Sunday, 25 April 2010

No.294 Of Walking In Blind

Friday night was different. Very different. I went to the restaurant Dans Le Noir in Clerkenwell London. The idea is simple and just like anywhere else. You go in. You eat your food. You leave. There's just once difference however. Here it all happens in total darkness. Yes that's right. Utter complete pitch black darkness. You can't even see the knife and fork in front of you. You have to search around and hope you've found yours and not your neighbours and I guess that they're clean too.

We were led in by a blind waiter from Japan called Takashi. With one hand on his shoulder I shuffled my way into the darkness and eventually sat down on a table with people immediately eitherside that I couldn't see but could hear perfectly well. The couple on my left were talking about a tribunal application and it was all I could do to stop myself chucking into the darkness some legal advice to the effect that they had better get on with any claim for fear of being time barred. To my right I heard someone say that she was born in a place called Ballymena but she's not been back for a good while.

Takashi soon disappeared to return with the first course which had been ordered before we entered. I'm glad I asked him to confirm that he'd got the veggie dish for me because he hadn't and a twenty year rule of abstinence was nearly broken without trying. He promptly returned with the right dish about and it tasted like it was tomatoes with goats cheese in a pastry of some sort. There was something else on the plate too which I didn't recognise either from its shape or its taste but it went in and down just like the rest.

The main course was artichoke and something else. It didn't taste great and it was completely cold. I was beginning to wonder whether the restaurant was making the most of the fact that you couldn't see the food and were tasting it to recognsie it rather than to assess its quality.

After about an hour we asked to leave and Takashi duly led us out the same way we had come in, hand on shoulder shuffling slowly and nervously towards the exit.

The declared purpose of the restaurant (to deny one sense and heighten another) didn't really work for me. I don't believe taste quite works like that any more than smell does. This is a myth perpetuated by the likes of programmes such as 'Kung Fu' where the blind monk, 'Grasshopper' can't see a thing but can hear well enough apparently to pluck out a fly trespassing across his airspace from the air with two fingers. It did give me a sense however of what it must be like to be blind and just how that restricts your day-to-day activities.

As we headed out into the light again I wondered what it must be like to be like Takashi and blind all the time and how it must feel for him to hear many times a night punters declare 'Oh thank God I can see again'.

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