Friday, 24 July 2015

Deaf Girly's head of noise

This time last week I was in the Alps. I was about to start a long morning walk. A walk that took me and FJM past a lake, up a hill, along the side of a river and to a refuge where we sat under a sun umbrella and watched the rain pelt down around us while munching on the most delicious cheese baguettes.

One of the things I love about being in the mountains is how quiet it is, especially in summer when you haven't got the hum of the lifts and the swishing of the skis. It's a kind of quiet that means I can leave my hearing aids at home, because the only thing I need to hear is FJM.

But what amazed me last week was that I heard other stuff, too. Except I didn't. In the calmness and the stillness of the mountains, I was reminded of how good my aural memory is. Or perhaps it's my aural imagination...

You see, we saw marmots. Cute, furry, morbidly obese marmots. FJM heard marmots. I did not, but when he described the noise they made, my brain somehow memorised it and forever more, when I saw that little fat furry backside retreating from the human invaders on its path, I heard the noise FJM had told me it made. You see the fun he could have with this right?!

Back near our ski flat, there was a kitten. I haven't heard a cat meow since I was about  8 years old, and even then, it was the quietest thing I'd ever heard. But when this kitten meowed, I heard it in my head. I lipread the damn cat.

And it was the same for the baby crying in the cafe near us. I lip-read that and my head filled in the blanks giving me sound that my ears can't hear.

The weirdest one though was when I was watching my iPlayer downloads on my iPad on the train down through France. Not bothering with headphones, I had Celebrity Masterchef on mute. In my head, I could hear Greg Wallace and John Torrode. As I read the subtitles, their voices were in my head. And the celebrities that I knew, their voices were in my head, too.

So imagine my surprise when, at the flat on the mountainside, I turned up the volume and held my iPad up to my ear and discovered that Sam Nixon – who was apparently on X Factor – had a northern accent. Something my lipreading had totally missed. In my head, he had a cockney accent not a northern accent. And I had watched six episodes on mute with a totally different voice for him in my head. It was completely bizarre.

But also rather brilliant. Having this fabulous fill-in-the-blanks hearing brain that seems to bypass my ears, helps give me another dimension to hearing that my hearing aids cannot do.

I know deep down that there are some sounds that my ears will never hear. Cats meowing, green men beeping, the noise the tube doors apparently make before they close, phones ringing. And in the last 25 years I have totally come to accept that.

My brain it seems has not. It will keep on giving me cats meowing as long as I see a cat's mouth move. I will keep on hearing a green man beep regardless of whether it does. And you should hear what it thinks the tube door closing warning sounds like...

It's awesome, and probably a lot more tuneful than what the hearing peeps get to listen to.

Happy Friday peeps


Friday, 26 June 2015

Deaf Girly and Royal Opera House Access Card

Yesterday, FJM and I went for a walk along the river. The sun was shining, the birds could well have been singing. It was wonderful.

We sat outside a pub with a view of people rowing past at low tide. We felt smug that we had a table in the sun. It was all marvellous.

Then my phone rang twice. It was a number I didn't recognise so I didn't answer it. After all, I am never called by numbers I recognise as people know not to call me. FJM went to the bar.

A voicemail popped up and so I thought I'd have a go at trying to decipher it. Talking very slowly and loudly at the other end (he clearly knew he was having to call a deaf person) was a man whose name I didn't catch but what I did catch was 'The Royal Opera House, lost wallet and email'.

Eh? I thought, checking my bag and wondering how somewhere 8 miles away was calling me about a 'lost wallet' that I could clearly see was in my bag. And then I looked for my travel card wallet. The wallet with my Freedom Pass, my Disabled Rail Card, my climbing wall card and my Royal Opera House Access card and that was gone.


Unable to decipher anymore from the voicemail – and with FJM still at the bar – I checked my email and there from a lovely person at the Box Office of the Royal Opera House was an email. My card wallet had been found by the river by a man who had called them as their number was on the Access Card. Obviously they couldn't give him my details but they took his and included in the email was his mobile number and name.

Amazing huh?

And so when FJM returned from the bar, he rang the lovely guy who found my wallet.

Turned out some school girls picked it up and handed it to him and he went through every single card and phoned every single number on each one until someone would help him. The Climbing Wall didn't have my contact details, the Freedom Pass people told him to post it to them as did the Disabled Railcard people, but he figured I'd want it back sooner than that and then the Royal Opera House offered to help.

He texted his address to me and yesterday evening – armed with a bottle of thank you wine – we drove over to pick up the wallet. As I shook his hand and handed him the wine, I really just wanted to hug him. For giving me back my Freedom Pass and all my access cards. Things that make my every day life so much easier.

We chatted a bit and he said that the thing that made him really determined was the card he found tucked away in the middle. It was something Ma gave me as a kid – a laminated card with an an angel shaped coin in the middle of it – the sentiment being that someone is always watching over me. And he rightly pointed out that yesterday they clearly were.

And as today is Thankful Friday, it's quite easy to work out what I'm thankful for. For the guy who rang everyone to get my card wallet back, for the determined Royal Opera House box office guy who joined in the fun, for my Ma for giving me that guardian angel, and for FJM who is wonderful pair of ears, always.

Happy Friday peeps!


Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Deaf Girly's open letter to Odeon

Picture the scene:

I’m on my first date with FJM to the cinema – we’ve known each other almost two years, so it’s quite an amazing feat. It’s Jurassic World, something he’s really looking forward to seeing. As I haven’t been to the cinema for five years, I excitedly order popcorn and nachos and throw myself into eating the quite-frankly disgusting cold plastic cheese the latter are served with, with gusto.

You see yesterday was the first evening showing of Jurassic World that FJM and I could go to. I’d been stalking the Your Local Cinema website to find a captioned showing ever since I found out that FJM went to see the original Jurassic Park three times in one week when it came out in 1993.

Such was my excitement that we got there 40 minutes early. Such was my excitement that I checked with staff that this captioned movie was definitely happening several times. Such was my excitement that I ate most of that plastic cheese – DEAR GOD WHAT IS IN THAT STUFF? – while FJM did his best with his stale popcorn. 

So imagine my horror when the opening scene began to roll and not a single caption popped up. ‘Okay, okay,’ I reasoned, maybe they are just normal subtitles rather than ones of the hard of hearing. Maybe once people start talking some captions will pop up. People started talking.


I was not alone in my speedy sprint down the stairs from my £13-something Premier Seat where we found a guy with a walkie talkie looking a bit panic stricken. 

The film continued rolling. FJM ate his stale popcorn.

To be fair, I couldn’t fault the Odeon staff at this point. They were trying. I could see the exertion on their faces of running up the stairs to the projection room to see what was going on. And when I asked that they start the movie again once sorting the subtitles, they agreed.

And so they did. And we all returned to our seats. I put the plastic cheese to one side and sat nervously. Odeon wasn’t about to ruin my first ever cinema date with FJM was it?

The opening scene rolled again. The egg started to hatch, and the crow’s foot hitting the snow didn’t quite have the same impact second time around. Anne Heche said something unintelligible to me and… there were no captions.

At this point, and I really don’t blame them, most of the people who had come for the captions left.

The movie was paused. I remained hopeful. I held FJM’s hand and tried to forget the tub of plastic cheese I’d just eaten.

Third time around, I held my breath as the first little claw came out of the delicate egg shell. I held my breath as the crow landed on the snow. I held my breath as Anne Heche yelled something unintelligible and then I realised that I too would have to walk out of this cinema and take the non-subtitle-needing FJM with me.

And while your staff politely issued me my refund. For the tickets. For the plastic cheese. For the slightly stale popcorn, I found myself tearfully apologising to FJM that he had to miss a film he really wanted to watch because of me. 

I found myself asking staff why they couldn’t get the captions to work. Why when it was someone’s job, was it not being done? Why, when it was advertised and I double checked on arriving, did I not get what I had paid for? No one could give me any answers.

So then I asked staff if this happened often, they said no. Although they also looked like they were struggling to recall what a caption actually was. One of the guys who walked out at the beginning, said it happened quite a lot. His face had an expression of weary acceptance. 

But I refuse to accept your incompetence, Odeon.

You ruined our date. And worse still, I had cold plastic cheese for dinner, when had I known you were going to screw up so spectacularly I would have passed on that and marched straight over to the Byron Burger opposite instead.

Do you know, last year there were reports that the UK box office suffered its biggest fall for 20 years? The cinema we went to, Kensington Odeon – not because its local but because it was the only one showing the movie with captions – was facing redevelopment and attracted a wealth of high-profile protestors about it.

But Odeon, I don’t have high hopes for your future, because the thing is, I don’t truly believe that you value all your customers. If you did, then yesterday wouldn’t have happened. Yesterday, someone would have checked the captions on the movie were working before the excited people turned up, ate plastic cheese and left again feeling angry and humiliated and in my case downright pissed off.

I understand that there will probably never be more than one subtitled movie a week and that this will usually be an afternoon showing because evening captions are likely to put valued hearing customers off – as Sara Cox once spectacularly demonstrated on Twitter. I understand that it probably all boils down to the subject of money.

But yesterday I spent £45 that you had to refund. You also gave me two free tickets to try and tempt me back next week after staff promised there would be a subtitled showing of Jurassic World again.

I will not be going.

I’d start a campaign if I’d thought it’d make a difference. Found a charity to help fund the showing of captioned movies. Or support an existing one. So that companies like yours don’t have to take the hit for making lives like ours accessible.

But I can’t really make that difference Odeon. You can. By not mucking up the one captioned movie you’re showing that month. By not serving plastic cheese and stale popcorn. And by remembering that you ruined my first date to the cinema with FJM.

Happy Tuesday Odeon.

Happy sodding Tuesday.