.
The Danish text plays on the fact that there are three ways of referring to Braille in Danish: blindskrift, punktskrift and Braille. I have had to denote these three notions differently and have thereby invented the colloquial "the dots", which might be a translation of the shorter version of punktskrift, namely: punkt.
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