Just over five years ago, David Daniels from Portsmouth had an enjoyable and fulfilled life. He talks to Bob Southward about what happened next when he completely lost his sight.
Very happily married to Sally for more than 20 years, David was the proud father of two teenage sons. He ran a successful antiques business and his spare time was spent running a boys’ soccer club and enjoying playing darts to a high standard in his local pub.
Although David had always suffered from poor eyesight, he was ill-prepared for the complete loss of his sight over a 12 month period. The degeneration is his eyesight was unexpected and surgery could not delay its relentless progress.
The loss of his sight was devastating for David. He had to surrender his antiques business. He had to relinquish his soccer club activities. He could no longer play darts with his mates. While his former darts colleagues would willingly collect him for a drink, David yearned for his former freedom and bitterly resented having to rely upon other people.
David sank into depression during the long lonely days in his house; there seemed little to do once his wife and sons had departed in the morning. “I would sit for hours contemplating my uselessness,” he says. At his lowest points, thoughts of taking his own life passed through him.
Although the local authorities had pointed David in the direction of financial assistance, they could not address his core problem of his lack of self-esteem. However, it was one of their actions that started David on his long road to recovery… they suggested that he applied for a guide dog. This David did and he was accepted on a course in his home area.
It was on the first day of his training course that David met the considerable frame of Tiny Morris the captain of the Hampshire Visually Impaired Cricket Club. Tiny recognised David’s symptoms and the devastating loss of his active involvement in sport and its camaraderie. Tiny brushed aside any reservations from David and insisted that he attended a training session with the Hampshire VICC. David hadn’t played cricket since schooldays and had only a rudimentary grasp of the game. Nevertheless, David’s wife took him to the training session.
David recounts with great pleasure his time at that first training session where he met his fellow cricketers. Although a complete novice, David enjoyed the coaching and being in the fresh air again playing a sport. However, the greatest pleasure was being part of a team and enjoying the banter that comes with that. On the drive home, David’s wife, Sally, was overwhelmed by the change in David.
Sally’s hopes have not been misplaced; some four years later David’s life has been transformed by VI cricket and the companionship that it’s given him. He is now a regular and valued member of Hampshire VICC in the Development League and also plays for Sussex Sharks VICC in the National League.
And has David improved as a cricketer? Undoubtedly – as in 2014, David was awarded national B1 fielder of the year and Hampshire most improved and players’ player for the season.
But cricket isn’t his only hobby. Tiny Morris and David are a formidable team in the British Blind Sport Ten-Pin National Bowling League and enjoy hilarious long distance trips to the venues guided only by their dogs. David’s role in the bowling is not confined to playing – he has taken on the
organisation of the teams in the Portsmouth area and is responsible for completing match details on-line to BBS. This has forced David to increase his computer skills to an extent where he is more IT-savvy than before his sight loss.
David’s dog Irwin is his constant companion and enjoys David’s complete trust. Irwin quickly learnt the routes to David’s regular sites – the doctor’s, the local shops, and the pub where he now enjoys the companionship of his former darts colleagues.
During a quiet moment with Tiny, David was musing how becoming involved in VI cricket started his long road back to a full and happy life. When Sally and his sons leave the house in the morning, David is now busy with his cricket, ten-pin bowling and its administration and in meeting his many sighted and VI friends.
David asked Tiny: “Where does the money come for the VI cricket and bowling?” Tiny replied that most of it comes from The Primary Club, an organisation David had never heard of but to whom he is very grateful.
In David’s own words: “I reckon The Primary Club helped save my life.”