An email drops into the YH inbox “Would you like to join in with our fundraiser?”
We jump at the chance –
if it involves charity and food we’re there with bells on.
Each year, for the past five years, the Royal National College for the Blind has invited the Herefordshire community to enjoy a three-course dinner, under blindfold. As soon as those blindfolds are on social barriers begin to collapse, ‘normal’ dining etiquette goes out of the window, and guests experience an evening that heightens the senses of taste, touch, smell and communication. It’s a fun and informative event that not only raises awareness of the disability, but vital funds for independence boosting exchange trips to Germany, Spain and France for the college’s students.
We were greeted at the door by the beaming face of Teddy, one of the students, as he offered to take our coats and scarves before we were guided into a beautifully transformed canteen. The lighting was stunning and tables all laid for a splendid, if slightly odd, formal occasion.
After our rather opulent welcome of bubbly and canapes we were led to our table to begin our sensory journey. We were advised to remain seated unless we had a guide to accompany us, and a full compliment of student waiters (Natasha Mead, Monique Richards, Chris Colbert, Jack Yare and Kali Holder) were standing attentively in every corner awaiting our needs.
Once under blindfold the experience became far more immersive – background noise became foreground noise, every movement of head, hands and feet became a gamble, and pouring the wine a full Krypton Factor challenge. Our comperes for the evening, students Conna Jeffs and Chris Wilkins, knew exactly the right things to say to soothe anxious minds and relax our self-expectation. Yes, we were going to make a mess, Yes it was OK, Yes we’d probably get laughed at, but it was OK because we could laugh along too.
Our starter, salty pan seared halloumi and trottole pasta salad put our fears to rest – this was going to be interesting (and incredibly tasty)! You’ve never really used a knife and fork until you’ve done it blindfolded and you soon realise just how reliant you are on the visuals of eating when you can’t see. Confidence now returned, we waited with anticipation for our main course.
Which turned out to be a marvelously rich and saucy tagine. With delicately spiced cous-cous piled up in a little mountain. Amazing tastes and textures…not so elegant to eat when you can’t see if your fork has made contact with the food, or even if you’ve pushed it off your plate entirely (which did happen to one unfortunate member of our table, to much hilarity)
Main course survived we awaited dessert. While we were waiting I ashamed myself by attempting to refill my water glass, failing spectacularly, and needing hand over hand guidance from our extremely patient waiter to avoid drowning the rest of my companions.
Our sumptuous dessert arrived and was just incredible. The heady mixture of ginger and rum was countered by the creamy chocolate mousse and the crumbly gingersnap on top added that little extra texture. Easy to eat without looking, and as no-one could see me anyway, elbows were firmly on the table for this one. Yum!
Between courses we were treated to an insight into college life by student speakers Kelsey Trevett (and the lovely Lacey the dog!) and Hafsa Rafiq. It really brought home just how much the facility can help young people who are either born visually impaired, or become so during childhood. We heard about the amazing training and technology that the College provides to enable students to grow as people, as well as to learn and become independent and self-sufficient adults out in the post-college world. Attending the College opens many doors for the young people within it, resulting in acceptance to prestigious Universities and further training, employment and confidence in day-to-day life.
To finish off the evening we were treated to the amazing vocals of Alexis Ganais, who performed a song she had written about her disability. An absolutely incredible talent, there really wasn’t a dry eye anywhere in the room.
For more information on the incredible life changing work of the RNC, and to sign up for information on upcoming events please visit their website.