A blind piano tuner has told of his love for London following a move from his hometown in the rural West Country.
Andy Howard, of Sulgrave Road, Hammersmith , moved to the capital from Bath about a year ago which might be a common move for some people but a big step for a man who has been clinically blind since he was a child.
The 46-year-old used his heightened sense of hearing to make a living by becoming a piano tuner and has worked with amazing instruments such as Bristol Cathedral’s concert grand piano and tuned some famous people’s pianos, who, being a gentleman, he cannot name.
He moved to the big smoke to pursue work but it took a lot of guts to take the leap as for somebody with poor vision, moving to an unknown place like London has challenges which most people would not think about.
He said: “I should have moved here earlier because I love it, but it was a big step for me to take from my comfortable position in Bath.”
Having been here a year he could not have more praise for the city and its people, and most interestingly its sprawling transport system.
A bug bear for most commuters, the tube has been a lifeline for Andy who uses it to get around London to tune people’s beloved instruments.
“I’m amazed at how well the system is geared up to assisting people with sight loss,” he said. “This in turn is imperative to me being able to earn a living. The tube staff are so helpful, they’ll always help me onto the escalators and the tube and could not do more for somebody with limited vision.
“Travelling by bus can seem straight forward for most people but if you have severe sight loss, it can be really hard to know where you are throughout the journey, and when it is time for you to alight the bus. In London, the transport system has audio announcements throughout on both underground and buses. This system helps so many people to enjoy and make the most of this fabulous capital of ours. If you are new to the city, here for business or pleasure, or like myself, not able to see very well, audio announcements give access to so many people.”
Another modern phenomenon which helps him get around is his iPhone as he uses GPS to map routes to and from jobs with the built-in voice feedback software, also very useful for reading out e-mails and texts, as well as sending them.
The piano tuner is incredibly modest and casually drops into conversation he ran the London Marathon this summer - because he felt ‘he needed a real challenge’ (as if being blind in a city like London was not enough of a challenge).
Andy puts the rest of us to shame really!
If you have a piano which could do with a bit of love and attention, whether it is in a home, school, church or even on the street, take a look at Andy’s website, tuningpianos.co.uk or e-mail him at email@example.com