Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Deaf rage

Something very odd happens to me when I discover non-accessible services for deaf people – my face gets very hot and turns bright red – the colour of Santa’s trousers, my ears start to burn and I feel a surging wall of rage coming from the ends of my toes.
It then travels my body and comes out of my mouth usually in a fairly eloquent but not polite rant…
Ooooh it makes me so cross!

Take the time I emailed my local council about getting a permit renewed – I sent them a polite note about how I couldn’t hear and as there was only an information phone line could they please help me. So they did, by sending me the telephone number I needed to call.

Now, bearing in mind this was a disability permit that I was applying for I was fairly astonished at this response and so, as a result sent a curt email back…
Two weeks later, I chased it up again only to be told it had been referred to the correct person…
two weeks later, NOTHING!
So I chased the right person and still nothing!

And so today I reached boiling point, I stamped up and down the office, doing my work while silently fuming at the dumbness of some people – and then I emailed housemate – who for future reference and accolades has a fabulous pair of ears that work and so helps me often – and she called them.

And, in two seconds flat the problem was sorted, the form was in the post and all was calm – except me! I am still fuming, trying to find a vent for all this pent-up anger and frustration that doesn’t involve chocolate and weight gain.

Yoga? Tried that and not surprisingly from the position of the downward dog, I was quite unable to lip read anything except housemate’s obvious suffocation expressions due to the farting woman in front of her.

Deep breathing? Does this make anyone else feel dizzy?

So, instead I’ve booked a climbing session with fab friend who actually wears her hearing aids and I’m going to hum and climb. It really is quite relaxing – last week I hummed Amy Winehouse as I went.
This week, while working out just how to complain to my local council, I’m going to be humming The Bitch Is Back.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

It's official... I'm a shoplifter

Well, not really but I did set all the alarms off in ASDA the other day as I walked out with a DVD player in my arms – all paid for but not detagged.
Housemate was very good about it – and had it not been for her, I think I would have been swiftly rugby tackled by the burly-looking security guard who was, as I was striding out towards my car, chasing me with much enthusiasm.

But it got me thinking about the fact that I can’t hear shop alarms, about how many other warning signs I don’t hear and what trouble it has, and could, get me into.

Take last Friday afternoon, there I was striding down Oxford Street when I spied the green man flashing (he doesn’t beep for me) and began to cross the road.
Sure, I did wonder why other people were just stood there, not crossing, but I just assumed they were of the tourist breed that stops randomly in the middle of the pavement for no apparent reason.

Alas, this was not the case and I was all of a sudden faced head-on by a big, red fire engine, lights flashing and, now I was within centimetres of it, siren definitely on.

Not wanting a vehicle full of rather good-looking and uniformed men think I was a total idiot I tried to sign sorry at them so they would realise I was deaf – except in my panic I signed thank you instead – and they all stared at me as if I had totally lost the plot.

Then, there was my old alarm clock – it was one of those massive tick-tock tick-tock clocks with the two bells and the hammer. I remember a time when I could hear it well enough to wake up but then, one day all of a sudden, it was waking up everyone in my uni halls of residence except me.

So now, everything I have that beeps, vibrates – from my mobile and alarm clock, to my phone at work and the fire alarm there – problem is there’s so much vibration going on that sometimes I’m not sure which one is going off!

I wonder if there’s an inventor out there who could make a nice vibrating fire…


engine.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Me and my volume

When I tell people that I’m deaf, one of the first things they usually ask me, after can I hear their voice, is can I hear my own.

And, the answer is Yes, I can. But one thing I do struggle with is my volume control – housemate was the first person to tell me I have a wonderful skill of shouting in quiet places and whispering in loud ones! I have no idea why I do this, but she is absolutely right you know…

Take the time I was on a train from London back to my house at uni in a packed train. It was hot and stuffy and my boyfriend at the time was doing his best to keep me amused – he was a quick learner, so had brought a Take A Break Arrow Word book with him.

So there we were, chug chugging along when I suddenly announced to him, ‘I am so fucking (sorry mum) bored!’ Except I didn’t just announce it to him – I announced it to the whole carriage and probably to the whole of the South East.

His face was a complete picture and it made me laugh so much that tea came out of my nose and smudged my down clue on the Arrow Word I was doing…
He diagnosed me with deaf tourettes that day and it’s been that way ever since.

The other day I was watching Jaws in the early hours of the morning, for possibly the first time – it was old housemate’s favourite movie, she loved the book, too. So much so that she used to hide it in the shed so that she couldn’t read it anymore.

Anyway, so there I was watching Jaws for the first time, a bit spooked to be honest – I don’t do scary movies very well. Remember that scene where they’re hunting the poor fishy and he pops out the water and says hello, well I screamed, a very me scream – a town-crier proud scream – so loud in fact that other-old housemate’s boyfriend (who I was visiting at the time) shouted ‘Bloody ‘ell and Flamin’ Nora’ at the top of his voice too, and we woke up an entire row of terraces.

Now, for old housemate’s boyfriend to have been disturbed, it must have been quite a scream, even though I didn’t hear it – screaming is out of my frequency…
Once he challenged me by a loch in Scotland to shout as loudly as I could – I competed against the boys and won. And, I was the only one who didn’t suffer ear damage as a result.

I could probably fill this blog for days with details of all the noise I’ve made, but what really disturbs me is that I can shout in sign language, too. It’s quite alarming but my face gurns wildly, my hands flail about and I literally let rip…

So this got me thinking, if I ‘shout’ in both languages, perhaps if I wasn’t deaf I would still be noisy.
Perhaps I would still whisper in pubs and shout swear words in front of little old ladies on trains…
And for once, it’s quite nice to find something I can’t outright blame on my deafness!

I'm green... honest

Apart from saving the environment and blah blah blah, there’s another good thing that’s going to come out of the increasingly common trend of not giving carrier bags to shoppers. I won’t look like a total idiot!

Here’s what usually happens…
I go into a shop, queue up, buy my stuff and just as I look down to fish my change out of my wallet, the shop assistant whispers so only people who can hear, hear, ‘Would you like a bag?’
Well, that’s what I think happens, and I can usually tell if it has because when I look up I am faced by them staring at me intently waiting for my apparently imminent response.
So usually flail about hopelessly acting as though they have asked me to find the square root of 67,987 and mumble yes, hope for the best. Now, back in the old days before chip ’n’ pin and would you like a storecard/cashback/extra gift for just £1 this used to work.
But today there’s a whole new host of questions coming my way and it can be a struggle to juggle them and guess their order.
Which brings me to my recent visit to Top Shop. There I was trying to look cool as sometimes I think I am bit old for this place, paying for my T-shirt when I predicted that the tweenie, traintracked, size -0 shop assistant asked me if I wanted a store card. So I said no. She repeated the question, which I didn’t hear and again I said no.
Very slowly, she raised her head to look at me, bug-eyed with malnourished over-straightened hair and repeated herself as if talking to a confused elderly lady.
‘E-n-t-e-r y-o-u-r p-i-n. ’

So now I don’t say anything… I pay by cash, I carry a lifetime’s supply of canvas bags (which makes me feel quite ecologically smug) and I never ever, ever answer questions.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Words aren't all I have

Anyone who knows me will know that I love words – I work with them all day, preening them, honing them, bashing sentences into shape and removing unnecessary punctuation and tutting at misplaced commas.

As a teenager when I was going deafer, it occurred to me that some of my peers, (mentioning no names, Hannah) were using quite humungously-massive words in their 32-page politics essays that I had never heard of. And it got me thinking about why I didn’t know any of these words – and then I realised I hadn’t heard them.

It’s always fairly obvious if there’s a word that I don’t hear very well as I rarely use it – and when I do it’s more of a mumble, often with the beginning and end letters in place but not much else.

This has been the case since I was very little. I couldn’t lipread ‘S’ – it’s an invi’ible letter to the eye. So I used to ask for ’au’age’ and math for tea and my favourite teddy was called ’inging bear. My marvellous mum sat with my religiously going over the letter ‘s’ (she didn’t know I was deaf at the time – I wasn’t keeping a secret or anything – I didn’t know either) and eventually I got it – although until the age of 10 it had a big fat ‘th’ in the middle of it. So I was saying Thinging Bear and Thathaguh.

As I got older it was words like schizophrenic – goodness knows why I wanted to know how to say that word, but anyway I did. But I couldn’t!
It’s such a hard one to lipread so instead it used to come out as skitzopreenic! Or sometimes scitzophrmhmrph.
So once again I sat with my mum going over it syllable by syllable as though it was the hardest word in the English language – but I cracked it and I can say it – and now I am just waiting for my chance to use it!

With my last boyfriend, who was fluent in French, I used to be afraid of saying crepe and Comte – the former sounding very much like crap, the latter sounding like Crumphe. One time we went for a picnic on Hampstead Heath and he took me for a crap and fed me Crumphe. Needless to say, we broke up.

When I watch TV I am completely unable to distinguish one word from the next – but for some reason I seem to forget this and just act like I can hear what the heck is going on. No more so than on a recent flight from Istanbul to London. There I was watching You, Me and Dupree laughing along with everyone else at the crappy antics of the blonde scarecrow-y looking man when all of a sudden housemate said to me, ‘Why are you watching it with your headphones switched to Channel 10?’ I looked at her and replied, ‘because that’s what channel it’s on…’
‘Yes, in French!’ was her response!

Zut alors!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Deaf kisses

When I was 17 years old, I was quite bad tempered. I used to scream, shout and slam doors and generally behave in a common end-of-teenage-years manner. I also used to forget to wear my hearing aids.

So, on one visit to my lovely audiologist for a two-hour long painfully difficult, boring and tear-inducing hearing test I kind of lost it and the world of bad teenage behaviour and deafness merged.

This resulted in a weekly session with a hearing therapist, which pleased me as it also meant time off school.

My hearing therapist was stark raving mad… bonkers and in fact bonking – behind her husband’s back. And, as I didn’t really have any issues with being deaf, it was this that we spoke about. Her bonkers bonking! Isn’t bonking a fabulously 90’s word?

I used to sit there and listen as she poured her heart out to me and wonder what on earth I’d done in my past life to deserve such a liaison when suddenly she came out with something relevant to me…
Well kind of…

While talking about her dalliances out of marriage she suddenly pointed out to me that as a deaf person, hearing sweet nothings in bed would be out of the question and apparently (I was a young 17) lip reading at times like those would also be quite difficult.

I stored this information under ‘inappropriate things grown-ups tell you’, quit hearing therapy and soon grew out of my stroppy phase.

Then, five years later, I found myself on a campsite, in a tent, in the dark with a boy I quite fancied. It was freezing so we were cuddling to keep warm (It was all quite chaste, I promise) when suddenly he whispered something to me.
‘Pardon?’ I said
and he repeated himself.
‘It’s too dark, I can’t hear you,’ I responded.
And so this went on as I frantically scrabbled about for my head torch.

He tried once more with his question when suddenly someone piped up from the tent next door, ‘Oh for god’s sake, just kiss him!’

And the romance was dead.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

...and while we're on the subject

That club and I seem to be building quite a history – something of a love/hate relationship – not one-sided at all
So there I was a few weeks earlier full to the brim with rum.
Now, rum i have just recently discovered makes me very very happy.
I have never encountered this with an alcoholic drink before...
Gin makes me morose and feel middle aged but I love it.
Red wine makes me talk utter crap at dinner parties and burn the pudding.
White wine makes me feel car sick even if I am not in a car.
Rosé reminds me of France.
Port makes me eat thousands of calories of cheese.
Whiskey makes me feel like I have stolen from my father's drinks cabinet
But RUM...
Rum sends me to a happy shiny place, where people look delicious... even rough ugly blokes, and no club queue
is too long, no cab fare too high and no hearing can be done.
Sometimes I think that when I drink rum my eyeballs actually spin around like that indecisive emoticon on the MSN messenger...
Focussing is not a possibility, which means lip reading is out of the question.

So there I was hip shaking with my usual vigour and randomly dropping my glass every few seconds when a guy approached me with a glass of champagne (Crshtal, according to a worse for wear friend). He was cute and kept shouting in my ear (not cute).
I'm deaf, I yelled at him over Kelly Rowland's latest tune, and dropped my glass of Cryshtal...
He replied something in my ear...
Hands free from the recently-dropped Cryshtal, I grabbed his face and put it opposite mine so I could lip read him... and he kissed me!
It wasn't a come-on you randy git, I wanted to scream, but I was otherwise occupied!

So obviously not in any fit state to learn from my mistakes I moved on and found myself cornered by a rather gorgeous guy, who too had a penchant for chatting up my ear...
I'm hard of hearing, I tried this time... to which he replied something to my ear.
So I grabbed his face...
and well, you know the rest...

The rest of the evening passed in a hazy blur... I kissed them both and have no intention of ever seeing them again.
I'm thinking of getting a T-shirt printed for night's out entitled
TALK TO THE FACE, THE EARS AIN'T LISTENING

deafintely no entry

Last week, I reached new heights in the world of uncool – I got thrown out of a very posh, rather exclusive London nightclub less than 20 seconds after entering. I wish I could blame it on too much champagne – alas we were limited to Cava. I can’t even blame it on my enthusiasm to get into the place – as it’s really rather rubbish. No, once again, it was my pesky ears – things that are no longer something to drip with diamonds, but instead something to get me into a whole lot of trouble and strife.
I’m aurally challenged you see, deaf as a door post and blonde with it – a lethal combination at the best of times and when my brain’s involved, there’s always five star entertainment on offer.

So anyway, to set the scene, there we were, aware of the two-way mirror checking us out to see if we were good looking enough to get in – luckily we are of course all totally fabulous, so no worries there.
The problem is, when I try and look cool, it normally involves staring meanly into space – so allows no room for lipreading.
So when housemate marched passed the bouncers, I naturally followed, flicking my hair in a yes-I-am-a-super-cool-person-who-doesn't-need-to-queue sort of way.
And that's when it happened, I got collared (I finally understand why they call it this). The bouncer grabbed me by the collar of my M&S limited collection coat and hauled me back out again.
BOOM went my coolness
Snigger snigger, went the queue.

So anyway, it turned out that housemate had spun some wonderful yarn about our friends being in there and had been permitted entry to check... alone!
So this is kind of an apology to the rest of the girls, who never even got to see the lobby – it wasn't that special honest!

Still, I suppose it saved us the £1,000 minimum spend and instead we went home, watch Sex & The City and I fell asleep on the sofa, with my contact lenses and hearing aids in!

To new beginnings?

An ex boyfriend of mine, and brilliant writer, once showed me a piece he’d written about how being deaf was something of a ‘love filter’, and although I was seduced by his way with words more than his philosophy at the time, I now realise he was right.

I’ve been in London for four years now and in that time my dating experience has been colourful! When I first arrived, bright eyed and bushy eyebrowed, hearing aids at the ready and owning some rather questionable clothes, I had this strange idea that I would somehow bump into my perfect man and we would skip off into the realm of affordable house buying in London.
But London is noisy, and not very patient for hard-of-hearing, non-signing, lip-reading deaf blondes and although, visually I improved and slipped into the smooth haired, shiny nails, nice handbag stereotype that is overwhelmingly popular in this city, aurally I got left behind.

The first three years were something of a blur – there were cute blonde snowboarders, busy hedge fund boys and rather delicious men in PR, but none of them really got off the ground – none of them really got me.
I remember one of them turned up at my house armed with a blindfold one night and suggested all manner of fantastic fantasies to me, but I couldn’t hear him as I was blindfolded – and saying pardon more times that ‘Oh God, yes!’ is a bit of a passion killer.

Looking back, ex boyfriend’s love filter idea was very true – all these men were totally unsuitable for me – and, because of my deafness, I found out a whole lot quicker than most other women. I pity the ones they’re with now.
About a year ago, my housemate took matters into her own hands and put me on Mysinglefriend.com. Lured by the pretty pictures I was soon hooked. Here was my pick of men – and none of them had phone numbers, just email. So I could dazzle them with my wit, rather than saying pardon every other sentence.

With a firm belief in my love filter, I jumped in head first and dated quite a few lovely men, with the exception of one, who was so boring I actually managed to fall asleep standing up in a crowded Soho bar.
And then, just as my guard was down and my faith in my love filter was at its height, my perfect man appeared. He whisked me off my feet with picnics, silent movies and subtitles for absolutely everything. He treated me like a princess to the extent that all my other friends were jealous and, just as I fell in love with him, he disappeared.
I’m over it now, just and so, with gusto I am throwing my love filter on to my pile of things that don’t work, along with my ears and thinking about where to go next…

I like a challenge, so I think I will try a strange alternative to speed dating I read about in a London paper – it's called dating in the dark.

Subtitled Cinema: Daydreaming of a better deaf world

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow myself the chance to daydream about all the things on my deaf wishlist coming true... It's a bit li...