Can’t see but can cook and dream!

I’m Penny Melville-Brown and have been trying to push the disability boulder up the mountain of public attitudes for years.  So I’m delighted that Disability Talk has invited me to provide this guest blog.

Penny chopping while filming for bakingblind.comIt all started over 20 years ago when I was still serving in the Royal Navy and my eye sight started to go.  They were very good: after being off-sick for a year and with just sight in one eye, I went back to work, got a promotion and carried on even while the other eye was failing. The Navy helped me with flexible hours, getting to work and magnification on my computer even though, like other parts of the military, they weren’t covered by the equality legislation.    When I was finally medically discharged, those years with all sorts of health difficulties gave me the confidence that being blind didn’t stop me working.

But trying to persuade future employers seemed a slim chance until I was lucky enough to link up with others equally passionate about making work a real prospect for disabled people.  So I launched Disability Dynamics: working on employment programmes, equality schemes and trying to change some of our public services.  Over the last few years, I’ve been heavily involved in self-employment as it can be ideal when employers are still reluctant and we may need to keep control of where, when and how we work.  There are some wonderful stories of how people have changed their lives – feeling better and happier.  We were just on the brink of more inclusive support for business start-ups when the recession hit and the Government changed.

Over the years, I’ve heard from lots of people who are hugely frustrated, depressed and isolated because their efforts to get a job just result in repeated rejections.  I’m convinced that there are millions of disabled people who would work if they could but haven’t had the help they need or the opportunities they deserve.  Just pushing them through programmes designed for other long-term unemployed people can seem more about a target-driven process than getting the best from this national resource.  There are still lots of questions  as to whether the forthcoming Work and Health programme will deliver the radically different approach we need – and demolish the ultimate barrier: employers’ attitudes.

With lots of help from those with specialist knowledge about disability and employment, we put together our Steps to Success and Sustainable work models that show that just one organisation will rarely have all the skills and capacity to provide every variation of support.    Our Help to Work partnership showed that multiple organisations embedded in the local community working together can succeed where parachuted national providers may not.

Along the way, there have been many more topics to debate from the disability perspective:

You can see my blogs with lots of images of my flower arrangements and some recipes.  The last gives a clue to my latest venture: Baking Blind.  The cooking videos and recipes are just another way of trying to show that having a disability isn’t the end of the world and that blindness or any other impairment doesn’t stop us doing most things.  I’ve rather optimistically entered an international competition to take the idea around the world.  And I’ll be blogging more recipes over coming months – and about how I’m bashing bowls out of pewter!  One of my taxi drivers has been teaching me some of his dishes and we have a whole range of great bakes for Comic Relief coming next.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Guest chef, John, helps cook outstanding French dishes.

On Baking Blind, I’m always keen to learn from anyone who loves cooking and has some fabulous food ideas to share.  This week, taxi driver John stepped back in to the kitchen to show me outstanding Pork Dijonnaise.  It’s not difficult and doesn’t use exotic ingredients so perfect for a meal to impress!

Sauteed potatoes, pork dijonnaise and french beans

The finished article.

With garlic sautéed potatoes and French beans, it served four very generously for under £10 and could be just perfect for a special lunch or dinner for Mothers’ Day next weekend.  Even I could manage the cooking!

Watch me cook with John on You Tube or download the recipe at www.bakingblind.com

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

 

 

 

Can I beat you at the Saturday Kitchen omelette challenge with my eyes shut!

Although being blind I have the advantage

I’m Penny from Baking Blind.

Vlogs, recipes and my story are all at www.bakingblind.com.Me in my garden

I’m an entrant in the San Francisco Lighthouse organisation’s Holman Prize – there’s 90 seconds about my dream of cooking around the world at YouTube

There are nearly 200 other blind entrants from all around the world wanting to fulfil their different ambitions.

The support of you and your listeners would make an amazing difference for all of us.

 

Make-ahead Christmas treat: candied peel.

Watch me make them on YouTube

Delicious for gifts and better than the bland commercial version.

Seville oranges are much more flavoursome than usual dessert oranges.

This recipe also works for lemons, grapefruits etc.

The strips can be packed in cellophane bags at Christmas for gifts (dipping some in chocolate) or can be chopped and added to cakes and other baking.

Recipe: https://www.dropbox.com/s/j12hepdzoh79lzz/170216%20BB%20recipe%20Candied%20peel.doc?dl=0

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

Picture of Penny's Christmas cakes ready to go

 

Government’s proposals to “halve the disability employment gap” raise more questions than answers.

There are only just a few more days to respond to the Government’s Green Paper which is all about supporting many more disabled people to work https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/564038/work-and-health-green-paper-improving-lives.pdf.  My comments have just gone in and the core questions concerning me are:

  1. Is there sufficient long-term cross-Government political will, financial commitment and official capacity to make all of this a reality?
  2. Are disabled people themselves sufficiently embedded in the design, delivery, commissioning and governance of all this change?
  3. Have success and the risks of failure been measured more realistically?
  4. Has the high level of antipathy and mistrust been sufficiently calibrated?
  5. Should employment support force the reluctant rather than welcome the willing?
  6. Will employers’ attitudes be changed?
  7. Are successful employment support programmes described?
  8. Does local partnership delivery feature strongly?
  9. Is self-employment getting enough attention?
  10. Is the health sector ready, willing and able to contribute?
  11. Is the evidence, data, information and resources available to all?
  12. Is this strategy going in the right direction?

To every question, the answer is a resounding “No, not yet!”  While the minds that put all of this together are willing, the body of proposals and solutions are not.

You can see my thinking about each of these questions here https://www.dropbox.com/sh/w7baeb6nn2kp7we/AADd6yKb0PBfPskOivQQU1-ma?dl=0  You might agree or not but tell the Government what you think of their proposals – deadline is 17 February 2017 to workandhealth@dwp.gsi.gov.uk

Happy reading!

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@laylands.co.uk

Easy low fat lunch.

Watch me make them on You Tube and you can find the recipe here.

Just a posh version of chicken nuggets and chips.

Oven-cooking is much safer than frying – and keeps the amount of oil to a minimum.

Make your own breadcrumbs from dry stale bread and store in the freezer.

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

Posh chicken nuggets and chips

Posh chicken nuggets and chips

 

Pot up hot marmalade with your eyes closed!

Watch me do this on YouTube

The finished article

The finished article

Seville oranges may only be available in January.

A talking thermometer, preserving funnel and jug the same capacity as the jars make this possible.

I always simmer the fruit the night before so that they are cool enough to handle.  The fruit has to be fully cooked and softened before adding the sugar.

By keeping the amount of water to a minimum, you don’t have to boil the marmalade so long to achieve the setting temperature.

I test for the set on the stainless steel sink as it cools the marmalade quickly and is easy to clean.  The marmalade will set well when the surface of the test blob wrinkles when pushed by your finger.

You can add some liqueur or whisky to the pan before it goes in to the jars.

I get jars from the Jam Jar Shop (http://jamjarshop.com/): a quick wash and then place in a roasting tray in a very low oven – this dries, sterilises and warms the jars so that they are less likely to crack when hot marmalade is poured in.

Stock up early with these fabulous oranges – you can freeze them whole.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

 

You can find my recipe here (https://www.dropbox.com/s/dbvockd6glue2fs/170126%20BB%20recipe%20%20marmalade..docx?dl=0)