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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, February 20, 2003
    Testament to my failure..?
    Two great talks in two nights. Liverpool spoils you. Tonight, city community historian Steve Binns, in our church hall by invitation of The Wavertree Society to talk about the life of William Gladstone, four-times Prime Minister and contender for Greatest Merseysider.

    True to his reputation Binns was entertaining and insightful. He's made a lifelong study of Gladstone's exhaustive (and exhausting) diaries which record "every fifteen minutes of his life since he began them at the age of fourteen". And he's only part-way through them - "They'll be a testament to my failure" he jokes; his work is slowed considerably because it involves translation into braille.

    Steve's been blind from birth. Which makes his achievements in learning and communication all the more impressive. He's a twice-weekly contributor to BBC Radio Merseyside, he's tour guide at Liverpool Town Hall and St George's Hall, and he's much in demand for talks like tonight's.

    He tells jokes against himself like once pointing out a famous work of art on the wall at St George's Hall, only to be told by the schoolchildren he was addressing that there was nothing there, the painting had been removed for restoration. But he needn't - his learning and the style in which he talks wins him respect; he's one of those people whose life gently mocks the term 'disability'.